Category Archives: Williamson County

TSTC Welding Technology instructors eager to share knowledge with students

(HUTTO, Texas) – The majority of instructors in Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program at the East Williamson County campus happen to be women.

Kristin Burke, Samara Flener and Charli Wright bring decades of professional experience to teach their students to be the best welders they can be.

“Three of the five welding instructors at the East Williamson County campus are women, and they are setting a great example for our students and future generations,” said Lissa Adams, provost of TSTC’s East Williamson County campus. “The more women that choose technical careers, the more encouraged other women and young girls will be to explore these options. Welding is currently one of the top in-demand jobs in our region, making it an attractive and viable career choice.”

Burke, of Georgetown, has been an instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program for three years. She was inspired to pursue teaching by the welding instructors she had at Austin Community College.

“I figured it would be pretty awesome to be able to not only share my passion for welding with my students, but also be able to train the next generation of workers,” she said. “I get to weld all day, and impart knowledge on my students and see that light bulb come on for them.”

Burke became interested in welding by way of her sister-in-law, Angela Cockrum, who once taught at TSTC’s Waco campus.

“They were offering a free welding program through the Fluor Corp.,” Burke said. “I signed up because I was interested, and as soon as I struck an arc for the first time, I knew welding was what I was meant to do.”

Burke said she looked to Cockrum as a role model because she always looked for the next step to better herself and her career.

“Every move I have made in the welding industry in the last 14 years is a step up from the previous one,” Burke said. “The sky’s the limit, and I strive to make every move better than the last to continue to grow as a person and in my career.”

Before teaching at TSTC, Burke worked in the welding industry for 14 years, doing power plant work, heavy equipment repair, high-end fabrication, structural welding and metallurgical testing.

“I’m a certified welding inspector, so I have done welding inspection on structural components for commercial buildings and in a production shop setting,” she said.

Burke said her advice for women curious about welding is for them to know they will have to work harder than everyone else to prove themselves.

“Don’t let that discourage you, though, because you definitely belong here,” she said. “If this is your passion, stick with it because being part of a select few that get to do what they love on a daily basis is amazing.”

Flener, of Austin, has taught for eight years in TSTC’s Welding Technology program.

“I had considered the possibility of teaching at some point and was fortunate enough to be offered an opportunity to come teach at TSTC by a former work colleague that was a TSTC instructor,” she said. “I had the opportunity to pass on my welding skills and experience to the next generation of welders, just as it was passed on to me, by my former teachers.”

Flener first began welding while working at a salmon cannery in summer 1990 in Alaska.

“I immediately fell in love with welding and returned to Austin to attend Austin Community College,” she said.

Flener counts Warren Donworth, her former welding instructor at ACC, as a role model.

“I learned from him what it means to pursue excellence, be of service to others, and that 90 percent of success is having a positive outlook,” she said.

Flener went on to work for 15 years as a pipe and structural welder and also did welding fabrication. She also worked for 10 years as an American Welding Society certified welding inspector, and she still holds the certification.

“I love welding, and I am fortunate that I had the opportunity to pursue welding as a career and am grateful to the women who paved the way for me and the other women in the industry,” Flener said. “I am also grateful to the men who acknowledged my ability and work ethic and who also helped me gain the skills I needed to excel in the trade.”

Wright, who has taught for two years at TSTC after spending four decades in the welding industry, credited Burke and Flener in making move the welding lab 

“Their knowledge of this trade, passion for teaching and willingness and patience with me as a new instructor definitely helped me immensely in transitioning into a teaching role,” Wright said. 

During the month of March, TSTC wants to honor women in history and right on our campuses who work to make strides in STEM fields every day.

“My hope is that more women will begin to see themselves in skilled trades and technical careers and will boldly enhance the opportunity that they provide, including increased earning potential, job choice and career stability,” Adams said. 

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TSTC Culinary Arts provides dual enrollment opportunity for Hutto High School students

(HUTTO, Texas) – Hutto High School students with an interest in culinary arts have a quicker pathway to earning an associate degree at Texas State Technical College’s East Williamson County campus through dual enrollment classes.

“Dual enrollment students have the benefit of seeing the culinary world before having to pay,” said Brian Bohannon, a Culinary Arts teaching lab assistant at TSTC. “It has been great having the dual enrollment students from Hutto.”

Dual enrollment enables high school students to take college-level courses as they work toward high school diplomas and earn college semester-credit hours.

Hutto High School’s Culinary Arts program averages 60 students per year. Freshmen and sophomores choose two prerequisite classes before moving on in the Culinary Arts program. 

There are two levels of classes within the program that high school juniors and seniors can take. When students become juniors, they can also decide whether to enroll in dual enrollment classes with TSTC’s Culinary Arts program. 

“I have a lot of successful students that have gone through my program and have graduated from TSTC’s program,” Said Farraje, a Culinary Arts instructor at Hutto High School, said. “It is something to be proud of.”

Alexis Gamboa is in his second semester in the Culinary Arts program at TSTC. The Hutto High School graduate took dual enrollment classes.

“I didn’t know that the classes had dual enrollment at the start, but when I found out how useful it was, I was elated,” he said. “The classes really helped me be prepared for TSTC and make it so much easier to enroll.”

Gamboa said his TSTC classes have been a good experience.

“The program that we have used for online learning has been very easy to work with and makes classes much easier,” Gamboa said. “I have enjoyed the program so much that I am excited for the next semester and to see what new things I will learn.”

Farraje said he sees a need for trained culinary workers to fill positions as Austin and its suburbs grow. He said having a degree provides graduates with the expertise, knowledge and skills to progress within the culinary industry’s ranks.

“When you get a formal education, it reinforces whatever you are doing,” Farraje said.

TSTC in East Williamson County also has dual enrollment partnerships with Dillard McCollum High School in San Antonio for Automotive Technology, Jubilee Academy in San Antonio for Business Management Technology, Jubilee Academy in Wells Branch for Medical Office Specialist, Liberty Hill High School for Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Technology and Digital Media Design, and Texas Can Academy in San Antonio for Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics Technology.

According to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, more than 151,000 Texas high school students took dual enrollment classes in fall 2017.

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Round Rock-area computer technology jobs show promise for TSTC graduates

(HUTTO, Texas) – Before enrolling at Texas State Technical College, Melissa Wykes studied criminal justice and became a licensed esthetician.

But she said she needed to make a career change for financial security. 

The Round Rock resident chose to attend TSTC’s East Williamson County campus in Hutto to pursue an Associate of Applied Science degree in Cybersecurity. She is scheduled to graduate this semester.

“Cybersecurity is a wide-ranging field,” Wykes said. “It has been really interesting getting exposure to different aspects of it.”

TSTC transitioned several programs to an online format last year so that students who are not close to a TSTC campus can have the opportunity to take classes in Computer Programming and Systems Administration, Cybersecurity and other TSTC programs.

“We (industry professionals) have been telecommuting and working this way for a decade,” said Joshua Schier, an instructor in TSTC’s Cybersecurity program. “We are the most unaffected by this pandemic. I would say this is the right career at the right time if you have the skill set and think you can do this.”

There are 14 students from Round Rock enrolled in the statewide Cybersecurity program this semester, along with two students in the statewide Computer Programming Technology program, according to TSTC enrollment information.

Wykes said during this time of COVID-19 that people interested in a career change should pursue cybersecurity.

“This is an amazing career field, and because it is so widely varied, there are these pockets and niches,” Wykes said. “The work is going to be so secure for the next several decades. Everything is going to the cloud. That is all cybersecurity and information technology.”

Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area in Cedar Park has designated several computer-related jobs in its nine-county area, excluding Travis County, as target occupations. Some of these include computer systems analysts, database developers and information security analysts.

There are more than 3,100 computer-related jobs in Round Rock, according to Workforce Solutions. More than 1,300 of these were in software development and software quality assurance analysis and testing. There were more than 500 for computer user support specialists and more than 300 for computer systems analysts.

Workforce Solutions predicts that in the next three years there will be a need for 400 more workers trained for computer occupations in the Round Rock area.

TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program and Web Design and Development Technology program are taking part in the Austin Technology Council. The council focuses on supporting businesses and professional growth, providing networking and business mentoring opportunities, and giving public policy representation to the tech industry. 

Shannon Ferguson, statewide lead instructor in TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program, said his vision is to see students in the two programs promoted to companies throughout the Austin area.

Some of the Round Rock companies that have sought technology workers in the last month include Revature, which is seeking an entry-level computer programmer, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which is looking for a software developer, and VCL Technologies, which is seeking a software developer, according to

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Granger student builds on new welding skills at TSTC

(HUTTO, Texas) – Among the drywalling and framing tasks she was doing with her father for a barn project last spring at the family home in Granger, Mikayla Larremore picked up an affinity for welding she did not know she had.

“I got into it because everything I had done in my life before, I was good at,” she said.

The discovery changed her mind about what she wanted to do in her career. Larremore went from studying psychology at a university to enrolling last fall at Texas State Technical College’s East Williamson County campus in the Welding Technology program. She said she enjoys welding because it means job security.

Larremore, now in her second semester at TSTC, did not see the program’s work area until her first day of classes. She is taking three classes at night this semester and said she enjoys using what she learns and applying it.

“I like being around people who like the same kinds of things I like,” she said.

Charli Wright, an instructor in TSTC’s Welding Technology program, said Larremore is exceptional at what she does.

“She is motivated, organized and is not afraid to get behind the hood and put in the practice to become a good welder,” Wright said. “Mikayla is very inquisitive and is able to take constructive criticism and turn it into success.”

Larremore said she has adjusted well to the hybrid teaching that program instructors are doing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lectures and reading are done online, and hands-on work is done in labs.

“It has not been a big deal for me,” she said. “I thought a lot about that. I have always grown up in the middle of nowhere. I’m used to doing things remotely anyway and not being around a lot of people.”

Larremore is around horses a lot. She said she learned how to ride horses before she could walk.

“I barrel-raced the entire time I was in school until I started playing sports in seventh grade,” she said. “I took a break and started back roping. I do calf roping and started team roping. There is an arena in Georgetown where I go to rope once a week.”

Larremore took dual enrollment classes while at Granger High School and was quickly able to earn an associate degree in psychology. She continued her education at a university and completed a semester before taking time off and deciding to enroll at TSTC.

Larremore’s career plan is to start her own business, possibly focusing on farm and ranch welding, in Central Texas. Her advice to women interested in welding is not to feel discouraged and just to be themselves.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that more than 452,000 brazers, cutters, solderers and welders will be needed by 2029.

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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.”

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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.”

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TSTC Student Utilizes Scholarship for Hutto Residents

(HUTTO, Texas) – Matthew Barringer’s most prized possession is on four wheels and comes with history.

He owns a 1998 Dodge Dakota that belonged to his grandfather, who died when Barringer was in elementary school.

“That is the only physical memory I have of him,” said Barringer, a Hutto resident.

When it came time to choose where to go to college, Barringer said he knew a four-year university was not for him. He considered going into police work after graduation but decided to take his love of vehicles and make a career out of it. He chose Texas State Technical College’s Waco campus to study Automotive Technology.

“It has been the best decision I have ever made,” Barringer said. “I am so happy here. I like not having big student loans so I can make money right out of the gate.”

Barringer is a recipient of the Hutto Education Foundation’s scholarship, a joint effort with the city of Hutto and The TSTC Foundation.

“Since 2006, the (Hutto Education Foundation) mission has been to enhance educational opportunities for students and staff in the Hutto Independent School District through our grant and scholarship programs,” said Lizzy Samples, the foundation’s director of community education. “We are excited to partner with TSTC to provide for Hutto ISD graduates/TSTC students in their third and fourth semesters. With deep Hutto roots and with a TSTC hands-on educational experience, these students are bound for greatness.”

Barringer is using the scholarship so he can pay for the fall semester and not take out a loan. 

“Here (at TSTC), I wake up and go to class, and I am ready to learn,” he said.

Barringer is a 2018 graduate of Hutto High School, where he played football.

“He is a great kid,” said Bradley LaPlante, the high school’s head football coach and athletics director. “He always had a nice souped-up truck in the parking lot that was always fresh and clean. With him being in the Automotive Technology program, I think that is right up his alley.”

In the spring, Barringer will do a program-required cooperative at a Hutto-area dealership. He wants to build on his interest in electrical work, learning from experienced automotive technicians.

Barringer’s goal is to stay in the area to work once he graduates from TSTC.

“For him, he is going to be successful at what he puts his mind to and what he wants to do,” LaPlante said.

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TSTC Ready to Meet Aviation Job Needs in Williamson County

(HUTTO, Texas) – The Texas aviation and aerospace industry is responsible for creating more than 778,000 jobs and a payroll of more than $30 billion, according to the Texas Department of Transportation’s 2018 Texas Aviation Economic Impact Study. 

“Aviation is a huge, growing field,” said Michael Smith, senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation at Texas State Technical College’s Williamson County campus. “Aviation is a prime opportunity because you have an aging workforce.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a need for more than 23,000 avionics technicians and more than 143,000 aviation mechanics and service technicians by 2029.

“We have two generations of workers that never went into those fields,” Smith said.

Williamson County residents interested in aerospace and aviation careers can learn needed skills in the Industrial Systems, Precision Machining Technology and Welding Technology programs at TSTC’s campus in Hutto. 

Robert Capps, TSTC’s statewide lead for the Aviation Maintenance department, said the COVID-19 pandemic has not decreased students’ desire to study in TSTC’s Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology programs in Abilene, Harlingen and Waco. 

“We pull in quite a few students from the Williamson County area,” Capps said. “There is certainly plenty of interest.”

Capps said due to the popularity of TSTC’s aviation maintenance programs, spring student intakes are being considered for the first time at the Abilene and Harlingen campuses. Spring intakes will continue at the Waco campus.

Capps said he advises students visiting the aviation maintenance programs to be willing to move where their first job is.

“Unlike automotive, where you have mom-and-pop shops spring up all over the place, there are very few mom-and-pop shops popping up for aviation maintenance,” he said. “Most of the work is done in hubs.”

The Georgetown Municipal Airport can be considered Williamson County’s aviation hub, as more than 20 aviation-related businesses are clustered there. The airport has two runways, the longest being 5,004 feet in length. The airport’s economic impact is more than 500 jobs with a payroll that exceeds $14 million, according to TxDOT’s 2018 aviation impact study. 

Joseph Carney, the airport’s manager, said encouraging students to pursue aerospace and aviation careers should start in high school. He cited the Georgetown Independent School District’s Tango Flight program as a way to give students hands-on experience by building small airplanes to sell.

“This exposes the students to colleges with aviation programs,” Carney said. “They are not going into college completely blind.” 

One of Cedar Park’s largest employers, Firefly Aerospace, has more than 150 employees, according to the Cedar Park Economic Development Corp. The company specializes in designing, manufacturing and operating reliable launch vehicles. It has hired TSTC alumni for jobs in machining, manufacturing, engineering and technology integration.

Ben White, president and chief executive officer of the Cedar Park EDC, said Firefly Aerospace’s presence in the city and county signals a change in the economy.

“I think it has demonstrated Cedar Park can be home to high-tech and forward-thinking companies,” he said. “It is a startup company working with NASA to deliver payloads to the moon. There are many cities and companies in Texas that are working on that. That kind of demonstrates the progression of the workforce in Williamson County. It is becoming more of a high-tech workforce.”

There have been 31 openings for avionics technicians advertised through Workforce Solutions Rural Capital Area in the last 12 months. Several of the openings have been at Firefly Aerospace.

White predicts Cedar Park will be the next employment hub for the Austin area.

“You will see a lot of technical jobs, high-tech jobs, Firefly-like corporations, but you will also see regional headquarters and office support for corporations coming here,” he said.

TSTC also offers Aircraft Pilot Training Technology and Avionics Technology in Waco.

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TSTC’s Precision Machining Technology Program in Williamson County Ready to Fill Area Jobs

(HUTTO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Precision Machining Technology program has started using a supplemental curriculum from the National Tool &Machining Association this fall to teach students.

Darren Block, TSTC’s statewide program lead, said students will get a more thorough education in machining, combined with the professional knowledge that faculty members bring to labs and lectures.

The program is using a hybrid teaching format for classes, with some being online and others involving in-person lab work.

Block is feeling good about machining jobs in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If it is man-made, we had our hands on it,” he said.

Waggoner Manufacturing Inc. in Round Rock manufactures and services aluminum, machined plastic, and stainless steel components and parts for the worldwide semiconductor automation and communication industries. 

Michael Wohlford, the company’s plant manager, said high school students, and those who want a career change, should have a personal appreciation for machining.

“They can watch YouTube videos and see firsthand how the CNC (computer numerical controlled) machines work, and they can have stars in their eyes and say it’s really cool and they would want to learn how to get into that,” Wohlford said.

He said the company likes to have job applicants who already have experience working with CNC machines in machine shops. New hires are trained in the company’s way of doing work.

Mark Thomas, president and chief executive officer of the Taylor Economic Development Corp., has reason to be optimistic about the future.

“We have had many projects, from small companies all the way to larger ones, that would love to have some level of comfort that they can hire machinists if they moved to our area,” he said.

Thomas said there is promise for the 750-acre RCR Taylor Logistics Park west of the city. The industrial park offers Union Pacific and BNSF rail service and has Foreign Trade Zone, Opportunity Zone and Triple Freeport designations.

“Our expectation is there will be advanced manufacturing and potential suppliers that we have already been talking to coming into that rail park,” Thomas said. “If we can say there is a training capacity for graduates or there are workers out there that need good jobs, any of these we can put to a good advantage to create jobs in the Taylor area.”

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TSTC Foundation, Hutto Education Foundation Honor Scholarship Recipients

(HUTTO, Texas) – Representatives of The TSTC Foundation and the Hutto Education Foundation gathered virtually on Wednesday morning to honor recipients of a jointly sponsored scholarship for Hutto residents.

“The most significant thing with this partnership is that we are talking about retention,” said Beth Wooten, chief executive officer of The TSTC Foundation. “There are scholarship opportunities that help get students in the front door, but retention is a significant challenge. We all recognize that. The significance here is we are focusing on getting students across the finish line.”

The scholarship assists students in their third and fourth semesters at any Texas State Technical College campus. Recipients must be Hutto High School graduates and in good academic standing at TSTC.

“This is the best part of my job,” Wooten said. “The mission of The TSTC Foundation is really pretty simple: Our role is to raise scholarship funds and emergency aid to eliminate financial barriers for students.”

The scholarship recipients are Kevin Aguilar, Matthew Barringer, Joshua Carrillo, Daxxon Derton, Christopher Hawkins, Kent Jordan and Julio Diego Vazquez.

“Most of the students I have known since they were teeny-tiny,” said Michael Smith, a senior field development officer for The TSTC Foundation. “I am so excited to see what happens with you all.”

Barringer graduated in 2018 from Hutto High School and is studying Automotive Technology at TSTC’s Waco campus. For him, receiving the scholarship means he can pay for the fall semester and not take out a student loan. Barringer is scheduled to graduate in the spring.

“TSTC means a lot to me because I kind of found it when I was at a bad time and I was not enjoying regular school,” he said. “It was a saving grace for me. TSTC is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.”

The city of Hutto and the Hutto Education Foundation are providing scholarship funding through The TSTC Foundation. 

“This is just the beginning,” said Lizzie Samples, director of the Hutto Education Foundation. “Being Hutto Hippos, and the tools you have been given through Hutto ISD and the tools TSTC has provided you, you are going to make a difference in our world.”

Future and current Hutto High School graduates can talk to a TSTC enrollment coach for more information on the scholarship.

“My hope for Hutto ISD students is they continue to realize the value and viability of investing in their education right here in Hutto,” said Lissa Adams, associate provost of TSTC’s Williamson County campus.

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