Texas Mutual Commits $100K

Texas Mutual Awards $100K to Fund Risk Management Program at Lee College

Lee College one of 10 colleges statewide receiving Texas Mutual safety education grants

(Pictured Left to Right:) Dr. Angela Oriano, V.P. Center for Workforce and Community Development, Lee College; Pam Warford, Executive Director Lee College Foundation; Dr. Dennis Brown, President Lee College; Craig Witherspoon, Texas Mutual Insurance; Pete Alfaro, Chair Lee College Board of Regents; Kimberlee Techeira, Director Community Education, Center for Workforce and Community Development, Lee College; Dr. Christina Ponce, Exec. V.P.

Texas-Texas Mutual Insurance Company is awarding a $100,000 grant to Lee College to further establish a risk management institute, which will provide workplace safety courses for local employers, workers and the general public. Craig Witherspoon, Texas Mutual’s manager of safety services for the Houston region, and Lee College President Dr. Dennis Brown announced the $100,000.00 grant at the Lee College Board of Regents meeting February 15.

This is the second year Lee College has received a safety education grant from Texas Mutual to help establish a risk management program for increased safety awareness and to reduce work-related accidents and injuries. The goal of the program is to provide a wide range of possible courses relative to the workforce in Baytown.

“We are thrilled to Welcome Texas Mutual back to Lee College. The caliber of service Texas Mutual commits to Texas and communities like Baytown, truly does make a difference in individual lives as well as the overall safety of our local workforce. We are very proud of our partnership with Texas Mutual and the great success of the risk management institute.”

Since 1999, Texas Mutual-the state’s leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance-has awarded $6.6 million in safety education grants, and more than 30,000 students have attended free safety institutes offered at various community colleges. Lee College is one of 10 community colleges in Texas that provides safety classes via funding from Texas Mutual.

Lee College’s Center for Workforce and Community Development introduced its risk management institute in October with an open house and partnered with Lowes-Baytown to present a Safety First information session for small businesses and Hurricane Harvey victims. Since then the institute has offered courses in OSHA recordkeeping, surviving violent encounters and conflict resolution. Currently, 24 workplace training courses are scheduled from February – May, 2018. These courses will cover topics such as OSHA 10, fall prevention, and safety communications, to name a few, supporting a national construction safety initiative. Training is scheduled on weekdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and will be offered at Lee College’s Center for Workforce and Community Development, and its McNair Center and Lee College Education Center – South Liberty County locations.

“Workplace safety education has always been and will continue to be a sound investment, and we are happy to partner with Lee College again to make safety programs a priority in the Baytown area,” Witherspoon said. “The courses that will be available to area employees, along with other safety institutes around the state, help workers across Texas be safer and more successful on the job. These grants and the other safety programs from Texas Mutual demonstrate our commitment to ensuring millions of workers get the education they need to work safely.”

For more information about the risk management institute at Lee College and a full course listing, call 281.425.6311 or log on to www.lee.edu/workforce.

About Texas Mutual Insurance Company
Austin-based Texas Mutual Insurance Company, a policyholder-owned company, is the state’s leading provider of workers’ compensation insurance. Texas Mutual provides coverage to 40 percent of the market, representing over 66,000 companies, many of which are small businesses. Since 1991, the company has provided a stable, competitively priced source of workers’ comp insurance for Texas employers. Helping employers prevent workplace accidents is an important part of Texas Mutual’s mission.



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Study Abroad

Costa Rican Collaborative
Lee College’s Study Abroad Program Pins Pedagogy To Inspiration

By Margene Lenamon

“If a child is to keep alive (their) inborn sense of wonder, (they) need the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with (them) the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” ~ Rachel Carson

This mandate has become the mission of the Science Education Academy (SEA)-to nurture future teachers to become the adults that will help our youth hold on to that inborn sense of wonder. Created nearly five years ago by Margene Lenamon, (Science Instructor, Lee College) and Teresa Lattier (Director of Teacher Education, Lee College), SEA is the culmination of a series of interesting conversations that ultimately morphed into a partnership to promote the teaching of science to future teachers, as well as having a professional development outreach platform with elementary schools in the Lee College service area to assist them with teaching more science as well. The resulting collaboration has provided a wide array of opportunities for numerous unique and often exhilarating experiences for both them and their students. To read the complete article, click here.

For example, in the very first year of their partnership, during a discussion about the program with a visiting Texas A&M articulation team, Margene and Teresa were invited to the Texas A&M Soltis Center for Research and Education in San Isidro Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica (check out their website at http://soltiscentercostarica.tamu.edu). Joined by their community partner, Tracey Prothro (Superintendent, Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center, Baytown) they spent a week exploring the possibilities available to them and were encouraged to develop a field trip experience for their students at Lee College. By February of the next year they made their inaugural “experiential learning opportunity through immersive science fieldwork trip” with five education majors and one science major.

Their trip began with an overnight stay and exploration of the capitol city of San Jose, where students enjoyed the local street festivals, learned about Costa Rica via its historical buildings and witnessed different cultural mores. But the students were also tasked to take careful note of the many accommodations made for those who have special needs-some their own future students may have-discovering multiple innovative inclusion practices, including the unique differentiation of sizes and shapes of the local currency. Up and out early the next day-the trip north to the Soltis Center included a high altitude stop, where a winding drive took the students to a chilly visitors center some 8,885 feet above sea level, and a short hike from there allowed them to peer into the active crater of Poas volcano (Note: less than one month after last years trip, Poas erupted, and the national park has still not reopened). Then, the series of cataracts (waterfalls) along the road leaving the area of this stratovolcano made for just one of the thousands of photo ops that during our week-long adventure, threatened to exceed the capacity of our camera’s memory cards.


After arriving and settling into the beautifully and environmentally conscience accommodations at the Soltis Center, students began to experience science in the context of a field research station. At various times during the week students collected and analyzed data, worked and interacted with field biologists, all while exploring the unique environmental setting of a cloud rainforest. Opportunities to hike in the beautiful mountainous terrain and to see geological features such as waterfalls and deep ravines also provided occasions to view flora and fauna unlike anything these students had ever seen firsthand before. Students also studied and observed the water cycle in a setting markedly different than is observed in Southeast Texas-even though experiencing very little rainfall, since the timing of the trip fell just within the the dry season, which extends from mid-November to April.

Finding themselves only 10° from the equator, students had to adapt to their new schedule that saw sunrise and sunset, as well as breakfast and dinner, occurring at around 6:00 each day. Most mornings included a wake-up call by local holler monkeys and/or a resident toucan. Breakfast in the dining hall kicked off a series of activities with each day having a new and different event, some at the center, and some requiring excursions into the surrounding region. Most excursions not only had a destination of interest, but also typically involved several unscheduled roadside stops to get up close and personal with sloths, coatimundi (or pizote to the locals), iguanas, Morpho butterflies, and a number of birds, too many to list here.

One excursion began at 4:30 a.m., experiencing sunrise from the bus in route to a local farm to milk cows. This was followed by a morning of learning and participating in the conversion of milk to cheese-which concluded with stories to repeat for a lifetime and delicious samples enjoyed by all. Another excursion exposed students to a truly unique venue for the teaching of math via the use the geometric patterns found in a series of gardens. A Costa Rican teacher, retired after 22 years to create and promote the benefits of self-sustained eco-tourist farms, and blended both his passions to create this extraordinary day trip destination. His farm also allows visitors to learn about various indigenous plants as well as how to capture every possible resource, including the methane from the farm animals! Each visit is capped off with a 5-star meal produced entirely on site-including delicious pan-seared Tilapia.

Each day delivers a truly rewarding experience. However, one of, if not the most, rewarding is the day these future teachers spent at the local one-room schoolhouse. There they got to interact with 15 students spread across grades1-6 that all work within one classroom with one teacher. The day is spent putting pedagogical ideology into action. As well as getting to engage in several educational activities with the elementary students, we also eat lunch, make baggie ice cream for dessert, play some soccer, and walk away with a better appreciation of what second language learners experience. One of the most unique experiences students had not only that day, but throughout the trip was for Lee College’s dual language students to be truly appreciated for being bilingual, and for the single language participants to experience what it is like to be immersed in a language different from their own. It is a fun yet powerful day for all involved.

The trip doesn’t end without a few hours spent on the last day actually getting to be a “tourist” with opportunities to souvenir hunt, experience a world class zip-line adventure, or just take in the spectacular views of the areas famous landmark, Arenal volcano. It is truly an immersive, experiential learning adventure for all participants, both current and future educators alike.

Now, fast forward to the present-February 2018-twelve Lee College students will have an opportunity to experience a similar, remarkable adventure. After a second successful trip last year, this year’s trip will see a few changes to the itinerary, but in general will follow a similar pattern of experiential learning opportunities. Additionally, the SEA team will continue its “pay it forward” policy. This policy arose from the rationale for the original trip that was made to the Soltis Center. The invitation was made to the SEA program as a way to help bring more colleges and students to the Soltis Center to help perpetuate its mission. Therefore, each trip SEA has the opportunity to make, they invite at least one other participant who is legitimately interested in developing a field trip to the center of their own and/or individuals who can help provide support to perpetuate these trips. This field trip is not a vacation-it is a working week for all involved. All faculty and guests are required to provide at least one interactive, hands-on lesson to be conducted in the centers two fully equipped classrooms with the students. The trip is a culmination of months spent preparing-from paperwork to funding and multiple details in between and it is no small feat to make a trip like this happen. But it is worth every effort!

After being the “pay it forward” attendee three years ago, this trip will be the second by Dr. Gregg Lattier and several business students. The majority of the trip is combined with all students taking part in the same excursions. However, the day the education students spend at the elementary school, the business students visit a coffee plantation and processing plant, one of the biggest businesses in Costa Rica. This combination of two different programs going simultaneously provides a number of benefits not the least of which is making it much more affordable for all attendees. However an ancillary benefit that immerged on the last trip is anticipated, and hoped to be present again on this trip. During the last trip, each team understandably viewed the day’s activities through the lens of their own discipline and each team had their own meetings to discuss the day’s events; however, at dinner and on many of the bus rides, what developed between many of the participants were exceptionally rich conversations that were truly phenomenal to witness. Students spontaneously began to enrich each other’s learning experiences as they discovered where each of their worlds had overlap and commonalities, and the faculty encouraged various presentations from both teams to be made to the entire group which led to some very creative feedback-truly taking cross discipline learning to a whole new level.

This years “pay it forward” attendee will raise the possibility of yet another college being afforded the opportunity to make the most of Texas A&M’s stellar international facility. Dr. Lillian McEnery, the director of the UHCL Success Through Education Program (STEP) at the University of Houston-Clear Lake (an initiative we are a current partner of with our BAERR program), will join us to discuss the prospects of a joint UHCL/Lee College future educators field trip for next year. She is also our CoPI on the UHCL side in a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant-writing partnership. The grant proposal to be submitted in March will help fund a bridge program connecting SEA and future teachers at both Lee College and UHCL through professional development opportunities designed to increase their science teaching efficacy by providing additional background science content to supplement their degree plans. We have lots of spectacular plans to discuss that will provide numerous opportunities for our future teacher students.

SEA has been and continues to be a partnership where opportunities abound. Future plans include exploring additional grant funding to keep the Costa Rica program on track, as well finalizing a service learning type program to encourage future teachers in becoming Junior Science Ninjas! They will have several opportunities to accrue hours of outreach through participation with the Science Ninja; in area STEM Family nights hosted by many elementary schools; by working the hands-on science stations at the STEM Zone area of the Nurture Nature event at the Baytown Nature Center; and/or by assisting or instructing at the annual Lee College STEM day, as well as summer STEM camps currently in development. The SEA program truly subscribes to the belief that “Inspiration is not taught, it’s learned!” Therefore to inspire, you must have been inspired! We believe the Costa Rica experience and other immersive and experiential learning opportunities being developed by the SEA program will provide that inspiration for our students to persist and become the next group of inspirational educators for their students!

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Lee College Announced as Bellwether Finalist

Weekend College Recognized

Lee College received notification in late December that it was one of ten national finalists selected for the prestigious Bellwether Award on the merit of its Weekend College program. The Bellwether Awards are conferred by The Bellwether College Consortium housed within The University of Florida’s College of Education.

The Bellwether Awards are given annually to community colleges that have implemented innovatively outstanding programs with demonstrated success. Winners were announced at the end of January 2018. While Lee College was not among the winners this year it was, nonetheless a significant achievement to have been named a finalist as it was also the college’s first time to participate in the competition.

The Bellwether Awards identify and promote effective postsecondary programs for replication at higher education institutions across the nation and consequently positions colleges to pursue various funding opportunities. The consortium also provides a platform for its members to collaborate on potential joint ventures while having access to educational thought leaders.

“This is the first time Lee College has been recognized for this prestigious, national distinction,” says Lee College President, Dr. Dennis Brown. “It’s especially fitting given the significance of the college’s Weekend College and its impact on the futures of our students. This program is literally changing lives by providing access to education in a format that speaks to real-life scenarios. People have families – they have to go to work. The Weekend College format at Lee College makes it possible. It truly is transformative for our students. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone involved in the Weekend College – especially our students.”

Lee College’s Weekend College is targeted to adult learners and working students. Funded through a $2.7 million First in the World Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Weekend College gives students the opportunity to earn associate degrees in less than 2 years by attending classes only on Friday evenings and Saturdays. Five majors are currently offered: Transfer in Allied Health, General Studies – Social Science Concentration, Business Administration and Management, Industrial Welding Technology and Computer and Network Maintenance Technology. The Weekend College recently graduated its first class in May of this year less than 24 months of the program’s first start.   Lee is the only community college district in Texas — and one of only four community colleges in the entire country — selected to receive First in the World grant funds.

Of the first cohort of students to enroll in the Weekend College in Fall 2015, fully 70 percent completed their associate degree programs in less than 24 months – significantly more than the state average of 12 percent that measures out to three years. Much of that success is attributed to the program’s unique design, which keeps the same groups of students together from enrollment to graduation or transfer; offers courses at multiple campus locations, with many delivered in a hybrid format that blends online and classroom instruction; provides block scheduling that enables students to know exactly which courses to take and when they will be held; and ensures Weekend College courses are never dropped or filled to capacity. Students also work with a completion coach who helps them apply and enroll, secure financial aid and conquer any challenges that arise during the program or after graduation.

Speaking to the success of the program, Dr. Veronique Tran, Vice President of Instruction for Lee College says, “The power of the relationships being built between the students, staff and faculty cannot be understated. Those connections are powerful. It’s certainly one of the primary reasons we are seeing so many students stay in the program and graduate.” Tran goes on to echo Brown’s comment regarding the way the Weekend College is structured. “By developing a program built to suit the needs of working families, we empower those students. All the commitment in the world falls by the wayside if the schedule doesn’t work for the student. But when we are able to meet people where they are and making access possible, they flourish. Lee College’s Weekend College is proof of that.”

College representatives will be traveling to Florida in January to attend The Bellwether Finalist Awards presentation. The awards ceremony is part of a national policy summit sponsored jointly by the National Council for State Directors of Community Colleges and the Institute of Higher Education (IHE) at the University of Florida. The summit provides an interactive forum for higher education leaders on the topics of recruiting, retention, and success of adult learners and latest trends in adult learner policies and programs on a national, state, and institutional level.


Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.


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Honors Students Named Jack Cooke Kent Scholarship Semi-Finalists

Pictured left to right: Honors Coordinator Georgeann Ward with students Cilah Ndofor and Emily Blumentritt.

Cilah Ndofor and Emily Blumentritt Recognized

Lee College has the distinction of having two of its honors students selected as semi-finalists for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship. Cilah Ndofor from Cameroon, West Africa and Emily Blumentritt from Baytown, Texas are both currently enrolled in Lee College’s Honors Program. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has selected 534 high-achieving community college students from across the U.S. as semifinalists to compete for its Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, from a pool of nearly 2,500 applicants. This highly competitive scholarship will offer selected finalists as much as $40,000 per year for up to three years to complete their bachelor’s degrees at selective four-year colleges and universities.

Cilah Ndofor,  a General Studies student tracked to transfer to a four-year institution as a Pre-medicine major has her sights set on eventually becoming a neuro-surgeon.

“Words can’t express how overjoyed I was when I received the email stating I had been selected as a semi finalist.” Says Ndofor.  “I really wasn’t confident about myself because I know this scholarship selection is highly competitive but I just kept my fingers crossed and I’m still keeping them crossed!”

Noting what a boost it was to her confidence, Ndofor says of the nomination, “I now believe I can succeed in anything I do in life.”

She continues by saying that she would,  “characterize the significance of being selected a semi-finalist as beneficial. Mentioning in my transfer applications that I am a semi-finalist for this prestigious scholarship will definitely improve my chances of getting accepted and getting scholarships as well. I am very honored for making it this far in the competition.”

Ndofor is currently pursuing applications to Harvard, the University of Texas at Austin, Rice University and the University of Houston – Main Campus. She plans on pursuing a major in Biology with a minor in Mathematics prior to applying to medical school.

Emily Blumentritt, from Baytown, Texas is a General Studies major with plans to transfer into a Wildlife Biology or related program.

“I’m very passionate about nature, wildlife, and giving back to my community, so I hope to pursue a career in which I can contribute to scientific knowledge, help preserve nature and wildlife for future generations, and connect others to the natural world in a way that brings value and meaning to their lives. I’m considering applying to various universities, including Cornell, Texas A&M, and UCLA.”

As with Ndofor, Emily was surprised and excited to be chosen as a semi-finalist.

“Being considered for this prestigious scholarship has really opened things up for me. As a Jack Kent Cooke semi-finalist, I’ve already been invited to apply at an ivy league school, something I had never truly thought of as a possibility before. Being selected as a semi-finalist is a recognition of the hard work and talent that a student displays in their community college years. It’s truly an honor to be selected.”

The honors program at Lee College has cultivated a national reputation for the rigor of its coursework and the high caliber student it produces. It’s impact on the lives of its honors students is evident.

“I sent in my application expecting to be disappointed,” says Blumentritt. “I am incredibly grateful to the wonderful professors here at Lee who helped me apply for the scholarship and who have supported me and my work throughout my time here.”

Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholars will be selected in April, based on their academic performance, leadership, perseverance, and service to others. “Community colleges hold many of the nation’s most gifted students,” said Harold O. Levy, Executive Director of the Cooke Foundation. “Yet too often these students are denied the opportunity to fulfill their potential due to lack of adequate resources and support. Our scholarships help to remove these barriers so that talented students with financial need have a chance to complete their college education and pursue their goals and dreams.”

Cooke Scholarships fund the costs of attending college not covered by other financial aid, plus intensive academic advising, stipends for internships, study abroad opportunities, and the ability to network with other Cooke Scholars and alumni. After earning a bachelor’s degree, these Cooke Scholars will also be eligible to apply for a scholarship for graduate school worth up to a total of $75,000.


The Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Since 2000, the foundation has awarded $175 million in scholarships to more than 2,300 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services. The foundation has also provided over $97 million in grants to organizations that serve such students.www.jkcf.org


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Nearly 1,500 eighth-graders headed to campus for Junior Achievement Inspire

For the third year in a row, Lee College is partnering with Junior Achievement of Southeast Texas (JA) to host an interactive career awareness fair that will give nearly 1,500 local eighth-grade students the opportunity to learn more about different industries and explore potential career paths.

The two-day JA Inspire event will be held Tuesday, Dec. 5, and Thursday, Dec. 7, at locations across campus. Accompanied by their teachers, middle-schoolers from six independent districts — Anahuac, Barbers Hill, Goose Creek Consolidated, Hardin, Hull-Daisetta and Liberty —  will be exposed to the variety of opportunities available throughout the region. Students will rotate through career stations highlighting high-demand industries; listen to industry presenters talk about their day-to-day responsibilities and how they prepared for their positions; practice soft skills like problem-solving and communication through play-acting; and start and finish their day on campus with opening and closing ceremonies.

The passage of House Bill 5 by the Texas Legislature makes JA Inspire especially important. The bill requires eighth-grade students to select from five different endorsement plans before entering high school: Arts & Humanities, Business & Industry, Multidisciplinary Studies, Public Services and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Getting more information and insight into potential careers can equip students to make the endorsement choice that best suits their educational goals and future career plans.

With nearly 1,500 students on campus, the involvement of Lee College volunteers is key to the JA Inspire’s success. Sign up online to volunteer on Tuesday, Thursday or both days. Volunteers are needed to help at the Sports Arena during lunchtime, assist industry presenters in their presentations, direct student traffic across campus and more.

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Baytown City Councilman to award $500 scholarship at LC Basketball home game

One Lee College student who attends the Runnin’ Rebel home basketball game against Lone Star College – Tomball on Saturday, Dec. 9, will walk away from the Sports Arena with a $500 scholarship, courtesy of Baytown City Councilman Charles Johnson.

Johnson, a Lee College alumnus who campaigned for the District 3 council seat on the slogan “We Are ‘IT’: Improving Together,” is donating the scholarship money in hopes of giving a student the boost they need to fund their education and improve the future for themselves and their family.

“I really enjoyed my time at Lee College, learned so much and made new connections. Now I have the opportunity to pay it forward,” said Johnson, who graduated with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling and later returned to earn a credential in Child Development. His mother, Charlene Jones, is a long-time instructor of cosmetology.

To be eligible for the scholarship, Lee College students must show their ID at the game and receive a raffle ticket. If their ticket number is called at halftime, they will have three chances to make a shot with the ball starting at the half-court line. No special basketball skills will be necessary, however, because of a surprise twist that Johnson will reveal during the scholarship presentation.

The winning student can be enrolled in any Lee College degree or certificate program, and use the scholarship to pay for any educational needs they have – whether tuition, textbooks, classroom or laboratory supplies or something else entirely. Johnson said he did not place any stipulations on how the money should be spent because he understands that unexpected situations can arise.

“This scholarship may inspire a part-time student to take a few more hours, or help someone have the opportunity to enjoy college as much as I did,” Johnson said. “Lee College helps Baytown residents prepare for, plan and even reimagine their futures – and no matter what age you are, if you have an education, you have a future.”

The Runnin’ Rebels will tip off against Lone Star College – Tomball at 6 p.m.

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‘The Christmas Express’ chugs into the PAC Black Box this Friday

Take a ride with a crazy bunch of holiday revelers wise-cracking their way to find the true wonder of Christmas on “The Christmas Express,” a zany comedy and nostalgic theatrical greeting card making making its debut this Friday, Dec. 8,  in the Black Box Theater inside the Performing Arts Center.

Presented by Lee College Theatre, “The Christmas Express” is set for 7:30 p.m. nightly Friday and Saturday, Dec. 8-9, and Friday and Saturday, Dec. 15-16. A matinee is set for 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 17. Tickets can be purchased online at $8 for Lee College staff, faculty and students, and $15 for general admission.

Written by Pat Cook and published by Dramatic Publishing Co., “The Christmas Express” tells the story of a mysterious stranger from out of town who drops in on the dismal Holly Railway Station on the day before Christmas Eve.

The arrival of the unexpected visitor coincides with a few other unexpected events: an old radio that hasn’t worked for years springs to life; local carolers who typically yowl like cats and dogs  suddenly sound like the Mormon Tabernacle Choir; and the whole town seems to get into the Christmas spirit. Station manager Hilda and her assistant, Hatch, begin to ask themselves if the stranger could be responsible for the strange things happening to the cast of small-town characters whose eccentricities will delight audiences — or is it just a coincidence, after all?

For more information about “The Christmas Express,” contact the PAC Box Office at 281.425.6255 or visit online.

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Honors Program students & faculty selected to present at national conference

As they toured the Baytown Nature Center – hiking trails through the woods, exploring the ruins of the abandoned Brownwood subdivision and taking in views of the Houston Ship Channel and Scott Bay – Lee College Honors Program students Emily Blumentritt, Chyna Lewis and Divya Singh quickly drew connections between their experiences in the natural environment and their readings from “The Human Condition” honors course.

Joined by faculty members Jerry Hamby and Georgeann Ward, the students shared their reflections from the field and insights on the relationship between place and identity this month as specially invited presenters at the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) in Atlanta.

It was the fourth conference to which Blumentritt, Lewis and Singh had been invited to present their original work and research since they joined the Honors Program and enrolled in “The Human Condition,” a unique class that combines the disciplines of English and Humanities and dares students to question and openly discuss complex and often controversial issues. Ward and Hamby challenge students to think critically and analyze a wide range of assigned texts, teaching them how to apply different lenses to their readings and come away with perspectives and ideas they may have never considered.

“Students get used to talking about texts in highly academic ways, so it prepares them for conferences of the weight and magnitude of NCHC,” Ward said.

Blumentritt, president of the Honors Council and a certified Texas Master Naturalist pursuing a career in wildlife biology, credits “The Human Condition” with allowing her to integrate her love of nature with English in a new and impactful way. Her capstone paper examined the short story “Chocolate Bay” by Glenn Blake and the dynamic created when urbanization and industry compete with the forces of nature.

“It’s a little unconventional, but it’s great when everything can connect,” Blumentritt said. “When people disagree – those are the best discussions because you can learn so much more from the opinions of others. The Honors Program lets me use my knowledge fully and they want students to succeed.”

As students at IMPACT Early College High School, Lewis and Singh are on track to earn associate degrees from Lee College and high school diplomas simultaneously. Participating in the Honors Program and “The Human Condition” has given them the opportunity to share their work at events like NCHC and be recognized alongside undergraduates from colleges and universities around the country.

“I’ve been pushed outside of my comfort zone; there is so much out there to learn,” said Lewis, who plans to study pharmacy after graduating from Lee College and IMPACT in spring 2018. “The class is a safe space to take in information and then push boundaries. You can see the topics you’ve discussed unfold in everyday life. Everything comes together.”

Encouraged by her high school counselors and English teacher to join the Lee College Honors Program, Singh feels the decision to enroll in “The Human Condition” has paid off. Her writing skills have grown and she has realized her scholarly potential by tackling multiple essays, a seminar paper and a final project – things she especially appreciates as she prepares to study chemical engineering after graduation.

“Every day, everyone participated in the discussion. Every day, we learned something new about who everyone was,” Singh said. “It drove me to rise to the occasion. Seeing that I can make it to national conferences and succeed in a challenging class has made me feel special.”

The exchange of information in “The Human Condition” also influences the instructors. Teaching students as capable and curious as Blumentritt, Lewis and Singh demands that Hamby and Ward rise to the level of discourse in the classroom and fulfill the students’ high expectations for themselves and their Lee College education. The invitation to present at NCHC is proof that things are working for the benefit of both sides.

“Every time I teach, I see something new that I couldn’t have ever imagined,” Hamby said, noting that the Honors Program emphasizes the one-on-one connection between instructors and students that many college students seldom receive.

“I’ve been teaching at Lee College for 28 years and this is the highlight. Nothing else comes close to it,” he said. “We’re all in this together, learning together. It’s been a thrill.”

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Athletic Department reaches goal of donating 20,000 canned goods to local community

As Thanksgiving approached and many local families looked for help to fill their cabinets and pantries, Lee College basketball and volleyball student-athletes partnered with the Robert E. Lee High School Interact Club to donate 1,300 canned goods to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Baytown.

This latest donation allowed the Lee College Athletic Department to reach an ambitious goal set when then-Athletics Director and Head Basketball Coach Roy Champagne launched the “I Can, You Can, We Can” initiative in 2009: to collect 20,000 canned goods to help feed the hungry in the community.

After collecting 1,600 canned goods in the first year of the project, the athletic department has collected and donated 6,100 canned goods this year alone. Even more canned goods are still awaiting delivery to churches, charities and food banks all over town.

“It is a simple act that many of us take for granted — having food to eat,” Champagne said. “Our athletes do a tremendous job connecting to the individuals and families that receive these items within our Baytown community. I, myself, am overwhelmed at the amount of help that is needed just within our own city limits.”

Both Champagne and Head Volleyball Coach Paige Sorge believe Rebel and Lady Rebel athletes have a responsibility to volunteer their personal time and give back to the community in any way possible. Members of the basketball and volleyball teams regularly visit local elementary schools to speak out against bullying and encourage kids to be stellar students and avid readers; spend time with, mentor and cheer on high-school athletes at their games and practices; and help cook and serve free dinners to neighbors in need.

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

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Risk Management Institute offering free course on ‘Surviving Violent Encounters’

With Americans still reeling from tragic shooting incidents in Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas and around the country, the Risk Management Institute at Lee College is offering a free course this month to help community members recognize the signs that lead to a violent encounter and learn what to do to survive.

“Surviving Violent Encounters” will be held from 8 a.m.-3 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 30, in the Phyllis Davis Room at the Lee College Center for Workforce and Community Development, located at 909 Decker Drive in Baytown. The class is free to attend and open to the public – particularly employers and employees in the health care, human resources, social services, hotel, retail, education and public safety industries who are at higher risk of being attacked, as well as anyone interested in enhancing their own personal safety. Participants can register online at www.lee.edu/rmi or contact the workforce center for more information at 281.425.6311.

In the “Surviving Violent Encounters” course, students will develop a better understanding of five basic indicators that a violent situation may occur to give them a tactical advantage if necessary. The instructor will use real-life scenario practice drills, team activities, role playing, video vignettes and guided discovery to help students assess their own preparedness and identify and utilize strategies for surviving violent encounters. Students will be able to take the skills they learn and immediately apply them in the workplace, community and home.

Funded through a donation from Texas Mutual Insurance Co., the Risk Management Institute was created to offer free seminars, workshops and training classes on health and safety for employers, employees, seniors and the general public. The institute’s tagline, “You are priceless. Safety knowledge is free,” reflects its goal of providing free safety education for the Baytown area and surrounding communities.

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