Category Archives: Waco

TSTC Graduate Eager to Use Newly Learned Skills

(WACO, Texas) – Joseph Leavelle Jr., of Lorena, is eager to use his love of technology to find just the right job.

He took a step toward that during the recently completed fall semester at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. He was one of three students to complete the Basic Computer Networking and Systems Administration Occupational Skills Award (OSA).

The students learned how to break down the components of networking and identify the function of each layer, then how to connect, configure and program end devices, routers and switches to create a network, said Jim Hogue, lead instructor in TSTC’s Computer Networking and Systems Administration program.

“Subjects that are normally covered in a week were given in a day in the OSA,” Hogue said. “Each lesson builds on the last, so there is actually an acceleration of knowledge as the OSA progresses.”

Leavelle, a graduate of Robinson High School, was able to work part time at a tractor supply business and devote time to his studies. He said he is grateful to his parents, who live less than two miles from him, for letting him use their internet for the online work. He estimates he devoted at least 30 hours a week to the OSA classes.

“Most of the material was pretty new,” Leavelle said. “I have experience working with computers at different jobs, but I have not done computer networking and worked on them, formatted them and worked on networks.”

He said the time spent studying was worth it. He said his favorite lessons involved using the Cisco Packet Tracer, a network simulation tool.

“I am definitely more of a hands-on learner,” Leavelle said. “I would rather see things and how they are supposed to work.”

His next step is looking for a new job.

“I am primarily looking for jobs in the information technology field,” Leavelle said. “It seems like experience is valued more in the field, but the OSA can help me get in the door.”

The OSA is a three-class, fast-paced way to meet employment needs in Texas. The OSA classes are conducted through the Cisco Networking Academy, enabling students to receive a discount to take the Cisco Certified Network Associate test. 

Leavelle said he plans to take the test before May.

Classes take a semester to complete and can motivate students to pursue an associate degree or go into the job market.

Registration continues for the spring semester. For more information, go to

TSTC Graduate Overcomes Obstacles to Earn Two Associate Degrees

(WACO, Texas) – Aram Hernandez got his first experience in environmental work as a member of a horizontal drilling crew installing environmental remediation wells throughout the country.

“There is a safety guy on every job site,” he said. “I never really knew what OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) was and the environmental regulations we had to go by.”

Fast forward to this month, when Hernandez received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology – Compliance and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Occupational Safety Compliance Technology from Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. 

He did this while grappling with personal challenges, working a part-time job, and learning how to be a student again since graduating from Midway High School a decade ago. 

“Y’all (TSTC) gave me a chance for a second life,” Hernandez said. “I will be forever thankful for that.”

Hernandez said he is appreciative of Verna LaStrapes, who retired earlier this year from TSTC’s Enrollment Services department, for helping him to get enrolled and settled in classes.

“This college showed me so much kindness and made me believe they wanted to help me,” he said. “I’m really happy I finally got to experience some good people.”

Hernandez said his mentor is Lester Bowers, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Environmental Health and Safety department, who kept him motivated to graduate. Bowers encouraged Hernandez to attend free counseling on campus, and went with him to visit a licensed counselor and therapist for his first session.

“Aram is a focused, dedicated young man who never gives up,” Bowers said. “I truly believe he will succeed in his life’s quest, and many could learn from him on how to work hard. I have had many conversations with Aram during his time here, and there was one quote I told him that he has told me that he will carry with him throughout life. That quote is, ‘Progress, not perfection.’”

Hernandez attended classes and studied as he continued to handle Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, with which he was diagnosed in elementary school. He said staff at TSTC did not make him feel inferior because of it. 

“I told myself I would sign up for the accommodations and only use them if I really needed them,” Hernandez said. “I was determined to help myself first and develop new ways to overcome my ADHD.”

Hernandez said tossing a stress ball back and forth often relaxed his mind in classes and studying. He developed a color-coded system for vocabulary words and matching games to retain facts.

“I wanted to make the ADHD a strength and not a weakness,” he said.

Hernandez began his job search in November. He writes down short-term goals and how to accomplish them in notebooks, something he started doing early on at TSTC.

“It is going to be a little harder for me to keep going with my dream, but I am not discouraged about it,” he said. “Then you have a pandemic on top of it. As long as I apply to two or three jobs a week, there is not a reason I cannot find a job here.”

Through all of this, Hernandez, who grew up in Waco, received support from his father, Adam Hernandez, and his cousin, Esteban Hernandez, who graduated in 2018 from TSTC’s Waco campus with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Avionics Technology.

“It’s very good to see him graduate,” Esteban Hernandez said. “My whole family is proud. Grandpa and Grandma are extremely proud. We have seen him go through a lot these last couple of years. To finally graduate and have something he can have forever and something that can better his life, that is what he needed. That made us feel great.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC Graduate Excited About His Future in Machining

(HUTTO, Texas) – Travis Miller, of Georgetown, is happy to start the next stage in his professional life.

He received this month an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology from Texas State Technical College’s East Williamson County campus.

“I could not be more excited to be learning and growing in the field,” he said.

Miller is a hands-on learner who said he enjoyed going to classes, even with the Precision Machining Technology program’s change to hybrid learning in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I don’t remember how many times I had to reach out to (the program’s instructors) for a question,” Miller said. “They were always willing to help and be there to answer any question I had. They were definitely a good support system as well.”

Tim Hemesath, an instructor in TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program, said he admired Miller’s drive and determination to learn all he could about machining.

“The attention to detail Travis displays while machining parts in the lab has set the standard for all to follow,” Hemesath said.

Miller began looking for work in his degree field in the summer. He had five interviews and accepted a job as a machinist at Made in America Manufacturing in Austin, where he began earlier this month. He said the company uses the same Haas Automation Inc. brand machines that TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology program uses.

Miller grew up in Indiana and moved to Maryland when he was 19 to improve his life. Maryland was also where Miller met his future wife. At the time, he was working as an assistant manager at a restaurant.

“We just decided it was time to move out on our own,” Miller said. “We said as a joke at our wedding that we would move to Texas. We thought this might be a good deal, so we came out here to visit on my birthday four years ago, and we found jobs and moved out here.”

Though he was making good money as a restaurant server, he said he needed something more in his life.

“I am the type of person that always wants to learn something,” he said.

Miller considered coding, plumbing and electrical work as potential careers. He started looking into TSTC’s Waco campus before he discovered the East Williamson County campus in Hutto. He said while he was afraid at first of the dramatic change in his life, he grew to enjoy it.

“Machining just kind of stuck out,” Miller said. “I did it a little in high school. I had a metals class where we did a broad spectrum of welding, lathe and mill work. I really enjoyed that class and thought it would be a nice fit.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to  

TSTC Graduate Discovers New Career Path

(WACO, Texas) – Colton Machart said growing up in Shiner instilled the work ethic he has today.

“I was always outside,” he said. “I would haul hay in the summer, build fences and things like that.”

Machart received this month an Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Lineworker Technology at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. 

“It has been a long time coming, but I am happy that it is over,” he said. “It is a bittersweet moment. I made a lot of good friends at TSTC.”

Bobby Mitchell, lead instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program, admired Machart’s drive to play sports and become an Eagle Scout.

“He has chosen this field to make his career, and when someone with his previous accomplishments decides to do something, they usually get it done,” Mitchell said. “There is no doubt in my mind that he will be successful.”

Machart started this month as a power crew intern at Oncor in Round Rock. After a four-month probationary period, he hopes to become an apprentice, a step forward in becoming a journeyman lineman.

“I am excited, but everything is moving so fast that it is hard to take it all in,” he said. “I am definitely ready for the next chapter and to finally have a good job and go support myself.”

Machart is a graduate of St. Paul High School in Shiner. He played football at Abilene Christian University, where he was studying engineering and business when he realized an office job was not for him.

He moved back to Shiner and worked part time as a helper for a power line contracting company. He said he enjoyed being outdoors and working with his hands.

“That is when I realized I thoroughly enjoyed the field and everything that comes with it,” Machart said. “It is kind of like being on a team again, like how football was for me. You have everyone on the crew with a common goal, and everyone is working toward that goal.”

Machart knew about TSTC from friends who graduated from the Electrical Power and Controls program.

“The financial part of me wishes I would have started out sooner at TSTC, maybe right out of high school,” Machart said. “But at the same time, I would not be the person I am today if I had not gone to Abilene and then come to TSTC. I grew as a person.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 


TSTC Graduate Continues Family Tradition in Construction Field

(WACO, Texas) – Janson Teal was exposed to the construction field early on as relatives built homes and managed projects.

Now Teal is forging his own path in the industry, thanks to Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. This month he graduated from TSTC with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Building Construction Technology.

“I really enjoyed my time there,” Teal said. “I liked how it was smaller, and you can get more attention and better learning that way. It is a hands-on technical college.”

Teal said his favorite courses at TSTC dealt with blueprint reading, construction management and field engineering. The classes built the foundation for his job as an assistant project manager at Grinder Taber & Grinder Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee, where he began work in September.

“It has been pretty seamless,” Teal said. “They (his co-workers) have accepted me, and I really try to help out as much as I can and fit in where I can. It has gone really smoothly.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and his class schedule, Teal discovered he had three classes during the fall semester that would be offered totally online.

“I did not want to just sit in my apartment in Waco and take classes, so I started applying for jobs. And that is how I ended up in Memphis,” he said.

Herschel Miller, lead instructor in TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program in Waco, said Teal was eager to learn.

“He accepted challenges with open arms,” Miller said. “This was exceptionally true when the COVID-19 crisis took over. I also saw in Janson good mentoring skills for fellow classmates. The good traits I personally witnessed and saw in Janson will do nothing but benefit him in his life’s journeys in business. He will be a successful young man in whatever he chooses to do in life.”

Teal’s job involves working with contracts and estimates, visiting job sites and communicating with architects and building owners.

“You have to make sure nothing goes wrong and prevent wrong things happening,” he said. ‘You have to identify a future problem and get rid of it before it happens.”

The city of Lubbock, where Teal was born, factored into his choosing TSTC. He is a graduate of Abernathy High School in Abernathy.

“I was on a college visit,” he said. “I was at Texas Tech (in Lubbock) and I was trying to find something I would go to college for. I knew I was interested in construction. I started Googling construction schools and found TSTC, and I really liked it. It was hands-on, and you built things and learned things that way.”

Teal is not finished with his academic work. He plans to start an online bachelor’s degree in construction management at The University of Southern Mississippi in January.

“Once you figure out what you want to do, just go do it and do not be afraid, even if it means being different from everyone else,” Teal said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to  

TSTC, L3Harris Technologies Celebrate Hiring of TSTC Machining Student

(WACO, Texas) – Representatives of Texas State Technical College and L3Harris Technologies recently gathered to celebrate a new company employee at a recognition ceremony.

Tyler Rochelle, of Whitney, was hired by L3Harris as a computer numerical control machinist for its manufacturing department in Waco. He began in November as a part-time employee, but his work will increase to full time upon graduation this month from TSTC with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Precision Machining Technology.

“TSTC gave me all the fundamental knowledge to get started on the machines they have,” Rochelle said.

Jon Piatt, the company’s vice president and general manager, told Rochelle his skill set and desire to work will help him get where he wants to go in his career.

“You are coming in at a great time,” Piatt said at the ceremony.

Travis Beach, the company’s manufacturing manager, said Rochelle’s hiring signals a time of growth for the company as it secures new contracts. Recently the U.S. Air Force awarded the company a contract to design, produce and certify a state-of-the-art modernization solution for a fleet of 176 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve C-130H aircraft and a U.S. Navy task order to provide planned maintenance services and in-service repairs on the U.S. Marine Corps KC-130J and T-model aircraft. 

Beach said the last time TSTC students were hired for manufacturing-type jobs at the company was in 2014.

“Hiring Tyler is a big deal,” said Beach, a TSTC graduate.

Jerome Mendias, TSTC’s associate provost, said the company can look to hire quality graduates from several of the college’s technical programs, including Aircraft Airframe Technology, Aircraft Powerplant Technology, Avionics Technology and Industrial Systems. 

Mendias called TSTC’s relationship with the company a natural fit because of the physical proximity to each other and the shared missions of excellence, integrity and service. He said the company is a good neighbor.

“We have a track record together,” Mendias said.

Rochelle thought about studying 3D animation and modeling when he was in high school, but he said he is not the type to sit at a desk for several hours at a time. He took a tour of TSTC when he was in high school, looked through the program list and found Precision Machining Technology.

“It honestly caught my eye,” he said. “This is the core of manufacturing with every product made.”

L3Harris is an international aerospace and defense technology company with 48,000 employees and customers in more than 100 countries. The company’s Waco facility specializes in aircraft modifications.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

TSTC Welding Technology Student Honored With Campus Award

(WACO, Texas) – Edward Sanchez, of Hubbard, is proud to be a third-generation welder.

“I come in and do the best I can do every day,” he said.

Sanchez graduated this month with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus. He is also the fall semester’s Mike Torres Jr. Leadership Award recipient.

“It’s awesome with me being the first in my family to graduate from college and being an older, nontraditional student,” he said. “It’s a humbling feeling.”

Sanchez previously attended TSTC in 2000 to study Occupational Safety Compliance Technology, but did not finish the program.

He returned to TSTC in 2018 to pursue Welding Technology because he wanted to sharpen his skills, learn proper terminology and know how to break down materials. He completed a structural welding certificate in December 2019.

“It was nerve-wracking at first,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez cited Carl Wilmeth, an instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program, as an influence for his work. Wilmeth taught him in the first-semester class, Introduction to Blueprint Reading for Welders.

“He is known to be a man of integrity,” Wilmeth said.

Sanchez’s desire is to be a good example for his five sons, ages six to 19.

“I would like to see them get into a trade,” he said.

Sanchez grew up in South Waco riding bicycles with his friends, wading into creeks and playing video games at Safeway. 

“We didn’t know what it was like sitting home playing Xbox,” he said.

Sanchez graduated from the “old” University High School when it was located on Valley Mills Drive.

He worked for eight years at Caterpillar in Waco before the plant shut down in 2017. He was a jack-of-all-trades, working where needed at the facility. The closure led to Sanchez’s going back to college. 

The Mike Torres Jr. Leadership Award is given to honor the memory of Waco native Mike Torres Jr., who taught in TSTC’s Digital Media and Design program until his death in 2005. Torres graduated from Bishop Louis Reicher Catholic High School and TSTC’s Commercial Art Advertising and Integrated Digital Image program, according to the Waco Tribune-Herald.

The award signifies qualities that Torres was known for: courage, honesty and integrity. The award is given each semester at commencement to a candidate for graduation who is nominated by TSTC faculty and staff members. It was first given in fall 2011, according to TSTC archival information.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions Looks to TSTC to Help Fill Jobs

(HUTTO, Texas) – Kalahari Resorts and Conventions in Round Rock is providing big opportunities not only for fun, but also for jobs for Texas State Technical College students.

“Kalahari’s presence is a game-changer for the entire hospitality sector, and especially our Culinary Arts program,” said Michael Smith, senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation at TSTC’s Williamson County campus in Hutto. 

“The fact that they are only five miles from campus and offer a wide array of culinary- and hospitality-related careers is a huge benefit to our students and TSTC,” he said. 

Kalahari opened in mid-November and bills itself as America’s Largest Indoor Waterpark Resort, with a convention center, spa, restaurants, shopping, live entertainment and 975 guest rooms. The resort is projected to create 1,000 jobs.

“Kalahari is a company that not only takes care of the employees that work for them, but the community as a whole,” said Nelson Adams, an instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program on the Williamson County campus.

Chad Blunston, Kalahari’s executive director of culinary, said workers are hired and trained in a home kitchen or department on the property. When all of the hiring is complete, the resort will have more than 200 cooks, leaders and supervisors.

“It is really a great place for a young culinarian or experienced culinarian who wants to explore other avenues,” he said. “There are opportunities for growth in our resort. You have it all under one roof.”

Julio Diego Vazquez of Hutto, a TSTC Culinary Arts student, began working at the resort less than two months ago. He works with banquet events and also food preparation for the restaurants.

“I am learning a lot,” Vazquez said. “It’s a big place to grow.”

Adams and Blunston knew each other through the American Culinary Federation’s Austin chapter. Blunston mentioned to Adams about needing a place to train employees as the resort was under construction.

Adams told Blunston about an unused kitchen lab on the third floor of the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Hutto.

“With both TSTC and Kalahari collaborating on the development, we soon had a brand-new kitchen designed specifically for the purpose of putting more Texans to work,” Adams said. 

Blunston said there are more opportunities at the resort for TSTC graduates.

“You can imagine the water pumps and infrastructure our building has,” he said. “You can imagine what the HVAC system looks like. There are many different elements that TSTC graduates can enjoy.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

TSTC Medical Office Specialist certificate program offers virtual hands-on learning

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Health Information Technology instructor Sarah Brooks has taught at Texas State Technical College for 17 years. Her excitement upon discovering the many opportunities available in health information guided her to a career as department chair at TSTC.

Brooks discussed the advantages of earning a Medical Office Specialist certificate online, as well as the paths available for someone who studies the expansive field of health information technology.

What is the day-to-day career like for a medical office specialist?

It can vary, depending on job title and work setting. You spend the majority of your day in front of the computer, with little or no direct patient contact. Your main job function is to ensure the information found in the patient’s electronic medical record is timely, complete and accurate. This is typically a fast-paced working environment with little downtime.

What do you think the advantages are of earning a medical office specialist certificate online?

The advantages of earning any certificate or degree online is the flexibility that this learning environment offers. Many of our students work full time and have families of their own while taking courses online. Students are able to work on their course when they want, from where they want.

What are some of the best traits that a student should have to succeed in the program?

 Self-discipline, self-motivation and time management are traits that are critical in being successful as an online student.

Is the learning for this certificate still hands-on?

 Absolutely. In our program, the instructors make themselves readily available to each student by offering virtual office hours and virtual learning labs every week at various times throughout the day and evening. The program also utilizes a variety of real-world software applications that students will gain hands-on experience in.

What advice would you give to somebody who was considering enrolling in this program?

 Students need to know they are not alone. The instructor and students work together as a team, sharing their work, life and educational experiences during the online learning process.

To learn more about Health Information Technology at TSTC, visit

Female receptionist working the computer.

TSTC Automotive Technology Program Receives $30,000 from San Antonio Organization

(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s statewide Automotive Technology program will be revving up stronger than ever, thanks to a generous contribution from a Texas-based automotive organization. 

The Community of Automotive Professionals recently gave $30,000 for TSTC’s Automotive Technology programs in Harlingen, Sweetwater and Waco. The money will give a financial boost to TSTC’s ability to provide scholarships and improve equipment for use in labs and classes.

“(TSTC supports) all our core values, and we are partners moving forward,” said Mark Colaw, board chairman of the Community of Automotive Professionals, the 501(c)(3) organization that produces CarFest each spring in San Antonio. “They have a reach across Texas. That is what is important and impresses me.”

Michael Smith, senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation, said the organization has consistently supported TSTC in recent years. It has given $160,000 in gifts to TSTC since 2015.

“We just have a phenomenal advocate in Mark (Colaw),” Smith said. “He sees the needs in the automotive industry and recognizes the quality of students that come out of TSTC.”

Miguel Zoleta, lead instructor in TSTC’s Automotive Technology program in Harlingen, said some of the organization’s financial gifts have gone toward student uniforms and lockers.

“We have also awarded students scholarships so they could purchase tools they need for our program,” he said.

Zoleta said the program has been fortunate to receive engines and a transmission from Jasper Engines and Transmissions through CarFest that students use in some of their courses.

Rudy Cervantez, TSTC’s statewide chair of the Automotive Technology department, said Automotive Technology students in Waco who bought a shirt at the campus store were given a second shirt free because of the financial gift. Students were also able to use new lockers to store tools.

“We wanted to help the students out,” he said.

Cervantez said Automotive Technology students statewide who have good referrals from program instructors and meet a grade-point average requirement are eligible for a $500 scholarship.

Cervantez said some money was used to help members of the first cohort of Tesla’s START training program at TSTC earlier this year. That program is taught at the Kultgen Automotive Center on the Waco campus.

CarFest is planned for April 9-11, 2021, at Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio. However, the organization is working on contingency plans for the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are working on a Plan A and a Plan B,” Colaw said. “We improve our event every year. We are working on the new improvements as part of the plans. We are staying conscious that we need to pivot.”

For more information on the Community of Automotive Professionals, go to

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to