Category Archives: Abilene

TSTC student wants to continue family tradition in aviation

(ABILENE, Texas) – Coltton Johnson hopes his journey will continue a family tradition.

The first-year Aircraft Powerplant Technology student at Texas State Technical College is following in his father’s footsteps. The Idaho native arrived in Abilene after his father retired from the U.S. Air Force and began working for Eagle Aviation Services.

“I have been around planes my whole life,” he said. “I wanted to make working in aviation a family tradition.”

While Johnson has not yet started working on the aircraft at the TSTC hangar, he knows that will be the best part of the program.

“I like the hands-on aspect of this program. I appreciate what we are learning right now because it keeps us on track,” he said. “All of the material is laid out really well.”

Johnson said he is working to obtain his associate degree and knows his father is always willing to help. His Air Force and Eagle experience is helping Johnson during lectures.

“He has worked with me a little. But he wants me to learn what I need to know,” Johnson said. “I sometimes ask him general questions, but always have to make sure I know the answers.”

One piece of advice that Johnson’s father gave him when he started still resonates with him.

“My dad told me that if there is anything that is considered Federal Aviation Administration material in the course, I need to study it and know it,” he said. “I make sure that I know it.”

Being around aircraft before he started classes paid off early for him.

“I felt well prepared for the start of school,” Johnson said. “I am going to study everything to make sure I succeed.”

Johnson said being able to walk into the hangar and see students working on planes is helping him work harder.

“My choice to attend TSTC is better than I could have ever expected,” he said. “I am glad I chose to follow my dad in the aviation field.”

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TSTC alumna works to lead people down right road

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Leigh Anne Folger is using her life experience as a road map to help others.

Folger, a 2017 graduate of Texas State Technical College’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program, is a counselor at Addiction Behavioral Services. Prior to joining the staff, she worked as a counselor at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Thomas R. Havins Unit in Brownwood.

“I know I am not responsible for my clients’ decisions. I can’t take credit for their success or get down if they fail,” she said. “All I do is provide them with the information that can help them. I hold up the road map to a successful life. They have to want to drive the car.”

Folger said she got her life on track after being released from prison. She knew a career in the medical field would not be possible, but another option was available.

“I made a lot of bad decisions in my life, and they finally caught up to me,” she said. “I knew that I would never have a career in the field I once dreamed of, which was the medical field. So I thought, ‘Why don’t I become a counselor?’ I knew I could help people by using my life experiences.”

Folger reconnected with a friend and classmate at Addiction Behavioral Services, Laura Weaver. Folger credits Weaver for steering her to TSTC’s counseling program.

“I had these unrealistic fears of failing. I was kind of hesitant to enroll,” she said. “Laura said she would meet me at the school.”

Once Folger walked onto the Brownwood campus, she felt at ease.

“Everyone had a smile on their face. No one was bothered by all of the questions I had,” she said. “Everyone at TSTC made me excited about going back to school.”

After graduation, Folger began working for the Havins Unit. It served as a reminder for her to move forward.

“I love what I do. Working at the unit felt like a reminder that I did not want to go back,” she said.

She also knew which inmates needed the most help.

“About 60 percent of the guys had already made up their mind that they did not want to return to prison,” Folger said. “It was those individuals on the fence that I targeted. I wanted to persuade them that the grass was greener on the outside.”

When the chance came to work for Addiction Behavioral Services, she did not hesitate.

“Looking back, I enjoyed my time at the unit. I just wanted to make a change,” Folger said. “Being able to work with Laura was also amazing. Everything has come full circle for me.”

Folger continues to praise TSTC and the staff for helping her find her way.

“Had it not been for TSTC, there is no telling where I would be right now,” she said. “TSTC was amazing. (Instructor) Elizabeth Jones is amazing. She has more insight than anyone in this field. I even recommend TSTC to people looking to restart their life. It worked for me.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

Sanders intrigued by TSTC’s ‘essential man’s course’

(ABILENE, Texas) – Robert Sanders, of College Station, said Industrial Systems is the “essential man’s course” at Texas State Technical College.

Sanders is always smiling when he walks into the Industrial Technology Center for classes. He is studying for an associate degree, saying his motivation is to be the best at whatever he does. 

One thing he does like to do is work on things.

“I come from an old-fashioned background,” he said. “I am a gearhead at heart. I like to prep and fix things. This course is perfect for me because it is definitely the essential man’s course.”

Being one of the older students has not deterred him from helping others.

“There is a great group of guys in this class,” Sanders said. “There are some brilliant minds in this class.”

He is impressed with the creativity of the younger students and how well the instructors present lessons and lab sessions.

“With the younger guys in the class, the mix of their wisdom is great,” Sanders said. “This is a program that is perfect for any age group.”

There is also a competitive nature in class, but everyone in the class wants to succeed.

“We help each other a lot. I am highly competitive, but I am going to do what I can to help others,” he said.

While the students are working, one thing is certain.

“Safety is No. 1 for us,” Sanders said. “We are aware of what is going on around us, and if someone does something that is not safe, we stop what we are doing.”

The father of two sons, Sanders has advice for parents planning to go to college.

“Have a good support system at home,” he said. “I knew it would be hard to go to school and work, but I am so glad I have a good support system in place.”

Sanders is no stranger to TSTC. He began taking Computer Networking classes in 2004 but quickly learned it was not for him. 

“I realized real quick that it was not for me. I stopped before I finished and went into the Air Force,” he said. “But I always knew that I would come back.”

He is back and enrolled in a program that he has a passion for, and he lets everyone know.

“This is an amazing school,” he said. “There is no comparison.”

TSTC trains Industrial Systems students to be machinery experts who can keep facilities running safely and efficiently. Students learn a broad range of skills needed to install, operate, test, repair and maintain a variety of mechanical equipment. They learn industry-standard safety procedures, mechanical and electrical skills, diagnostic techniques, and how to work with motors, pumps, chillers, boilers, and programmable logic control systems.

For more information about TSTC, visit

Welding Technology student sharpens skills at TSTC

(ABILENE, Texas) – Chris Medina knew welding would be a good trade to learn.

Instead of following his parents in joining the U.S. Air Force, Medina decided to enroll in Texas State Technical College’s Welding Technology program.

“I took some welding classes in high school and enjoyed it,” said Medina, a graduate of Jim Ned High School in Tuscola. “I still like it now after finishing my first semester.”

He became interested in TSTC’s program after a friend told him how it prepares people for the workforce.

“After I looked at it, I knew it was for me,” he said. “I was impressed that everyone is able to get together and talk about things.”

Medina said the best part of the program is working in the welding bays on a daily basis. Welding students are allowed on campus to complete lab sessions but have to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines.

“The lectures are good, but when it comes to learning, working in the lab is the best way for me to learn,” he said.

Welding has taught Medina to be patient, something he needs in the bay.

“It takes a lot of patience to weld. I have learned to make sure to get my welding projects done correctly because that is what I will have to do when I get a job,” he said.

Medina also said the varying ages of his classmates is a positive aspect he appreciates.

“It is refreshing talking to some of the guys older than me,” he said. “They offer a lot of tips that can help you when you start a career.”

When Medina is not in the lab, he knows that lectures and online assignments must be completed.

“The instructors are always willing to help you, either if it is in person or online,” he said. “I think having the hybrid style of class is really nice. It is a good way for all of us to stay safe.”

Medina knows that when he completes his work, he is one day closer to his welding goal.

“I want to be the best welder I can possibly be,” Medina said.

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC Industrial Systems student aims to expand knowledge, advance career

(ABILENE, Texas) – Dalton Tiner knew he needed the right education to advance his career.

The Texas Healthcare Linen maintenance technician is getting that education with Texas State Technical College’s Industrial Systems program. He sacrificed his scheduled work hours to other employees so he could pursue an associate of applied science degree.

“When the COVID-19 restrictions hit us at work, we knew it would be hard to juggle everyone working,” he said. “I told my supervisors I would take three days off in order to go to school and allow other employees to work.”

Tiner said his education will be useful at the linen management company based in Abilene. According to its website, Texas Healthcare Linen provides more than 13 million products annually to hospitals in Texas.

“What I am learning in school will be helpful at work. My employers were pleased to hear I was going to take these classes,” Tiner said.

When he started his first semester this fall, Tiner knew he would have to learn quickly.

“I did not have a lot of experience with some of the things I would have to do,” he said. “Today, I am working hard so I gain more knowledge of the industrial process.”

Tiner said Industrial Systems offers a wide range of opportunities.

“This is really the jack-of-all-trades program,” he said. “One day we could be working on electrical projects, and the next day it will be something to do with hydraulics.”

Industrial Systems students learn to install, operate, test and maintain equipment in various facilities. Tiner and his classmates are learning industry-standard safety procedures, mechanical and electrical skills, diagnostic techniques, how to read and interpret schematics, and how to work with motors, pumps, chillers, boilers and programmable logic control systems.

His motivation is simple.

“I want to learn and repair things the proper way,” he said.

Tiner also likes working on the state-of-the-art equipment located in TSTC’s Industrial Technology Center in Abilene.

“I was really impressed with what I saw the first time I walked in the lab,” he said. “The instructors let us work at our pace, and if we need extra time in the lab, we are able to do that. Everyone has been extremely helpful to me and everyone else.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC Aircraft Powerplant Technology student receives real-world work experience

(ABILENE, Texas) – Ben Massey began taking Aircraft Powerplant Technology classes at Texas State Technical College with no prior mechanical experience.

Now nearing the end of his third semester in the program, Massey, of Tyler, is working toward an associate degree while also being employed at Eagle Aviation Services at the Abilene Regional Airport. He is one of seven TSTC students this semester working on planes while attending school.

“It is great to have that agreement in place with Eagle,” he said. “To have that so close to us was a good selling point to come to school.”

Massey said he and other students share their experiences at the aviation company during lab sessions. He also knows he will have an advantage over fellow job seekers when he graduates.

“I will be able to put that I have two years of experience on my resume at Eagle,” he said. “I know that will go a long way when I am looking for a job.”

Not having mechanical experience did not stop Massey from pursuing an associate degree.

“This has been very challenging, but fun,” he said. “I like the hands-on approach to the labs. I learn more by doing things.”

Some lab sessions have proven to be difficult for him, but Massey said instructors and fellow students are always available when he needs help.

“Before coming to school, I had never worked with sheet metal before. But everyone was encouraging me to do my best,” he said.

Massey said he chose a career in aviation by chance. He admitted not knowing what he wanted to do, but he decided to enroll after looking at the program online.

“It was the right career choice for me,” he said. “This a very expansive field, and a lot of companies are hiring right now.”

The demand for aircraft powerplant technicians in Texas is high, with more than 100 job postings online in mid-November.

Massey said he was sold on the program when he learned that its graduates readily find work.

“I know that I will have a lot of options following graduation,” he said. “I am preparing for my career right now. I knew I wanted a career working with my hands.”

Instructor Josh Parker has seen nearly all of his students gain employment soon after graduation.

“I am going to get them to the point that they have the knowledge to pass the FFA exam,” he said.

For more information about TSTC, visit

Ott credits TSTC staff for pushing him to finish college

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Five years after he graduated from Texas State Technical College, Joseph Ott still thanks the Brownwood campus staff.

“Everybody at the Brownwood campus was on my side,” said the 2015 graduate of the Chemical Dependency Counseling program. “The passion that was there from my instructor Elizabeth Jones, Raquel Mata (associate provost) and Brian Kight (former associate vice president of enrollment) kept me going.”

Ott, who is now a counselor at Corpus Christi’s South Texas Substance Abuse Recovery Services (STSARS), did not consider college or a career in counseling others. An injury on a construction site in Brownwood and being sober for several years led him to TSTC.

“I kind of stumbled on the school and program,” Ott said. “Without my injury, I would not have gone to college.”

Ott was in Brownwood at the time of his injury and knew the counseling program would be a good fit for him.

“I have always enjoyed helping people,” he said. “I knew that being 22 years sober meant that I needed to try and help people.”

While he did have ups and downs at TSTC, Ott said Mata always helped him with writing assignments and Jones offered support when he was down.

“Raquel would always stay after hours to help me with an essay. She looked over it and told me that I was learning to get it right,” he said. “She stayed way beyond her work hours to help. Mrs. Jones could have gone home, but she stayed to make sure the work was done correctly.”

Mata, who was an instructor when Ott was a student, saw his battle to finish school.

“Even though there were times when he said he wanted to quit, I don’t think he meant it. He was just frustrated, but he kept coming back,” she said. “I know my fellow employees, like Brian Kight, Tammy Vassar and Elizabeth Jones, challenged him to continue.”

After he graduated, Ott began a counseling career. Even that took a nudge — from his brother Bruce.

“He asked me after I graduated why I did not send resumes out,” Ott said. “I had a fear of not being hired. My brother told me after about three months that it was not time to waste my education. I sent out my resumes and was hired.”

Ott left his first counseling job and returned to construction. However, he still wanted to help people and was hired by STSARS, where he has been employed for the last three years.

He said one thing he likes to talk to his clients about is being grateful. While many wonder what he is talking about at first, they understand by the end of the session.

“I ask my clients to be grateful. I ask them if they have children. I ask them if they have a house or apartment. I ask them if they have food in the cabinet or refrigerator,” he said. “Each time they say yes, I tell them that is something for them to be grateful about.”

Ott said his goal for the sessions is to be uplifting. He wants his clients to see a path forward.

“I can’t take credit for their recovery. I have to guide them and let them know I am proud of them,” he said. 

Mata remains proud of Ott’s journey and has a reminder on her office wall.

“I consider Joseph a true success story. He graduated during our 50th year, when students were given stoles and encouraged to keep or give them to someone who helped them on their journey,” she said. “He showed up to campus one day and said he wished he could cut this into pieces and give us each a section. It still hangs on my wall today and reminds me of what hard work and determination can accomplish.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC student knows options will be open following graduation

(ABILENE, Texas) – Mandy Jenkins, a mother of five, knows that her options will be open when she completes the Computer Networking and Systems Administration program at Texas State Technical College next year.

“There is so much you learn in the program,” she said. “I know that I will have a lot of options. But until then, I want to learn as much as I can.”

Jenkins, of Merkel, is pursuing an associate degree and said it took her some time to begin college. After earning a GED, Jenkins looked at the TSTC program but waited until her 40s to get started.

“I decided I wanted to learn something that I did not know anything about,” she said. “I had previously worked in the medical field but decided I wanted to do this.”

Jenkins said that led her to TSTC’s Abilene campus. With the program being available online, she said it has helped her juggle classwork and home life.

“Being at home, there was a lot less stress. It seemed things were going easier for me,” she said. “I did have that first-semester stress like a lot of people, but everyone was there to help me.”

That included her fiance, Cary, and children.

“They have been supporting me throughout school. I could not have asked for anything else from them,” she said.

One of her biggest worries prior to starting the program was her lack of computer networking experience.

“When I started classes, I assumed that my classmates would have known a lot about computers. Once we got started talking, I realized they were like me and did not have that much experience,” she said. “I felt better knowing we were all in the same situation.”

Throughout the program, Jenkins said she has learned things that many people take for granted.

“When we were learning how to design a webpage, I had no idea all of the details that went into it,” she said. “What I have been learning is really cool. I never thought I would be the one behind the screen doing these kinds of things.”

 For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC honors longtime employees with drive-thru celebration

(ABILENE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College honored 30 employees with service award drive-thru celebrations this month.

With COVID-19 restrictions limiting large gatherings, the celebrations were planned to honor employees with five to 35 years of experience. Celebrations were held at the Abilene, Sweetwater and Breckenridge campuses.

Lance Eastman, interim provost for the West Texas campuses, said the employees honored are appreciated by everyone at TSTC.

“Every position is important and about serving our students and industry,” he said. “These individuals have made sure that our buildings are clean and safe, food is provided, that equipment is in place and that instruction is relevant.”

Eastman was proud to be part of a creative way to honor employees.

“With the health restrictions, which we take seriously, we had to be creative of how we could distribute our service awards,” he said. “We are grateful for these individuals that have dedicated year after year of service.”

Each employee received a plaque, a yard sign noting their years of service, and a gift.

Sweetwater’s Maria Aguirre, the senior executive director of Communication and Creative Services, was honored for 35 years with the college. Joni Coons, the intramural programs coordinator in Sweetwater, was honored for 30 years of employment. Abilene’s Holle England, a learning and development trainer, received a plaque honoring her 35 years with TSTC.

Abilene employees honored for five years of service were Greg Nicholas, welding instructor; Amanda Suiters, library coordinator; Rikki Spivey, enrollment coach; Matt Briggs, Emergency Medical Services instructor; Susan Leda Cowart, English instructor; Randa R. Weeks, Health Information Technology instructor; Magaly Valdez, Drafting and Design instructor; and Miranda Thomas, technical physics instructor.

Mary Wilhite, a student services specialist, was honored for 10 years at the Abilene campus. Also honored in Abilene were Michael Soto, a Business Management Technology instructor, and Susan Hash, a testing administrator, both for 15 years with TSTC, as well as Pam Marler, a contract administration coordinator, and Julia Humphrey, career services director, for 20 years.

Sweetwater five-year employees honored were Frank Molini and Taylor Elston, welding instructors; Carla Becker, travel and expense specialist; Beth Hall, developmental math instructor; Brock Carter, chief of police; and Ray Carnathan, police officer.

Gloria Santiago, food service operator, and Jeff Olney, Electromechanical Technology instructor, received 10-year awards for their employment in Sweetwater. Fifteen-year awards were presented to Sweetwater’s Gail Lawrence, TSTC’s executive vice chancellor and chief of staff to the chancellor; Mark Hampton, resource development specialist; and Sandra Ortega, enrollment coach.

Brownwood’s Becky Jones, a licensed drug counseling instructor, received a 10-year plaque. Breckenridge’s Debra Bufkin, a developmental math instructor, and Vernon Akins, a building maintenance supervisor, received five-year awards.

For more information about TSTC, visit

Summer graduate returns to TSTC to expand learning

(ABILENE, Texas) – After earning a certificate in Diesel Equipment Technology from Texas State Technical College last summer, Alfred Rodriguez, of Knox City, wanted to continue his education this fall.

The 39-year-old is now pursuing an Associate of Applied Science degree in TSTC’s Industrial Systems program. He began classes in Abilene knowing that his oil field experience will help him.

“I figured working in the oil patch for 15 to 16 years that I needed to get an overall better understanding of machinery,” he said. “I have worked with a lot of equipment, but I know this will help me expand my knowledge.”

During his oil field career, Rodriguez worked on various equipment with different companies. Now he is studying electrical systems that he is familiar with and some he knew little about.

“I knew I would have to be knowledgeable in different things. For me, some of it is the basic stuff I have seen during my oil field career,” he said.

Rodriguez said the younger students may have an advantage over him in some areas, but his experience is guiding him in his pursuit of an associate degree.

“At first, I wanted to have some basic knowledge of how things work. That way if I wanted to build a building in my backyard, I would know how to wire things,” he said.

He admitted that he should have listened to his father after graduating from high school.

“My father told me that if I had applied myself then, it would not have been as difficult,” Rodriguez said. “That was another learning experience for me.”

Rodriguez said looking back, he should have pursued an associate degree in Diesel Equipment Technology. But he is happy that he completed the certificate program.

The classes did prove challenging for him.

“The last time I had to do math like that was in 2000 and 2001,” he said. “The instructors were good at walking you through the problems, and I was able to apply what I learned.”

Rodriguez even did some recruiting for TSTC.

“I got my wife turned on to the online Business Management Technology program, and she started this fall,” he said.

Rodriguez offered his wife some advice as she began her first semester.

“I warned her that there would be a lot of homework during the first semester and she would have to get used to it,” he said. 

For more information about TSTC, visit