Huntsville Center debaters beat Texas A&M at first competition behind bars

HUNTSVILLE, TX – As they sat inside the chapel of the Huntsville “Walls” Unit prison awaiting the start of the first-ever George Beto Invitational Debate, the inmate debaters from the Lee College Huntsville Center considered the long odds they faced – incarcerated convicts with few academic credentials and limited access to news and information about the outside world, competing against the award-winning debate team from Texas A&M University.

But after both teams had laid out their cases for and against the resolution that Donald Trump’s Achilles’ heel is foreign policy, it was the inmates who defeated the Aggies in a 3-2 decision. To Craig Caudill and Troy Thoele, who debated for Lee College, the victory was reminiscent of David’s triumph over Goliath.

“I feel like I just made parole,” Caudill joked when Lee College was announced the winner and the entire chapel – inmates, wardens and correctional officers, spectators and even the students and coaches from Texas A&M – burst into enthusiastic applause.

“I’m a little overwhelmed. The level of intellect the team from Texas A&M had was amazing,” Caudill said. “Nobody expected us to win. But just because we’re in prison, it doesn’t mean we haven’t tried to change or don’t want to change. Debate has given us better cognitive thinking skills that we can use to function in a free world setting.”

For six months, the Lee College team trained as often as they could within the confines of their strict prison schedule: huddling together on the yard to sharpen their arguments, squeezing in extra practice during study hall in the unit’s education area and even facing off against coaches Adam Key and Jeremy Coffman, champion debaters themselves with nearly a dozen national titles between them.

“Eight years I’ve coached and this is about as proud as I’ve ever been,” said Key, a Texas A&M doctoral student and full-time speech instructor for the Lee College Huntsville Center who began recruiting  students for the inmate debate team just one year ago. “I’ve never seen a group of debaters this motivated. They’ve picked up in a couple of months what others take years to learn.”

To ensure an even playing field for competition, neither team was given advance knowledge of the resolution to be debated. After narrowing down their topic from a list of five options, the teams were provided the same research materials and 30 minutes to prepare their cases before taking to the podium. Caudill and Thoele gathered in the back of the chapel with their teammates and coaches, scanning newspaper articles for information and bouncing ideas and potential angles around the group.

Lee College built their argument around Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican presidential ticket despite his controversial remarks, his unstable foreign policy approach that could jeopardize America’s relationships with other countries and inability to be a strong and respected leader. Michael Buse and Anthony Nguyen of Texas A&M argued that Trump’s primary weakness is actually his temperament, which has caused him to speak and behave in a way that has alienated women and minority voters and made him less likely to accept counsel from advisers.

A panel of five judges – Hassan Assad, a professional wrestler better known by the moniker “MVP;” Jason Bay, pastor of First Baptist Church Huntsville; Dessie Cherry, a former warden and retiree from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; Allen Hightower, a former Texas legislator; and Raymond Middleton, a volunteer chaplain at the Walls Unit – ultimately decided the inmate debaters had best proved their case.

“The ability to be an effective communicator is key to your success in life,” said Assad, who was just 16 when he was sent to prison in Florida and served more than 9 years before being released. “People  are going to judge you by the fact that you’re a convicted felon, but you have the opportunity to disarm them with your words.”

Though Caudill and Thoele were the only ones to take the debate stage, both described the Lee College victory as a group effort. The help of their teammates and coaches was invaluable, and Senior Warden James Jones and Assistant Warden Matt Dobbins of the Walls Unit were instrumental in making the debate program a reality behind bars. Even their fellow inmates throughout the prison were excited about the debate and offered the team words of encouragement and best wishes, they said.

“I’m proud of everybody,” said Thoele, one of more than 1,200 incarcerated students pursuing associate degrees and certificates through the Lee College Huntsville Center. “The entire unit supported us. Debating and taking college classes made me a role model and an example for other guys. I hope this motivates them to do something to better themselves.”

Watch the debate here.
Watch Hassan “MVP” Assad speak to students here. 

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Enrollment deadline today for Career Pilot Training through workforce center

A new session is taking off at the Lee College Center for Workforce and Community Development this month, and instructor Warren Benson wants you to be a part of it.

After ‘catching the flight bug’ at 15, Benson made a career of flying and now instructs for the Career Pilot Training program, taught through the Center. This semester’s program begins Monday, Oct. 24, and interested participants have until the extended deadline of Monday, Oct. 17 to enroll.

The flight course is offered in partnership with Flying Tigers Flight School and is meant for anyone interested in pursuing aviation professionally or personally.

“By partnering with the Flying Tigers, we’re able to offer affordable, individually tailored flight and ground instruction for our students with incredible, experienced instructors like Warren,” said Kimberlee Techeira, director of Community Education for the workforce center. “Whether you’re interested in a career in aviation, you’d like to earn money on the side flying or you’ve just always wanted to learn to fly, this is a great opportunity.”

Benson received his private pilot license just after turning 16, flew recreationally through high school and college, and received his commercial license the day he graduated. He began his professional career carrying freight, and transitioned to a commuter airline. After over 20 years at Southwest Airlines, he retired — but couldn’t stay away from flying.

“As it turned out, the flying bug bit again, and I started instructing at Flying Tigers, and later flying a Learjet for a charter company at Hobby Airport,” Benson said. “So now I’m doing both. The charter job is particularly interesting, as we do a lot of Medivac work, like transporting doctors to recover human organs for transplant. Carrying a human heart in an Igloo ice chest in order to save a life is very fulfilling. But so is just being up there and enjoying the view.”

While he encourages anyone interested to take advantage of the training, he advised that it does require students to put in the effort. The program is taught by qualified, experienced instructors like Benson, and meets the standards of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) required Part 141 ground school hours for Private Pilot Certification. Students will receive both online and flight instruction.

Training begins Monday, October 24 and will run through Friday, February 24. You can register in person at the Center’s office, located at 909 Decker Drive in Baytown, or over the phone using any major credit card. For questions, call the Center at 281-425-6311 or send an email to Additional program details are also available online.

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Senior Adult & Travel Program to detail new 2017 tours at Tuesday showcase

LC Senior Adult & Travel Program adventurers in Cuba

After whisking travelers away this year to Cuba, France, the Canadian Rockies and the Grand Canyon, the Lee College Senior Adult & Travel Program invites the community to learn more about its next round of tours: excursions to Switzerland, Italy, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Cape Cod and its Islands, and Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The Travel Showcase of 2017 Tours will be held from 5-7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 18, in Tucker Hall on the Lee College campus. Program Manager Lynne Foley and Collette Tours will provide in-depth presentations on each trip, including a review of daily itineraries and information about costs and registration. Admission is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

For 28 years, the extended travel offered through the Senior Adult & Travel Program have provided more than 1,500 adults with the opportunity to journey to different regions around the globe – from the United States and Mexico to England, Scotland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, China, Australia and more.

“Group touring is a way for adults of any age to experience with enthusiasm the wonders of the world,” Foley said. “We do the planning and execution of details,  and you can be comfortably and safely escorted by myself and our trusted travel vendor managers to a destination of your dreams.  We encourage you to stretch your imagination and join us one of our many yearly adventures as you explore the world with Lee College and new friends.”

On the 10-day Alpine Lakes & Scenic Trains tour set for May, travelers will experience Switzerland and Lake Como, Italy, complete with wine tastings; an island dinner; rides on the Golden Pass, Glacier Express and Bernina Pass trains; a cruise on Lago Maggiore and the Lake Como Ferry; and visits to Lucerne, Zermatt, Mt. Matterhorn and St. Moritz.

Travelers on the 7-day National Parks & Wild West tour in June will explore Yellowstone and Grand Teton, Old Faithful geyser, Salt Lake City, Park City, the Olympic Village and the National Museum of Wildlife Art. They will also enjoy a recital of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a cruise on Jenny Lake and an authentic chuck wagon dinner.

The tour of Cape Cod & The Islands in August will take travelers to Nantucket and its Whaling Museum, Hyannis Port, Martha’s Vineyard, Boston, Plymouth Rock and Newport, R.I.

In October, travelers will embark on the 7-day Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta tour, featuring sunrise and midnight balloon launches; an adventure drive along Route 66; a culinary class and dinner at the Santa Fe School of Cooking; and visits to the Museum of Nuclear Science and History, Old Town Albuquerque, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and Turquoise Trail.

Online registration for the 2017 tours will open at 7:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 19. Travelers can register in person beginning at 7:30 a.m., Thursday, Oct. 20, at the Center for Workforce and Community Development at 909 Decker Drive in Baytown.

For more information about the Senior Adult & Travel Program and the upcoming Travel Showcase of 2017 Tours, contact the center at 281.425.6311 or visit online.

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Lady Rebels Volleyball hosting Faculty & Staff Appreciation Night on Tuesday

The Lady Rebels Volleyball Team is rolling out the red carpet for all faculty and staff who attend their game this Tuesday, Oct. 18, as they face off against the Wharton County Junior College Pioneers.

Faculty and staff will be treated to a free dinner and refreshments served in the arena’s VIP Room beginning at 5:30 p.m., with the Lady Rebels taking the court at 6 p.m. The Lee College Alliance alumni association will be in attendance, and Wismer Distributing will present one student-athlete with the Elvin Bethea Hall of Fame Sportsmanship Award — an honor voted on by the Lady Rebels as a team and named for the great Houston Oilers defensive end.

The match against Wharton will also be Baytown Junior High Night, with students from all Baytown junior high and intermediate schools receiving free admission. Free T-shirts will be thrown into the crowd and fans will have the chance to meet, greet and receive autographs from their favorite players after the game.

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Runnin’ Rebels Basketball wants fans to catch ‘Rebel Madness’ on Saturday

LC Basketball visits fourth-grade students at De Zavala Elementary School in Baytown.

As the start of the 2016-17 basketball regular season approaches, the Lee College Runnin’ Rebels are giving fans from Baytown and beyond the chance to meet their favorite players,  watch them show off their skills on the court and get excited for the first home game against the Victoria College Pirates.

Sponsored in part by Chick-Fil-A Baytown, the second annual “Rebel Madness” event will be held from 6-7:15 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 22, at the Sports Arena on campus. Admission is free and open to the public.

More than 600 people attended the inaugural Rebel Madness, which will again include giveaways of 300 T-shirts and other prizes; an autograph session with the 2016-17 squad; a slam-dunk contest and 3-point shootout; music and refreshments; and opportunities for the whole family to participate in the fun.

The Lee College basketball team has a long history as a breeding ground for top talent from around the United States and even abroad. Under the leadership of head coach Roy Champagne for the last 23 years, more than 100 Runnin’ Rebels have moved on to play at the NCAA Division I level at universities like Baylor, Louisiana State, Utah and Virginia Tech. Some of the former Runnin’ Rebels have also built professional basketball careers overseas.

With a host of standout athletes already drawing the attention of the NCAA Power Six conferences and dominant preseason performances in junior college tournaments and events around the country, expectations are high for what the Runnin’ Rebels will achieve this season.

“Our goal is to bring home the first national championship in Men’s Basketball to Lee College and Baytown, Texas,” Champagne said. “We are a very athletic, long and versatile team.”

The Runnin’ Rebels will open the 2016-17 regular season on Friday, Nov. 4, at Odessa College in Lewisville for the East v. West Texas Challenge. After traveling to Oklahoma to take on Seminole State College and Redlands Community College, the team will return to Baytown on Monday, Nov. 14, for their first home game.

Click here for a complete team roster and game schedule.

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Lee adopts Drew Elementary in Barrett Station as ‘College Bound’

With the support and resources of Lee College and  the mentorship and involvement of dedicated residents of historic Barrett Station, every student at Charles R. Drew Elementary School in the Crosby Independent School District has set their sights on achieving a new goal for the future: attending college and earning a degree.

Lee College has adopted Drew Elementary as a “College Bound School” as part of the Cradle to Career Network, an ongoing effort to create a college-going culture for local youth by engaging all members of the community in providing wrap-around support as students transition into college – from schools and educators to non-profit organizations, health and human services agencies, business and industry, local government and residents at large.

“Congratulations on being future college graduates! We stand together as a community committed to you, and you have to be committed to excellence in everything you do,” DeDe Griffith, Interim Vice President of Instruction, told hundreds of cheering Drew students at a recent pep rally held in their gym to kick off the new partnership between the college and elementary school.

At the rally, Rooty the Rebel, the Runnin’ Rebels Basketball Team and the Rebel Heat dancers showed off dazzling dunks and delivered special performances. Crosby ISD Superintendent Keith Moore, Lee College President Dr. Dennis Brown and other administrators and faculty offered words of welcome and encouragement, and enthusiastic students – all clad in red T-shirts emblazoned with “Lee College” and “Future College Graduate” – raised their hands and voices to pledge to go to college.

“We are so very excited to have you as part of Lee College,” Brown said. “If you put forth the effort, you will be a success story. All of you can walk across that stage and receive that college degree.”

For the College Bound partnership, Lee College will provide Drew Elementary with regular programming and opportunities to help students and their families learn more about the value and importance of higher education. Students at every grade level will learn about science concepts from college faculty, and the Lee College Mobile Go Center – a 42-foot, air-conditioned trailer outfitted with high-speed Internet, satellite dishes, remote printers, laptops and LCD televisions – will visit the elementary campus each month. On board the center, students will learn about the wide variety of rewarding and interesting careers available to college graduates and have access to a library of more than 500 e-books on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics.

Parents at Drew Elementary will also be involved in the effort, participating in a common reading program and receiving guidance and information about how best to prepare their children for college  success.

“You’re part of a team and you’re part of a family,” said Drew Elementary School Principal Walter Berringer. “We have an obligation to each other to make sure we’re successful. We have to make great decisions and work as hard as we can every single day. There is no doubt in my mind that we are going to start college, and there is no doubt in my mind that we are going to finish college.”

As he looked at the sea of red tees and smiling faces at the pep rally kick-off, Jerry Bluitt realized he had come full circle. An alumnus of Drew Elementary who was instrumental in helping get the College Bound partnership in place, Bluitt retired from a 30-year career as an IBM engineer and returned to his native Barrett Station to help usher the historically African-American enclave into a brighter and better future. The program will help recreate the loving and unified family atmosphere he remembered and benefitted from as a child, he said.

“After they saw the model, the community said it was long overdue,” said Bluitt, who has helped raise support for and awareness of the College Bound School and Cradle to Career Network programs with faith-based organizations and local businesses in the area. “For our kids to be successful, we’ve got to shape them in good and positive ways. We have to walk with them.”

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

Congratulations to those selected so far this year as winners of the “Ask Me, I Care” campaign, which launched in Spring 2015 to ensure and promote excellent customer service across the campus community.

“Ask Me, I Care,” students are encouraged to ask questions and seek guidance, and employees are reminded to do all they can to help students find the answers and support they need to be successful.

Thank you to all of the honorees for working so hard on behalf of the college and inspiring all of us to go the extra mile!


January – Scott Bennett, Registrar
Also nominated: Amanda Stevenson

February – Abbey Mourer, Human Resources
Also nominated: Alissa Rincon, Mike Sparkes and Melissa Valencia

March -Mike Spletter, Student Activities

April – Elouise Ford, Nursing
Also nominated: Daniel Christie and Samuel Moseley

May – Gabrielle Spriggins, Information Technology
Also nominated: Deborah Hardin, Larry Johnson and Deanna Southall

June – Marcus King, Athletics
Also nominated: Treva Brown-Askey, Sandy Basquez, Regina Barrera, Gloria Burke, Daniel Christie, Rosemary Coffman, Ann Craig-Simpson, Gary Denson, Emily Eligon, Anna Espinoza, Jessica Falla, Mark Jaime, Debi Jordan, Cindy Lewis, Ryan Martin, Christena Nightingale, Nicole Roselle, Karen Seratt, Marsha Tuha and Karen Vasquez

July – Pam Steyn, Cashier’s Office

August – Tiffany Winchester, Veterans Center
Also nominated: Samoan Cooper, Carrie Dornak, Iris Gonzalez, Rachael Oliver, Marylou Ortuvia, Pam Steyn, Sarah Tidwell, Myra Trevizo and Dana Woods

September – Jesus Gonzalez, CADD
Also nominated: Craig Bougouneau, Amber Boyd, Jenifer Bruno, Daniel Christie, Laurie Cooper, Carrie Dornak, Emily Eligon, Anna Espinoza, Bryce Evans, Kassandra Flores, Mark Gossett, Kerrie Hendricks, Dulce Hernandez, Jamie Holloway, Carl Husband, Janell Laubach, Terry LeBrock, Marissa Moreno, Tuan Nguyen, Tammy O’Neill, Marylou Ortuvia, Avia Perry, Rupertha Petersen, Alissa Rincon, Kathrine Sampson, Sharon Sampson, Chad Sebastien, Tyrone Smith, Tracy Steenholdt, Karla Swift, Sarah Tidwell, Mayra Trevizo, Anajery Valadez, Sylvia Valdovinos, K-Leigh Villanueva and Dana Woods

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Weekly Wellness from Jason Summers

3 Cups of Coffee A Day Linked To Lower Risk of Premature Death

By April McCarthy

Previous studies have shown coffee to have anti-cancer properties with frequent drinkers typically 50% less likely to get specific cancers than nondrinkers. According to a new study by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers and colleagues, people who drink at least three cups of coffee a day may be less likely to die prematurely from some illnesses than those who don’t drink or drink less coffee.

Drinkers of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee saw benefits, including a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, type 2 diabetes, and suicide. A French study found that caffeine seemed to help preserve the cognitive skills of older women. Caffeine stimulates many regions of the brain and that areas that regulate wakefulness, arousal, mood and concentration are especially sensitive to even low doses.

A 2009 study of 40,000 participants noted that consumption of 3 cups of tea or coffee a day lead to a 40% lower risk of type 2 diabetes developing. A study of healthcare professionals in the US and UK, published in 2014, showed that those that increased their consumption of coffee experienced an 11% decrease in risk of type 2 diabetes over the next 4 years.

Coffee contains polyphenols, which are a molecule that anti-oxidant properties which are widely believed to help prevent inflammatory illnesses.

“Bioactive compounds in coffee reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation,” said first author Ming Ding, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition. “That could explain some of our findings. However, more studies are needed to investigate the biological mechanisms producing these effects.”

Researchers analyzed health data gathered from participants in three large ongoing studies: 74,890 women in the Nurses’ Health Study; 93,054 women in the Nurses’ Health Study 2; and 40,557 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. Coffee drinking was assessed using validated food questionnaires every four years over about 30 years. During the study period, 19,524 women and 12,432 men died from a range of causes.

In the whole study population, moderate coffee consumption was associated with reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, and suicide. Coffee consumption was not associated with cancer deaths. The analyses took into consideration potential confounding factors such as smoking, body mass index, physical activity, alcohol consumption, and other dietary factors.

“This study provides further evidence that moderate consumption of coffee may confer health benefits in terms of reducing premature death due to several diseases,” said senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology. “These data support the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report that concluded that ‘moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern.'”


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Annual Tech Night set for Thursday will showcase programs, offer giveaways

The array of technical programs available at Lee College will be on display this Thursday, April 14, at the Sports Arena for the annual Tech Night event, where students and members of the community will also have the chance to win a scholarship and enjoy hands-on demonstrations and interactive exhibits.

Tech Night will be held from 6-8 p.m. Free refreshments will be served.

In addition to connecting with faculty from technical programs ranging from nursing and welding to computer technology and instrumentation, Tech Night attendees can win prizes in video game and Jeopardy tournaments. Big-ticket items like an iPad mini and a remote-controlled, camera-equipped helicopter will also be given away.

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‘Celtic Nights’ bringing Irish music, rhythm and dance to the PAC on Saturday

A cast of the finest singers, dancers, musicians and actors from the British Isles will bring a rousing and rhythmic celebration of 100 years of Irish independence to the Performing Arts Center (PAC) stage this Saturday, April 16, in “Celtic Nights – Spirit of Freedom.”

Tickets for the show are $25-45 and available for purchase online.

“Celtic Nights – Spirit of Freedom” will take audiences on a spectacular, 2-hour musical journey of courage, pride and determination. Interwoven among the songs, music and dance are stories of profound love, passion and courage taken from the history pages of Ireland at the time of The Easter Rising of 1916, also referred to as The Poets Rebellion — complete with costumes and sets depicting the time period and narratives that encapsulate the cry for an independent and free nation through the eyes of heroes and heroines.

For more information, contact the PAC Box Office at 281.425.6255.

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