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Teacher Watches Former Student Graduate at TSTC

December 13, 2019 by Daniel Perry

(WACO, Texas) – Alicia Hayes was not going to miss this night.

Hayes, a middle school English teacher in the Wortham Independent School District, once taught students in Teague. One of those students, Gerardo Calixtro, was in her fifth-grade mathematics and sixth-grade science classes in Teague.

Now, Calixtro can call himself a graduate of Texas State Technical College.

Hayes saw Calixtro, and four other students she taught in Teague, walk across the stage at TSTC’s Fall 2019 Commencement earlier this month in Waco. Calixtro received an Electrical Lineworker Technology certificate.

“You can tell it meant something to him,” Hayes said.

Calixtro and Hayes reconnected through social media earlier this year and swapped telephone numbers. Calixtro invited Hayes to the ceremony and found out the day before she was able to attend. He asked one of his brothers to save Hayes and her daughter seating tickets.

“Knowing she pushed me throughout the school years I was with her, it felt good knowing and seeing her there,” Calixtro said. “She played a big role in me and my brothers’ lives, asking us what we were doing after high school.”

The day after the Commencement ceremony, Haynes attended the family’s celebratory barbecue for Calixtro in Teague.

“To see the support he had with his family and how proud they were, it touches your heart because you know that kid is going to succeed,” she said.

Calixtro’s graduation means even more to him because he said at one point while in high school, he wanted to drop out. At that stage in his life, college was not an option he was excited about.

But, Calixtro graduated in 2017 from Teague High School. He told his brothers he was going to college, but they did not believe him.

“I knew I would do it,” he said.

Calixtro had his own challenges while at TSTC.

“There were times I wanted to quit college because of financial stuff and work,” he said. “I didn’t think I would be able to do it.”

Calixtro’s brothers, David and Carmelo, are also students at TSTC. Hayes said she plans to watch them graduate from TSTC.

“I want my students to understand I consider them my children from the moment I start teaching them,” Hayes said. “It doesn’t stop just because they move to the next grade level or graduate.”

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TSTC Cybersecurity Program Expands in Anticipation of New Learning Initiative

December 13, 2019 by Daniel Perry

(HUTTO, Texas) – As Texas State Technical College’s students at the East Williamson County campus are enjoying their holiday break, workers are physically expanding the Cybersecurity program’s first-floor learning spaces at the East Williamson County Higher Education Center.

Once completed in early 2020, the Cybersecurity program’s newly enlarged lab will be rearranged to accommodate TSTC’s Performance-Based Education (PBE) initiative set to launch in August.

Joshua Schier, an instructor in TSTC’s Cybersecurity program, said he is thrilled about the work taking place.

“This will be even more hands-on focused, and it’s going to create a lot of room for our programs to grow,” Schier said. “Students can work at their own pace and get through the system faster.”

Schier said the new space means more one-on-one time to engage with students.

“Change is always interesting, and it is exciting for us because I think of where it is going to free us up,” he said.

Starting in the fall semester, TSTC’s Performance-Based Education will give students in the Cybersecurity and Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Technology programs the opportunity to learn course material at their own pace. PBE also will increase student access to programs throughout the year and generate a secondary learning transcript showing the competencies that students have completed.

“Students will have the ability to accelerate through their courses and program,” said Kyle Smith, TSTC’s deputy chief academic officer. “Such acceleration will be rewarded by waiving certain portions of the tuition and fees.”

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TSTC Engineering: Training a new generation of problem solvers

December 13, 2019 by Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The Engineering department at Texas State Technical College will prepare a student for advancement in the workplace with a mathematics- and physics-based curriculum that will improve and increase problem-solving skills.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of engineering is expected to grow as much as 10% in the coming decade as government and industry work to meet the challenges of a growing global population and dwindling resources.

With Texas being among the largest employers of engineers in the nation, the Rio Grande Valley is also seeing an increase in demand for highly skilled engineers.

TSTC Engineering department chair Hermes Chirino said as the Valley grows, the need for engineers, especially civil engineers, will increase in the region. And with the newly constructed SpaceX site in Brownsville, he expects aerospace engineers also to be in demand in coming years.

Chirino went on to explain how TSTC’s Engineering department is helping to fill a large demand.

What is the length of the program?

The Engineering program takes five semesters to complete. Upon successful completion, a student will earn an Associate of Science degree in Engineering.

What skills do students learn in Engineering?

In Engineering, students will learn the concept and theory foundations of mathematics and physics, programming for engineers and engineering mechanics — static and dynamic, all of which will allow a student to become problem solvers in the field.  

What types of technologies are used to learn these skills?

To learn these skills, Engineering students will use a wide array of industry-standard software such as MATLAB, which is a type of engineering software used worldwide.

How do these skills prepare a student for the workforce?

Many of the students pursuing an associate degree in Engineering will transfer to obtain a higher degree, with every course in this program being transferrable, or will come from one of the many popular technical programs at TSTC such as Wind Energy Technology, Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics, or Mechatronics Technology.

Nearly 40% of the program is made up of Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics students who find an interest and want to pursue a career in civil engineering. Students who graduate with an associate degree from a technical program in engineering become more marketable among employers.

What types of positions can a graduate obtain?

As a graduate from TSTC’s Engineering program, a student can go on to work as a technician in civil engineering, electrical and electronics engineering, environmental engineering, industrial engineering and mechanical engineering.     

TSTC helps first-generation college student realize her dream

December 13, 2019 by Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – For Esthela Hernandez, becoming a college graduate seemed like a dream that would never come true. But on Friday night, the Texas State Technical College Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics student earned her associate degree.

“This point in time seemed like it would never be possible,” said the 23-year-old. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, or what I wanted to be. But I did know I felt like I was doing nothing with my life and that college would be my answer.”

Yet she wondered how she could do it as a single mother of two and a first-generation college student.

“I’m the first from my family to venture down this path, so I really didn’t have anyone to turn to for advice or the know-how,” said the Harlingen native. “But I had the support of my family, especially my parents, and that was more than enough to get me through.”

Although it was difficult juggling a full-time class schedule with a full-time job and being a full-time mother, Hernandez still managed to excel with a 3.9 grade-point average.

She graduated as a member of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

“I told myself when I first enrolled in college that I would graduate as an honor student,” said Hernandez. “So this is a real accomplishment for me. I did it.”

Hernandez had to make a few changes along the way, even leaving her job, to make sure she continued passing her classes.

She landed a paid internship as a drafter in her chosen field of study with CASA Engineering in Harlingen.

“It was risky leaving my job, especially with children, but I feel that everything I have done is worth it,” she said. “I’m doing this to give my children and my family a better life — to break a cycle.”

She said she has already been able to apply what she has learned in the classroom in the real world and that the best is yet to come.

“All of my instructors are part of my success and the reason I want to continue my education and strive for more,” said Hernandez.

She plans to return to TSTC in January to pursue a second associate degree in Engineering.

“I have the foundation I need to enter the industry already and work toward a successful career. But I want to learn more so I can aim for even better-paying jobs,” she said. “And I have found my way at TSTC.”

Now, as a college graduate, Hernandez hopes she has set a good example for her younger siblings and children.

“I’m happy that they now have footsteps to follow and that I can help them with the college process. They are not alone,” she said. “It’ll be a different journey for them, and although I didn’t have this type of guidance, I did have parents who showed me what hard work was and how not to give up.”

More than 300 students earned their certificates or degrees Friday night during TSTC’s Commencement at the Harlingen Convention Center.

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TSTC graduate clears hurdles in pursuit of degree

December 13, 2019 by Amanda Sotelo Sotelo

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – The road to commencement was no easy journey for recent Texas State Technical College Mechatronics Technology graduate Hugo Gamboa, but he overcame the hurdles and received his associate degree on Friday night.

The 20-year-old was one of nearly 300 students who received a certificate or associate degree during TSTC’s Commencement at the Harlingen Convention Center.

“I really never thought this day would come,” said the Los Fresnos native. “There were so many times I felt like quitting, but I kept moving forward, and now I can’t believe that I can call myself a college graduate at only 20.”

Gamboa was actually supposed to graduate a couple of semesters ago, but he fell behind and had to decrease his class load, which he said taught him a valuable lesson.

“I was working two jobs, partially because I needed to save money for college and wanted to challenge (myself) if I could do it,” said Gamboa. “But it didn’t work out as planned, and it made me reprioritize and work even harder. It was hard watching everyone else graduate.”

Pursuing an education and a career in a field like Mechatronics Technology was something Gamboa was interested in at an early age.

“I’ve always liked to look at how things work,” he said. “And it continued to fascinate me through middle and high school. I was fortunate enough to have a high school teacher who took note of my skills and encouraged me to look into TSTC.”

Gamboa said it was during a TSTC recruitment fair that he discovered Mechatronics Technology and knew that it was the perfect match.

“There was never any doubt that this was the program for me,” said Gamboa. “It has been a definite eye-opener into the world of automation, engineering and robotics. Mechatronics is a little bit of everything, and now I have a solid foundation.”

Gamboa went on to excel in the program after overcoming a couple of rough semesters.

He even designed and created a working vending machine that dispenses small bags of chips and candy.

“It took me three months to design, build and program my vending machine, but it was well worth it,” he said.

The machine is now displayed at TSTC recruiting events, making it a staple at the Mechatronics Technology table and an area of fascination for younger students.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done and all of the lessons I have learned,” said Gamboa. “I’m leaving with experience and skills that I know will help me begin my career because the training I’ve received has prepared me for the next chapter.”

Gamboa has already had numerous interviews with local companies and is waiting to hear back. There is one company in particular that is near and dear to his heart because his father works there and Gamboa previously worked there too.

“I’m excited to see where these interviews may lead,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed the mechanical and electrical areas of mechatronics. But I have an open mind, and I’m ready to try anything.”

Gamboa hopes to grow within the industry, become a leader in his field and live life to the fullest.

“Graduating at such a young age is a huge accomplishment for me,” he said. “And it’s exciting to think I have my whole future ahead of me and a chance to make my dreams come true. I hope that others that feel discouraged the way I did see that it’s possible and nothing can stop us.”

Statewide this month, more than 1,000 TSTC students will join an alumni network that is 100,000 strong.

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