TSTC Student Veteran to Compete at SkillsUSA Nationals

(SWEETWATER, Texas) – From serving his country overseas to serving his local community, Texas State Technical College student James Phillips III has dedicated his life to helping others.

Phillips, a Big Spring native, is an Army veteran and a Vocational Nursing student at TSTC. He recently competed at the state-level SkillsUSA Postsecondary Leadership and Skills Conference, where he placed first in CPR Skills.

“I’m still kind of surprised I got first place. I wasn’t expecting it, but I was very excited,” Phillips said.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure that America has a skilled workforce. More than 18,000 people, including students, teachers and business partners, are expected to participate in the national event.

Phillips will represent Texas and TSTC at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 24-28.

Phillips was first introduced to CPR training during his time with the military. He enlisted in the Army in 1999 as a helicopter mechanic before serving in the Army’s Special Forces until 2008.

“We needed to know the basics of medical care and act as a first responder, so we learned CPR skills and other first-responder skills,” he said.

When Phillips is not at school or practicing for SkillsUSA, he is working as a certified nursing assistant at the George H. O’Brien Jr. VA Medical Center in Big Spring.

“It’s a way for me to give back to other veterans but also to be around other nurses and keep learning,” Phillips said.

Phillips stands out to his instructors and classmates not only as an excellent student, but also as the only male in the program.

“Bless his heart. He is the only guy in the class right now, so he’s very protective of the other students and a perfect gentleman. He has been a model student who goes above and beyond. I just can’t say enough good about him,” TSTC vocational nursing instructor Sharon Zetzman-Sparks said.

Being a male nurse is something Phillips knows may be uncommon, but he encourages anyone with a desire to help people to consider the career field.

“It’s something different every day. You keep learning new things, and there is a huge job demand. Being a nurse is very rewarding,” Phillips said.

Phillips is expected to graduate in fall 2019.

For more information about TSTC, go to www.tstc.edu.

TSTC Student Veteran to Compete at SkillsUSA Nationals

James Phillips III is an Army veteran and vocational nursing student at Texas State Technical College in Sweetwater. He will compete in CPR Skills at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.

TSTC Instructors Named AWS Educate Cloud Ambassadors

(WACO, Texas) – Three instructors in Texas State Technical College’s Cloud Computing program were recently named Amazon Web Services (AWS) Educate Cloud Ambassadors.

Andy Kroll, Clint Pate and Rus Teston went through an application process and created a video explaining their philosophy in promoting cloud computing education.

“It’s an honor to be accepted,” Teston said. “As Amazon is growing, they are expanding their own avenues where the cream rises to the top. To be part of the inaugural class of these ambassadors, that is a special thing.”

Some of the benefits of being named AWS Educate Cloud Ambassadors include special AWS training events, conference discounts and scheduled talks with AWS service personnel and solutions architects.

“They invite instructors to sit with the AWS corporate course development team to get input in the education arena,” Teston said. “Being part of the ambassadors gives us a peek under the covers. We can understand what is coming down the pike before everyone else does.”

TSTC’s program enables students to graduate with AWS Cloud Practitioner and AWS Solutions Architect certifications.

Kroll said students can earn other Amazon certifications on their own. He said the program’s students have earned more than 40 AWS certifications in the last seven semesters.

The program will have a revamped curriculum starting this fall that will utilize competency-based education starting this fall, Kroll said. Some of the courses students will take include Introduction to DevOps Engineering, Introduction to Infrastructure Automation and Advanced Infrastructure Automation.

“The students get a world-class education,” Kroll said.

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

TSTC Instructors Named AWS Educate Cloud Ambassadors


TSTC Student Restaurant to Open June 12

(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts program opens its student-operated restaurant for the summer semester on Wednesday, June 12.

The restaurant, which is located at the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center on Campus Drive, is open to the public by reservation. Diners can choose from dishes planned and prepared by students and based on regional cuisines.

Meals are served from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays from June 12 to Aug. 9. The restaurant will be closed the week of the Fourth of July. The serving days and themes, which can be subject to change, are:

June 12 and June 14: Texas

June 19 and June 21: Brazil

June 26 and June 28: Greece

July 10 and July 12: Cajun

July 17 and July 19: Mexico

July 24 and July 26: Southern

July 31 and Aug. 2: Indian

Aug. 7 and Aug. 9: Live-action Buffet

Weekly menus will be posted on the Facebook page for the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center at TSTC.

To make reservations, call 254-867-4868 or email wacoculinary@tstc.edu. Visitors must arrive at least 15 minutes before their seating time. Reservations are not accepted on restaurant serving days.

For menus and other information, go to tstc.edu/about/culinarydiningwaco.

Occupational Safety Compliance Technology Coming to TSTC in Breckenridge

(BRECKENRIDGE, Texas) – Texas State Technical College in Breckenridge will offer a new program of study starting this fall: Occupational Safety Compliance Technology.
Students who successfully complete the five-semester program will earn an Associate of Applied Science degree. Registration for the fall semester is underway.
“We brought the OSC course to Breckenridge because many of our Environmental Technology students were getting jobs in the occupational health and safety fields as health safety officers,” TSTC associate provost Debbie Karl said.
“Safety officers are needed in all types of industries, from oil field to wind to manufacturing. Just about any large company will need a safety officer if they need to meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations,” she said.
The program will educate students about OSHA regulations within the workplace to keep employees from harm.
“The demand for workers with a safety degree is rising. Employers need safety personnel to manage the workplace so no one gets hurt,” TSTC Environmental Health and Safety instructor Teresa Purcell said.
“I’m excited we have this program here. It is a great opportunity for anyone to learn how to become a successful leader in the workplace, to put safety first,” Purcell said. “Not only will they know the regulations, but the graduate will be able to teach fellow workers how to safely do their job.”
During the first two semesters, students will be in class only two days a week for an average of six hours. For the last three semesters, students will be in class three to four days a week.
Purcell encourages anyone who wants to ensure safer work environments to apply.
For more information, go to www.tstc.edu.
Occupational Safety Compliance Technology Coming to TSTC in Breckenridge
Texas State Technical College in Breckenridge will offer a new program of study starting this fall: Occupational Safety Compliance Technology.

TSTC Profile of Excellence – Phillip Saldana

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Phillip SaldanaPhillip Saldana, 27, graduated with an associate degree in 2018 from the Auto Collision and Management Technology at Texas State Technical College.

The Dallas native, who moved to the Rio Grande Valley to attend TSTC and whose father is also a TSTC alumnus from the engineering program, said the move was worth it because shortly after graduating he received a job offer from Collision Stop in Harlingen, where he is still employed.

He began as a detailer and after only a few months on the job, he was promoted to the company’s estimator.

What was your reaction when you first learned about your job offer?

Every year I would travel to the Valley to visit my grandparents and what I looked forward to the most was helping my grandpa refurbish cars. This was what sparked my interest in auto body work. So when I found out my job, it was the greatest feeling and relief knowing I was beginning my career doing something I love.

How did TSTC prepare you for your career?

TSTC prepared me with an excellent foundation. The program was industry-focused and provided real-world, hands-on assignments and projects that allowed us to practice our skills and be ready to hit the ground running when we entered the workforce. The program exceeded my expectations.

Who has had the greatest influence on your success?

My greatest influences are my family. My mom, dad and my grandma and grandpa who allowed me to live with them when I moved to the Valley. All of them have been supportive about my decision to attend TSTC and throughout my educational journey.

What are your future goals?

My goal is to gain as much experience as I can in the field and become a shop foreman or manager down the line. I want to grow in this field and hopefully someday open a shop of my own.

What would you tell a student thinking of pursuing a two-year degree vs. a four-year degree?

I would tell a student to not think twice about getting a two-year degree or a degree period. My two-year degree has been worth it and allowed me to begin my career. I would not be where I am without it. Education is the key to growth.

What is your advice for future TSTC students?

My advice to future TSTC students is make the most of your time at TSTC. Ask questions, stay focused and learn from your mistakes. TSTC leads to careers and growth. If I can do it, so can someone else.

New training station at TSTC brings greater opportunity for welding program

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Built from the ground up by Texas State Technical College Welding Technology instructors and students, the program has a new pipe fitting training station for its Advanced Layout and Fabrication course.

The course, taken during a student’s third semester in the program, focuses on layout design, build and processes, blueprint reading and pipe fitting.

“This pipe fitting station takes our program and this course to the next level,” said TSTC lead Welding Technology instructor Ramiro Villarreal. “This carries our program forward, allows us to grow and produce well-rounded graduates that are in demand in our industry.”

Longtime TSTC Welding Technology instructor Kenny Moore said this new training station, which took six to eight weeks to build, allows the program to stay in the forefront of advanced welding training.

“This is a great opportunity for students looking to train with a top welding program right in their backyard,” said Moore. “It’s advancements like this that keep our program on top. And for the growth in industry that we’re seeing in our region, it’s important that our students and graduates learn the latest and greatest.”TSTC Welding Tech pipe fitting station

Villarreal has been working closely with TSTC administration and leadership in creating and maintaining relationships with two industrial facilities located in the Port of Brownsville: Keppel AmFELS, a leader in mobile drilling rig, platform and container vessel construction, refurbishment and repair; and Texas LNG, a liquefied natural gas facility.

Both companies seek and hire skilled welders, solders and pipefitters for their facilities, and with major projects on the horizon their demand for these positions is expected to increase.

“While we’ve always trained in pipe welding and fitting, it’s now more important than ever that we emphasize its processes and ensure that our students have the basic knowledge they need to hit the ground running and find successful careers with either these companies or others like them,” said Villarreal.”

The Advanced Layout and Fabrication course is 15 weeks and is available to all Welding Technology students pursuing a certificate 1, certificate 2 or associate degree.

Villarreal and Moore said this new training station goes beyond technical skill training, it also provides soft skills such as teamwork, communication, quality control and leadership.

“Throughout the semester students will work in teams to complete projects using the new station,” said Moore. “And every week a new team lead is chosen to give everyone project management experience. Nowadays you need more than technical skills to get hired and we want our students to be prepared.”

With the new pipe fitting station, Villarreal said Welding Technology will be able to provide continuing education training in the future for Keppal AmFELS, Texas LNG and other companies around the Rio Grande Valley.

“What we have built not only allows us to train our students, but industry professionals who want a refresher or to learn something new,” said Villarreal. “We have built a number of opportunities for everyone.”

Last year TSTC’s Welding Technology program in Harlingen was ranked number 7 in the nation by Washington Monthly, in part because of its 96 percent job placement rate.

Graduates from the program learn the fundamentals of welding such as metal arc welding, multiple process welding, welding automation and welding codes, standards and safety, and can work as welders, cutter, solders, brazers, pipe fitters, and brazing machine setters, operators and tenders for manufacturing shops, ship building yards, oil fields, and maintenance shops.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the employment of welders is projected to grow six percent, in response to the nation’s aging infrastructure. The 2018 median pay for a welder was more than $40,000 a year.

Welding Technology is offered at all TSTC campuses.

For more information, visit tstc.edu.

TSTC helps two HHS students pave their way to success

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – It was a first-of-its-kind event for Texas State Technical College as the college welcomed two high school seniors with a signing day and scholarship presentation in a ceremony at Harlingen High School (HHS) on Wednesday.

Sadat Gutierrez, 18, and Anyssa Huerta, 17, are both masonry students at HHS and next fall will begin pursuing associate degrees in TSTC’s Building Construction Technology program.

“It’s an honor to celebrate these students’ great accomplishments,” said TSTC Provost Cledia Hernandez. “And at TSTC, our students’ success is at the forefront of everything we do. It’s exciting to see these young women lead as an example in a male-dominated field. Seeing these women excel makes me so proud.”

And excel they have. Both women recently competed in SkillsUSA and medaled in their category: masonry.TSTC helps two HHS students pave their way to success

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

Huerta earned a bronze medal and a $1,500 scholarship, while Gutierrez was awarded gold, earning 30 points more than a male peer who has won first place in SkillsUSA every year. Gutierrez also received a $6,000 scholarship.

The scholarships, which were presented to the women by Hernandez and TSTC Building Construction Technology instructors, can be used for tuition, books, supplies, or room and board.

“These are some of my top students; they’re leaders in class,” said HHS masonry instructor Victor Santillan. “Going to TSTC is going to give them so many opportunities, and I’m glad (TSTC has) taken the time to recognize their achievements because this program (Building Construction Technology) is going to allow them to step into great careers and broaden their horizons.”

Gutierrez and Huerta both said they were placed in their masonry class by mistake their sophomore year, but said someone knew what they were doing because it literally paved the way for their future.

“I knew nothing about masonry before coming into this class. I even tried to get out. But I needed an elective, and this was the only one available,” Gutierrez reminisced. “But I ended up loving it; it ended up opening so many doors for me.”

Huerta shared the same sentiment.

“I was supposed to be pursuing a degree in engineering right now,” she said. “But when I was enrolled in this class, everything changed. I’m now looking forward to a successful career in construction, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s become a true passion.”

Both women said they are excited to start at TSTC in August and hope to continue competing in SkillsUSA at the postsecondary level. They agreed that the scholarships have brought a great relief to them and their families.

“I’m set,” said Gutierrez. “This money, along with some other scholarships and financial aid I have received, will get me through my program. I couldn’t be any more grateful to SkillsUSA and TSTC for making this possible.”

As for Huerta, she said her scholarship, along with financial aid, will allow her to earn a college degree without needing to touch student loans.

“Debt-free is how I want to graduate,” she said. “This scholarship is a huge help, and I can’t wait to see what my future holds. TSTC, here I come.”

Hernandez added that she is happy to welcome these two women into the TSTC family to earn their degrees and advance their careers.

“We’re excited to present these scholarships because it will allow them to continue finding their passion,” said Hernandez. “And we are dedicated to working to ensure that they get the skills they need to find high-paying jobs. We thank them for trusting us with their higher education.”

For more information on Building Construction Technology at TSTC, go to www.tstc.edu.

TSTC Student Reaches New Heights While Restoring the Past

(ABILENE, Texas) – As the aviation industry looks toward the future, one Texas State Technical College student is helping to preserve its history.

Trenton Calsoncin, an aviation maintenance student, is earning Associate of Applied Science degrees in Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology while working with an area company to restore old warplanes.

“It’s my passion. As a kid, I always liked airplanes. So when I got tired of working on cars as a mechanic in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I decided it was time for a change,” Calsoncin said.

Since starting at TSTC in fall 2017, Calsoncin has worked with Ezell Aviation in Breckenridge.

“I’m from Breckenridge, and I’ve known the (Ezell) family for years, so I would go out there in my free time and follow the owner, asking him questions. A couple days after I started school at TSTC, he called me up and offered me a job,” Calsoncin said.

Ezell Aviation restores vintage military airplanes and has completed 34 restorations in its 33 years while also performing inspections, maintenance, and major and minor repairs on many others.

“He’s a good kid, hard worker and has lots of ambition,” Heather Ezell, office manager at Ezell Aviation, said. “Nelson (the company’s founder) encouraged him and is very proud of him.”

Calsoncin said one of his favorite parts of the job is how unique the work is and that it usually coordinates with what he is learning in class.

“This program at TSTC is good, it really is. Somehow it’s been working out that I’ll learn something in class and it ends up being something I use at work almost right away,” he said.

TSTC aviation maintenance lead instructor Josh Parker says Calsoncin’s job helps highlight various career opportunities within the aviation industry for the other students.

“Trenton has been a great student and has always been willing to help his fellow students by sharing the skills that he has brought from working in the aircraft restoration business,” Parker said.

As he completes his degrees, Calsoncin will continue to work at Ezell Aviation.

“I plan on staying there after graduation for as long as they’ll have me. It’s kind of like a dream job for me,” Calsoncin said.

Calsoncin is expected to graduate in summer 2019.

For more information about TSTC, go to www.tstc.edu.

TSTC Student Reaches New Heights While Restoring the Past

Trenton Calsoncin is earning Associate of Applied Science degrees in Aircraft Airframe Technology and Aircraft Powerplant Technology while working with Ezell Aviation to restore old warplanes.




TSTC Auto Collision Students, Alumnus Receive Recognitions

(WACO, Texas) – Two students and a recent graduate of the Auto Collision and Management Technology program at Texas State Technical College have been nationally honored for their academic work.

Edward Hernandez of Killeen and Jennifer Watson of Moody are U.S. military veterans who received 3M Hire Our Heroes tool grants valued at $4,500 each. Hernandez also received a $2,000 scholarship from the 3M Hire Our Heroes fund.

Hernandez is studying in TSTC’s refinishing specialization. He said receiving the tools is a relief.

“Now you just worry about getting the job and starting work right away,” he said.

Hernandez came to TSTC because he always wanted to learn how to paint vehicles.

“This is my second life right now,” he said.

Watson was a helicopter mechanic in the Army and worked at DynCorp (now DynCorp International) before coming to TSTC.

“Coming into a completely new career, I realized the tools I have are not useful,” she said. “I have to build a new tool inventory now. For me, it’s a passion.”

Samuel Patterson of Waxahachie graduated from TSTC’s Auto Collision and Management Technology program in April.

He recently received a Sears Votech tool grant, which includes an industry-size toolbox. He was surprised when he opened his new toolbox and saw an assortment of drill bits, wrenches, sockets and other items.

“I am stoked, really excited,” Patterson said.

He said in five years he wants to start his own collision, repair and refinishing shop.

“The main thing is I just want to work for myself,” Patterson said.

The recognitions are sponsored by the 3M Automotive Aftermarket Division and the Collision Repair Education Foundation.

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

TSTC Auto Collision Students, Alumnus Receive Recognitions


TSTC Student Overcomes Health Issues to Compete at SkillsUSA Nationals

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Sometimes all a person needs is a second chance.

Katherin “Leif” Brown, a Texas State Technical College Computer Networking and Systems Administration student, will proudly represent Texas and TSTC in the Telecommunications Cabling competition at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, on June 24-28.

Undaunted by a health condition, Brown competed at the state-level SkillsUSA Postsecondary Leadership and Skills Conference two years in a row. She finally earned a spot at nationals on her second try.

“When I found out I was going to nationals, I was shocked and then surprised and then like, is this really happening?” Brown said.

SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry working together to ensure that America has a skilled workforce. More than 18,000 people, including students, teachers and business partners, are expected to participate in the national event.

Last year, just before Brown was set to compete for the first time, she was diagnosed with Addison’s disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Addison’s disease is caused by insufficient production of certain hormones.

“I have to be careful and really listen to my body. I can’t get too stressed. But if this has taught me anything, it’s that I’m strong enough to do anything,” Brown said.

Despite the challenges she overcomes daily, Brown is working hard to represent TSTC well at SkillsUSA.

“It’s something I have really enjoyed doing, and I feel it’s really helped me,” Brown said. “This is a job skill that will come into play in the real world, so this is extra practice at it.”

One person helping Brown to prepare is Computer Networking and Systems Administration instructor and SkillsUSA advisor Renee Blackshear.

“SkillsUSA helps open doors and serves to motivate students to put forth their best efforts and demonstrate their individual abilities to help close the skills gap,” Blackshear said. “Katherin has been an active member of our SkillsUSA team, and we look forward to supporting her in her preparations for nationals.”

Brown hopes to encourage others not only to be vigilant in their personal health, but also to pursue their passions.

“Don’t let anything stop you. Just pick yourself up and keep going,” Brown said.

For more information about TSTC, go to www.tstc.edu.

TSTC Student Overcomes Health Issues to Compete at SkillsUSA Nationals

Katherin “Leif” Brown will represent the state of Texas and TSTC at the 2019 National Leadership and Skills Conference. She will compete in Telecommunications Cabling.