(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Joni Coons knows how important Texas State Technical College is to West Texas and beyond.
Coons was recently honored for 30 years of service to TSTC, but her time with the college goes back even further.
While serving as a secretary for an ambulance company in Ballinger, Coons was asked to help on a call.
“I knew after that first ambulance run I wanted to do this for a living,” she said.
In order to become a paramedic, Coons knew that college would be in her future. She enrolled in the Emergency Medical Services program that was offered at TSTC in Sweetwater. She served as a lab assistant, and after graduating she became an instructor in the program.
She later served as the EMS program chair for the West Texas campuses, and when the program transitioned to Abilene, Coons worked as the Sweetwater campus nurse.
Eventually Coons became coordinator of intramural programs at TSTC’s Student Center.
“Every one of my positions was a stepping stone to the next,” she said. “I knew I would do better in my next position.”
In addition to working at TSTC, Coons is an American Heart Association licensed first aid and CPR instructor.
Coons said her biggest accomplishment was helping TSTC become one of the first colleges to own a fully operational ambulance for the EMS department in the mid-1990s.
“Our program chair at the time, C.L. Meeks, told me to go for it. So I wrote up the proposal, and we got it,” she said.
Coons is most proud of her time as an instructor and helping students succeed.
“I am proud of what TSTC stands for and all of the students we have helped through the years,” she said.
She stays in contact with many of her former students, including a single mother who was in an abusive relationship.
“Everything was going against her. We got her into counseling and helped with expenses for child care,” Coons said. “We even helped her get food stamps.”
Coons said the student worked hard to achieve her goal of graduating and getting a job.
“She came in at the end of her final semester and said, ‘I have something for you,’” Coons said. “She slid her food stamp to me and said, ‘This is the last one of these I want to see.’ I still hear from her today, and she is a successful EMT.”
Coons said some TSTC students have played important roles outside of Texas. One of her former students helped victims at the Alfred P. Murrah Building explosion in Oklahoma City, and another graduate helped counsel people in New York City following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“We have had a nationwide impact with our students,” she said. “Watching the professionalism of our students and graduates gives me the greatest joy.”
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.