Category Archives: Williamson County

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.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

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.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

Thrall Resident Overcomes Challenges En Route to TSTC Associate Degree

(HUTTO) – Jonathan Flores of Thrall was working in construction in 2014 when he was involved in an automobile accident in Williamson County.

Flores was thrown out of the vehicle he was in and found out soon afterward that he was paralyzed from the chest down. At the time, he said he did not think much about college. But while recovering and adjusting to his life’s changes, he said he knew he needed to further his education.

“If you want to do something, no matter what you want to do, you can do it,” Flores said.

Flores, 24, is a candidate for graduation with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology at Texas State Technical College in Williamson County’s Fall 2018 Commencement at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 7, at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center at 1600 Innovation Blvd. in Hutto.

“I got interested in welding because I like to build stuff,” Flores said. “After my accident, I couldn’t do much work.”

With some minor adapting, Flores is able to weld in EWCHEC’s first-floor labs. He enjoys fabricating the most.

“It was hard at first,” Flores said. “The instructors would tell you (to do it) a certain way, and sometimes I could not do it and I had to figure out a different way.”

Samara Flener, lead instructor of TSTC’s Welding Technology program, said she and faculty members admire Flores’ work ethic, attitude and determination.

“My priority became making sure he had access when he was in the booth and that he was as comfortable as all of the other students,” Flener said. “We will take 20 more of him.”

When he is not studying or working, Flores likes to play wheelchair basketball in Austin. He said it is good exercise and a way to connect with others.

Flores graduated in 2012 from Taylor High School, where he played soccer and took graphic design and engineering classes.

“I would see people weld and it looked cool,” he said.

His goal after graduation is to pursue a job in a fabrication shop in the Austin area.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to

TSTC Graduates 12 at Summer Commencement

(HUTTO) – Texas State Technical College celebrated its summer commencement ceremony in Hutto Friday, Aug. 10. Twelve graduates walked the stage in the presence of their family and friends.

“This is a celebration of our graduates’ efforts, and a recognition of all they have accomplished,” TSTC Provost Edgar Padilla said. “Tonight’s ceremony acknowledges the completion of study and dedication by our summer graduates and signifies the beginning of their professional careers.”

Robb Misso, Founder and CEO of Dynamic Manufacturing Solutions, was the keynote speaker at the ceremony.

“Start your path,” Misso told the graduates. “Understand your skills and your capabilities.”

He urged graduates to continue developing in their careers.

“The more that I learn, the more that I realize that it’s a journey,” Misso said. “You can’t stop. As soon as you stop, you stop progressing. You stop growing. It’s so important that you don’t ever quit. When you start something, persevere.”

Industrial Maintenance graduate Damian Helmbold was selected for the Provost Award, an award given to a student who has demonstrated high academic performance, exceptional character and student leadership, and who has influenced their peers to strive for excellence.

“I’m totally honored and surprised,” Helmbold said. “I wasn’t expecting anything. My family being here, it was a great feeling.”

Helmbold, who has worked for the city of Georgetown for nine years, credits his degree for his new position as a SCADA Technician, which he began six months ago.

Precision Machining Technology graduate Wyatt Hauer was excited to receive his degree. At just 20 years old, he manages Four Points Platinum Machining.

“I’m certified now, so that helps.” Hauer said. “I do everything from programming parts to sweeping floors. I pretty much run the place. It’s the owner, and then me. He handles the business and I handle the shop.”

TSTC in Williamson County graduates earned degrees in six of the programs offered at the campus – Culinary Arts, Cyber Security, HVAC, Industrial Maintenance, Precision Machining Technology and Welding.

TSTC is registering for the fall semester through Aug. 20. For more information on the college, visit

For a gallery of photos from the ceremony, click here.

Student Overcomes Obstacles to Reach TSTC Graduation

(HUTTO) – When Texas State Technical College student Damian Helmbold walks the stage Friday at the Summer 2018 Commencement, he will be reaching a goal he has worked towards for more than  two years.

Helmbold was born in Kingston, New York,  but moved to Texas in 1997. Three years ago, he experienced health issues and decided he wanted to make a change in his life.

“I had a fibrosis growing under my kidney and had a major surgery on my abdomen,” Helmbold said. “I got through that, and then I had back surgery. After that I decided I wanted to do more.”

So after learning about TSTC from some of his colleagues at the city of Georgetown, Helmbold enrolled in the Industrial Maintenance program.

“My coworkers went to TSTC in Waco and graduated from there maybe 10 years ago,” he said. “They’re in the field that I wanted to be in. That’s what made me choose this.”

Helmbold worked for the city of Georgetown’s water department for nine years. He credits his upcoming degree for his new position with the city — supervisory control and data acquisition I&C technician. He began working in the new position six months ago.

“We maintain all the stations in the system for the city of Georgetown,” he said. “It could be water or electrical substations and wastewater plants. We deal with all the communications, the programming on the PLCs and the communications back to the control center via radio and fiber optics.”

Juggling working full time, going to school at night and spending time with his wife and kids, Helmbold was happy to take evening classes.

“I wouldn’t have been able to finish if I couldn’t do it at my own pace,” he said.

Helmbold will graduate with honors and credits two things for maintaining his high GPA: his work ethic and his wife.

“I made sure to allocate enough time to do my work, any studying and any research I had to do,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without my wife, of course, having two boys. Her help allowed me to step away to go to school, while both kids are in sports and with all the school activities.”

His advice to those considering the school is to meet with the instructors.

“Come in and talk to the teachers themselves,” he said. “They’re a big reason I chose to come here and stay the whole eight semesters it took me to do this part time. It’s a big accomplishment to finish something like this.”

Helmbold is one of 23 students eligible to walk at the college’s Commencement exercises  on Friday. The ceremony will be at 6:30 p.m. on the third floor of the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Hutto.

TSTC is registering now for the fall semester. The last day to register is Monday, Aug. 20, and classes begin Monday, Aug. 27.

For more information on TSTC, visit

Inspired to Teach, Welding Grad Returns to TSTC

(HUTTO) – When Brandon Cernosek began attending the welding program at Texas State Technical College in Waco, a teaching job was the last thing on his mind.

But while going through the program, he drew inspiration from his welding instructor. As a result, Cernosek recently began teaching welding at TSTC in Williamson County.

“One of the teachers, when I was going to school, was a really good teacher,” Cernosek said. “He was one of those guys you wanted to be around and just listen to because he was always in a good mood with a positive attitude. He just made you want to come to class and learn. That’s the type of teacher I wanted to be.”

Cernosek graduated from TSTC in 2016. Later the Cedar Park resident worked in the welding industry before going to work for the college.

“I worked at Fast Lane Metalworks (in Waco),” Cernosek said. “It was a custom fabrication shop. People would come in and just tell us something they dreamt up that nobody else had, so we’d figure out how to make it. That was a lot of fun. Then I did some more industrial work.”

His love for welding began when he was in high school.

“It was just something that seemed so awesome,” Cernosek said. “You could just make things out of metal and do whatever you wanted with it. Cut here, add it there and, I don’t know, I just fell in love with how it feels when you’re under the hood. I can do a good TIG weld and come out happy. I just like doing it.”

Coming in as a new instructor, Cernosek worried that the students wouldn’t accept him.

“I thought the students weren’t going to respond very well to a young person coming in and trying to help them, but they actually responded really well,” he said. “I’m not trying to be a know-it-all or anything. I’m just trying to help out. They seem to take to it really well, and that feeling itself is really rewarding.”

TSTC Provost Edgar Padilla said he is happy to welcome Cernosek to the team.

“We are excited to see our welding program growing and always feel privileged to have a TSTC grad return from industry to teach our next generation of welders,” Padilla said. “Brandon is a great addition to the Williamson County family.”

Cernosek hopes that passing on his skills will help fuel the workforce.

“There’s not a lot of skilled laborers out there,” he said. “If I can help throw some more skilled laborers out there, that’d be great — teach some kids some new skills.”

TSTC prides itself on being “a great place to work” and is currently hiring for positions at its 10 campuses statewide. For information on open positions at TSTC, visit

TSTC Looks to Expand Team

(HUTTO) – Texas State Technical College is looking to expand its Williamson County team and hiring for several instructor positions.

Precision Machining, Industrial Maintenance, HVAC, Welding and Culinary Arts are some of the areas in which the school is looking to fill vacancies.

Campus Director Darren Block said teaching offers a chance to make an impact in the community. It also lets one do one’s part to fill the “skills gap,” a shortage of middle-skilled workers to fill open positions in the U.S.

“By instructing the next generation of blue-collar workers in this country, we are building the future and providing a path to success,” Block said. “You often hear ‘it’s a dying art’ or the ‘skills gap.’ We are filling that skills gap, or handing down that skill or ‘art’ to the next generation.”

Block said teaching also offers a sense of pride.

“Teaching someone to do what you do is fulfilling and rewarding,” he said. “When I get a call from an employer saying our student is working out great and asking if we have any more to send them, that is what it is all about.”

TSTC Provost Edgar Padilla hopes those interested in strengthening the workforce of Texas will apply.

“TSTC is a dynamic institution, working hard to fulfill a unique mission among colleges and universities in Texas,” Padilla said. “Our employees are the heartbeat of our vision for placing more Texans into great careers. We are seeking employees who are eager to innovate, lead and be part of changing the landscape of higher education in Texas.”

TSTC has 10 campuses statewide in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood, Fort Bend County, Harlingen, Marshall, North Texas, Sweetwater, Waco and Williamson County. Each campus provides a unique atmosphere, with programs chosen to suit each area’s employment needs.

“We are situated in one of the top five fastest-growing cities in Texas,” Padilla said. “The business climate in the Austin metropolitan area, coupled with our unique culture, makes this the perfect place to work and make an impact for our future students and graduates.”

TSTC offers benefits such as retirement, medical, dental, vision and more.

For information on open positions at TSTC, visit

TSTC Visionary Murray Watson Jr. Remembered for Service

(WACO) – Texas State Technical College mourned Wednesday the loss of former Texas legislator Murray Watson Jr., who filed legislation in 1969 to separate what was an arm of the Texas A&M University system into a stand-alone institution for technical education that would become TSTC.

“If there was ever a Mr. TSTC, it would be Murray Watson,” said Elton Stuckly Jr., TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief strategic relations officer.

Watson died Tuesday at age 86.

Watson was a state senator when he filed legislation to make the James Connally Technical Institute independent and rename it Texas State Technical Institute (now TSTC). Gov. Preston Smith signed the bill’s final version in May 1969 in Austin.

At TSTC’s 50th Anniversary Celebration in April 2015 in Austin, Watson was honored with a Founder’s Award.

Watson’s name is on TSTC’s student recreation center on Campus Drive. That factored into his wife, Greta, having been honored with the nearby Culinary Arts building being named for her.

“Murray and I walked out of the old (TSTC) system’s building, and we were about a million dollars short to build the new Culinary Arts Center,” Stuckly said. “I said, ‘Mr. Watson, I want you to think about something. Your name is on that (the recreation center) building. Wouldn’t it be nice for it (the new building) to be called the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center? If you give us a million dollars, you could look at each other forever.’ It wasn’t a couple of weeks later that he called and said he was going to do it.”

Stuckly said Watson was a mentor who would give him advice.

“He always stayed in contact with me by email,” Stuckly said. “He was always looking for ways and ideas of how to make TSTC a better college.”

Stuckly said he and Watson always found much to talk about.

“He grew up in Mart, and I was raised in Penelope,” Stuckly said. “He always wanted to ask about TSTC first, then talk about farm cattle and his feed store and what I used to do on the farm. He said, ‘Elton, there aren’t many people that I can talk to who relate to those times.’”

Verna Lastrapes, a TSTC college outreach specialist, grew up knowing the Watson family in Mart. She said Watson’s family owned the local feed store, which she would visit as a four-year-old with her father at least twice a week to catch up with residents.

“Murray Jr. was a senior at Mart High School then,” she said. “I knew him well because he and my sister, Barbara, were friends.”

Pete Rowe, TSTC’s vice president for institutional development, hauled hay for Watson when he was a teenager in Mart. Rowe also graduated from Mart High School.

“It’s a personal loss for me because I loved him so much,” Rowe said. “He was a great mentor to me. He and Mrs. Watson have always been very kind to me and have done a lot for me in my life and career.”

Lastrapes said residents in Mart thought Watson would be president one day.

“He did not become president, but he did become our state representative and our state senator,” she said. “As a teenager, I remember helping campaign for him. Just about everyone in Mart campaigned for him.”

The feed store factored into Watson’s law career.

“When he lost the campaign for U.S. representative and went into private law practice, he had his office in Waco and one in Mart above the feed store,” Lastrapes said. “For years that is where he conducted all legal transactions with my daddy and other rural area farmers and businessmen.”

Rowe said Watson raised cattle andis sure he must have encountered on his ranch some of what TSTC teaches today.

“Murray was a highly intelligent person,” he said. “He was way ahead of the curve in the education field. He really studied education. He knew what to do.”

Lastrapes worked several years at the Brazos Higher Education Service Corp. Inc., which financed student loans. Watson was one of the organization’s founders.

“He had his own time schedule,” she said. “We began to say, ‘The starting time is when Murray Watson gets there.’ That was for everything!”

John K. Hatchel, chair of the TSTC Board of Regents, worked with Watson as a member of the Brazos Higher Education Service’s board of directors.

“He was very quiet, but he was consistent,” Hatchel said. “If there was a person who needed something or help, he was the first in line to do his part. He did it not expecting any accolades or thank-you’s. He just did it as a person.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to


TSTC Recruiters Bring Enthusiasm to New Roles

(HUTTO) – Texas State Technical College recently welcomed two new student recruiters at its Williamson County campus.

MaKenna Honea, of Georgetown, and Brittany Hoke, of Pflugerville, joined the TSTC team at the beginning of June.

Before joining TSTC, Honea worked in the food and bar industry for four years.

“I wanted to find somewhere to grow professionally and start a career,” she said. “I wanted to work somewhere I’d be held to higher standards and have more responsibilities.”

She relishes her new role as a recruiter.

“It’s challenging, but it’s rewarding,” Honea said. “Every day is something different, which is fun.”

While Honea enjoys the team she works with, she is happy to be helping local students map out their futures.

“It’s cool that I get to be somebody I wish I would’ve met in high school, reaching out to kids,” she said. “If I would have had a recruiter, things probably could have been really different for me.”

Hoke enjoys that aspect of the job as well.

“I like getting to help students figure things out that I didn’t figure out when I was younger,” she said. “Getting to help introduce kids to TSTC is pretty awesome because it is such an affordable education.”

Before coming to TSTC, Hoke worked with the Texas secretary of state’s office as an employee of Registered Agent Solutions Inc. and was also a child support officer. She was excited to take on her role at TSTC.

“It was a completely different opportunity than anything else I had seen,” she said. “The pride of the staff is really eye-opening.”

Both women stand behind the school’s mission — to place more Texans in great-paying jobs.

“We are all about students,” Honea said. “We’re not just about numbers; we’re about the actual people.”

Hoke shared those sentiments.

“TSTC is something I can stand behind,” Hoke said. “It’s a good message, a good education and a good value.”

Coordinator of Recruitment Melissa Morman said she is happy to have finally completed her team of recruiters.

“Having Brittany and MaKenna join the student recruitment team has really been the fuel this department has needed to have more of a presence in the surrounding areas,” she said. “With Pflugerville and Georgetown natives on board, it gives us the insight to share our mission of placing more Texans along with spreading the TSTC message.”

TSTC prides itself on being “a great place to work” and is currently hiring for positions at its 10 campuses statewide. For information on open positions at TSTC, visit

TSTC Registration Rally Set for July 24 in Williamson County

(HUTTO) – Texas State Technical College in Williamson County will host a Registration Rally on Tuesday, July 24 – all part of an effort to make the registration process as easy as possible for students starting classes in the fall semester.

Recruiting and Admissions staff will be on standby to walk students through the registration process. They will also offer tours and help with applications.

The Registration Rally will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center. Attendees will be able to meet with faculty, learn more about the different technologies offered at the Williamson County campus and tour the facilities.

In addition to Recruiting and Admissions, personnel from Financial Aid, Testing, Student Success and Veteran Services will be available to answer questions and lend a helping hand. Prospective students will be able to learn all about resources available to them.

Coordinator of recruitment Melissa Morman said the June event was great, and she hopes next week’s event will bring in new students.

“The response from the community during our registration rally in June was overwhelming, and we can feel the growth happening with each registered student,” Morman said. “We look forward to welcoming even more students next Tuesday, and we invite everyone in the community to come tour our facility and sign up for classes.”

Students who need help finalizing their registration are encouraged to bring the following: copy of driver’s license, high school transcript or GED, any college transcripts, proof of bacterial meningitis vaccination and TSI scores.

For more information on the Registration Rally, go to