Category Archives: Breckenridge

TSTC Nursing Student Prepares for Three-peat at SkillsUSA

(SWEETWATER) – Winning is so nice, she did it twice. Now Kacee Merrifield wants it again, and so does one of her classmates.

Merrifield is a nursing student enrolled in the associate degree program at Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater. She has competed at SkillsUSA two years in a row, winning state both times and placing nationally.

“It’s a very validating feeling when you get to test your skills against others in your industry, but it’s so much more than just winning a medal,” Merrifield said.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce. In 2017 Merrifield placed first in state for Health Knowledge Bowl, continuing on to win fourth at nationals. In 2018 she won first in state for Nurse Assisting and sixth at nationals. She will compete in Practical Nursing this year.

“I love that SkillsUSA offers a platform to meet other professionals. You meet so many people and make friends and get to travel. I really enjoyed what Skills has done for me,” Merrifield said.

Hoping to win his second first-place title is fellow nursing student Corbin Calsoncin. Calsoncin and Merrifield both graduated from TSTC in Breckenridge with a certificate of completion in Vocational Nursing in 2018. Calsoncin is also currently enrolled in the nursing program at TSTC in Sweetwater.

“I was nervous my first couple times I competed, but I feel better now and am more prepared,” Calsoncin said.

Calsoncin placed second at state in Medical Math in 2017, but placed first in Math in 2018 and went on to place ninth at nationals. Calsoncin will compete in Medical Math again this year.

Not only do Merrifield and Calsoncin compete in SkillsUSA at the collegiate level, but they also judge the high school level.

“Judging is a chance for them to give back and share their experiences with others,” Marchelle Taylor, TSTC nursing instructor and West Texas SkillsUSA coordinator, said. “Skills allows them to interact with other students and industry around the state and nation.”

Merrifield and Calsoncin will compete at the SkillsUSA 2019 Leadership and Skills Conference on April 12-14 at TSTC in Waco.

Both students encourage anyone interested in nursing to visit TSTC and take advantage of the opportunities available with SkillsUSA.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, log on to tstc.edu.

TSTC in Sweetwater nursing students Corbin Calsoncin, left, and Kacee Merrifield, right, prepare to compete at SkillsUSA in April. 

TSTC Program Partners with Walker Sayle Unit to Combat Substance Abuse

(BRECKENRIDGE) – Texas State Technical College’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Walker Sayle Unit, a substance abuse felony punishment facility, are working together to change lives and fill a need in the Texas workforce.

A report filed by the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services to the 86th Legislature showed that 1.6 million adult Texans suffer from a substance use disorder (SUD). Furthermore, Texas has only about 17 SUD care providers per 1,000 of these adults, the third lowest in the nation.

To help combat this crisis, students enrolled in TSTC’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program can work as interns and later be considered for employment at the Sayle Unit.

“It’s hard to find staff in this industry because you have to have a passion for it and it’s a lot of work,” Kemberlee Lively, program director at the Sayle Unit, said. “About 90 percent of our staff comes from TSTC because they have a hands-on knowledge base and are open to our input. These students come here and do exactly what we need them to do.”

The TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling program allows students to earn a certificate of completion or an Associate of Applied Science degree to become licensed chemical dependency counselor interns. This provides a career pathway to become licensed chemical dependency counselors.

“There is an opportunity to help those individuals who this may be their last chance for recovery,” Patty Bundick, TSTC Chemical Dependency Counseling program chair and senior instructor, said. “Many students are people in recovery or have a family member who suffered from an addiction and see it as a chance to give back to society and now want to help someone else in their recovery.”

For Sayle Unit Assistant Program Director Shana Vandergriff, TSTC offered her the chance for a career and to help others.

“I recommend TSTC, for sure, because I went there. I know what the students are learning, and TSTC helped me,” Vandergriff said. “(TSTC) made it easy for me as a single mom … in recovery to get enrolled. They still are like my family to this day when I go visit,” Vandergriff said.

Vandergriff graduated in 2011 with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling. She did her practicum as a student at the Sayle Unit.

Vandergriff encourages anyone who feels a calling and enjoys helping others succeed to consider the field.

“There is a huge need for people in this industry, and we are almost always hiring,” she said.

For more information on Texas State Technical College, log on to tstc.edu.

TSTC in Breckenridge Chemical Dependency Counseling students work with Walker Sayle to combat substance abuse.

TSTC in West Texas Holds Fall 2018 Commencement

(ABILENE) – More than 140 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Fall 2018 Commencement held Monday, Dec. 10, at the Abilene Convention Center. Graduates from TSTC’s four West Texas campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater were recognized.

For Ronnie Pitts, an instructor and statewide department head in the Emergency Medical Services program at Abilene, watching his students achieve their educational goals does not get tiring. It was especially significant when one student bestowed upon him an honorary Phi Theta Kappa stole as a thank-you.

“This is the event that makes everything we do as instructors worthwhile,” Pitts said. “Being able to watch our students succeed is what we live for. But, to be given this honor on top of it all is a special recognition that I greatly appreciate.”

 

Students could be found thanking their instructors and excitedly talking about having accepted job offers.

Chris Russell, an Army veteran and member of Phi Theta Kappa, received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Environmental Technology Compliance. He started working full time last Monday at Clean Harbors.

“I worked in the oil field after the Army and saw that there was a way to make good money while staying clean and dry,” Russell said. “So now I get to do what I enjoy and be comfortable.”

During the commencement ceremony, Julian Alvarez III, the commissioner representing labor with the Texas Workforce Commission, encouraged students to be humble in their success and spend time with successful people.

“You will face careers, not jobs, the rest of your life,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez is a first-generation college graduate. He said that, just like TSTC did for him when he was a student, the graduates have received the tools needed to think for themselves.

“You are ready to meet those challenges you will face in the workplace,” Alvarez said.

Many of Monday’s graduates were inspired and led to success by family members.

Mary Mares of Brownwood, who earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing from Sweetwater, said it was her son who inspired her to pursue her degree.

“My son was born with craniosynostosis, and it was his birth that motivated me to get this degree so I can help him and others to the best of my ability,” Mares said.

Phillip Cruz of Sweetwater received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Wind Energy Technology. He said his 6-year-old daughter was his inspiration for pursuing his studies.

“It’s a second career,” Cruz said. “I used to be a police officer. The country is changing to green energy. I figured I would help the country move forward.”

Cruz is considering job offers at energy companies in Michigan and Texas.

Earlier in the day, the Nursing programs held pinning ceremonies for graduates in Abilene and Sweetwater.

For more information, log on to tstc.edu.

 

TSTC Nursing Graduates Needed to Fill Home Health Jobs

(BRECKENRIDGE) – As Home Care and Hospice Month is commemorated nationwide in November, the Big Country has a need for qualified nurses to aid patients who want health care in the comfort of their homes.

Marchelle Taylor, a vocational nursing program director at Texas State Technical College, said graduates are encouraged to work in clinical settings first before moving into home health.

“Home health care is pretty independent, and new graduates don’t have the experience to work independently,” Taylor said. “Many do after getting some experience in clinics, nursing homes and hospitals.”

In Texas, there are more than 319,000 Medicare beneficiaries who use home health, according to the Alliance for Home Health. More than 60 percent of them have at least five chronic conditions.

In early November, Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas in Abilene had more than 80 openings in the 19-county region for nurses to work in home health, hospitals and other medical facilities. Steve Collins, a business and resource consultant at Workforce Solutions, said there is a nursing shortage in the region indicated by the number of open job positions.

Job experience is important, said representatives of two Stephens County home health agencies.

James Curtis, a TSTC nursing alumnus and branch office manager at Renew Home Health in Breckenridge, said knowing the county’s nurses helps him fill job openings when needed. The business works with clients in a 45-mile radius of Breckenridge.

“I require one year of experience,” Curtis said. “You never know what kind of situation you can get into.”

Kim Mahan, an administrator at Beyond Faith Homecare and Rehab in Breckenridge, has hired TSTC alumni in the past. The business is a branch of the Graham location, which serves clients in a 50-mile radius.

“One of the struggles with the staff coming here, especially on the home health side, is the documentation,” she said. “It is extremely stringent. There is a lot of documentation that is involved in home health.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

TSTC Holds Summer 2018 Commencement

(ABILENE) – More than 130 graduates received certificates and associate degrees at Texas State Technical College’s Summer 2018 Commencement held Friday, Aug. 17, at the Abilene Convention Center.

Rick Denbow, provost of TSTC in Abilene, Breckenridge, Brownwood and Sweetwater, said the night was a time to celebrate.

“For the graduates, tonight is an achievement,” Denbow said. “The sacrifices you made to get homework and tests done and being experts at time management was all worth it.”

Guest speaker Samuel Garcia, owner and operator of Samuel Garcia State Farm Insurance and a board member at Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas, said he was a fan of TSTC’s mission.

Garcia told graduates to think about others who have not experienced higher education. He told them to value the certificates and associate degrees they were receiving.

“Tonight is about you,” Garcia said. “Tomorrow is about you talking about what education can do for a person.”

Some graduates will continue on with their education.

Devan Moore, 30, of Abilene is a U.S. Army veteran who received a certificate in Wind Energy Technology from TSTC in Sweetwater.

“I want to say that it is a sense of accomplishment,” he said. “The best times were when I was up-tower in a wind turbine and applying what I learned.”

Moore will be one of the first students in the new Industrial Maintenance Technology program starting this fall at TSTC in Abilene.

Some graduates already have jobs.

Pamela Hermosillo, 21, of Breckenridge earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling from TSTC in Breckenridge.

She has been hired to work at the Walker Sayle Unit, part of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Hermosillo also did her practicum at the prison.

“You learn a lot from the inmates,” she said. “You understand what they are doing in their addictions to drugs and alcohol.”

Some graduates are continuing their job hunt.

Robert Wiley, 24, of Abilene received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Networking and Systems Administration from TSTC in Abilene.

“I enjoyed being around other students pursuing their career goals,” he said.

Wiley had several people in attendance at the graduation ceremony, including his parents and members of his church congregation.

Luis Rueda, 20, of Colorado City received a certificate in Welding Technology from TSTC in Sweetwater. He earned dual credit through TSTC when he was a student at Colorado High School in Colorado City.

“My brother started welding a lot,” Rueda said. “When he talked to me about it and said it was cool, that caught my attention and I just got into it.”

Rueda said he wants to get a welding job in the Midland-Odessa area.

Caydon Vara, 19, of Brownwood received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Emergency Medical Technology from TSTC in Brownwood.

“I want to go to the fire side of it,” Vara said. “It runs in the family. It’s a calling.”

Earlier in the day, the Associate Degree in Nursing Pinning Ceremony for TSTC in Sweetwater nursing graduates took place at an Abilene church.

For more information, log on to tstc.edu.

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.edu.

 

TSTC Welding Provides Opportunities for Area Jobs

(BRECKENRIDGE) – One of Stephens County’s largest industries is oil and gas, and with that comes the need for qualified welders.

“There is always a lot of demand in the oil industry for welders and they pay well also,” said Virgil Moore, executive director of the Breckenridge Economic Development Corp. “There is always a shortage it seems like. Texas State Technical College fills that gap.”

And, there are plenty of jobs for TSTC’s Welding Technology graduates to consider.

The Abilene-Breckenridge area has more than 300 welding jobs open now, said Steve Collins, business and resource consultant at Workforce Solutions of West Central Texas in Abilene.

“There are so many welding jobs available right now that they can’t fill a lot of their positions,” he said.

Some jobs in welding in the Big Country do not involve oil and gas.

Southern Bleacher Co. in Graham has 35 welders among its 150 employees. The company produces bleachers, support structures, decking systems and coatings for school districts, universities, fairgrounds and event venues throughout the nation.

“We go through phases when a lot of people join the Southern Bleacher family, they do not leave,” said Sarah Lundgren, the company’s communications director. “Our turnover is pretty small.”

But, Lundgren said the company occasionally has hiring campaigns for welders. The company and TSTC have partnered together in the past.

“Our welders are not hired for specific jobs,” she said. “They work on all jobs. There are different welding areas of the shop and have different responsibilities.”

Stephen Hope, a TSTC Welding Technology instructor in Breckenridge, said students typically have jobs when they graduate. He said students have recently found work at ProFrac in Cisco and Tiger Manufacturing Co. in Abilene.

Jobs for welders, cutters, solderers and brazers nationwide are expected to grow to more than 427,000 through 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A majority of these jobs are expected to be in manufacturing.

TSTC in Breckenridge offers a three-semester structural welding certificate which includes classes teaching blueprint reading, fabrication, layout and technical calculations.

Registration for fall classes is ongoing right now. For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.

 

TSTC in Breckenridge to Host Registration Events This Summer

(BRECKENRIDGE) – Texas State Technical College will have two Registration Rally events this summer in Breckenridge.

The events will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 19 and July 24 in Room 103 in the Breckenridge Center at 307 N. Breckenridge Ave. The events are part of an effort to make the registration process as easy as possible for incoming students planning to take classes in the fall semester.

“This is the best time for everyone to come and get everything done to get registered or check on what they are still needing,” said Cassandra Love, an enrollment specialist at TSTC in Breckenridge.

Visitors can take campus tours and learn about the four technical programs offered at TSTC in Breckenridge: Chemical Dependency Counseling, Environmental Technology, Vocational Nursing and Welding Technology.

People interested in enrolling should bring a copy of their driver’s license, high school transcript or GED, any college transcripts, proof of bacterial meningitis vaccination and TSI scores.

TSTC is having registration events at its 10 campuses throughout the state this summer. For information on the closest Registration Rally, log on to tstc.edu/rally.

For more information, contact TSTC in Breckenridge at 254-559-7700 or visit tstc.edu.

TSTC Alumnae at Eastland Memorial Hospital Work to Improve Local Health Care

(BRECKENRIDGE) — Northeast of the hustle and bustle of metropolitan Abilene is a hospital with a big heart. Eastland Memorial Hospital, the only hospital to serve the residents of Eastland County, is home to local heroes who answered the call to become health care providers.

Some of these professionals are graduates of Texas State Technical College’s nursing program.

“This is a rural community, and TSTC assists in providing a quality education and necessary service that is so important for this community,” said TSTC alumna Brandi Riley, a registered nurse who is manager of Outpatient/Surgery Services and Education at EMH.

Currently there are five TSTC graduates employed with EMH. Some students started their nursing careers at TSTC, while others studied online to further their education.

I graduated from TSTC with my LVN in 2010 from the Breckenridge campus, and I went back in 2016 to the associate degree in nursing LVN to RN bridge program at the Sweetwater campus,” said Megan Drake, EMH’s supervisor of Infection Control, Risk Management and Employee Health. “I chose TSTC because it is so much more affordable compared to larger universities where you get the same degree.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a rising demand for LVNs and RNs, and the employment growth rate in Texas is higher than the national average.

“We hire new RNs and LVNs and encourage students to do their clinicals with us to get their foot through the door,” Riley said. “We are working on a partnership with the Breckenridge campus to get LVNs and RNs doing clinicals here and recruit some new faces.”

For those at Eastland, the hospital is a community and an opportunity to hone new skills.  

“Eastland is smaller, but I feel that I get a broader range of skills rather than working in a larger hospital, where I’d have to focus on one specific department,” Drake said.

Many of the staff employed by Eastland have earned their RN degrees through TSTC’s online program while working full time as an LVN.  

“I was working for Eastland already as an LVN, and they helped to pay for me to go to TSTC to become an RN. And that’s when I earned the position I’m in now,” Riley said.

For others, like registered nurse Belinda Williams, TSTC is a family affair. Williams earned her associate degree in nursing, her daughter graduated from the Chemical Dependency Counseling program in Breckenridge, and her husband earned his commercial driver’s license after completing TSTC’s professional driver training in Sweetwater.

“I love that you go and learn what it is that you are pursuing career-wise, and it’s cheaper than regular college. It’s a great place to get an education, and it’s a fun school that cares about its students,” said Williams, RN case manager/utilization review and quality manager at EMH.

As the need for qualified nurses rises, Riley reminds potential students to think of why they chose to pursue a career in nursing.

“You have to have a love for nursing. It’s not about the income, but caring for patients and giving the best patient care possible,” Riley said.

Registration for fall classes at TSTC is underway. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC West Texas Campuses Seeking Welding Instructors

(ABILENE) – Texas State Technical College is looking for motivational people who can put a spark in the lives of Welding Technology students.

TSTC’s campuses in Abilene, Breckenridge and Brownwood are seeking three qualified welding instructors with a combination of professional and teaching experience.

“We are always looking for awesome people to join our TSTC team,” said Rhiannon Hastings, lead statewide recruiter in TSTC Human Resources. “We truly value hands-on experience in industry to provide the best learning experiences possible for our students at TSTC.”

Starting this fall, TSTC in Abilene will offer the Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology and two certificates.

TSTC in Breckenridge offers a three-semester certificate in structural welding and accepts up to 20 students each semester.

“If you like small-town living, a great place to raise a family and a place where everybody knows everybody, it can work for you,” said Debbie Karl, executive director of the Breckenridge campus.

TSTC in Brownwood can accommodate 28 structural welding certificate students.

“We need someone with experience,” said Raquel Mata, executive director of the Brownwood campus. “We would like to have someone well known to the businesses and can meet and greet and have moments with them to get to know them. We want someone to be a good fit for our students and be a good leader.”

Applicants need to have current American Welding Society certifications and  experience in shielded metal arc, flux-cored arc, gas metal arc and gas tungsten arc welding processes, along with fabrication, layout and pipe welding. Applicants having an associate degree in welding are preferred.

TSTC is a state institution offering Health Select of Texas administered by Blue Cross Blue Shield, paid vacation days, sick leave and state holidays, dental insurance, vision insurance, life insurance, flexible spending accounts and retirement. The technical college also offers employee development and employee appreciation events as part of its overarching goal to make TSTC a great place to work.

For more information on employment at Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu/about/employment.