TSTC welding alum shares expertise with students

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Having earned his Associate of Applied Science degree in Welding Technology and a certificate in Structural and Pipe Welding from Texas State Technical College in 2018, Juan Avila is now back at his alma mater, imparting his wisdom and expertise to the current cohort of welding students as a lab assistant.

“When I was younger, I didn’t know much about welding at all,” the San Benito native said. “As I got older, I knew that I wanted to learn a trade that will always be in high demand.”

It only took one visit to campus to convince Avila that TSTC was where he belonged.

“I decided to take a tour of the welding facility at TSTC and was immediately hooked,” he said. “As soon as the tour was over, I registered for classes.”

Earlier this month, a small number of students were able to return to TSTC, in accordance with Gov. Abbott’s executive order and authorization from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, to finish lab hours required prior to graduation, something that Avila said students welcomed.

“Our students were so excited when they were contacted about their return to campus,” Avila said. “Being able to get them back in the (welding) booths and back to work is essential for their educational training.”

Aside from the hands-on learning environment, one of Avila’s favorite things about working as a lab assistant is seeing the progression in knowledge that welding students learn from beginning to end.

“Being able to see the progress that they make throughout their time in the program is something I really enjoy,” he said. “Comparing how they first start off, to them being well-rounded welders as they get further into the program, is great.”

Avila stressed that TSTC’s goal is to prepare students for rewarding careers.

“We guide our students to become well-rounded in their craft,” he said. “Welding is a great career and will continue to be in high demand. I believe this trade is going to be around for a very long while. We’re building America one weld at a time.”

To learn more about TSTC’s Welding Technology program, visit tstc.edu/programs/WeldingTechnology.


TSTC 2020 graduates ready to leave their mark despite the pandemic

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College graduates help their communities thrive because of their capacity to dive into their new careers as soon as their college chapters come to an end. The adversity due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has impacted their final semester and commencement is not ideal, but the TSTC spirit is resilient. During its history, TSTC has graduated more than 100,000 students into beneficial careers in their communities, and this year’s graduating class just became part of that accomplishment.

With more than 50 programs and growing, TSTC is equipped to place well-trained graduates into the Texas workforce.

“The skills that our students have developed and perfected because of our current situation are incredible,” said TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez. “Nothing that comes their way will be too complicated. They will always be able to think in a creative way to get through something.  They were trained for such a time as this.”

A student’s time at TSTC includes not only lifelong memories and new friends but also faculty who are passionate about giving the next generation of the workforce the education and hands-on practice needed to succeed.

“Their instructors have poured so much expertise into them,” said Hernandez. “The years of experience we have within our faculty means our students were prepared by the best of them, and our graduates can now grow their own foundation based on the expertise that they’ve learned.”

Words like “mentor” and “friend” are only a few of the narratives associated with instructors at TSTC. The college campus is brought to life by educators who are their students’ biggest fans.

“Throughout the program, my instructors always encouraged me,” reiterated Emergency Medical Services student Justin Vasquez, who is joining this year’s class of graduates. “They’ve all been a major influence on my success.”

Aircraft Powerplant Technology student Ely Cortina was also inspired by the lessons she received from one of her instructors.

“During lectures, he went over life skills that he believed would ensure our success not only as future employees, but also as functional citizens in our communities,” Cortina said. “He was much more than an instructor; he’s an amazing mentor as well.”

While graduating from college is an extremely exciting time, it is not uncommon to feel the butterflies and nerves that come from one chapter in your life coming to an end. Despite the bittersweet emotions, Hernandez reiterated that TSTC graduates are more than ready for this life-changing journey.

“Trust in the training and skills that you have received,” she said. “Know that you will be able to apply everything that you have learned in a way that will allow you to make a difference in your chosen career, and that everything you’ve learned has equipped you to have an impact not only in the economy, but also in the Texas workforce.”

Even though a traditional commencement ceremony will not take place this spring, candidates who have met all requirements to complete their programs are welcome to join TSTC’s commencement ceremonies postponed until August.

Despite graduation feeling like the end of a journey, one thing that remains constant is that commencement is not goodbye.

“This graduation is not an end,” said Hernandez. “It’s a new beginning. The relationship between TSTC and our students is lifelong. They will forever be a part of the TSTC family.”

To learn more about programs offered at TSTC, visit tstc.edu.


Childhood love for pastries guides TSTC instructor to teaching career

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Cheesecake, cookies and the tradition of baking with her mom inspired Ayla Cabarubio to pursue a career in culinary arts. The Mercedes native turned her childhood dream of making people smile with something sweet into a rewarding career at Texas State Technical College. Now, not only is she continuing to fulfill her own aspirations, she is also helping students whip up theirs.

“My love of pastries and baking really helped me realize that this was my passion,” she said. “It started with my mom, who is a home cook and loves to bake. I remember always being in the kitchen trying to help, even when I couldn’t see over the counter.”

The excitement that comes from another person appreciating your skills in food preparation is what helped drive Cabarubio to her career.

“As I got older, I always enjoyed someone’s immediate reaction of joy when tasting something that I prepared,” she said. “It’s such an honest emotion and one of the best feelings for me.”

Chef Cabarubio joined TSTC as an instructor in the Culinary Arts program in January 2017. Since then, not only has she helped students grow their skills for creating palate-pleasing treats, she has also grown in her appreciation for the curriculum at TSTC.

“The variety of techniques that are covered in the Culinary Arts program to prepare students for high-paying jobs is very unique,” she said. “Students don’t just learn how to cook and bake; they also develop an understanding of how to own or manage a business.”

While the program emphasizes the art of food preparation, there are also more techniques covered. One of the required courses is Management of Food Production and Service, which educates students on producing their own menus and running a live kitchen, giving them the real-world skills needed for their future careers.

“We teach students how to break down recipes to find costs and how to effectively manage a team,” she said. “We train our students to look at culinary arts from the supervisor’s perspective. When they complete the program, they are not only well-versed cooks, but they also have that supervisor mindset that gives them the edge in the industry.”

Helping to create the next generation of food service managers, head cooks and executive chefs is rewarding for Cabarubio, but the biggest prize comes from the awareness that her passion for culinary arts is helping to change a student’s life.

“Knowing that you are part of a student’s stepping stone to success is very rewarding.”

Outside the classroom, Cabarubio doesn’t stray far from her love of creating fine cuisine, even growing her own herbs for one of her favorite dishes.

“I love making pizza,” she said. “I really enjoy making every aspect of it — the dough, the sauce, fresh mozzarella. And I prune my freshly grown basil to add as garnish. You just can’t beat it!”

To learn more about TSTC’s Culinary Arts program, visit tstc.edu/programs/CulinaryArts.


TSTC alumnus returns to hometown hospital

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Seeing childhood friends will be a normal occurrence for Roby’s Kaycie Hills.

Hills, who graduated this spring from Texas State Technical College with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing, was recently hired at Fisher County Hospital. Hills is also following in the footsteps of her mother, who has worked at the hospital for 26 years.

“I enjoy working in my hometown. I see a lot of people from my childhood, and they tell me how proud they are of me. That makes me feel good,” she said.

Hills said she wanted to be a nurse like her mother and worked to reach that goal.

“I was working three jobs and realized that I wanted a career,” she said. “I wanted to provide for my son.”

Hills admitted that she struggled in some of her classes at TSTC, but she feels a sense of accomplishment about finishing her degree requirements.

“It feels really good to be graduating,” she said. “The instructors really came through for me and helped me.”

It was not only with classwork that Hills said instructors helped her.

“They would always call and ask how we were doing and if I needed anything,” she said. “That is what I appreciated the most. They really care about their students. They are a huge part of my life now.”

Completing the registered nursing courses taught Hills lessons she will use daily.

“The program really dove deep into the entire disease process,” she said. “It helped me learn what the patient needs, and I can better care for my patients with that knowledge.”

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


More TSTC Programs to Expand Into Evenings This Fall

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Texas State Technical College is expanding the number of programs that will offer night classes this fall. 

Nathan Cleveland, TSTC’s associate provost, said the goal is to attract more nontraditional  students to the campus to study in programs that can help them update their skills or learn new ones. He said potential students can still work full time and take care of their families while getting an education.

Night classes in Diesel Equipment Technology and Welding Technology will be offered at the Marshall campus for the first time. The Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization and Precision Machining Technology programs will continue with evening classes.

“We are looking to expand into the nontraditional student market,” said Russell Hutcherson, an instructor in the Welding Technology program. “They can work during the day and look to better expand their options by attending TSTC.”

Philip Miller, an instructor in the Welding Technology program, said shifting into the evenings gives students more flexibility.

“It will also help because we only have two labs,unlike Waco and bigger campuses,” he said. “We can effectively multiply our space per day, which of course will help the students.”

The Welding Technology program will add a Structural and Pipe Welding certificate this fall for both day and night students.

The Industrial Systems – Electrical Specialization program offered its first night cohort in January. First-semester students will continue with the program’s schedule of meeting after 5 p.m. and on Saturdays while taking academic courses online.

“We recognize that we have current and potential students that are trying to build a better future for themselves and for their families,” said Edward Chaney, the program’s lead instructor. “Many of our students and potential students need to work in order to support their families while taking classes. By setting our schedules up in this manner, we offer students the opportunity to take classes and still be able to work a full schedule.”

The first night-class cohort of Precision Machining Technology program students will graduate this summer and fall, said Danny Nixon, a program instructor. He said 11 students are scheduled to earn the program’s certificate and associate degree this year.

“It has been very successful with the first group,” Nixon said. “And, we hope to continue that with the new cohort.”

Registration continues for the summer and fall at TSTC. 

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

TSTC Foundation Receives Financial Contribution for Campus Food Pantry

(WACO, Texas) – The Episcopal Student Center made a $2,000 contribution on Wednesday, May 20, to The TSTC Foundation for use at Texas State Technical College’s student food pantry on the Waco campus.

The money will be used to replenish the food pantry’s stock, which has been depleted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s good to know something we can do will have an impact on the students’ lives,” said the Rev. Keith Pozzuto of the Episcopal Student Center.

Jerome Mendias, TSTC’s associate provost, said the contribution will enable Misty Kaska, a coordinator in TSTC’s Advocacy and Resource Center, to continue her important work with students. 

The food pantry is located at TSTC”s  Murray Watson Jr. Student Recreation Center, with a temporary pickup site at the Student Services Center’s Welcome Center.

Kaska said she is grateful for the financial help. 

“There are not a lot of donations going on at this time,” she said.

Kaska said the most important items needed for the food pantry are canned soups, proteins, vegetables, and baby items such as diapers and wipes.

Pozzuto said he learned about the food pantry from TSTC students involved in the Episcopal Student Center’s Canterbury Club, which meets regularly in the Texas Room at TSTC”s  Student Services Center. He then reached out to Kaska to learn more about the project’s needs.

The Episcopal Student Center is on South 10th Street in Waco and is operated by the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.

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

TSTC Automotive Technology instructors bring experience to the program

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Students in the Automotive Technology program on the Texas State Technical College campus in Sweetwater listen when their instructors talk.

Mike Myers and Gerod Strother use their different backgrounds to teach the students what to expect on the job. Myers worked in the automotive industry for more than three decades, while Strother once served in the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army.

“Mike knows what (auto) dealerships are looking for,” Strother said. “All of the students listen to him.”

Myers said knowing what is expected of a mechanic helps the students while they work toward a certificate or Associate of Applied Science degree.

“When I get onto a student about something they did, it is because I know that it could be a fireable offense,” he said.

Strother said Myers is quick to return to the student.

“After a couple of minutes, Mike will go back to that student, put his arm around him and explain what they did wrong,” he said.

Safety is the first lesson students learn in the program. Strother said students must pass the safety course before they are allowed into the lab.

Once students are in the lab, that is where the majority of their time is spent. Myers said students spend two hours in the classroom, but “we then go in the lab and perform what we learned in the classroom.”

Strother’s military career and the lessons he learned while serving the United States play a role in safety.

“I want to focus on people and make sure they are paying attention. It is always about safety for me,” he said.

Both instructors said one of the more difficult lessons is when students have to work on the vehicle’s electrical system.

“Over my 31 years, I went from basic electronics in a car to technology today, with which you can land on the moon. Some vehicles have more technology in them than the capsule that landed on the moon,” Myers said. “We go over all of it and make sure the students know what to do.”

Myers said graduates typically begin working at a dealership’s oil change station. Six to nine months later, students will go through an apprenticeship with a master technician. The final stop is the main goal, according to Myers.

“After working as an apprentice, most of our guys get their own bay at the dealership,” he said. “That is their goal. That is where the big money is for them.”

Myers said he receives phone calls and text messages from former students telling him about their journey. He also gets a call or two a month from some of them needing help.

“It amazes me that students still call or text me about something they are working on. I listen to them, and we discuss what they have and have not done,” Myers said. “Then it clicks, and they know what to do. That is what I appreciate.”

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

TSTC Diesel Equipment Technology instructors preparing for enrollment surge

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – When oil prices decline, eventually they will increase. The biggest question is when.

When oil production increases, the demand for diesel specialists also increases. Texas State Technical College’s Sweetwater campus offers an Associate of Applied Science degree in heavy truck specialization and two certificates in heavy truck specialization.

“We are looking for a really good enrollment this fall, especially with the economy the way it is,” said instructor Shannon Weir. “The oil field is going to bounce back eventually, and companies will need people to work on the trucks and equipment.”

Some graduates of the Diesel Equipment Technology program are employed by established companies like Caterpillar, Peterbilt and Freightliner.

“Our students will be able to get work when they graduate,” he said.

Weir said most graduates have jobs prior to the end of their final semester. That is one of the selling points for the program, he said.

“Most of our graduates from Sweetwater get jobs in the oil field,” Weir said. “People trust our graduates.”

Students spend a majority of the time in the lab. Earlier this month, students returned to the Sweetwater campus to finish spring semester lab sessions.

“It is good to get back to work. This is a very hands-on class,” said second-year student Jacob Rambo of Wichita Falls.

With registration for the fall semester underway, Weir said instructors are preparing for changes.

“When the students returned this month, we did not have any issues. Everyone is following the rules,” he said, adding that those rules include wearing a face covering at all times. “We are going to make sure to practice all of the safety guidelines in place. Safety is our top priority.”

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

TSTC Alumni Keep Longview Technologically Together

(MARSHALL, Texas) – Three graduates of Texas State Technical College’s Marshall campus are helping to keep the city of Longview safe and technologically advancing.

“There are a lot of positive aspects to working in the public sector,” said Amy Hertel, an instructor in TSTC’s Cybersecurity program. “Government jobs not only allow for great work experience, but allow for benefits like job security, health insurance, retirement and allotted vacation time. Information technology departments normally work in groups, so it’s a great opportunity for team building and a collaborative work environment.”

Joshua Allen, Blake Gore and Rhonda Haydel work in Longview’s information systems department.

Allen has associate degrees in Computer Systems Desktop Support Technology and Computer Networking and Systems Administration and holds a CompTIA (Computing Technology Industry Association) A+ certification.

He joined Longview’s municipal staff in 2014 and said he enjoys giving employees the tools to do their jobs. Allen’s days revolve around audits, data migration, work orders and department phone systems.

“I work on modifying people’s phones, such as changing speed-dial buttons, and some of the more complicated stuff like call trees and options that you are presented with on a call tree,” Allen said. 

He said he did not become interested in technology until he was in high school.

“I just kind of stuck with it,” Allen said. “Mainly, I knew it was an industry that was not going away. There is job security.”

Gore is an applications manager for the city. His role is to oversee the city’s applications, data analysis and geographic information systems groups. Part of his job includes what he calls “issue escalation” when software needs to be evaluated, migrated or replaced in municipal departments.

Gore said the work is rewarding.

“You are empowering people that serve the community,” he said.

Gore graduated with an associate degree in Computer Systems Networking and Technology. He said he enjoyed learning about computer hardware, programming and troubleshooting.

Gore’s advice for people wanting to pursue technology fields is to learn and understand as much as possible.

“Technology is not going anywhere,” he said. “That is what I have thought since going to TSTC. We are getting more technical, more computer-based.”

Gore became interested in technology by building computers beginning in middle school. And, it was this curiosity that solidified his decision to attend TSTC. 

“I knew somebody who was a high school teacher that recommended TSTC for certain students that he taught,” Gore said. “He spoke highly of it, and I went in that direction.”

Gore also considers himself a certification addict. Some of the certifications he has include CompTIA Server+ and CompTIA A+.

“Certifications focus you on a particular area and show you have knowledge about that particular subject,” he said.

Haydel is an information technology specialist primarily working with the Longview Police Department. She began working for the city in 2007 as a city public safety dispatcher and later attended TSTC while working full time. 

“You could easily follow the money trail to the private sector, but if you want the stability and well-rounded job security, looking outside of the private sector businesses and moving to the government side would be a better choice,” Haydel said.

She also earned associate degrees in Computer Desktop Support Technology and Computer Networking and Systems Administration from TSTC’s Marshall campus.

“TSTC had a focus on where I wanted to be,” she said.

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

TSTC Culinary Arts: Options Abound for Meat Substitutes

(WACO, Texas) – Consumers who find limits on purchasing their favorite meats at the grocery store can look for options to make meals satisfying.

Mark Schneider, Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts division director, said those who are interested in shifting from meat should not do so cold turkey. He advises cooks to create one or two meatless dishes, then increase the number of such meals as they become comfortable.

Schneider also advises consumers to read the labels on meatless products.

“Most vegetarians are very conscious of what they are doing and ingesting,” Schneider said.

David Ray, an instructor in TSTC’s Culinary Arts program in Waco, said students learn in the first-semester Nutrition for the Food Service Professional class about amino acids, complete proteins and vitamins in food. Also in the first semester, students learn in the Sanitation and Safety class how to avoid contamination and be mindful of cooking for those with food and gluten allergies.

Ray said beans, nuts and rice can be combined in a variety of ways to give people essential amino acids and protein. He said soybeans and quinoa are also great sources of complete protein.

“Asian dishes and Indian dishes have beans and rice and a little of animal protein in them,” Ray said. “It’s not nearly as much as we eat. They stretch the protein way out.”

Eggplant and portobello mushrooms can be used to substitute for meat in recipes, Schneider said.

“Both of those are great,” he said. “You can definitely make a vegetarian burger that is natural. A lot of time, that will include portobellos and grains like barley and oats. You can grind everything together and make a decent burger.”

Schneider also said tempeh is a good alternative. Tempeh is made of compressed soybeans that are fermented and shaped into a block held together with mycelia, according to The Vegan Society. Tempeh is popular in Indonesian cuisine.

“I really like tempeh,” Schneider said. “I cut it up into bite-size pieces and use it as a stir-fry or as a filler for pasta. Instead of cooking it in the dish, cook it first, then add to the dish.”

Tofu is another go-to for cooks.

“It is great,” Schneider said. “It takes on the flavor of what you are cooking. I try to marinate it first. I use the firm, hard tofu that gives it a little more substance. You can even press that and get it a little firmer. You get a better chew, or bite.”

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