Bring the family! Annual Kids at College Summer Preview Day set for Saturday


Families looking to keep their children and teenagers engaged, active and entertained this summer are invited for a sneak peek of the Kids at College program offered by the Lee College Center for Workforce and Community Development.

The third annual Kids at College Summer Preview Day is set for 9 a.m.-noon, Saturday, April 29, in the gymnasium on campus. The fun-filled event is free and open to the public, and will feature hands-on activities, interactive demonstrations and information sessions about dozens of educational, creative, career exploration and athletic camps and workshops designed for youth aged 5-17 years. Camps will run weekly from June 5 through August 17.

Kids at College options include everything from arts and crafts, culinary arts and theatre production, to creative writing, private music and voice lessons, gaming, engineering, drafting and design, Minecraft, volleyball, basketball and more. Professional educators, artists and Lee College coaches and student-athletes teach the camps and classes, which will be held at the main campus in Baytown and the Lee College Education Center – South Liberty County.

Parents and families that attend Kids at College Summer Preview Day will be able to register for camps on the spot, enjoy prizes and giveaways and win vouchers to help pay for any applicable registration costs. For more information about Preview Day or the Kids at College program, contact the Center for Workforce and Community Development at 281.425.6311.

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Students lauded for curricular and extracurricular achievements at Presidential Recognition Luncheon

Lee College students who have achieved excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities were celebrated last week at the Presidential Recognition Luncheon, which featured the best and brightest from the Honors Program; Webb Historical Society; Model UN; Visual and Performing Arts; Debate; Athletics and Service Learning.

“You stepped beyond what happens in your classrooms and laboratories and got engaged in activities, and you’re being honored for taking that extra initiative,” Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown told the students. “You take Lee College far beyond Baytown — throughout the region, out into the state and even to the nation’s capital and New York City — and you have made this institution something very special. Your involvement has also made a difference in your life, and the tools you’ve gathered here will serve you well today, tomorrow and into the future.”

Each honoree at the luncheon received a certificate or medal for their accomplishments, and posed for a photo with the president.

The awards included recognition for Honors students who completed the program and/or presented papers at regional and national conferences; Model UN students; Visual and Performing Arts students honored by the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival; the national championship Mendoza Debate Society; basketball and volleyball student-athletes who earned individual awards during the 2016-17 season; students who completed 30-70 hours or more of Service Learning activities, and received the Books and Beans Scholarship and/or induction to the Alpha Beta Gamma International Business Honor Society; and the students inducted into the 2016-17 Lee College Hall of Fame.

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Mendoza Debate Society closes out 2017-18 season with five national titles

Fresh off the heels of their fourth consecutive International Public Debate Association (IPDA) National Debate Championship, the Mendoza Debate Society at Lee College capped off the 2016-17 competition season with a nine-day trip to the Washington, D.C., area and amazing success at two different national championship tournaments.

In addition to three IPDA National Championships, debate captain Kyle Diamond was awarded the 2016-17 Varsity Division Championship and the debate duo of Diamond and Josh Lyrock won 2016-17 Team Division Championship honors.

“Lee College has once again proven its ability to adapt to different debate formats hosted by various national organizations,” said Joe Ganakos, director of Forensics and coach of the debate society.

The Lee College debaters competed this year in their first Phi Rho Pi National Forensics Championships, held April 10-15 in Tyson’s Corner, Va. Lyrock and Rigo Ruiz won a pair of gold medals in IPDA Debate, while Chrome Salazar brought home a bronze medal in IPDA Debate and Alyssa Hooks won bronze in Extemporaneous Speaking.  Despite taking only six students, the Mendoza Debate Society also took home a team bronze Medal in the Phi Rho Pi Hindman Division Debate Sweepstakes. Phi Rho Pi is the largest community college national forensics championship tournament, comprised of 12 individual public speaking and interpretation events and three distinct forms of debate.

Following the team success in the Phi Rho Pi Tournament, Lyrock and Diamond traveled south to Harrisonburg, Va., for the 2017 James Madison Cup & Public Forum hosted by James Madison University. Competing against a field that included Yale University, Cornell University, Pepperdine University, Tulane University, Southern Methodist University and 24 other university and college teams, Lee College finished as Madison Cup Finalists for the second consecutive year, having won the event in 2015. For their success, Diamond and Lyrock each earned a $1,000 scholarship and the program took him a $1,000 stipend from the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation. After three Madison Cup appearances, Lee College remains the only community college to ever advance to the final round and is the only Texas school ever to win the Madison Cup.

Diamond will leave the Mendoza Debate Society after graduating from Lee College in May with a degree in Social Science. He had a prolific three-year stint as a debater, winning IPDA Varsity Division National Championships in 2014-15 and 2016-17; Team Division Championships in 2015-16 and 2016-17; and more than 25 regular-season tournament individual and team titles during his time at Lee College. He intends to transfer to the University of Houston to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Political Science.

With more than 150 awards and honors and a tremendous showing at three different national championships this season, more than a dozen debaters are expected to return to competition for the Mendoza Debate Society in 2017-18. Lee College debaters will return to competition in September by hosting the IPDA season kickoff tournament, “The Mendoza Debates at Lee College.”

For more information about the Mendoza Debate Society, contact Ganakos at or at 281.425.6502.

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Senior volunteers host end-of-semester dinner for students in Life Skills class

For the students in the Life Skills for the Intellectually Disabled program offered through the Center for Workforce and Community Development, the classmates, parents, caregivers and beloved instructor with whom they spend 30 hours each semester have become a special sort of family.

And with the help of Red Hat Society volunteers from the Senior Adult & Travel Program who decorated their classroom and brought an Italian dinner to share, the Life Skills students gathered last week to enjoy a family meal, receive prizes and certificates recognizing successful completion of another term and play one of their favorite games: Bingo. It was the sixth time the volunteers hosted the party for the class.

“We’ve had another wonderful semester,” said longtime instructor Cindy Barny, who has worked with intellectually disabled adults for more than 20 years and taught some of the Life Skills students at Lee College for 15 years or more.

“Time seems to pass so quickly because we’re having so much fun,” she said. “The students are my joy — my true friends — and we have the greatest parents and caregivers you can imagine. We love being here.”

In each weekly Life Skills class, students learn things like basic reading and math, handling money, using computers, hand-eye coordination and current events. They also learn practical skills like basic hygiene and taking care of their bodies.

But for parents like Alissa Rincon, whose daughter, Allegra, is finishing up her first semester, one of the biggest benefits to being part of the Life Skills program is having the opportunity to socialize with others and share in the class’s unique bond.

“She’s very quiet and very shy, so it’s helped her and our family for her to be with her peers. Everybody is so nice and welcoming,” said Rincon, a transcript evaluator in the Office of Admissions & Records. “It’s a little family and she gets to make friends. It’s wonderful and we’re very pleased to be here.”

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Rebel Rousing: Employee kudos, news, views, hires & resignations

DeDe Griffith, interim Vice President of Learning, has been awarded the prestigious Aspen Presidential Fellowship for Community College Excellence and will participate in a highly selective leadership program aimed at developing a new cadre of outstanding leaders capable of transforming student success at community colleges across the United States.

The Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, announced last week that Griffith joins the 2017-18 class of  Aspen Presidential Fellows, a diverse group of 40 administrators who will embark on a year-long fellowship in July.

The 2017-18 Aspen Presidential Fellows hail from 24 states and 38 community colleges of varying sizes. Griffith was selected through a rigorous process that considered her abilities to take strategic risks, lead strong teams and cultivate partnerships and focus on results-oriented improvements in student success and access.

A past recipient of the Lee  College Faculty Excellence Award and the John & Suanne Roueche Excellence Award, Griffith also shared in institutional recognition through the AACC Award of Excellence of Student Success and coordinates and oversees many initiatives to provide greater access and completion support to all students. She is currently completing a Doctorate of Education in Professional Leadership in Education. Click here for more information about the honor and Griffith’s selection.

Congratulations, DeDe! We are proud to know you and work with you, and we wish you all the best as you prepare for the start of this amazing opportunity! 

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Weekly Wellness from Jason Summers

Learning The Telltale Signs of Drowning Could Help You Save a Life

By April McCarthy

Movies and TV shows have always portrayed a drowning victim as somebody who will splash, yell, and wave for help. However, people who swallow water and enter the phases of drowning are unable physiologically speak. After a recent young boy’s near-drowning in China amidst swimmers just feet away, it’s a reminder to become informed on what a drowning victim actually looks like, instead of how they’re portrayed for entertainment.

The Instinctive Drowning Response represents a person’s attempts to avoid the actual or perceived suffocation in the water. The suffocation in water triggers a constellation of autonomic nervous system responses that result in external, unlearned, instinctive drowning movements that are easily recognizable by trained rescue crews but difficult for the general population to detect.

The Phases of Drowning

1. As a person realizes he might be drowning, there’s often a large amount of panic. This leads to rapid movements and expending a lot of energy, which consumes more oxygen.

2. At the same time, if the person remains underwater, her body begins to accumulate carbon dioxide. This gas is what stimulates you to feel that need to breathe. Eventually, the victim involuntarily draws in breath.

3. When water reaches the airway, the first response is to cough or swallow the water. This typically results in more water being ingested.

4. As water contacts the lower airways, the throat spasms, trying to seal off the path to the lungs. With nowhere else to go, water frequently finds its way into the stomach.

5. The throat relaxes after the person becomes unconscious. The relaxation allows water to flow into the lungs.

Characteristics of the Instinctive Drowning Response

1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary, or overlaid, function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.

2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.

3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.

4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

This doesn’t mean that a person that is yelling for help and thrashing isn’t in real trouble – they are experiencing aquatic distress. Not always present before the instinctive drowning response, aquatic distress doesn’t last long – but unlike true drowning, these victims can still assist in their own rescue. They can grab lifelines, throw rings, etc.

Look for these other signs of drowning when persons are in the water:

• Head low in the water, mouth at water level
• Head tilted back with mouth open
• Eyes glassy and empty, unable to focus
• Eyes closed
• Hair over forehead or eyes
• Not using legs – Vertical
• Hyperventilating or gasping
• Trying to swim in a particular direction but not making headway
• Trying to roll over on the back
• Appear to be climbing an invisible ladder

Many times a drowning victim may look like they are simply treading water and looking up. But a person who treads water will typically not submerge their head under the water line repeatedly. One way to be sure? Ask them, “Are you alright?” If they can answer at all, they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have less than 30 seconds to get to them. Noisy kids are a good sign, but when things go quiet, always be alert. You could save a life.

McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.

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‘Take Back the Night’ and more this week for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

March, rally and ‘Take Back the Night’ to affirm and empower sexual assault survivors this Wednesday, April 19, as part of a week’s worth of activities for Sexual Assault Awareness Month

The first-ever Take Back the Night event at Lee College is set for 5 p.m, on the Moler Hall Patio/Gazebo.

Sponsored by Lee College Student Affairs and The Bridge Over Troubled Waters, Take Back the Night is part of an international movement to affirm and empower all who have survived or fear sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual abuse and other forms of sexual violence. Participants can come early to enjoy pizza and visit with more than a dozen community organizations before marching around campus, then return to the Gazebo for a vigil and speak out where survivors can share their stories and experiences.

Additional Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities include:

The Clothesline Project
Monday, April 17 through Friday, April 21 — Student Center Foyer

The Clothesline Project is a national campaign for survivors and loved ones of survivors to share their stories and speak out against sexual and domestic violence through art. Different color t-shirts represent different experiences: white for individuals killed as a result of sexual assault or domestic violence; red, pink or orange for adult survivors of sexual assault; blue or green for individuals who survived incest or child sexual abuse; yellow or beige for survivors of domestic violence; and purple or lavender for survivors of sexual assault because of their sexual orientation. Creating and displaying the shirts helps combat the shame and stigma that too often silences voices against sexual and domestic violence.

Silent Witness Display
Monday, April 17 through Friday, April 21 — Student Success Center

Come by Rundell Hall to view the Silent Witness Display, part of a national initiative created to honor the lives of domestic violence victims killed by their partners. Each Silent Witness has a shield sharing the story of an individual represented by the display.

Opening Reception/Information Table
Monday, April 17 — 10 a.m.-6 p.m. — Student Center Foyer

Learn about the history of Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Lee College’s participation in primary prevention on campus, pick up more details about the month’s activities and participate in the creation of a survivor’s wreath from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. An information table about Sexual Assault Awareness Month will be staffed through 6 p.m. Refreshments will be served.

Bystander Education Event
Tuesday, April 18 — 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. — Moler Hall Gazebo

The R.E.A.L. Organization and The Bridge Over Troubled Waters will present an interactive session on bystander intervention. Discuss ways that you can help put an end to sexual violence.

Spike Lee Joint Improv Group
Tuesday, April 18 — 6 p.m. — Student Center Gameroom

The Houston-based improv comedy duo will play out scenes based on real stories shared by those who have experienced or been a bystander to sexual assault. See the characters navigate complex social issues and stay after the performance for a discussion with the cast.

Workshop: Sexual Assault and the LGBTQ Community
Wednesday, April 19 — 3 p.m. — Bonner Hall 121

Join the OHANA student organization and The Bridge Over Troubled Waters for an interactive workshop that explores the underrepresented intersection of sexual assault and the LGBTQ community.

Workshop: Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault
Thursday, April 20 — 1 p.m. — Bayer Conference Center

Join The Bridge Over Troubled Waters for an engaging workshop analyzing the role that drugs and alcohol play in sexual assaults.

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Top students awarded, inducted into Hall of Fame at Presidential Honors Day

Lee Colleges most high-achieving students received awards and recognition from the campus community last week at Presidential Honors Day, where four of the best students representing academic excellence, extracurricular involvement, campus leadership and dedication to community service were also announced as the latest inductees into the Hall of Fame.

One by one, students were called to the stage to receive certificates for Developmental Education; English and Humanities; the Honors Program; Kinesiology, Athletics and Wellness; Math, Engineering, Natural and Physical Sciences; Social and Behavioral Sciences; Speech Communication, Languages and Teacher Education; and Visual and Performing Arts.

The students selected for induction into the Lee College Hall of Fame were Javonte Thomas Cooper, Justin Mathews, Cynthia Rose Pizana and Brenna Sallee.

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Financial Aid Director remembered, honorary bench unveiled at memorial

Longtime Financial Aid Director Sharon Steele loved her family, her Boston Red Sox, her work helping students access the money they needed to pursue a degree, and the Lee College colleagues who became treasured friends in her decades on campus.

Steele’s family, including her mother and brothers, joined college staff, faculty, administrators and students last week for a memorial service in her honor at Tucker Hall. She passed away March 12 and had recently undergone heart surgery.

In a touching service that featured Bible readings and personal reflections, friends and family remembered Steele’s one-of-a-kind personality, selflessness, giving spirit and unique sense of humor. She was passionate about her work at Lee College and always willing to go the extra mile to help a student or a co-worker solve a problem. A commemorative bench and plaque purchased by the Student Government Association was unveiled at the memorial and will be placed on campus in her honor.

A graduate of Billerica High School in Massachusetts, Steele earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of North Texas. In addition to the love of learning that brought her to her career in Financial Aid at Lee College, her passions included spending time with loved ones, traveling, reading and crocheting.

Read Steele’s obituary in full from the Dallas Morning News.

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Rebel Rousing: Employee kudos, news, views, hires & resignations

Adam Key, speech instructor at the Huntsville Center, will take the stage this weekend at Texas A&M University in College Station to deliver a talk at the TEDxTAMU event featuring speakers known for refusing to let the status quo remain unquestioned.

Key’s speech, titled “What I Learned in Prison: Lessons My Students Taught Me,” is set for Saturday, April 22, and will highlight the important work that Huntsville Center faculty do every week in teaching incarcerated students. Specifically, he will talk about how his students have taught him not to consider a person’s past, the power of humor to make stressful life events easier, and how potential for education can be found everywhere.

Watch Key’s TEDx speech and those of the other 13 speakers at TEDxTAMU,  via this livestream. After the event, the speech will be found on the TEDx YouTube channel.

Congratulations on being selected to speak at TEDx TAMU, Adam! Thank you for your work and for sharing with the masses the truly transformative power of the education offered through the Huntsville Center.

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