Category Archives: Sweetwater

TSTC in Sweetwater to Host Registration Events This Summer

(SWEETWATER) – Texas State Technical College will have two Registration Rally events this summer in Sweetwater.

The events will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 12 and July 26 in the Sears Building on Homer K. Taylor Drive. The events are part of an effort to make the registration process as easy as possible for incoming students planning to take classes in the fall semester.

“We make it fun,” said Devin Crenshaw, a TSTC college outreach representative. “They can come and do every single thing in one day. It’s easier for people that don’t want to deal with the lengthy process and do a lot of back and forth. They can just come and get it done and not wait until the first class day.”

Visitors can take campus and housing tours and talk to faculty members about the seven technical programs offered at TSTC in Sweetwater, including Automotive Technology, Electromechanical Technology and Wind Energy Technology.

People interested in enrolling should bring a copy of their driver’s license, high school transcript or GED, any college transcripts, proof of bacterial meningitis vaccination, housing application and TSI scores.

TSTC is having registration events at its 10 campuses throughout the state this summer. For information on the closest Registration Rally, log on to

For more information, contact TSTC in Sweetwater at 325-235-7300 or visit

TSTC and Nolan County Companies Celebrate TWC Skills Development Grant

(SWEETWATER) – Leaders from Texas State Technical College, the Texas Workforce Commission, Buzzi Unicem USA and United States Gypsum Corp. gathered Wednesday to commemorate a $419,590 Skills Development Fund grant aimed at improving workers’ skills.

The grant will create or upgrade 185 jobs and provide mechanical training in bearings, lubricants and other components, operator assessment care and specialized emergency response training. Both Buzzi Unicem and United States Gypsum Corp. will receive more than a combined 7,000 hours of business technical training.

The regional economic impact of the grant is expected to be $4.2 million, said TWC Commissioner Representing Labor Julian Alvarez III, who presented the check.

TSTC in West Texas Provost Rick Denbow said it is critical for local industries to be able to access workforce training through TSTC. He said the technical college must communicate with industries to see what changes there are to ensure that students who graduate are employable.

Alvarez commended TSTC for its involvement in economic development.

“It’s the college of Texas,” said Alvarez. “They listen to you and ask you what they can do to serve constituents.”

Ken Becker, executive director of the Sweetwater Enterprise for Economic Development, said some of Nolan County’s blue-collar industries are changing colors.

“You have to have a lot of technical training to do their jobs,” Becker said.

United States Gypsum Corp. in Sweetwater has more than 230 employees who produce gypsum wallboard. Jeff Grimland, plant manager, said the company has expanded the range of training that workers can receive and given raises sooner because of the Skills Development Fund grant.

He said employees can discover more problems to repair on routine maintenance days because of the training. And, he said, employees can see that the company is investing in them.

“USG has received much-needed training that improves efficiency and the bottom line,” said Grimland.

Buzzi Unicem USA in Maryneal has more than 120 employees working with cement manufacturing.

The Skills Development Fund has been used since 1996 to localize workforce training for companies. This enables companies to work directly with local partners to develop training tailored to employees’ needs. The competitive grant has assisted more than 4,200 employers statewide, according to the TWC.

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Longtime TSTC in Sweetwater Employee Recognized with Statewide Award

(SWEETWATER) – Patricia Carpio is one of the first people prospective students meet when they start the registration process at Texas State Technical College.

Carpio, 46, is a support services specialist who administers the Texas Success Initiative Assessment to determine students are ready to start regular classes. She also proctors nursing and automotive technology tests, along with midterm and final exams.

“I am the contact for all four West Texas campuses for testing issues,” Carpio said.

She also works with new student orientations and open house activities.

“I love coming to work each day because I feel like I play a small part in so many students’ lives by getting them started on their paths to their future,” Carpio said. “I get to know the students in the beginning, and when I see them at the end when they are graduating, it gives me happiness knowing that they have accomplished something so important to them.”

Carpio was recently named a TSTC Chancellor’s Excellence Award recipient for her contributions to the technical college. She was the only employee from TSTC’s four West Texas campuses to receive the honor. She and 15 other TSTC employees statewide will be honored later this month at the National Institute for Staff and Organization Development awards dinner and celebration in Austin.

“I was like ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never gotten an award like this,’” Carpio said of her first reaction to learning she was a recipient. “I was in shock. I am so blessed to work with such great people.”

Some of the people in the Sears Building where Carpio works commended her helpfulness, caring and outgoing personality.

“I need to learn pointers from her because she is so friendly with everyone,” said Irma Ortiz, TSTC’s curriculum specialist. “She gets along well with anybody. She can always strike up a conversation with any student to make them feel at home.”

Mandy Rhoades, a TSTC success coach and substitute testing administrator, said Carpio has a way with students.

“She is the best,” Rhoades said. “She is really good at talking to them. She has a great way of putting a positive spin on things when students may not have done well on the tests. She is good with positive reinforcement.”

Carpio began her work at TSTC in work-study in 2003 and was hired full-time in 2005.

“TSTC gives so many people the opportunity to further their education and to achieve a goal that some think is not within their reach, but what they don’t realize is that TSTC is the portal to their future career,” she said.

The Chancellor’s Excellence Award began in 2001 and has been given to about 300 statewide TSTC employees. Recipients are nominated by their peers for their work toward advancing the technical college’s mission.

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TSTC Holds Spring 2018 Commencement in Abilene

(ABILENE) – More than 80 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Spring 2018 Commencement held Friday, April 27, at the Abilene Convention Center.

Rick Denbow, provost of TSTC in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater, began the ceremony with a tribute to TSTC President Emeritus Homer K. Taylor of Sweetwater, who died earlier in the day at age 83.

“He would be extremely happy for you to celebrate the success of the students,” Denbow told the audience.

Texas Rep. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene, was the keynote speaker. He told those gathered about his first job as a 9-year-old washing windshields at his father’s full-service filling station. He said it was a great experience in public relations.

“You can’t replace kindness in the world,” Lambert said.

Lambert said for graduates to be successful, they need to do four things: have something to do, someone to love, something to believe in and something to hope for.

“What do you hope is the next chapter in life?” Lambert asked the graduates.

Lambert advised graduates to be honest, read the Bible, do the right things in life, have a good attitude and not to hold grudges.

“It’s important at this time to have a positive attitude,” he said.

Lambert said he admired how West Texas residents came together for the TSTC in Sweetwater students affected by the Bluebonnet Inn dormitory fire earlier this year.

Several of Friday’s graduates already have jobs.

Johnathan McCarthy, 28, of Abilene graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology. He is already working as a wind technician at Invenergy LLC in Nolan.

“I got out of the Marine Corps and needed an exciting job that is stable,” McCarthy said. “Wind Energy Technology was new and different, but I knew I could do it.”

Some graduates are job searching.

Cameron Hartgraves, 26, of Abilene was a Phi Theta Kappa graduate who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking and Systems Administration. He wants to stay in the area for employment.

But, this was not Hartgraves’ first college graduation. He already has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Hardin-Simmons University.

“I more or less figured out that I could fix computers better than people,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the ADN Pinning Ceremony for TSTC in Sweetwater nursing graduates took place at an Abilene church.

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Taylor Remembered for Bringing Higher Education to Nolan County

(SWEETWATER) – Homer K. Taylor of Sweetwater left a legacy not only at Texas State Technical College, but also throughout Nolan County.

Taylor, who died today at age 83, is being remembered for his lasting contributions and many years of service to TSTC.

TSTC Chancellor Mike Reeser commented on Taylor’s enduring importance to the college.

“Homer Taylor served our college for close to 30 years, and it’s impossible to overstate the impact he had on our successes. We owe much of our prosperity to his leadership,” Reeser said. “On behalf of the entire TSTC family, I offer our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Beth, his children, and the Taylor family.”

Glen Bedgood, a professional development officer at TSTC in Sweetwater, noted Taylor’s foresight when it came to matching education with industry needs.

“Homer was a visionary in many respects,” Bedgood said. “He was well ahead of the wind industry in West Texas, implementing a wind energy technician program at TSTC in concert with the construction of the first turbines in the area. Graduates of the training program have enjoyed a high placement rate for years.”

Taylor worked for TSTC from 1970 until his retirement in 2005. During that time, he was an assistant campus manager, manager of instruction, dean of instruction, manager of development, college president and vice chancellor of the TSTC system. The TSTC Board of Regents later gave him the elite distinction of naming him president emeritus.

“Homer was always thinking about growing the impact of TSTC,” Bedgood said. “Any time that I traveled with him, he would leave his business card with everyone he met, telling them that they owed it to themselves or their kids or friends to look into TSTC as a life-changing investment.”

Bedgood recalled that some of his earliest memories of Taylor were of greeting him at church on Sunday mornings.

“I listened to him pray and teach Sunday school,” he said. “He was investing in me. Years later, he hired me, or at least suggested that I apply for an opening at the college, and continued to invest in me as an employee. When I started my family and was trying to make a little extra money on the side, he would buy my artwork.”

Among the many people on whom Taylor made a positive impact is Maria Aguirre, TSTC interim senior executive director of Communication and Creative Services.

“I met Mr. Taylor in early summer 1984,” said Aguirre. “I attended what was then TSTI, and shortly after I arrived, Mr. Taylor hired me as a PBX operator. After graduation, he encouraged me to apply for a Student Recruitment position, and through the years he promoted me to other positions within the college. Long story short, nearly 34 years later, I am still very proud to be part of TSTC. He was a true mentor, teacher and friend. I will miss him dearly.”

Taylor taught high school in Jayton and Sweetwater for 11 years.

“Homer was my high school English teacher,” said J.V. Martin, a former member of the TSTC Board of Regents and a founding board member of the Nolan County Foundation. “Homer was very close to me. He was a student’s ideal teacher as far as his personality. He was young enough at that time. He was not much older than the students. It was like having a student-teacher teaching you.”

Taylor was public relations director for Sweetwater Public Schools (now Sweetwater Independent School District) when he was asked to serve on the Sweetwater Study and Survey Committee for the Utilization of Air Base Facilities, which formed when the Sweetwater Air Force Radar Station was deactivated in fall 1969, according to TSTC historical accounts.

A group of committee members met with Dr. Roy Dugger, then vice president of Texas A&M University and director of the James Connally Technical Institute (now TSTC) in Waco, about opening a technical campus on the grounds of the former radar station.

Taylor’s first role at the Sweetwater facility of the Texas State Technical Institute was as an assistant manager starting in 1970. He, along with D.A. Pevehouse, facility manager, and two office employees, worked in the old Texas Bank Building in Sweetwater. Taylor saw the campus later become the Rolling Plains Campus of TSTI and Texas State Technical College West Texas.

“He was always so friendly and talking to everybody and anybody that was here on campus,” said Lupe Deloera, a human resources senior specialist at TSTC in Sweetwater. “He was such a smart guy and always had his door open if we had any questions. We felt like we could ask him anything. We felt so comfortable around him.”

TSTC in Sweetwater honored Taylor in 2006 by renaming College Drive as Homer K. Taylor Drive.

“He followed my career and has been an encouragement to me long after his retirement,” Bedgood said. “I get to remember him every day as I turn onto Homer K. Taylor Drive heading to my office at TSTC.”

After his retirement, Taylor helped create the Nolan County Foundation, which has given about $300,000 to Nolan County students attending Texas colleges. The foundation has also supported Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital and Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium, Martin said.

Taylor earned an associate degree from Cisco Junior College, as well as a bachelor’s degree in education and English and a Master of Education degree from Hardin-Simmons University.

He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities by Hardin-Simmons University in 2011.

TSTC in Sweetwater Hosts Industry Job Fair for Students

(SWEETWATER) – More than 150 Texas State Technical College students learned about job opportunities at the Industry Job Fair held Tuesday morning on the Sweetwater campus.

Roughly 30 employers that attended looked for students to fill welding, industrial painting, drafting and other jobs in high demand.

Robert Schneider, 26, an Automotive Technician certificate major from San Angelo, visited the event to continue job hunting before his April graduation.

“The event is a good thing,” he said. “These young kids need to look at their options and see what is out there.”

Erika Luneau, director of human resources for Koenig and Bauer in Irving, said she was looking out for students studying electrical and mechanical fields who want to do a one-year apprenticeship in Germany and then work for the company. The German company specializes in making printing presses.

“We have been working with TSTC over the last year,” Luneau said. “We have visited several campuses and like the programs. We like how students learn theory and do hands-on. We need to find someone who is adventurous and is okay with the lifestyle of traveling most of the time.”

Christa Valdivia, 28, a nursing major from Colorado City, said it was her first employment event. She is scheduled to graduate in December.

“I actually was curious about occupational nursing,” she said. “I got some information on civilian nursing. I feel like the job fair gives us a leg up. It’s just for TSTC.”

Heather Kumpe, economic development specialist for the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce, was also representing the San Angelo Regional Manufacturers Alliance. Kumpe had a lot to talk about with students. She said San Angelo has more than 80 manufacturers and a 3.2 percent unemployment rate.

Kumpe said specific San Angelo employers were seeking nurses, mechanics and industrial sandblasters.

“Our job is to get more companies to come to San Angelo,” Kumpe said. “But, we need the workers. This is the first time we have done a job fair.”

Employees from ONE Gas, a natural gas distribution company with more than two million customers in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, brought a mobile telemetry unit used to monitor pressure at oil and gas locations and a field meter set to show students.

Tony Peterson, a foreman for ONE Gas, said he was seeking job candidates to move to the Permian Basin to work.

“Retention is a challenge,” he said.

Some employer tables had TSTC alumni answering questions from students.

Brandi Riley, a registered nurse and outpatient/surgery services manager at Eastland Memorial Hospital in Eastland, graduated in 2017 from TSTC in Sweetwater. She said finding qualified nurses is a challenge.

“Working in a small facility, you know everyone,” Riley said. “I know the names of my patients and co-workers by first name.”

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TSTC and Presidio ISD Unite to Offer Dual Credit Classes

(SWEETWATER) – Gilberto Madrid of Presidio is lighting the fire for his career each day in a welding booth at Texas State Technical College.

“I liked the thought of being able to control metal and fuse it together to make it something that can support weight,” said Madrid, 20. “That has interested me for a couple of years now.”

Madrid earned dual credit hours while a student at Presidio High School and is scheduled to graduate from TSTC in August with a certificate in Structural Welding and is considering his work options. It is a path Presidio Independent School District education leaders hope other students will follow as they are armed with dual credit hours from TSTC.

This year, there have been 20 Presidio High School students taking dual credit courses from TSTC online in Culinary Arts, Digital Media Design and Medical Office Specialist, and in person with TSTC credentialed high school teachers in Business Management Technology and Welding Technology.

For PISD Superintendent Dennis McEntire, one of the goals is to give Presidio students every opportunity they can to achieve.

“We are open to any dual credit with TSTC,” he said. “The welding is the one we have had the most numbers in. We can work with TSTC on anything they can make available for the kids to work on. This is the future; this is Presidio. We absolutely bought into this. We have managed to build this into our budget and create a financial model to make it successful.”

Some of Presidio High School’s welding students recently visited TSTC to meet Welding Technology program instructors and work with equipment.

“This just gives them a taste to get them motivated and hopefully continue on with us,” said Taylor Elston, a TSTC in Sweetwater welding instructor. “It seems to be paying off with some of them.”

Elston said Sweetwater’s welding program attracts students from throughout West Texas and the Panhandle. He said the goal is for graduates to have a job, or a welding test for a job, waiting for them upon graduation. Elston said he and fellow welding instructor Frank Molini are starting to build relationships with employers in Brady, Early and Roscoe.

“We are looking at the market and what is available and places they would not mind living,” Elston said. “We will see what the companies are testing and we will help them practice for their test to get the job.”

PISD’s early college high school concept containing a technical college component began about seven years ago, McEntire said. The school district also partners with The University of Texas of the Permian Basin in Odessa.

“We were able to put this into place about five years ago,” McEntire said. “It is 300 miles to UTPB  and nearly than 400 miles to TSTC – so everything has to be done online and done at a distance. It took us a couple of years to convince the Texas Education Agency that it is viable. It has become a much more common occurrence.”

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TSTC Names Rick Denbow Provost

(WEST TEXAS) – Texas State Technical College has named Rick Denbow as the Provost over its four West Texas campuses. Denbow served as Interim Provost for the campuses since May.

Along with functioning as Interim Provost, Denbow was also the Senior Field Development Officer for The TSTC Foundation, an instrumental role in supporting the efforts of TSTC’s new technology center in Abilene. Denbow began working for TSTC in 2009 as the director of the Welding and Transportation Technology Division.

Denbow said he is honored to have been selected.

“It’s a lot of responsibility, but I’m very excited also,” he said. “In my tenure with TSTC, I’ve spent my time in West Texas working with the four campuses and I’ve come to know the programs and the faculty and staff. I’m really excited about going forward. Some of the things the college has done, like the most recent reorganization, have really positioned us to be successful.”

The West Texas community is one of Denbow’s favorite things about his job.

“The communities at each of the four locations are very supportive of TSTC and what we’re trying to do, and that makes our job a little bit easier,” he said. “Also, the faculty and staff are just awesome. They’re always willing to go that extra mile and I’m honored to be able to work with them.”

Denbow has lofty goals for TSTC in West Texas.

“As the Chancellor stated in an email to employees a few weeks back, there’s one word and that’s growth,” Denbow said. “That can have different meanings depending on the campus. Is it growing enrollment? Is it growing capacity? Is it growing placement? I would submit it’s all of the above. Each campus in West Texas is unique and one of my goals is to make sure we grow at each of our four campuses.”

TSTC Vice Chancellor & Chief Marketing Officer Jeff Kilgore said he is excited to welcome Denbow in the role.

“Through his experiences, Rick has a really good sense of the communities and needs of industry in the West Texas Region,” Kilgore said.

Denbow graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from University of Texas at Austin.

“I come from the business world,” Denbow said. “With Chancellor Reeser’s focus on making TSTC a little more entrepreneurial, a little more business-like, that fits very well with my background. I think I can add value to the West Texas campuses in the provost role.”

Denbow added that TSTC’s new Industrial Technology Center in Abilene is ahead of the construction schedule. They hope to start moving employees in on Aug. 1, and classes will begin in the building in the fall. Denbow says the campus signifies a new beginning for TSTC in Abilene.

“That campus, the design and how it’s laid out, the Abilene community has never seen anything like that from TSTC,” he said. “The Abilene campus has been housed in an old hospital and we didn’t really have an opportunity to put any heavy equipment and industrial trades in there. This is a new start.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, visit

TSTC Student Receives Guitar Once Used by Famous Rock Band

(SWEETWATER) – In the wake of the Bluebonnet Inn dorm fire at Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater, one student had a special request. Isaiah Ornelaz, an Automotive Technology student and avid guitar player, just wanted his guitar replaced.

When TSTC employees heard of the request, Rene Ralston, TSTC’s director of Dual Enrollment programs, made a post on her personal Facebook page, asking if anyone might have a guitar they would be willing to donate. She soon had a response.

Maggie Dickey, owner of Sweetwater Performing Arts Center and wife of the late David Dickey, bassist of the band America, told Ralston she might have a guitar for Ornelaz.

“When we asked Maggie if she was sure she wanted to do this, her answer was, ‘electric or acoustic?,’” Ralston said. “Maggie took the guitar to Abilene on Saturday, had new strings put on it, had it tuned and bought Isaiah a new guitar case.”

Ornelaz said he mentioned the guitar in conversation with TSTC employees he talks to often.

“I talk to them a lot, so they knew I play the guitar,” he said. “When the fire happened, I was like, ‘Aw, I lost my guitar,’ and later they asked me if I had an electric or acoustic.”

The guitar was presented to Ornelaz on Monday at a gathering TSTC Chancellor Mike Reeser held to speak to the students affected by the fire.

“I’m a guitar player, too, and I want you to know that if I lost one of my guitars in a fire, I would really be upset,” Reeser told Ornelaz. “I happened to hear this morning that there are some employees trying to make sure you get your guitar. I knew David Dickey, and he’s quite literally a rock star. He’s the real deal.”

Ornelaz was shocked to receive the gift.

“I was pretty surprised,” he said. “I just thought he knew I played guitar and was talking about it, and then they showed up with a guitar.”

He wasted no time in playing and even looked up music by America, whose music he hadn’t previously heard.

“I played it all last night. It’s awesome,” he said. “I looked up some songs [by America.] They’re pretty good. I’ll listen to them quite a bit now.”

David Dickey, a Sweetwater resident since 1996, joined America in 1972. The band produced hits like “A Horse with No Name,” “Ventura Highway,” “Hat Trick” and “Sister Golden Hair.”

In all, 28 students were left without their belongings because of the dorm fire. The college and the community have rallied together to recoup the students’ lost items and necessities like clothing and books.

Those interested in donating to the students can give to the Sweetwater Fire Emergency Relief Fund at

TSTC, Community Offer Support to TSTC Students Affected by Fire

(SWEETWATER) – Texas State Technical College Chancellor Mike Reeser met with students affected by the Feb. 7 Bluebonnet Inn dorm fire on the Sweetwater campus at a 2 p.m. gathering today.

Chancellor Reeser reiterated his support for the students.

“When you enroll in TSTC, you become family,” he told the students. “When tragedy happens, a family gathers together. This meeting is to continue that opportunity for you to know that we care. We’re here for you.”

Reeser said the college will do whatever it can to help students stay on track.

“We’re going to make sure that we do everything in our power to make sure you reach the goal you set — to be a technician in a high-paying field,” he said. “We’re going to do all that we can to make sure this tragedy doesn’t deter you, and the way we’re going to do that is with our support for you.”

While no one was injured in the fire, the dorm and the students’ belongings inside were a total loss. TSTC provided books and tools to the students affected, and elected officials, TSTC supporters, area colleges, businesses, churches and community members from the region have generously offered assistance.

At the meeting, the students were presented with gift cards from Trinity Baptist Church, 4th & Elm Church of Christ and Goodwill-West Texas’ Grounds Division to help replace lost possessions. EMA Electromechanics also made a donation to help the students.

“The community really responded,” said TSTC Provost Rick Denbow. “In less than a week’s time, we’ve had a lot of people reach out. We’re still getting calls asking how they can help the students.”

Rep. Stan Lambert​,​ District 71 (R-Abilene)​,​ also spoke to the students.

“We are concerned, and we’re trying to put ourselves in your shoes and understand what you’re going through right now — not just the loss of physical possessions, but some of the emotions and mental issues that you may be dealing with right now,” Lambert said. “The state of Texas is going to step up and do anything that we can to help you in this recovery effort.”

Lambert said he hopes to help ease the students’ hardship.

“I live in Abilene just east of here,” he said. “What I tell parents who send their children to colleges, and even the Dyess airmen, I tell them, ‘They’re ours now. We’ve adopted them.’ We’ve adopted you, because you’re part of the Big Country. You’re part of our family. I want you to know that we’re committed to do anything we possibly can to help you make this transition as soon as possible and ease your burden.”

Those interested in donating to the students can give to the Sweetwater Fire Emergency Relief Fund at