Lee College Foundation to award $590,000 in scholarships this academic year

Jennifer Marcontell, Chairwoman of the Lee College Foundation Board

As hundreds of friends and supporters bid on auction items, enjoyed dinner and listened to student stories at the 32nd annual Lee College Foundation Gala last weekend, the foundation announced that proceeds from the fundraising event and generous contributions from donors will allow $590,000 in scholarships to be awarded to students this academic year.

The awards — $440,000 in endowed scholarships and $150,000 in technical scholarships — will be available to all students: those enrolled in courses both full-time and part-time; in dual-credit classes for high-school students to earn college credits; in non-credit classes offered by the Center for Workforce and Community Development; and in the Lee College Huntsville Center prison education program.

“The Foundation Board of Directors is always focused on helping students succeed, persist and complete their goals for their education,” said Pam Warford, executive director of Foundation and Resource Development, as she addressed the gala underwriters, sponsors and guests.

Underwriters had already committed $134,000 to the foundation before gala invitations were even sent out, and sponsors later followed those contributions with an additional $26,000 of support.

“Thank you for taking the time to join us tonight and thank you for helping us to meet their needs,” Warford said.

Receiving a scholarship from the Lee College Foundation ensured Samantha McDonnel, an education major and mother of two daughters who also works full-time in Financial Aid, would be able to continue her coursework despite experiencing major losses in flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey.

“I am thankful to the foundation and to all of you for your giving,” said McDonnel, who shared her story and touted the foundation’s Student Success Fund at the gala. “When you donate, you’re investing in someone and your community. You are bridging the gap between what could be and what will be.”

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Honors Program students present original work at regional research conference

Seven students from the Lee College Honors Program received regional and national exposure this month after earning invitations to share their original work at the Gulf Coast Intercollegiate Consortium (GCIC) Honors Conference.

The annual conference, hosted this year by San Jacinto College, spotlights research conducted by undergraduate students at community colleges across the Houston Gulf Coast region.

The students selected to participate were all enrolled in and created projects for “The Human Condition,” a unique seminar-style Honors course that combines the disciplines of English and Humanities and emphasizes open discussion to encourage students to ask bold questions and engage in critical thinking about the world in which they live.

Faculty members Jerry Hamby and Dia Samuels accompanied the students to the GCIC conference and a visit to the Deer Park Prairie, a 53-acre site of undeveloped land that is part of the Gulf Coast Prairie — less than 1 percent of which still exists. The exploration of nature, and the various ways in which people connect to it, have figured prominently in the curriculum for “The Human Condition” course.

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Lady Rebel Volleyball ends season in second round of regional tournament with top players earning honors for stellar play

The Lee College Volleyball Team entered the NJCAA Region XIV Tournament this month as the fifth seed and nearly pulled off an upset of  top-ranked Blinn College in the first round, earning widespread admiration for an impressive performance that belied missteps made during the regular season.

By the end of the tournament, the Lady Rebels had beaten Laredo College twice and nearly earned a victory against San Jacinto College in the second round — ending their fall competition and setting the team on a solid foundation to build upon for spring training.

Student-athletes Ruth Ard and Miriam Stingl earned First Team All-Region and All-Conference honors for outstanding play, with Deyaneira Gomez being named Second Team All-Region and All-Conference and Kalani Ketchens, Mallory Morin and Liane Moser named Honorable Mentions.

“The girls said they found their chemistry again and felt like it was the beginning of the season all over,” Head Coach Paige Sorge said of the Lady Rebel’s tournament success, noting the team will lose only five sophomores to graduation in May before returning to action in Fall 2018.

“With the group of freshman we have coming in and the sophomores who will be returning, next year should be even better,” Sorge said. “We should be unstoppable.”

In the meantime, the Lady Rebels will spend the spring semester hitting the books in the classroom, developing their skills through indoor and beach volleyball games against teams from four-year colleges and universities and devoting time to volunteer projects in the community.

“It’s a good way to show the community they’re thankful and appreciative for all the support and resource they’ve been given,” Sorge said.

For their part, sophomores Ard and Morin are looking forward to graduation and hoping to continue their volleyball careers at the next level. They believe the team steadily progressed over the course of the season and will continue to improve even after they’re gone.

“We have great players and expectations are high for next year,” said Ard, who will earn a degree in business administration. “I learned a lot during my time here — self-discipline and building relationships, what commitment and dedication really mean and to always work hard because it pays off. Make every moment as memorable as possible.”

Morin, who will earn a degree in general studies and pursue a career in physical therapy, agreed that her time with the Lady Rebels sparked incredible personal growth.

“This year we needed someone on the team to be a leader,” Morin said. “I stepped up and I’m glad I did.”

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On deck for International Education Week: Flag Contest, Study Abroad & more

Dozens of colorful flags from around the world are up and flying between the Student Center and Bonner Hall, signaling the arrival of International Education Week — the annual campus-wide celebration of diverse countries and global cultures.

Here are the free International Education Week events and activities on deck through Thursday, Nov. 16:

Anime Club Presentation & Start of the Flag Contest
1-3 p.m., Monday, Nov. 16 – Student Center and Edythe Old Studio

Learn more about the campus organization devoted to appreciating and enjoying the Japanese art style known as anime, and pick up entry forms for the Flag Contest in which participants try to identify the countries of origin for all of the flags hanging on campus.

Study Abroad Interest Meeting & Enrollment Party
2-4 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14 – John Britt Hall 218 

Get new details and explore the itineraries for the upcoming Study Abroad trips to Germany in May and the United Kingdom in August, while also getting acquainted with some of the students and instructors already confirmed to travel.

Noon – 12:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 16 – Student Center Gameroom

Enjoy a backpacking presentation, music refreshments and more to wrap up International Education Week. The winners of the Flag Content will also be announced and must be present to pick up their prizes.

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Mendoza Debate Society off to a winning start on competition season

The glass case that holds the awards earned by the four-time national champion Mendoza Debate Society at Lee College is stacked from top to bottom with gleaming trophies and plaques collected over four years of competition against some of the best college and university debate teams from around the country and across the globe.

“For a two-year college to stand toe-to-toe with universities including SMU, TCU, LSU, Tennessee and Southern Mississippi is a real testament to the quality of students we have on the team,” said Director of Forensics and 2016 International Public Debate Association (IPDA) Coach of the Year Joe Ganakos, praising the strong debaters coming from local school districts like Goose Creek, Barbers Hill and Dayton.

“These students have a work ethic that is nothing short of amazing, and I think they are proof positive of the talent we have in the Lee College service area.”

But for the debaters competing in the 2017-18 season, adding more shiny hardware to their shelves is not the primary motivation for continued success — though they already earned in October two Team Championship awards to kick off the year at the Weevil Wars tournament at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, and Top Community College honors at the Red River Swing tournament co-hosted by LSU in Shreveport and Bossier Parish Community College.

Instead, the team has set priorities they consider much more significant: to learn and mature as scholars and debaters, share the knowledge they gain to benefit others, have fun throughout the rigors of tournament preparation and participation, and cultivate the community they’ve found and built with each other through debate.

“Trophies stop mattering after a while,” said Joselyn Mendoza, who eagerly returned to the team after spending a year away. “We learn about everything from philosophy to sports and absorb so much information throughout the season, then we come home and have so much more knowledge to spread to those around us. That’s crucial to growth as a debater. So much change can stem from our education.”

Many Mendoza Debate Society members feel a strong responsibility to hone their craft and support their teammates beyond the debate suite on campus. They decided not to name captains this year, choosing instead to focus on identifying and sharpening each debater’s unique strengths. Practice sessions are centered on problem solving and analyzing global issues and current events, with each individual becoming a subject-matter expert contributing information and perspectives that make the entire team stronger and more versatile.

“Six months ago, I knew almost nothing about economics. Now I know so much that it’s something my team counts on from me. We contribute to each other’s success,” said Ty Young, an IMPACT Early College High School student recruited by his mentor and teammate Chrome Salazar.

“I’ve learned how to think critically and better assess ideas so I can better articulate my thoughts about a situation,” Salazar said. “I have people celebrating with me in good times and comforting me in hard times. I can be myself. I can have a personality.”

Despite the demands of multiple weekly practices and long weekends traveling as far away as Washington and Idaho to compete, Ganakos and Assistant Debate Coach Christine Courteau are always there to encourage the debaters, provide a listening ear or shoulder to cry on when they need it, and remind them that they’re students before all else.

“These kids are great. Watching them go through the peer process where they debate and band together as a group is incredible and something you don’t see very often,” said Courteau, who counts time management and research ability among the skills students develop through debate every day. “Giving back to a community that gave me so much empowerment as a youth is very meaningful to me. I’m helping students learn more than what I could teach them in a classroom.”

The family-like bond between the students and their coaches is part of why Alyssa Hooks, who competes individually and in a two-person team with Rigo Ruiz, believes the Mendoza Debate Society is well prepared to notch more victories for Lee College and make lasting memories together this season.

“Expectations are high and we’re ready,” Hooks said. “We’ve transformed into independent thinkers who understand what’s happening in the world. We know our words matter.”

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After Harvey postponement, Lee College Foundation ready to host its 32nd annual gala

After postponing its annual gala in the wake of Hurricane Harvey and making a generous donation to the Lee College Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund to help students recover from the storm, the Lee College Foundation is finally ready to host its 32nd annual gala to raise more funds for scholarships and other forms of student support.

The Foundation Gala will be held Friday, Nov. 10, at Sylvan Beach Pavilion. The gala is the foundation’s premiere event, highly anticipated each year by Lee College supporters throughout the community.

“It’s really about persistence,” said Pam Warford, executive director of Foundation and Resource Development. “Many of our students get started on their education but run into financial obstacles that take them off course. Donations to the foundation enable them to persist in their classes until they earn their degree or certificate.”

With nearly 400 guests in attendance and $175,000 raised, the 31st annual Foundation Gala held last year was an overwhelming success. Despite the difficulties experienced by those hit hardest by Harvey, members of the Foundation Board of Directors are hopeful this year’s gala will again be one for the record books.

“Our foundation, from the generous support of our gala, creates opportunities for students who may not otherwise have them,” said Jennifer Marcontell, the newly elected chairwoman of the foundation board.

Under the board’s leadership, the foundation awarded more than $470,000 in the 2016-17 academic year to full-time and part-time students; high school students earning college credit in dual-enrollment classes; offenders in the Lee College Huntsville Center correctional education program; and students taking non-credit classes through the Center for Workforce and Community Development. In addition, the foundation maintains a Student Success Fund to help students facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses.

“We expect some effects from the recent storm setback, but we know that our patrons look forward to this event each year and will continue to support our efforts as they can,” Marcontell said. “We all benefit when our students succeed.”

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Donate blood, canned goods for those in need this week at the Student Center

Those looking for a way to help others as the holiday season approaches have the opportunity to give back right on campus at the blood drive and food drive being held this week in the Student Center Gameroom.

Participants can donate blood to the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. daily in the gameroom through Wednesday, Nov. 8. Donors should get a good night’s sleep, eat a hearty meal, drink plenty of fluids and be sure to bring a photo ID before donating.

The gameroom will also be the site to drop off canned goods or shelf-stable items for the Lee College Food Bank, which benefits students and members of the campus community, and other local organizations. Food will be collected throughout the blood drive donation periods.

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Busy weekend ahead at the PAC with ‘Year with Frog and Toad’ and ‘Jazz @ Lee College’

The Performing Arts Center will be alive with entertainment this weekend as Lee College Theatre debuts the charming family show “A Year with Frog and Toad” on Friday, and the Thursday Night Band plays nine new tunes composed by faculty member Dr. Ken Booker at the annual ‘Jazz @ Lee College’ concert on Saturday.

A Year with Frog and Toad

Families and audiences of all ages are sure to enjoy “A Year with Frog and Toad,” the Tony Award-nominated Broadway hit based on the beloved books by Arnold Lobel. The play depicts the passage of a year through four, distinct seasons as it tells the story of two great friends who are very different from each other but also delightfully compatible.

Published by Music Theatre International, “A Year with Frog and Toad” is set for 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10, in the PAC Black Box Theatre. Additional shows are set for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 11, Friday, Nov. 17 and Saturday, Nov. 18. A matinee is also set for 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19.

Purchase tickets online or contact the PAC Box Office at 281.425.6255.

Jazz @ Lee College

After composing original concert music for years, Lee College instructor and Director of Instrumental Music Dr. Ken Booker decided to try his hand at writing fusion jazz and funk idioms.

The Thursday Night Band — Lee College’s jazz ensemble under Booker’s direction — will debut nine of these new tunes at the annual “Jazz @ Lee College” performance, which will also feature The Dirty Bay Jazz Players.

“Jazz @ Lee College” is set for 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11. Admission is free.


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College unveils newly expanded, renovated McNulty-Haddick Nursing Complex

Students in the Lee College Nursing Program now have a renovated and revamped facility on campus to train and prepare for rewarding careers on the front lines of patient-centered health care – complete with new spaces to learn and practice critical professional skills, and connect with classmates and instructors.

Lee College administrators, students and faculty came together Tuesday, Oct. 24, with members of the Board of Regents and local health care community to cut the ribbon on the McNulty-Haddick Nursing Complex Expansion, which was funded through a $40 million bond overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2013. The project was completed on time and came in just under its original $6 million budget.

“We know how important nurses are; they’re essential to health care. Nurses are where the rubber meets the road,” said Pete Alfaro, chairman of the Board of Regents, in thanking citizens for supporting the bond referendum that made the expansion possible. “Property taxes, student tuition and fees and state funding do not cover everything. We are grateful for what the community did for us. We want to give every student and faculty member at Lee College the very best.”

At the expanded McNulty-Haddick Complex, there is a new lecture hall that seats 105 students; additional classrooms that can also be used for lab spaces and give faculty and students a variety of ways to interact and enhance instruction; and a new lounge, computer area and outside patio for students to connect with each other and review materials in close proximity to their classrooms and labs.

The Clinical Lab and Simulation Center inside the complex – a replicated hospital setting where students practice their professional skills with high-fidelity mannequins that sweat, bleed and even give birth – has been expanded to add an area dedicated specifically to pediatric care. Through a donation to the Lee College Foundation and grant funding from the state’s Nursing Innovation Grant Program, the Clinical Lab and Simulation Center have also received new mannequins, supplies and equipment that will allow faculty to teach clinical application in each nursing course throughout the program curriculum.

“This project focused on fulfilling the needs of nursing students, faculty and staff,” said Dr. Tracy Allen, director of the Nursing Program. A Lee College alumna herself with more than 20 years of experience in the field, she praised the previous nursing directors — many of whom attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony — who taught her how to be a professional and set the solid foundation upon which the program continues to build today.

“We share that same commitment to student success and to the nursing profession,” Allen said. “Lee College nursing graduates are some of the best nurses I know.”

With a strong reputation for its challenging and relevant curriculum that prepares students for the realities of modern health care, the Lee College Nursing Program emphasizes practical experience. From their first semester, students are required to spend time in both traditional classes and the laboratory and hands-on clinical environment. They are also encouraged to become lifelong learners and continue their education beyond the associate degree.

Since the expansion of the nursing complex was completed, students have particularly enjoyed using the lounge area to hold study groups and unwind together from the rigors of their coursework.

“We want to express our gratitude. Your financial resources have been to good use,” said Danyel Browder, a Level 3 student and president of the Lee College Nursing Students Association, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “This new addition has made us really proud to say we are nursing students at Lee College.”

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Regents updated on Hurricane Harvey relief and recovery efforts

A little more than two months after Hurricane Harvey hit Harris County and caused catastrophic flooding in parts of Baytown and surrounding communities, the Lee College Board of Regents heard a report this month at its regular meeting about ongoing efforts to help students recover from the storm.

The college has worked one on one with students to  to identify their needs and formulate a plan of action to ensure they receive the support they need to persist — whether it’s by giving them a gas card or bus pass to facilitate transportation to campus, or by directing them to the campus food bank or other community resources to help fill their cabinets with much-needed groceries.

To date, the Lee College Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund has raised more than $127,000 to aid students and employees, and additional donations of cash and supplies are expected. More than 200 students thus far have received assistance from the fund, including 73 who received money to replace books lost in the storm and 47 who received help with their fall 2017 tuition so they could continue their degree or certificate coursework.

And the Harvey help has seemed to pay off in more ways than one — fall 2017 enrollment at Lee College is up 8 percent from the previous year, and approximately 95 percent of students impacted by the storm are still enrolled in their classes.

In other action at the October meeting, the Regents did the following:

  • Approved the Oracle PeopleSoft License and Support Contract;
  • Approved the Architectural Services Contract with PBK Architects to serve as the Architect of Record for the college;
  • Approved a Real Estate Consulting Services Agreement with Jones Lang LaSalle for a detailed property analysis report outlining options for the potential sale of a 126-acre tract of property owned by the college at Garth Road and Main Street, south of Interstate 10;
  • Approved action related to a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Association; and,
  • Approved the release of a retainage payment for the Nursing and Technical Vocational facilities construction projects to Manhattan Construction Company

A complete agenda and agenda packet for the Board of Regents is available online.

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