Category Archives: Sweetwater

TSTC helps Nursing graduate achieve career goal

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Jere Lowe, of Bryson, had a career goal.

Due to unforeseen circumstances in her life, Lowe put her dream of being a traveling nurse on hold to take care of her family. When an opportunity to pursue her goal opened, Lowe enrolled in Texas State Technical College’s Nursing program.

The longtime licensed vocational nurse is a candidate for graduation this summer through TSTC’s licensed vocational nurse transition to registered nurse (LVN to RN) program.

“I had some things happen in my life, and I had to take care of that first,” said Lowe, who has been an LVN for 22 years.

Prior to enrolling at TSTC, Lowe lived through the death of her first husband due to the swine flu pandemic. She later remarried, and her current husband is being treated for cancer.

She found the time to take classes, work at Faith Community Hospital in Jacksboro and care for her husband.

Through it all, Lowe said it was her husband’s encouragement to reach her goal that inspired her to become an RN.

“I want to thank my husband. This has been a four-year journey for us. The last two years, we have not been able to travel. It has all been me in school,” she said.

Lowe plans to remain in Jacksboro until she can become a traveling nurse. She knows nursing agencies look to hire people who have at least one year of RN experience. Lowe is also planning to further her education in the future.

The traveling nurse concept began in response to the nursing shortage in the U.S. Lowe said she hopes to work for an agency that will send her to help people in need. 

“It is a great way to see America, get paid and, most importantly, help people,” she said.

Lowe was drawn to a nursing career at a young age. When she was a child, a family member was a nurse.

“She would walk in back when (nurses) wore the dresses and hats. I was hooked,” she said. “I knew then I wanted to help people. I wanted to give them the peace that everything was going to be OK.”

Lowe said completing the hybrid classes that combined online classes and in-person clinicals at TSTC helped her at home. She was able to work and care for her husband and help in the hospital’s emergency room.

“The instructors were always there, maybe a little too much,” she said. “I remember texting one of my instructors at 2 or 3 in the morning after getting off from work. I was surprised they would respond to me that late.”

Lowe said that type of dedication is what the nursing field is about.

“We know we have to be ready to work at any time. It is a 24/7 job for us,” she said.

Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, go to

TSTC Nursing student wants to help others

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Rising Star’s Crystal Funderburk has a passion for helping others.

Funderburk’s passion led her to Texas State Technical College to further her education. She is a candidate to receive an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing this summer.

“I am a 33-year-old mom of three boys, and I have a passion to help others. Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “I was an LVN and decided to further my education to become an RN.”

She said attending TSTC opened doors for her in the nursing field. During her final semester, Funderburk talked to several clinics in the region and is exploring job options.

“I am keeping all of my doors open, especially in the times we are living in,” she said.

Funderburk commended the Sweetwater faculty for helping her and other students throughout the program.

“They are aware of everything that is going on around the students. They will extend a hand to help you with anything, both in class and away from school,” she said. “That made going to class and attending clinicals easier for me.”

While the program was demanding, Funderburk said the instructors made it “smooth sailing.”

“Academically, you could lean on the instructors for assistance at any time,” she said. “The coursework is laid out where we could understand things. The instructors set it up that way so we could all succeed.”

Funderburk, who grew up in Glen Rose, said her passion for helping others is a way of life for many nurses. She knows the profession is in the spotlight today and hopes more people join her on the front line.

“There is a huge caseload of testing and helping people now. But for nurses, this is a way of life,” she said. “With all of the testing going on and people being treated, there needs to be more hands on deck to help people. Many hospitals are short-staffed right now.”

Funderburk is ready to be part of the front line.

“Anything I can do to help the work flow easier, I will do it,” she said.

Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, go to

TSTC offers Basic Automotive OSA program in Sweetwater

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – A fast-track program to teach basic automotive skills will be taught at Texas State Technical College this fall.

Sweetwater Automotive Technology instructor Gerod Strother will teach the 15-week Occupational Skills Award (OSA) program. The OSA is part of TSTC’s Rapid Industry Skills and Employability (RISE) program that helps students learn skills quickly in order to start a career.

“This class will teach students the basics that can get them a job that pays $10 to $15 per hour,” Strother said. “People who have this certification can find employment at a quick-service automotive business or at a dealership where they can be paired with a veteran mechanic.”

Strother said this program would be especially helpful for a student who completes the program and works at a dealership. They would gain the knowledge to expand their skills.“They would probably work with the mechanic for six months to a year. Once the mechanic is confident in their abilities, they would add to the employee’s responsibilities.”

Strother said students interested in the program do not need any mechanical experience.

“They need to be willing to learn quickly,” he said.

Students will begin by taking Introduction to Automotive Technology. This course focuses on automotive history, safety practices, shop equipment and tools, vehicle subsystems, service publications, professional responsibilities and basic automotive maintenance.

“Some people only want to know the basics and get a job. This will help fill our workforce needs in the automotive industry,” Strother said.

Students will also take the Automotive Brake Systems course, in which they will learn the operation and repair of the braking system. Strother will review brake theory, diagnosis, repairing the power anti-lock braking system, and parking brakes.

The final course will be Automotive Suspension and Steering Systems. In addition to steering systems, students will learn alignment procedures, and tire and wheel service techniques.

“A lot of people do not want to be tied down to one specific area of a vehicle, like the transmission. This program will provide some range for students,” Strother said.

One goal that Strother set for himself is to have students return to earn additional certification or an Associate of Applied Science degree.

“I hope once they complete the program they come back and want to learn more. I would like to see students become certified,” he said. “Having the Automotive Service Excellence certification will open the door for them.”

TSTC is offering several Occupational Skills Award programs this fall. With unemployment increasing in Texas, TSTC is partnering with business and industry through the RISE program to get Texans back to work. The short-term, skills-focused courses provide students with the ability to gain basic technical skills to start an entry-level career.

For more information on the Occupational Skills Award courses, visit

Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, go to

Safety top priority at TSTC this fall

(ABILENE, Texas) – Safety will be the top priority at Texas State Technical College when the fall semester begins Aug. 31.

The four West Texas campuses, located in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater, will have a different look this year. Students who need to complete labs will be allowed on campus, but all other instruction will be delivered online.

“Our primary goal is the safety of our students, faculty and staff in this era of COVID-19,” said Lance Eastman, West Texas’ interim provost. “We have put in several safety measures to ensure that safety.”

Everyone must wear a facial covering while on campus, and social distancing guidelines will be enforced, Eastman said.

“I know it is hard sometimes to maintain social distance. But for the safety of everyone, we are going to practice it,” he said. “We not only want the students, faculty and staff to protect themselves, but everyone around them.”

Buildings will be marked with directional signage to show entrances and exits. Hand-sanitizing stations will also be available in each building.

Since March, TSTC has provided online lectures for students, and Eastman said it will continue in the fall. In May, students were allowed to return to campus to complete lab sessions.

Eastman said continuing to provide hands-on lab sessions is important to the college’s mission of placing people in the workforce.

“We will still do a lot of the hands-on lab sessions because it is important the students get that training,” he said.

Daniel Martin, TSTC’s director of student recruiting in West Texas, said students are excited about the new way of learning.

“The students are pleased with how the courses are being constructed. The online lectures, coupled with lab time, are perfect for them,” he said. “This is a better use of a student’s time. It is not a classroom-heavy situation for them.”

Martin said prospective students will also be able to tour campuses, but with limitations. Tours must be reserved and will be limited to three guests per tour.

“We are excited to get people back on our campuses to show students what we offer,” he said. “We had some tours during the summer, and everyone followed all of the protocols we had in place.”

In Sweetwater, safety is also the top priority for housing director Jose Navarrette. Since it is the only West Texas campus with student housing, additional safety measures are in place.

Navarrette said each student will have a private bedroom but share a bathroom. He said students will learn the proper way to sanitize the area to help prevent the spread of contagions.

“We will have room checks to make sure all the rules are being followed,” he said. “We had some students living on campus this summer, and everyone followed all the rules.”

Navarrette said students were assigned days to move in prior to Aug. 31. He said that was done to help limit the amount of people on campus.

“Safety is the key for us. We want students to know that we have things in place for their safety and the safety of everyone on campus,” he said.

Rick Nelson, supervisor of TSTC food services in Sweetwater, said meals will continue to be sold only to go. Students will enter the Student Center’s main entrance and leave through the cafeteria’s glass-door exit.

TSTC will also provide three new programs in West Texas this fall.

In Breckenridge, an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Safety Compliance Technology will be offered. Students will learn the hazards of machines, safe work methods, first aid, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation procedures during the five semesters.

Two Occupational Skills Award programs are scheduled this fall. Basic Welding – Multiple Processes will be available in Abilene, while Basic Automotive will be taught in Sweetwater. Both courses will be 15 weeks and are part of TSTC’s Rapid Industry Skills and Employability (RISE) program that helps students learn skills quickly in order to start a career.

“It is always good to provide new programs at TSTC,” Eastman said. “We want to provide our students with the tools to prepare them for the workforce. The OSA programs will allow us to quickly educate students to get them to work. That will help better our economy.”

To schedule a campus tour, contact Chris Johnson, TSTC’s lead recruiter for West Texas, at

Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, go to

Eastman works to help TSTC students achieve success

(ABILENE, Texas) – Lance Eastman, Texas State Technical College’s West Texas interim provost and senior vice president of Student Learning, works to make sure that students meet the college’s goal.

“I really like our mantra, ‘Place Texans in great-paying jobs.’ It’s simple. We have really worked hard to live up to our mantra,” he said.

Eastman, who was named interim provost in May, is working with the college’s leadership, faculty and staff on a competency-based learning schedule for students. He is no stranger to the learning approach because it was used at his previous place of employment, Davis Technical College in Kaysville, Utah.

“At TSTC, we are working to have flexibility and to allow students to schedule classes around their life. Studies have shown that it works,” Eastman said. “With this type of program, retention is much better.”

Prior to arriving at TSTC more than two years ago, Eastman served as director of the manufacturing and transportation programs at Davis Technical College. He also taught an industrial maintenance class.

His love for electronics came while watching “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.”

“Seeing Luke Skywalker’s hand got me into electronics,” he said of the movie scene in which Skywalker’s missing hand is replaced with a robotic one.

Eastman once worked in the private sector in industrial maintenance. But when a teaching position opened, he turned to educating young minds.

“Teaching is nothing more than transferring knowledge,” he said. “I am the kind of person who would want to put a button on something to try and make it work. I want to pass that knowledge on to others.”

He learned about TSTC through a job posting showing an opening for the vice president position. He had confidence that he would be picked, telling his wife, Beckie, that he was going to apply for the job and his family “will move to Texas.”

Eastman said during the entire interview process, he remained confident that he would be selected for the position.

“I kept telling my wife they are going to hire me,” he said.

Since his hiring, Eastman said he has been welcomed by not only the TSTC family, but also the Abilene community. His oldest daughter, Sydney, recently completed a church mission in Idaho, and his youngest daughter, Brooklyn, is a senior at Wylie High School in Abilene.

“I love the people of Texas,” Eastman said, admitting that his only stop in Texas prior to an in-person interview at TSTC was a flight layover in Dallas. “This is a fantastic place to live.”

In his spare time, which he said he does not have much of, Eastman enjoys fishing, gardening and church activities.

“My wife and I have also spent a lot of hanging with the kids and their friends. They like to play cards with us because they think they can beat us,” he said with a laugh.

Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, go to

Tour leads Trujillo to TSTC’s Diesel Equipment Technology program

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Juan Trujillo thought about becoming a doctor. But after touring Texas State Technical College’s Sweetwater campus, he changed his mind.

Trujillo said the Diesel Equipment Technology program caught his attention.

After deciding not to focus on medicine as a career, he turned to his first love: vehicles. He will graduate in the fall with an Associate of Applied Science degree, but he has future plans in mind.

“I want to go back to college and get my business degree. I want to open my own business,” he said. “I know I will have a job. How do they get the windmills out here? Diesel. How does Walmart get things to the stores? Diesel. Diesel moves the world.”

Trujillo, a graduate of Grape Creek High School in San Angelo, said he was impressed with the automotive industry because his father drives trucks across the country.

“I have always loved vehicles. I love to work on my own vehicles,” he said of his 2000 Chevrolet Corvette and 2020 Yamaha YZF-R3 motorcycle.

His passion for vehicles also grew by watching a certain movie franchise.

“I grew up watching the ‘Fast & Furious’ movies and have loved cars. I wanted to start working on them,” he said. “My dad would always let me help him work on the trucks. He would let me change things or tighten stuff. I learned to enjoy it.”

The one difference Trujillo sees during his lab sessions and working on his Corvette is easy to describe.

“These trucks are a lot different from gas engines. Plus, the equipment is heavier,” he said.

Trujillo said the best part of the TSTC program is working in the labs.

“We can read in the textbook all day, but getting in there and working on the trucks is the best thing. I like to put the things I learned from the books to use,” he said. “The labs are like having a job. The instructors are always there, willing to help you.”

Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, go to

TSTC recruiters remain busy during summer

(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College recruiters have been busy working the phones and online resources this summer.

With the different TSTC campuses closed for student tours, the college’s recruiters in West Texas have been getting creative in informing prospective students of the programs available.

“It has presented us with some new challenges,” said Chris Johnson, lead recruiter, in discussing how the team is working to recruit students. “We have spent some time figuring things out.”

One of the most-asked questions from prospective students is the security of a job, especially with the economy in recession.

“People want to know if they get a job, would they be laid off six months later,” Johnson said. “We have great programs available, and they are considered to be recession-proof. People are still going to need to have their cars worked on during this time. Companies are still going to need workers.”

With campus tours currently not possible, recruiters have spent their time working on virtual visits. Johnson said many school counselors are interested in the online visits.

Johnson said the virtual visits allow instructors to showcase the equipment available on campus. But they do have one downside.

“One thing we pride ourselves on is showing the equipment during a tour. We are still able to show off the equipment, but it is virtual,” he said. “I do miss seeing the reaction in person of students watching how it is used.”

With fall semester classes scheduled to begin Aug. 31, Johnson said recruiters will continue to work with local high schools to provide information.

“We want to be available to the students. We want them to be excited about what they can see, even though they cannot get out and see it in person,” he said.

Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, go to

TSTC Welding Technology student finds career path by chance

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – A chance conversation while helping his father at a construction site led Anthony Gutierrez on a career path.

Gutierrez asked a welder about his profession and immediately wanted to learn more. He knew Texas State Technical College had a Welding Technology program close to his hometown of Colorado City and began taking classes.

Next month, Gutierrez will graduate with a certificate in welding.

“I saw this guy welding, and it looked like a lot of fun,” Gutierrez said. “I knew TSTC offered the program and that would be a good place for me to start.”

When he is not on campus for lab sessions, Gutierrez said he still helps his father on construction sites.

“You get good experience in the lab, but nothing beats doing it on the site,” he said. “I have helped my dad with some fence posts the past few weeks, and that has been fun.”

He said the instructors are also good resources for the students.

“They really go in-depth during the labs and show you how to do things,” Gutierrez said. “They show us all types of tips and tricks.”

Being raised in West Texas, Gutierrez said he hopes he can work on oil rigs or pipelines close to home.

“I grew up around that, and hopefully it will be a good starting point for me,” he said.

He is also letting his friends and family know that TSTC offers a quality education.

“My brother just graduated (from high school), and he really did not know what he was going to do. I told him to give TSTC a look,” Gutierrez said. “It is a great school, and everyone wants to make sure you do your best.”

Registration for the fall semester is underway. For more information, go to

TSTC Nursing instructor wants graduates to be equipped, passionate

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Nursing instructor Lisa Van Cleave has one goal for graduates of the program in Sweetwater.

“We want to turn out safe RNs who are highly equipped and passionate,” she said.

TSTC offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing at its Sweetwater and Harlingen campuses, and Van Cleave said 34 students are enrolled at the Sweetwater campus this summer. She expects to have 35 enrolled this fall.

“Our program in Sweetwater is different because the students are coming in as LVNs,” Van Cleave said.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Van Cleave said she hopes more licensed vocational nurses consider becoming registered nurses.

“Once you become an RN, that opens the gate wider for you professionally,” she said.

Van Cleave and her fellow instructors are committed to student success.

“We highly emphasize passing the National Council Licensure Examination. We want to prepare our students to pass the exam the first time they take it,” she said.

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas had 251,253 registered nurses as of September 2019, the latest statistical information available. Texas leads the nation in the number of registered nurses, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to more interest in nursing, which has always been a profession that changes with the times.

“Everything seems to be changing on a daily basis during this pandemic,” Van Cleave said. “It has helped us in the fact that we are able to get a better look at our curriculum.”

TSTC also offers a certificate in Vocational Nursing at the Breckenridge, Harlingen and Sweetwater campuses. 

For more information on the Nursing program, visit

TSTC Automotive Technology instructor brings military experience to program

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Gerod Strother has worked on all types of vehicles.

Strother, a 21-year veteran of the U.S. military, brings that experience to Texas State Technical College as an Automotive Technology instructor. After retiring from the military, he began working at the Sweetwater campus in January.

His experience in the military included service with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.

“I experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in the military,” Strother said.

He said the moment he remembers the most was during Operation Enduring Freedom, America’s response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“I was part of the first military action in Afghanistan. I loaded the bombs on the first aircraft that were going to bomb Afghanistan,” Strother said. “For a guy from small-town Andrews, Texas, I knew then I was, for the first time in my life, part of the big time.”

Strother’s first job in the Air Force was as an aircraft electrician on B-1 bombers. He also performed vehicle maintenance at several bases and served as an Air Force recruiter in Abilene.

He said one of the more unique jobs was working on a Tunner 60K Cargo Aircraft Loader, which is used to load pallets on large aircraft.

“It is the size of two or three cars,” he said. “It took a special school to learn how to operate it.”

After his time in the Air Force, Strother switched his focus and attended officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Georgia. His Army career led him to several locations, including Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Lewis, Washington; and Fort Polk, Louisiana.

While in the Army, Strother was deployed to Afghanistan for a second time but returned home for additional officer training. While in the military, he worked on earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree “without having to pay any money.”

“(During) my time in the military, I met some really good people,” Strother said.

His service has already helped him in his short career as an educator.

“I knew that I would have to deal with different types of people. I did that for 21 years,” Strother said. “I also learned from different people that there is more than one management style to use.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to