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TSTC alumna works to lead people down right road

November 30, 2020 by Ben Barkley

(BROWNWOOD, Texas) – Leigh Anne Folger is using her life experience as a road map to help others.

Folger, a 2017 graduate of Texas State Technical College’s Chemical Dependency Counseling program, is a counselor at Addiction Behavioral Services. Prior to joining the staff, she worked as a counselor at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Thomas R. Havins Unit in Brownwood.

“I know I am not responsible for my clients’ decisions. I can’t take credit for their success or get down if they fail,” she said. “All I do is provide them with the information that can help them. I hold up the road map to a successful life. They have to want to drive the car.”

Folger said she got her life on track after being released from prison. She knew a career in the medical field would not be possible, but another option was available.

“I made a lot of bad decisions in my life, and they finally caught up to me,” she said. “I knew that I would never have a career in the field I once dreamed of, which was the medical field. So I thought, ‘Why don’t I become a counselor?’ I knew I could help people by using my life experiences.”

Folger reconnected with a friend and classmate at Addiction Behavioral Services, Laura Weaver. Folger credits Weaver for steering her to TSTC’s counseling program.

“I had these unrealistic fears of failing. I was kind of hesitant to enroll,” she said. “Laura said she would meet me at the school.”

Once Folger walked onto the Brownwood campus, she felt at ease.

“Everyone had a smile on their face. No one was bothered by all of the questions I had,” she said. “Everyone at TSTC made me excited about going back to school.”

After graduation, Folger began working for the Havins Unit. It served as a reminder for her to move forward.

“I love what I do. Working at the unit felt like a reminder that I did not want to go back,” she said.

She also knew which inmates needed the most help.

“About 60 percent of the guys had already made up their mind that they did not want to return to prison,” Folger said. “It was those individuals on the fence that I targeted. I wanted to persuade them that the grass was greener on the outside.”

When the chance came to work for Addiction Behavioral Services, she did not hesitate.

“Looking back, I enjoyed my time at the unit. I just wanted to make a change,” Folger said. “Being able to work with Laura was also amazing. Everything has come full circle for me.”

Folger continues to praise TSTC and the staff for helping her find her way.

“Had it not been for TSTC, there is no telling where I would be right now,” she said. “TSTC was amazing. (Instructor) Elizabeth Jones is amazing. She has more insight than anyone in this field. I even recommend TSTC to people looking to restart their life. It worked for me.”

For more information about TSTC, visit

Sanders intrigued by TSTC’s ‘essential man’s course’

November 30, 2020 by Ben Barkley

(ABILENE, Texas) – Robert Sanders, of College Station, said Industrial Systems is the “essential man’s course” at Texas State Technical College.

Sanders is always smiling when he walks into the Industrial Technology Center for classes. He is studying for an associate degree, saying his motivation is to be the best at whatever he does. 

One thing he does like to do is work on things.

“I come from an old-fashioned background,” he said. “I am a gearhead at heart. I like to prep and fix things. This course is perfect for me because it is definitely the essential man’s course.”

Being one of the older students has not deterred him from helping others.

“There is a great group of guys in this class,” Sanders said. “There are some brilliant minds in this class.”

He is impressed with the creativity of the younger students and how well the instructors present lessons and lab sessions.

“With the younger guys in the class, the mix of their wisdom is great,” Sanders said. “This is a program that is perfect for any age group.”

There is also a competitive nature in class, but everyone in the class wants to succeed.

“We help each other a lot. I am highly competitive, but I am going to do what I can to help others,” he said.

While the students are working, one thing is certain.

“Safety is No. 1 for us,” Sanders said. “We are aware of what is going on around us, and if someone does something that is not safe, we stop what we are doing.”

The father of two sons, Sanders has advice for parents planning to go to college.

“Have a good support system at home,” he said. “I knew it would be hard to go to school and work, but I am so glad I have a good support system in place.”

Sanders is no stranger to TSTC. He began taking Computer Networking classes in 2004 but quickly learned it was not for him. 

“I realized real quick that it was not for me. I stopped before I finished and went into the Air Force,” he said. “But I always knew that I would come back.”

He is back and enrolled in a program that he has a passion for, and he lets everyone know.

“This is an amazing school,” he said. “There is no comparison.”

TSTC trains Industrial Systems students to be machinery experts who can keep facilities running safely and efficiently. Students learn a broad range of skills needed to install, operate, test, repair and maintain a variety of mechanical equipment. They learn industry-standard safety procedures, mechanical and electrical skills, diagnostic techniques, and how to work with motors, pumps, chillers, boilers, and programmable logic control systems.

For more information about TSTC, visit

TSTC Solar Energy Technology Program Ready to Meet Job Needs

November 25, 2020 by Daniel Perry

(WACO, Texas) – As the old saying goes, “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” 

That can also include solar farms.

Invenergy, a worldwide private sustainable energy company, plans to build what it claims will be the largest solar farm in the United States. The 1,310-megawatt Samson Solar Energy Center facility will be located in Northeast Texas and be fully operational in 2023. The facility is projected to produce energy for 300,000 homes, according to company information.

“Right now, solar is booming,” said Hugh Whitted, chair of Texas State Technical College’s Solar Energy and Electrical Construction department. “It has rebounded from the tariffs that were put into place a few years back. We have a lot of systems going in and the people that need the work done.”

The Samson Solar Energy Center project is expected to generate 600 construction jobs and 12 permanent jobs upon completion, according to information from Invenergy.

Texas’ solar industry employs more than 13,000 workers, according to the Texas Solar Power Association.

Jobs for solar photovoltaic installers is projected to grow to more than 18,000 up to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The growth is attributed to an increased demand for usage and upkeep, and state and local governments offering incentives.

“I am getting emails usually at least a couple of times a month from solar and electrical contractors all over the place, most of them in and around the Metroplex or Austin to San Antonio,” said Whitted, who is based at TSTC’s Waco campus.

Holtek Fireplace and Solar in Waco began doing local solar work in 1999, said Holt Kelly, the company’s owner. The company does designs and sales, while an electrical contractor performs installations.

“Here in this market, it is spotty,” Kelly said. “We are a small company. I am picking and choosing.”

Kelly said businesses in the Waco area are not yet quite in tune with installing solar panels. But, he said homeowners have been using solar panels for years.

“Solar farms are great, but in my opinion solar is best used most efficiently at the point of use of power, the buildings where the energy is being used,” Kelly said.

Training for solar work means going into a career in the electrical field. TSTC’s students can pursue a “Triple Crown” consisting of an Energy Efficiency Specialist certificate, an Electrical Construction certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree in Solar Energy Technology.

“It (solar) is not an industry that is going to shrink, realistically,” Whitted said. “People are not going to stop putting in solar unless there is something better out there.”

Whitted said skills in basic mathematics and communication are needed for the solar field. It also helps not to be afraid of heights.

Kelly said people interested in the solar field should strive to become an electrical apprentice and journeyman.

“If you want to do that, you are in the construction business because that is a big part of installing the arrays,” he said. “If you do not want to be the boots on the roof, then learn how to design these things and learn as much engineering as you can.”

For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to 

TSTC begins new holiday tradition

November 25, 2020 by Naissa Lopez

(ROSENBERG, Texas) – Texas State Technical College students are the heart of the “Culture of Caring” that TSTC prides itself on. Recently TSTC’s Advocacy and Resource Center in Fort Bend County gave Thanksgiving meals to some students to make their holiday a little cozier.

Advocacy and Resource Center coach Larissa Moreno discussed the importance of TSTC being there for students when they need it, and the start of a new tradition for TSTC in Fort Bend County.

Who received the Thanksgiving meals?

Several students who are attending TSTC in Fort Bend County received the meals. The groceries were free to the students and delivered by a local grocery store.

How did you decide who would be the recipients of the meals?

Several names were given to us by faculty and staff. We also utilized our own caseload.

Why did the Advocacy and Resource Center decide to give away Thanksgiving meals?

Part of TSTC’s Culture of Caring is to support and assist students who are food insecure. Hunger should not be an obstacle in reaching their academic goals.

Providing a Thanksgiving meal for students is a tradition I wanted to start for our campus. This year, we had groceries delivered to students so they could enjoy a safe and fulfilling Thanksgiving meal in their own home. When I speak to our students, they have such a positive attitude and are focused on getting their education. I want them to stay that way. I want our TSTC students to know that the Advocacy and Resource Center is here to help them if life throws them a curveball, or if they need assistance with food, child care, books or tools. We can find the resources.

The Advocacy and Resource Center is available to TSTC students who are in need of assistance on their collegiate journey. For more information, visit

TSTC Welding instructor motivated by student success

November 25, 2020 by Naissa Lopez

(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Welding Technology instructor Manuel Ahumada enjoys the field that he dedicates his time to teaching. Most importantly, he enjoys seeing his students succeed throughout the semester with increasing confidence in their skills as they prepare to enter the growing welding field.

 What inspired you to become an instructor?

I have always felt I had a need of helping others, and with my love of the welding field, I combined them. There’s a sense of gratitude involved in knowing I helped a student achieve the goal of being a welder.

What do you enjoy most about your career?

Meeting and helping new, incoming students is something that is very enjoyable. Watching their spirits light up when their hard work results in a good weld is always special.

Do you have a favorite memory at TSTC so far?

The first time I stood on stage at commencement congratulating the first set of students I taught is my favorite memory. It was a very proud moment for me.

What do you enjoy most about welding technology?

Seeing students begin the program knowing nothing about the field and leaving with a great experience and the knowledge of being a good welder is what I enjoy most about the program.

To learn more about TSTC, visit

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