TSTC to host annual Open House

Texas State Technical College in Fort Bend County invites all prospective students, community leaders and neighbors to its annual Open House.

The open house will be Friday, March 22, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at TSTC’s Brazos Center located at 26706 Southwest Freeway in Rosenberg.  

“This is an opportunity for us to showcase our campus and the type of technical education TSTC is providing to the local community and the state,” said TSTC student recruitment coordinator Yulonda Durst. “Events like this are eye-openers and give people a better understanding of who we are and what we provide.”

TSTC in Fort Bend County is one of 10 campuses throughout the state. It offers certificates and associate degrees in programs such as Cyber Security, Diesel Equipment Technology, Electrical Lineworker Technology and Welding Technology.

“We offer degrees in two years or less that can lead to great-paying jobs,” said Durst. “We’re focused on providing the skills needed for successful careers and on providing the state with a quality workforce.”

According to research conducted by the National Skills Coalition, 53 percent of all jobs are at the middle-skill level, but only 43 percent of the United States workforce is trained for this type of work.

Closing this skills gap and building a stronger economy is what Texas State Technical College has set out to do.

The National Skills Coalition reports that the majority of middle-skill job opportunities require education and training beyond high school, but not a four-year degree.

Durst said that during Open House those in attendance can learn firsthand about the training opportunities TSTC has to offer.

Programs will offer hands-on activities and demonstrations to give attendees the TSTC experience.

“We offer a wide variety of programs that have an in-demand workforce,” said Durst. “And so we hope that many will find TSTC a good fit for them.”

During the open house, TSTC will also offer 30-minute sessions on financial aid, college admissions and the “411 on TSTC.”

Campus tours and lunch will also be available. And every student who applies to TSTC during the Open House will be entered to win a TSTC scholarship for tuition, books and supplies.

“We want to encourage everyone who’s interested or curious about TSTC to stop by,” said Durst. “This is going to be a one-stop shop to get everything needed for registration ready. This could be the start to someone’s successful future.”

Registration for the TSTC Open House is online at https://bit.ly/FtBendOH19. Save the QR code to save time on the day of the event.

For more information on TSTC in Fort Bend County and the programs it offers, visit tstc.edu.

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.

Student Success Profile – Esperanza Velazquez

Esperanza Velazquez is an Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student at Texas State Technical College.

The San Benito native boasts a 3.75 grade-point average and expects to graduate with an associate degree in Spring 2020.

The 21-year-old is also active on campus as a work-study employee for Student Life and Engagement and the Student Government Association representative for her program.

What are your plans after graduation?

After I graduate I plan on returning to TSTC to pursue a second associate degree in Engineering, and then transferring to a four-year university to obtain a bachelor’s degree in both engineering and communications.

What’s your dream job?

My dream job is to become an engineer and help cities and towns with underdeveloped housing improve this issue so families have a nice place to call home.  

What has been your greatest accomplishment while at TSTC?

My greatest accomplishment while at TSTC has been receiving my work-study position with Student Life. This job has taught me so much about leadership and communication, and has given me other opportunities as a student I may not have otherwise received.

What greatest lesson have you learned about yourself or life?

The greatest lessons I have learned is to listen to all sides of a discussion or debate and always think before speaking.

Who at TSTC has had the most influence on your success?

The person at TSTC who has influenced my success the most is Student Life and Engagement Coordinator and my supervisor Belinda Palomino. She has shown me how to never give up and to always believe in myself and my dreams. She is proof that as long as you work hard, success is possible.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice for future TSTC students is to really invest in improving time management skills, this is crucial to surviving college courses and juggling the workload.

TSTC grad finds career in booming medical industry

Vilze Gamboa didn’t think college was in the books for him, but nearly eight years later he graduated from the Biomedical Equipment Technology program at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen making him the first in his family to graduate from college.

After graduating from Harlingen High School in 2011, the Harlingen native immediately enlisted in the U.S. Army.

“I was not the best in high school. I never shined,” said Gamboa. “I didn’t have motivation to go to college, I was undecided.”

The 26-year-old enlisted in the Army and served nearly four years with a deployment to Afghanistan for nine months before returning home.

“The army was the best decision for me at the time,” he said. “I got to see the world and have experiences I never would have had otherwise.”

But upon returning home, Gamboa felt like something was missing and that something was a college degree.

“I had educational benefits from the army available to me,” he said. “So I enrolled at TSTC, never planning on earning a degree, but that instantly changed.”

Gamboa used his Hazlewood Act and G.I. Bill to pay for his education when he initially enrolled to take a few classes.

But with time spent at TSTC, the more he learned about the college, its programs and most importantly Biomedical Equipment Technology.

“I like the medical field, but being behind the scenes and repairing the technology used in the industry was more my fit,” he said. “So when I was introduced to the program there was no hesitation, I enrolled immediately.”

Today, Gamboa holds an associate degree in Biomedical Equipment Technology and works as a Biomedical Technician I at Baylor Scott and White Health in Temple, Texas.

He received his job offer before even graduating from his program. Today he is responsible for the repair and maintenance of operating room equipment such as surgical tables, lights, scopes, blood pressure monitors and IV pumps.

“As a student in Biomedical Technology you are immediately introduced to industry-standard equipment,” said Gamboa. “We train with this equipment every day, hands-on, so by the time we start applying for internships and jobs we are more than prepared to handle the everyday challenges of a biomedical technician.”

Gamboa, who is also a father of two, said he can now support his family and give them everything they need because of the great pay and benefits package he receives at Baylor Scott and White Health.

“Knowing I had this job prior to graduating, made the success of it all that much sweeter. Not too bad for a two-year degree if I say so myself,” he said. “I was relieved knowing that I could now start supporting my family. And even more important, TSTC opened me up to the possibilities of continuing education. It showed me how to like school.”

Gamboa hopes to continue setting a good example for his children by continuing his education.

In the near future, Gamboa hopes to attend a four-year university, while working fulltime, to earn a bachelor’s degree in Business so he can pursue management opportunities.

“TSTC truly changed my life and I recommend it to everyone I encounter looking for a new opportunity or career change,” he said.

In fact, even Gamboa’s brother is now pursuing an associate degree in Biomedical Technology from TSTC.

“I want my kids to realize that anything is possible,” said Gamboa. “They are only four and five, but I’m already having conversations with them about college, because I don’t want them to wait like I did and because of TSTC I’ve been able to set that example.”

Biomedical Equipment Technology is also offered at TSTC’s campus in Waco.

For more information on the program, visit tstc.edu.     

TSTC mechatronics students mentor HCISD STEM academy students

With Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education a focus in K-12 and institutions of higher education, Texas State Technical College Mechatronics Technology students are stepping up and doing their part to encourage middle schooler’s interest in STEM-related fields.

Recently, Mechatronics Technology Club officers and students volunteered with the Harlingen Consolidated Independent School District STEM2 Preparatory Academy as judges and mentors for the school’s “First Tech Challenge” competition.

“It’s great that these students have already taken an active approach in STEM education,” said TSTC Mechatronics Technology student and club president Flavio Tello. “And it’s our duty as college students pursuing a STEM career to encourage and motivate them.”

A number of middle school students from across the Rio Grande Valley gathered at STEM2 Preparatory Academy for the competition. The contest consisted of robotic matches with robots the students built and programmed themselves.

“We know all too well the pressure a competition like this can bring,” said Tello. “So we are glad that we were able to give these students advice and share our own experiences.”

The Mechatronics Technology students, who have competed in competitions such as SkillsUSA in the past, made recommendations and suggestions to the students on how to improve their robots’ programming and competition times.

“It’s great being a part of this. I wish this is something I had when I was in school,” said Tello. “Times are changing and training is improving, which is why I hope these students take advantage of everything offered to them, and I hope that what we share with them encourages successful careers.”

STEM2 Preparatory Academy Counselor Brenda Duarte said she was pleased with the learning experience TSTC’s mechatronics students provided for her students.

“This visit went very well. We’re so appreciative that these TSTC students took the time to come out and help,” said Duarte. “The exchange of ideas and knowledge between everyone was great.”

Duarte added that there was a lot of discussion about higher education, robotic design, advances in technology, programming and coding.

She said she hopes the partnership between her campus and TSTC’s mechatronics program continues to grow because these students have had a large impact on her student’s interest in STEM education.

Tello and many of his peers will be graduating this semester, but said they are working diligently at getting other club members up to speed about the partnership so STEM2 Preparatory Academy students can continue to get mentored.

“STEM is here and is the future,” said Tello. “We need to work to keep these young students interested in STEM and it starts by letting them know they’re not alone.”

Since the competition, Tello and his classmates have returned to speak to classes at the STEM academy and to share their SkillsUSA robotic prototype.

For more information on Mechatronics Technology, visit tstc.edu.  

TSTC’s Solar Energy Technology Program Radiating With Job Possibilities for Graduates

(WACO) – Julian Rodriguez’s future in the solar industry looks to be as bright as the sun shining on the panels generating energy in Texas.

Rodriguez, 18, of McCamey in Upton County, is in his second semester at Texas State Technical College, studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree in Solar Energy Technology and certificates in Energy Efficiency Specialist and Electrical Construction. The combination is referred to at TSTC as the Triple Crown.

Rodriguez chose to study the alternative energy because of what is going on in and around his hometown. Upton County is home to the Alamo 6 and Pearl solar farms, both built by OCI Solar Power, and Solar 2, which is owned by Vistra Energy. In neighboring Pecos County, California-based 174 Power Global broke ground in January 2018 on the 1,500-acre Midway Solar project. The projects are bringing extra workers to Upton County, which has more than 3,600 residents.

“It’s a lot of unfamiliar faces, which is cool,” Rodriguez said. “It’s interesting to see. It’s opened up a lot of possibilities for me.”

The solar industry includes more than 13,000 employees in the state, according to the Texas Solar Power Association.

“I would hope job seekers would view us as a growing industry making a positive impact in Texas,” said Charlie Hemmeline, executive director of the Texas Solar Power Association in Austin. “I’ve certainly heard that message from job seekers, including from mid-career professionals looking to transition to solar and leverage their existing energy industry expertise.”

Texas is ranked sixth in the country in solar energy consumption, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association’s December 2018 Solar Spotlight – Texas. About 282,000 Texas homes are powered by solar, according to the SEIA.

There are more than 650 solar companies in the state, a majority of them specializing in installation and manufacturing, according to the SEIA.

Ignacio Guajardo, co-owner of Peg Energy in Corpus Christi, Laredo and San Antonio, said the company recruits employees for their skills and then trains them.

“There are electricians and structural engineers and a lot of different people that know of certain areas of solar, but not totally solar,” he said. “It’s definitely a challenge when you are looking for installers or technicians or designers. It’s not all that easy.”

Guajardo said some customers had to know others who have solar to understand how panels are installed and function. He predicted the company could generate growth in the next few years, expanding beyond South Texas.

“People are becoming more aware of the technology,” Guajardo said. “As technology keeps improving, we see more people going solar.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected the number of solar photovoltaic installers will rise to more than 23,100 jobs nationwide by 2026.

Elliott Graham, 20, of Mansfield is a second-semester TSTC Triple Crown student. He said his parents encouraged him to pursue the associate degree and certificates.

“I enjoy just being outside,” Graham said. “I’d rather be outside than at a desk job. It’s something different every day.”

He said he has prepared for classwork by going to a gym to improve his fitness and learning the mathematics behind solar energy. Graham said it is important to calculate precise roof dimensions before determining how many panels will be needed.

“You want to save as much time as possible for the customer,” he said.

TSTC’s Solar Energy Technology program has at least 35 students this semester, with many studying for the associate degree and two certificates. Graduates tend to work in parts of Texas with locally offered solar incentives and rebates.

“It gets them into good-paying jobs quicker,” said Hugh Whitted, a TSTC Solar Energy Technology instructor. “It makes them more marketable.”

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

TSTC SkillsUSA TeamWorks Group Uses Skills for Volunteer Work

(WACO) – For an area church, it was a gift.

For students at Texas State Technical College, it was a way to give back to the community.

Members of TSTC’s SkillsUSA TeamWorks team volunteered Thursday and Friday to do renovation work at the Word of Faith Ministry in Temple. The students — Belton residents Antonio Hernandez and Andres Zapata, Jacob Dawson of Mansfield and Leonardo Mata of Fort Worth — removed tile, closed in an office wall, opened a portion of another wall and installed French doors.

“This is truly a blessing because I like to see young men at their ages have a drive and something to support,” said Larry Watkins, the church’s pastor.

The work gave the students an opportunity to see how compatible they are away from TSTC, where they practice weekly.

“It’s been pretty good,” said Mata, 19. “Hanging out with them is good. I hope this experience helps us out.”

Dawson, 19, said he worked throughout high school individually in SkillsUSA contests, but since joining the construction team he has learned how to trust his teammates’ skills.

“It’s nice to do something different,” he said.

Watkins first met Zapata when he worked at Home Depot and was attending Belton High School. Zapata’s first project for the church was building a podium stage when he was a junior.

The TeamWorks group will have a simulated building scrimmage on Friday, March 29, at the Ben Barber Innovation Academy in Mansfield.

SkillsUSA is a professional organization teaching technical, academic and employability skills that help college and high school students pursue successful careers. Members build these skills through student-led team meetings, contests, leadership conferences and other activities.

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

Brownwood Firefighters Further Education in TSTC EMS Program

(BROWNWOOD) – Not all heroes wear capes, but some do arrive in big red fire trucks.

Three Brownwood firefighters, Ron Groom, John Hendrix and Justin Prince, volunteered to further their education and attend the Texas State Technical College Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program in Brownwood to become paramedics. It almost requires superhuman strength for them to maintain a full-time class schedule while being ready to fight fires and help save lives in their community.

“Any higher level of skill we can have is a benefit to the community. We usually are the first on scene, not always, but a majority of the time. So anything we can do to help is a benefit to everyone,” Groom, captain of the Brownwood Fire Department, said.

Firefighters in Texas are required to have training as basic emergency medical technicians. This is the first group from the Brownwood Fire Department to pursue paramedic licenses, the highest level for EMS responders.

“I, personally, and most firefighters want to be the best firefighters we can be. With our call volume being a majority of EMS, it’s essential that we have that training to be the best on those calls,” said Hendrix, who is a driver for the Brownwood Fire Department and a part-time firefighter with the Early Fire Department.

Besides providing a higher level of service for the community, becoming a paramedic offers an opportunity for promotion within a fire station and is a bonus when applying with other stations.

“For anyone in this field today, education is extremely important, whether it’s as a firefighter or in EMS,” Groom said. “To be in those higher-up or leadership roles, they’re asking for more education on top of having that paramedic license. So it’s important if you want to pursue that.”

According to projections by O*Net Online, Texas can expect increases in emergency medical technician and paramedic jobs of 20 percent and municipal firefighter jobs of 17 percent by 2026.

“There’s a huge need for first responders. Paramedics, especially in the Brownwood area, are in large demand. These guys are helping to fill a need in the community,” Stephanie Young, EMS instructor at TSTC, said.

Working in a smaller department has benefits because firefighters train in a variety of fields, but it also offers challenges.

“Just because it says ‘fire department’ doesn’t mean it’s just fire,” Prince, lieutenant with the Brownwood Fire Department, said. “We’re considered a jack-of-all-trades, so if they don’t know who to call, they call us. We need to be prepared.”

The Brownwood Fire Department encourages anyone interested in becoming a firefighter or entering an EMS field to visit the station or TSTC and ask questions.

Groom, Hendrix and Prince are expected to graduate in spring 2020. For more information on

Texas State Technical College, log on to tstc.edu.

Three Brownwood firefighters, pictured left to right, John Hendrix, Ron Groom and Justin Prince, are working toward their paramedic associate degrees at TSTC in Brownwood.

TSTC’s Schneider Inducted Into International Chefs Honor Society

(WACO) – Mark Schneider, Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts division director, was recently inducted into the Epicurean World Master Chefs Society.

Schneider joins about 350 members of the international honor society. And, he joins Executive Pastry Chef Michele Brown as the only TSTC Culinary Arts instructors to have achieved the honor.

“It’s a privilege to bring this back to TSTC,” Schneider said. “For TSTC to have one (instructor) is amazing, but to have two (instructors) is unheard of. To be in the Epicurean World Master Chefs Society – it’s something you don’t ask about. It’s invitation-only.”

Schneider was honored at the organization’s Annual Sponsors Luncheon in late February at Via Real in Irving, where he created a Texas-themed dessert: Tequila Lime White Chocolate Bavarian Dome with Prickly Pear Gelee and Avocado Ice Cream with Praline Sauce.

“The event was a huge success, with Chef Schneider’s dessert being the star of the lunch,” Brown said.

Schneider invited Len Pawelek, a TSTC Culinary Arts instructor, to cook with him at the luncheon where Pawelek made appetizers.

“We are blessed at TSTC to have chefs that have excelled in their careers,” Pawelek said. “Some of the most respected chefs are recognizing them.”

Schneider said he will be trained and coached by other society members to prepare for competitions like the IKA/Culinary Olympics and the Expogast Villeroy and Boch Culinary World Cup.

“To me, I have learned with different honors that this is just another plateau,” he said. “It puts me back into service and paying it forward.”

Schneider is a 1989 graduate of Midway High School. He received a culinary diploma from the Greater Cincinnati Culinary Academy in 1993 and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Food Service and Culinary Arts from TSTC in 2001. He also earned a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree in Business from Tarleton State University in 2009.

Schneider became a certified executive chef in 2002 and a certified culinary educator in 2008 granted by the American Culinary Foundation.

He was named the Texas Chefs Association’s Chef of the Year in 2008 and was the American Culinary Federation’s Central Region Educator of the Year in 2016.

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

TSTC, Eaton partnership provides first-class training

A new partnership between Texas State Technical College and power management company Eaton is giving TSTC Electrical Power and Controls students an invaluable training opportunity.

Eaton, a global technology leader in electrical systems, and TSTC have been working closely for a year to create a program that would open the doors of Eaton’s Experience Center in Houston for the program’s students.

“I can’t put into words how valuable this partnership with Eaton is for our students and TSTC,” said TSTC Electrical Power and Controls instructor Jonathan Bonkoske. “This is a dream come true, and we are looking forward to the kind of opportunity this can bring.”

Recently the current cohort of Electrical Power and Controls students was invited to tour and train at the Eaton Experience Center, which provides a unique ability to give visitors hands-on training in a true application environment.

“This place is perfect to provide our students with a firsthand look as to what they can expect when they enter the field,” said Bonkoske. “And it also gives our students the chance to network with industry professionals.”

Although TSTC’s Electrical Power and Controls lab offers industry-standard equipment and tools, Bonkoske said there’s nothing that compares to seeing and using it out in the field.

TSTC Electrical Power and Controls student Thomas Penney from West Columbia, Texas, said that the training he receives at TSTC, in addition to the training he received at the Eaton Experience Center, has prepared him for a successful career.

“This experience has truly been an eye-opener,” said Penney. “I give our instructors props for working hard to give us this type of opportunity and for setting us up for success.”

Penney plans to graduate with his associate degree this summer and said he hopes this newly formed partnership will continue for years to come to benefit other students.

“This is great real-world experience, and I hope others that come after our class have the same opportunity,” said Penney. “I’m pretty sure it’ll only get better from here.”

Eaton District Operations Manager Joe Montanari and Bonkoske agree that this partnership promises to grow over time.

“This partnership is our contribution to education,” said Montanari. “And when I toured TSTC and the Electrical Power and Controls labs, they left an impression. Many students don’t get the type of training TSTC students receive.”

Montanari said the hands-on training the Eaton Experience Center provides is a supplement to what students are already learning at TSTC, and future plans for the partnership include supporting the program with equipment and tools, sending field engineers and technicians to the college for presentations, and ultimately hiring TSTC graduates.

Montanari’s counterparts in North Texas already work closely with and hire graduates from TSTC in Waco.

“TSTC students come highly recommended,” said Montanari. “And I’ve already been impressed with the students’ engagement, willingness to learn and excitement they have shown us.”

Bonkoske added that the opportunities found at Eaton’s Experience Center extend beyond Electrical Power and Controls, and he hopes in the near future he can incorporate Electrical Lineworker Technology, Cyber Security Technology and Industrial Maintenance into this training experience.

Electrical Power and Controls is also offered at TSTC’s Abilene, North Texas, Waco and Williamson County campuses.

For more information on the program, visit tstc.edu.