(SWEETWATER, Texas) – Axel Torres wants to help the Sweetwater and Nolan County communities.
The Texas State Technical College Wind Energy Technology student has cleaned up debris around Lake Trammell. But his passion to help has grown as he asked classmates to assist with another project.
To help welcome visitors to the 2023 National WASP WWII Museum fly-in and homecoming on April 28 and 29 at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, several TSTC students cleaned the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) state historical marker site on Interstate 20.
Torres also used the project as a way to re-form the Winds of Texas student club at TSTC.
“I figured it was a good start to get Winds of Texas started again at TSTC,” he said. “I asked a few of my classmates and residence hall assistants to help me with this project.”
The students, along with Joni Coons, TSTC’s leadership coach for TSTC Residence Life and Engagement, added new landscape rocks and trimmed vegetation around the marker.
“With the fly-in scheduled for next month, I knew this would be a perfect way to help the community and the WASP museum,” Torres said. “I am looking forward to attending the fly-in and seeing the vintage planes, as well as meeting people.”
Coons said the student-led effort shows passion for the community where the students are calling home while attending TSTC.
“It was great to see our students have the enthusiasm for this project,” she said. “The WASP museum means so much to Sweetwater and TSTC because these women trained where we train our students. The students wanted to clean the historical marker site because it is a major point of entry not only for the museum, but also the college.”
Lisa Taylor, the museum’s executive director, was pleased to hear about the project.
“I did not know it was a student-led project. We love the community support we get from everyone, especially the younger generation,” she said. “We would not be where we are today without the support of our community.”
Jennifer Kent, the museum’s assistant director, also thanked the TSTC students for their work.
“For the younger generation to put in the time and effort to make sure our historical marker looks clean is incredible,” she said. “It was great to see TSTC students show pride in our history.”
The Women Airforce Service Pilots have a special place in American history. Between November 1942 and December 1944, more than 1,000 women were trained to fly first in Houston and then at Avenger Field in Sweetwater. Nancy Love and Jacqueline Cochran founded the two programs — Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and Women’s Flying Training Detachment — that became the WASP, according to the museum’s website.
Today, WASP history can be observed in the national museum in Sweetwater. During the annual homecoming and fly-in, pilots from around the country will land at the Sweetwater Municipal Airport, including some in vintage World War II aircraft.
Coons said club members plan to tour the museum to learn more about the WASP history. Taylor said seeing TSTC students show interest will help keep the WASP memory alive.
“Seeing that the next generation is interested in what we have will keep our mission moving forward,” Taylor said. “We know that our mission will continue to grow beyond this point.”
Torres, who is studying for an Associate of Applied Science degree, hopes to have more students involved in future projects. During TSTC’s health fair and community resource fair, Torres asked organizations if other projects could be completed by students.
“I want to be able to help people, and more importantly get involved in the community,” he said. “I know other students have the same feelings.”
Torres and other students are planning to help with a volleyball tournament at an area church and repaint parking spaces at a nonprofit facility.
For more information about TSTC, visit tstc.edu.