Category Archives: Waco

TSTC Pharmacy Technicians Have Local Job Opportunities

(WACO) – Before Courtney Balzadua, 27, of Waco became a pharmacy technician at the Family Health Center, she balanced working as a waitress and being the mother of a small child.

She knew she needed to make a career change.

“I wanted to be in the medical field in some way,” said Balzadua, a 2015 graduate of Texas State Technical College’s Pharmacy Technician program.

The need for pharmacy technicians is projected to grow nationally to more than 450,000 jobs by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The agency credits the job increase to a rising need for prescription medicines. Pharmacy technicians must learn the general uses of medical drugs but cannot legally counsel patients.

TSTC’s three-semester program includes classes in Drug Classification and Pharmaceutical Mathematics and an on-site clinical at a hospital, pharmacy or other medical facility like the Family Health Center.

TSTC caps each semester’s Pharmacy Technician cohort at 25 students, said Colby Walters, a program instructor. She said students who enter the program need strong mathematics and memorization skills.

Program graduates can work under pharmacy training licenses for two years, Walters said. During this time, the graduates get three chances to take the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board’s licensing test to continue working in the field. The graduates also undergo a background check by the Texas State Board of Pharmacy.

A public perception survey conducted by the PTCB in 2016 indicated that 85 percent of people said it was very important for people preparing prescriptions to be certified, and 74 percent of people believed pharmacies should only hire certified pharmacy technicians.

Traci Crain is a staff pharmacist at the Family Health Center’s pharmacy on Providence Drive in Waco. She said she can tell within a month which pharmacy interns can adapt to the job. Some of the qualities she looks for include being able to work with others, handle criticism from customers and exhibit a solid work ethic.

The Family Health Center typically hires two interns each semester. Crain said interns start out sacking prescriptions for customers. She said interacting with the staff enables the students to understand the pharmacy language. Eventually interns can advance to working on registers and helping customers.

“It’s not uncommon to get hired before they graduate,” Walters said.

Jennifer Herrera, 34, of Waco graduated in 2005 from TSTC’s Pharmacy Technician program and has been working at the Family Health Center since she was an intern.

“This is in a low-income area,” she said. “I don’t see myself as different from any of our patients. I fell in love with the environment.”

Herrera often works with clients in both Spanish and English.

“You do have to be careful because certain words can mean different things,” she said.

The Family Health Center has 16 locations in Bell and McLennan counties. There are about 20 employees who work at the pharmacy from Monday to Friday. Overall, the Waco location fills an average of 700 prescriptions per day.

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McGregor Students Find Their Passion for Learning at TSTC

(WACO) – Christina Pace is elevating her creativity through digital art.

Pace, 23, of McGregor designs fliers for Texas State Technical College in Waco’s Visual Art Society, which includes other TSTC Visual Communication Technology majors. It is practice for her future career in graphic design.

As she pursues her endeavors and studies, Pace finds motivation from others.

“It’s being able to be creative and work on my assignments and be surrounded by those who do the same,” she said.

Pace graduated in 2014 from McGregor High School and went on to earn an associate degree in art in 2016 from Temple College. At the time, she said she knew she needed to earn another degree.

Pace began classes in fall 2017 at TSTC. She said her art classes have helped her be a better artist as she uses concepts for space and composition and learns about Adobe’s creative platforms.

Pace is among more than 25 students from McGregor currently taking classes at TSTC in Waco.

Meanwhile, many students attending McGregor High School are partaking in career and technical education offerings that can lead to fruitful careers. The Texas Education Agency’s Texas Academic Performance Report for 2017-18 indicated that the McGregor Independent School District had more than 370 students in the program.

“We have made a big push in the last few years to expand our career and technical education programs,” said Seth Fortenberry, principal of McGregor High School. “We have a very strong construction and welding program at the high school where students have the opportunity to earn certifications prior to graduation.”

Fortenberry said the robotics program combines design, electronics and engineering for students to ultimately launch their own two rockets at the end of the school year.

“One rocket is built to carry a 1-pound payload one mile high, and the other is built to break the sound barrier,” he said.

Fortenberry said more courses could be added in the future for students to study drones and automotives.

“Two-year colleges are definitely an option for students,” he said. “We push them very hard to continue on into postsecondary education no matter the length, and many do end up choosing TSTC.”

Adrian Siller, 28, of Waco did not attend high school in McGregor but calls it home. He has traded in the study of sciences for suspensions.

Siller is working toward an Automotive Technology – Toyota Technician Training and Education Network, or T-TEN, specialization certificate at TSTC and is scheduled to graduate in summer 2020.

“I have always liked automobiles,” he said. “I did research on manufacturers and learned about Toyota.”

Siller shifted into studying the automotive field after earning a bachelor’s degree in anthropology in 2014 from Texas A&M University. He said understanding the lectures and research processes during his first time in college has helped him at TSTC.

Siller has enjoyed the hands-on work on vehicles in the Transportation Technology Center’s T-TEN lab. His favorite lessons so far have dealt with testing and diagnosing electrical system problems.

Siller said his goal is to graduate from TSTC and then pursue a physics or mathematics degree. He wants to apply the technical and academic combination either to work in the automotive industry or to teach.

“This career will definitely take me to opportunities in a big city,” Siller said. “Right now I am eyeballing Austin.”

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TSTC, Cameron ISD Team Up for Dual Enrollment Classes

(HUTTO) – Students at C.H. Yoe High School in Cameron recently ended their first semester taking dual enrollment classes through Texas State Technical College.

Twelve students completed the Principles of Accounting I class as part of the Business Management Technology certificate. And, more than 30 students took the online Medical Terminology class under the Medical Office Specialist certificate. This is the first year that technical dual enrollment classes have been offered at the high school.

“We had always offered dual credit, but it was academic and not career and technical education dual credit,” said Kenneth Driska Jr., Cameron Independent School District’s career and technical education director.

Driska said a high school teacher was credentialed by TSTC in West Texas to teach the accounting classes.

The school district built on its existing medical career tracks to branch into offering medical office specialist classes.

“Health science has been something that kids in our district seem to show a lot of interest in,” Driska said. “Part of it is our proximity to Scott & White in Temple. It’s about a 30-minute drive. There is an opportunity there for jobs.”

Megan Redmond, a dual enrollment advisor at TSTC in Williamson County, worked with Cameron ISD to make the classes available.

“The counselors I work with are incredible,” Redmond said. “They are super responsive, and they get everything to me on time. Their students are very receptive. They get their forms turned in on time, and a lot of them are making A’s and B’s this semester.”

Students passing the courses are able to earn college credit hours and meet Texas high school diploma requirements. High school students taking certificate courses have the opportunity to earn up to 12 credit hours.

Driska said some of the school district’s college-going culture is driven by local scholarship opportunities from the Callaway Foundation and the Cameron ISD Foundation.

“We have high expectations for our kids in Cameron,” Driska said.

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National Auto Collision Repair Company Looks to TSTC for Employees

(WACO) – Blake Cole grew up reading automotive magazines and at 10 could eagerly recite facts about cars to anyone who would listen.

As he grew up and began working, Cole also developed interests in accounting, fashion merchandising and restaurants.

The 2003 Midway High School alumnus said his life became focused when he enrolled at Texas State Technical College and began taking classes in the Auto Collision and Management Technology program. He received an associate degree in 2008.

“Once I went to TSTC, everything stuck,” he said.

After graduation, he worked at L3 ISR Systems in Waco painting airplanes and later moved to Missouri to work in the auto collision field.

“Just knowing I had learned something and could use it was helpful and a good feeling,” said Cole, now 34.

Cole’s being hired at Service King brought him back to Texas. He is currently the general manager at the Leander location.

“Coffee keeps me motivated,” Cole said. “But it’s always different. I’m never going to come into the same thing every day.”

Cole said he has seen an employment gap develop between workers in their 20s and those in their 40s and older who have been in the auto collision industry for several years. As these workers age and retire, new employees are needed to fill positions.

Clint Campbell, TSTC’s statewide department chair for Auto Collision and Management Technology, said there are goals for increasing the number of students studying in the program.

“We need to be getting our faces in front of these high school students, probably sophomores and up,” Campbell said.

The number of automotive body and glass repairers is expected to grow to about 195,000 jobs nationally by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cole said the auto collision industry also needs people with electrical, welding and computer programming and networking experience.

New hires at Service King are placed with experienced technicians in the company’s yearlong apprenticeship program at select locations. Cole said company recruiters can build relationships with technical colleges to find potential employees.

James McGee, 35, of Austin was hired by Service King in February and placed in its apprenticeship program. He received an associate degree from TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program in 2010.

“Get in as early as possible if that’s what you want to do,” McGee said about making a career choice. “Shadow as many people as you want.”

McGee already had some industry knowledge, having worked at small body shops,but said he was glad to learn about pulling techniques and heavy collision work through Service King’s new hire initiative.

“Our job is mainly to problem-solve,” McGee said. “I like the people, and I like to fix things. I like the sense of accomplishment when it’s done. The field will drive you crazy at times and make you head-over-heels excited at other times.”

Cole said employees complete work certifications through the Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair, or I-CAR, which provides training in all branches of the auto collision and management industry.

Vincent James, 25, of Leander is a Service King technician who works primarily on tearing vehicles down early in the repair process. He is a 2015 graduate of TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program.

“I like cars, and I like art. So I thought about auto collision as the melding of the two,” James said. “I was extremely hooked on it. There is something about body work that drew me into it.”

James said he likes the hands-on work and making customers’ vehicles look good.

Robert Castaneda, 29, of Jarrell graduated with an associate degree in 2012 from TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program.

He said wrecks caused by bad weather tend to mean that he and his co-workers stay busy. He said the rise in aluminum exteriors will mean more training and adaptation for workers in the future.

“I’m doing it until my body won’t let me do it anymore,” Castaneda said about his work. “Always listen and pay attention. There is more than one way to do things.”

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TSTC in North Texas Holds Fall Commencement

(RED OAK) – More than 40 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Monday, Dec. 17, at the Waxahachie Civic Center.

When David Sotelo, 41, of Waxahachie enrolled in 2014, he was the first student to do so at TSTC in North Texas. Now, he can call himself a college graduate.

Sotelo earned the Associate of Applied Science degree in Industrial Maintenance – Electrical Specialization. He took classes around his work schedule and also took a semester off before taking a mathematics class this fall to finish the degree.

“I’m very happy and excited,” he said. “I didn’t think this day would come.”

He said the degree will help him in his maintenance job at Owens Corning in Waxahachie.

“It changed my life drastically going to this college,” Sotelo said.

Several other graduates already have jobs.

Peyton Allen, 20, of Palmer received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. He chose to pursue the degree field because he grew up working on trucks and farming equipment.

He will begin work in the upcoming days in the diesel shop at Dart Container Corp. in Waxahachie.

“I am ready to make money,” Allen said.

Ethan Owen, 22, of Red Oak received a certificate in Industrial Maintenance – Electrical Specialization. He chose the major because he grew up working on a farm.

Owen did an internship this fall at LafargeHolcim in Midlothian and was recently hired to work full time doing mechanical maintenance.

“I’m ready to start my life,” said Owen.

TSTC has more than 900 students graduating this fall across the state.

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Del Rio Students Find Their Place at TSTC

(WACO) – The tradition of Del Rio High School graduates traveling more than five hours north to attend Texas State Technical College in Waco continues to grow.

“We’re especially proud that the Del Rio community values the work that we do and entrusts their students to us,” said TSTC Provost Adam Hutchison. “It’s a relationship that we intend to keep strong for many years to come.”

Brenden Paradis, 19, is one of at least 15 Del Rio students who were enrolled during the fall semester in TSTC in Waco’s Welding Technology program. He just finished his third semester in the program.

“The reason so many come here is because our (Del Rio High School) welding instructor, Tod Townsend, pushes us beyond high school and to get a college education,” Paradis said.

Knowing that many of Del Rio’s welding students have enrolled at TSTC since the late 1990s, as estimated by TSTC faculty members, made going to college easier for Paradis.

“All of the guys, at first, room together, but after the first year a lot tend to go out on their own,” he said.

Paradis became interested in welding after attending a job fair during his freshman year of high school. He was impressed with sculptures on display that were made by welders.

“I would tell (other) students to really think about their future before their senior year comes up,” Paradis said. “If you haven’t decided on something, it makes it difficult to pick a path to go down.”

After graduating in 2019 from TSTC, Paradis plans to take a summer advanced pipe course on campus and then work in custom fabrication.

Roger Gonzalez, director of career and technical education for the San Felipe Del Rio Consolidated Independent School District, said district staff looks at job opportunities in the area and reviews Texas Workforce Commission data to adapt classes for students. Some of the school district’s most popular career and technical education (CTE) courses are in aircraft technology, health sciences, law enforcement and welding.

“We want our students to graduate with more than a high school diploma and be future-ready,” Gonzalez said. “The school district continues to invest and expand the CTE program with the use of technology and industry equipment to better prepare our future graduates with expansion of industry certifications and dual-credit opportunities.”

Gonzalez said the students in Del Rio’s welding program build strong relationships with one another, making the transition to college a little easier.

“It seems TSTC is the destination for most of our welding students due to its excellent reputation within the welding community,” he said. “Our welding students never leave us, at least not entirely. Every chance they get, they come to our welding class and share their positive college experience with our current high school students. I believe the reputation and the bridge established between TSTC and our welding program is evidence of our current and future success.”

One Del Rio resident has started what he hopes is a new tradition for Val Verde County students attending TSTC.

Andres Hernandez, 19, of Del Rio finished his first semester in the Automotive Technology – Toyota Technician Training and Education Network, or T-TEN, specialization program. He is among the first generation in his family to go to college.

Hernandez said he has enjoyed the different teaching styles he encounters at TSTC and knowing more about automotive electrical systems.

Hernandez became interested in automobiles when he was a child because of his father, a mechanic. He learned about TSTC when a recruiter visited his high school when he was a sophomore.

“I knew most of the welding students go here (to TSTC),” Hernandez said. “It helped me because I would know some people here.”

Hernandez said he misses his family occasionally but enjoys living on campus. When he is home for visits, he gets work experience as a lube technician at Toyota of Del Rio. He said he also works on tire rotations and other routine maintenance.

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TSTC Welding grad has a bright future in the industry

(FORT BEND) – Cheyenne Kuta was only 16-years-old when she purchased her first $5,600 welding machine, she knew at the time that this would be a great investment toward her future.

Fast forward to December 2018, she is now a graduate from Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County.

“I’m so excited to finally be celebrating this milestone,” said Kuta. “I’m excited to begin working and looking forward to a successful career in welding.”

The Plantersville native walked across the stage Monday night at the Stafford Centre in Stafford, Texas as an honors graduate with a grade-point average of 3.75 and received two certificates and an associate degree from TSTC.

She joined close to 60 other graduates from TSTC in Fort Bend County who also earned certificates and associate degrees.

“We are so proud of our daughter,” said Kuta’s mother Sandra Kuta. “She has achieved so much at the young age of 19. She’s goal-oriented, driven and determined. All of this has carried her to the top.”Cheyenne Kuta TSTC Welding Grad

Kuta was exposed to the field of welding at an early age by her grandfather and uncle. She eventually began her own welding journey in high school.

She quickly rose to the top, beating a lot of the boys in her class and earning two “Top 10 Awards” in the high school’s welding department.

“I really got into welding. I loved it and I was good at it,” said Kuta. “I had a lot of support and a great mentor.”

That mentor was Don Tullos, president of Texas Boiler Makers in Kuta’s hometown. Kuta said he took her under his wing and always encouraged her to continue in the field no matter what the men said.

“There came a point where I was going to Don’s shop every day to practice my welding,” said Kuta. “Then one day he told me, ‘You’re really great at this. You could make this a career.’ And it all changed for me.”

Tullos was also the person who introduced Kuta to TSTC. She toured both the Waco and Fort Bend County campuses, and although further from home, TSTC in Fort Bend County was the perfect fit for her.

“It was a new campus with new labs and equipment. I couldn’t wait to start,” she said. “There were also still smaller class sizes so that meant more one-on-one time with instructors.”

It was August 2017, when Kuta enrolled at TSTC, set up a trailer at a local RV park, where she stayed during the week; and sped up her program completion by testing out of Welding Technology introduction courses because of the welding experience she brought from high school.

Kuta was even inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

“TSTC was a really great experience for me. It was a great place to kick-off my welding career,” she said. “And I was fortunate enough to have instructors who believed me, supported me and pushed me to be the best welder I could be.”

TSTC Welding Instructor David Torres called Kuta a great welding student who is goal driven.

“Cheyenne is very dedicated and you can see that dedication in her welding abilities,” said Torres. She’s always lending a helping hand and coming in early and staying late to build her skills. She will go far in this industry; I know she’ll make it because she has all of the skills. Her future is bright.”

Kuta also said the best thing, for her, about graduating from TSTC, is that she is leaving debt free because of a collection of scholarships she received in high school, financial aid and non-traditional students scholarships from TSTC and other welding industry organizations.

Her advice for other students, “Always put yourself out there. Apply for scholarships, you just never know. This is a possibility for everyone,” she said.

She also wants other girls and women to know that there is no need to feel intimidated about entering into a male-dominated career.

“Don’t be scared. If you have a passion for something and you want to do it, do it,” Kuta said.

“We can do the job just as good, if not better, than the men. Let’s show them what we got.”

So what’s in Kuta’s future?

She has already begun the job application process. She has interviewed with several oil field companies such as National Oilwell, Conroe and Baker Hughes.

“The oilfield is where the jobs are at and I can’t wait to get started,” she said.

Kuta also hopes to become a Certified Welding Inspector and a Certified Welding Instructor in the coming years.

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TSTC in Waco Holds Fall Commencement

(WACO) – More than 350 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Friday, Dec. 7, at the Waco Convention Center.

TSTC Provost Adam Hutchison started the ceremony with a moment of silence for Curt Persilver, former coordinator of student services, who died in October.

Many of the graduates already have jobs.

Jansice Baesler-Ridge, 21, of Waco graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Visual Communication Technology. She began working this summer as a designer at American Domino Co. in Lacy Lakeview.

“I’ve always loved art, and I have wanted to do art that is applicable,” Baesler-Ridge said. “Visual communication technology is the art of the future.”

Garrett Selby, 19, of Pleasanton graduated with an associate degree in the Diesel Equipment Technology program. He already has a job at Kirby-Smith Machinery in Abilene.

“It feels pretty nice,” he said.

Selby said he will miss the instructors giving their knowledge and the camaraderie with his classmates.

Some of the graduates will continue job hunting.

Cory Hoover, 23, of Burnet was the only graduate in Waco receiving an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electronic Communication Technology. He wants to look in the Austin area for a job.

“I enjoyed my time here and made a lot of good friends,” Hoover said. “I was able to have a close relationship with all the instructors because of the small classes.”

Anderson Merchant, 27, of Bryan received an associate degree and certificate from the Auto Collision and Management Technology program. He said he enjoyed learning about the painting and airbrushing processes during his studies.

“I’m really excited and nervous — and really curious what I will do after I graduate,” Merchant said. “It’s exciting to see my hard work recognized and translate that into true work skills.”

TSTC has more than 900 students graduating this fall across the state.

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TSTC in Williamson County Holds Fall Commencement

(HUTTO) – Fifty graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Friday, Dec. 7, at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Hutto.

Former Texas Rep. Larry Gonzales was the guest speaker and talked about the graduates’ decision to pursue a technical education and their importance to the Texas economy.

Many of the graduates already have jobs.

Stuart G. McLennan IV, 38, of Georgetown received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cyber Security and began work earlier this year as a TSTC instructor. Although still a student,  McLennan taught some of the same cyber security classes he had already taken.

“It will be nice to be done with the student side and done with exams and instead give them,” he said.

McLennan earned a bachelor’s degree in computer programming several years ago but had difficulty finding work in the Killeen area. He decided to go back to college to expand his knowledge.

“I have always been interested in the computer area,” he said.

Some graduates are continuing their job search.

Joseph Hartman, 20, of Jarrell received a certificate in Cyber Security. He said he was inspired to study the field after doing research while a student at Jarrell High School, where he graduated in 2017.

“Coming here was a lot cheaper than going to a big university,” he said.

His future plans are to pursue an associate degree, earn industry certifications and look for jobs in the Austin area.

“I really want to start making money,” he said.

TSTC has more than 900 students graduating this fall across the state.

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TSTC provides grad with second chance at a career

(FORT BEND) – With a bachelor’s degree, but ready for a career change and a new challenge, 58-year-old Joel Staner enrolled in Diesel Equipment Technology-Heavy Truck Specialization at Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County two years ago.

And on Monday, Staner will graduate with an associate degree and as a Board of Regent honors graduate with a perfect 4.0 grade-point average.

“TSTC has been such a great experience for me,” said Staner. “I was a little intimidated coming back to school at my age, but I think that also gave me an advantage because I knew the kind of dedication and commitment it would take to successfully finish.”

Staner said when he first received his bachelor’s degree in psychology and general business in 1993 he was young and only took this path because it was the only opportunity available to him at the time.

“I never used my degree,” said the Sheridan native. “I took advantage of the educational opportunity, but these fields were never truly my passion.”

Leading up to his time at TSTC, Staner worked as a car salesman, a hardware customer service and sales specialist and as a general manager for an animal rescue shelter in his hometown.Joel Staner TSTC Grad

For the man who owns acreage with horses, chickens and at least a dozen dogs and cats, the animal shelter gig was his favorite.

“For the last nine years I have worked at an animal shelter and it’s been the greatest,” said Staner. “But I needed a change, a career of my own; one that I was passionate about.”

With the exception of minor repair and maintenance on heavy farm equipment such as tractors, the diesel equipment field was new to Staner.

“After touring the campus and visiting with advisors, Diesel Equipment Technology seemed like the best fit for me,” said Staner. “And honestly the hands-on approach TSTC takes in its teaching is what got me.”

Staner said what made all of the difference during his time at TSTC was the genuine care faculty has for their students and their willingness to answer questions and ensure that students understand the material.

He credits not only his hard work, but also the faculty for his success because not only was he inducted into Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for his grades, but he accepted a job offer and started his career before earning his degree.

“This college offers its students so many opportunities to network with industry recruiters and professionals,” said Staner. “It was during one of these events that I was offered a job.”

Staner is now a diesel technician with Travel Centers of America, where he has been working full-time since May.

“The pay is great, the benefits are excellent and they worked with my school schedule,” said Staner. “Going to school and working full-time has been no easy feat.”

Unfortunately, for Staner, he will be traveling to Ohio for job training on the day of TSTC in Fort Bend County’s commencement, so he will be unable to walk the stage in his cap and gown.

“Sure, I’ll miss the commencement experience, but it’s worth it,” he said. “This is the career that will sustain me for the next 15 years or so. So I’m excited to be done and focusing on a new career.”

Staner also said there may be management opportunities with Travel Centers of America in the future, so just maybe he’ll get to use his general business degree after all.

“I changed directions in my life and TSTC was the vehicle that enabled me to change careers,” said Staner.

Staner is one of close to 1,000 TSTC students earning a certificate or associate degree statewide and will join an alumni network of more than 100,000 TSTC graduates.

TSTC in Fort Bend County will host its commencement ceremony on Monday, December 10 at the Stafford Centre in Stafford, Texas at 6 p.m.

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