Horticulture students at the Huntsville Center helping to restore Lake Livingston

Thousands of American Water-willows grown by Lee College horticulture students at the Ellis prison unit in Huntsville are being planted at dozens of sites across Lake Livingston as part of a restoration project led by the Lake Livingston Friends of Reservoirs (LLFoR) and Texan by Nature, a conservation organization founded by former first lady Laura Bush.

The Trinity River Authority and Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife approved in 2013 a plan to foster natural habitat around the 85,000-acre Lake Livingston, the second-largest lake in Texas which is owned by the city of Houston and supplies 70 percent of the city’s water supply. The plan, developed by the Texas Black Bass Unlimited and the Piney Wood Lakes Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists, created LLFoR and had a clear mission: re-establish Lake Livingston as a prime destination for anglers and water enthusiasts by restoring aquatic habitat and bringing the lake back to life.

To accomplish that goal, LLFoR brought together a community-based, multi-generational volunteer pool that included the Lee College students at the Ellis Unit, who have developed methods to grow healthier American Water-willow plants in less time. The water-willow is the ideal plant for the lake restoration project because of its non-invasive nature and ability to filter silt and toxins, provide habitat for fish and birds and help control soil erosion.

Texan by Nature came on board after designating LLFoR a Conservation Wrangler and partner in the restoration of Lake Livingston. Bush founded the organization to align the broad interests of conservation groups with business, healthcare, schools, the scientific community and faith-based organizations — and joined Lee College Huntsville Center administrators and faculty, local high-school students and other members of the volunteer coalition Wednesday, Sept. 13, at Wolf Creek Park in Coldspring to celebrate the progress made on the restoration so far and see firsthand how the American Water-willows are planted in the lake.

“Our Conservation Wrangler Program features the very best Texan-led conservation projects, like the Lake Livingston restoration we are celebrating today,” Bush said. “Collaborative partnerships for conservation yield great benefits — for our natural landscapes, native plants and wildlife, and for everyone involved.”

The Huntsville Center initially became involved in the project through its partnership with the Texas Master Naturalists, taking on the responsibility of growing and caring for the American Water-willows and researching and devising new methods of planting and fertilization. Students started by propagating cuttings from parent plants in trays and grow cells, then hardening them off outside until they reached 6-8 inches in height and could be placed in water to flourish.

“This program started off as just growing some plants, but it’s turned into something more,” said horticulture instructor Scooter Langley. “We usually teach mainly landscaping and greenhouses, but adding the Texas Master Naturalist is a whole different atmosphere for horticulture.”

For the horticulture students at the Ellis Unit, the opportunity to help restore Lake Livingston has been a life-changing experience that has taught them much in just a few months. Many said they feel honored to give back to the community and environment, help both humans and animals and play a role in affecting positive change despite their incarceration.

“I’ve learned to appreciate life in general, from the smallest to the greatest,” one student said. “With the Texas Master Naturalist program and the horticulture program in general, I’ve learned to understand and appreciate life. If I can care that much for a small plant, I can care much more for humanity.”

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College to unveil new campus STEM hub, welcome special guests for HSI Week

Lee College will celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month and national Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) this week with the grand opening of a new campus hub for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and special guest appearances from artist and author Marlon “Marley” Lizama and entrepreneur and recording artist Stefani Vara.

HSI Week festivities kicked off with the unveiling of the newly renovated STEM Hub at 11:30 a.m., Monday, Sept. 18, in Moler Hall. Funded by a multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the original STEM center opened in 2013 to provide students with a dedicated space on campus to use the Internet and printing, receive free tutoring and meet with study groups. The new hub is also funded through the federal HSI STEM grant, which is designed to increase awareness, enrollment and completion of STEM degrees among Hispanic students and other underserved populations.

Lizama – a poet, writer, author and dancer who focuses on the cultural aspect of writing and the arts – will be the special guest speaker at 9:30 and 11 a.m., Tuesday, Sept. 19, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center. He is currently the program director of Iconoclast Artist, a creative writing program that focuses on underserved schools and juvenile detention centers. He has published two student anthologies of poetry through Iconoclast and is also the author of “Cue the Writer: Cheers to the Notion of Love, Hate, God and Revolution,” a collection of short stories and poetry from a young immigrant’s perspective. The recipient of the 2015 John P. McGovern Award for his work in the community with the arts, Lizama has traveled to more than 40 countries to advance his mission of using the arts as a tool to connect with others and change lives and perspectives.

Vara will be the special guest for two “Follow My Feet” sessions at 9 and 11 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 20, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center. An entrepreneur, professional foot model and recording artist who was raised by fierce Latina women in humble surroundings in Baytown, she has learned that her voice is her strongest asset and life is about diving headfirst into the unknown to blaze your own trail. Now committed to using her varied life experiences to give back to her community, Vara shares her personal journey in her “Follow My Feet” campaign to encourage others to realize their dreams are achievable and nothing is beyond their reach.

HSI Week at Lee College will also include a bash and informational table at the Student Center and gazebo; games of loteria, or Mexican bingo; an open mic session; and the “What’s Your Label” panel discussion hosted by the MAS Raza Collective student organization.

All HSI Week events and activities are free and open to the public. Check out a full schedule online or for more information, contact Victoria Marron at vmarron@lee.edu or Daisy Aramburo at daramburo@lee.edu.

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Free admission for staff when Lady Rebels take on Wharton on Tuesday

All Lee College staff will receive free admission this Tuesday, Sept. 19, when the Lady Rebels take on the Wharton County Junior College Pioneers in volleyball action at the Sports Arena.

The Staff Appreciation Night match will begin at 6 p.m.

The Lady Rebels will enter the match with a 5-7 overall record so far on the season, with a win over Western Wyoming Community College at the Salt Lake Community College Invitational and victories away at Brookhaven College and Coastal Bend College. At its own invitational tournament held at home last weekend, the team notched victories against Victoria College and North Lake College.

A full schedule for the 2017-18 Lady Rebel volleyball season is available here.

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Lee College Theatre to open season Sept. 21 with ‘Peril on the Mighty Mississippi’

Actors from Lee College Theatre rehearse a scene for the upcoming performance of “Peril on the Mighty Mississippi” at the Performing Arts Center (PAC). The show debuts Thursday, Sept. 21, in the Black Box Theater and will run through Sunday, Sept. 24.

Lee College Theatre will begin its 2017-18 performance season with a traditional melodrama that takes audiences on the maiden voyage of the Mighty Mississipp’, a riverboat bound for New Orleans with nefarious villains, wealthy passengers and a noble deckhand all aboard for a madcap adventure.

“Peril on the Mighty Mississippi, or a Disaster of Titanic Proportions” will debut at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 21 at the Performing Arts Center on campus. Additional performances are set for 7:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 22 and Saturday, Sept. 23, with a matinee at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 24. Tickets are available online or by contacting the Box Office at 281.425.6255.

Written by Donald Mellen, “Peril on the Mighty Mississippi” is the kind of frivolous and laugh-happy comedy that will bring more zaniness to the stage than many audiences are accustomed to seeing, according to technical theater instructor Kim Martin.

“It takes place on a paddle wheel riverboat and the hero, the heroine and various villains will encounter enough obstacles to foil most mortals – but in melodrama theatre, the good guys always come out on top,” Martin said. “And the audience gets to help by throwing popcorn at all of them.”

Lee College Theatre is expanding the style and variety of the shows they produce this season to challenge students and give them more opportunities to grow in their craft and pursue their dreams. Notable productions will include “A Year with Frog and Toad” in November, “Christmas Express” in December, “The Grapes of Wrath” in February, “Man of La Mancha” in late June and even some shows that will allow students to try out their directing skills in front of a live audience.

The level of quality and entertainment provided to the local community rivals that of college theatre programs across the Houston area, Martin said.

“Our audiences, Lee College students and staff and community supporters as well, can witness a delightful variety of shows,” he said. “We have a pleasant and congenial comedy for Christmas, a musical to delight young and old this fall, and an epic dramatization of one of the greatest novels of American literature. Everyone should put these shows on their cultural calendar.”

For more information about Lee College Theatre, including a full schedule of upcoming performances, visit the program online or contact Martin at hmartin@lee.edu.

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Sixth annual Lee College Coffeehouse set for Sept. 30

Some of the best singers, songwriters and musician in town will showcase their original work this month at the Lee College Coffeehouse, an annual concert that shines a light on the talented up-and-coming artists in the local community.

The sixth annual Coffeehouse is set for 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 30, in the Black Box Theater inside the Performing Arts Center. The line-up will include everything from jazz and blues to rap, country, rock and folk performers — giving artists and musicians the opportunity to share their craft with a broad audience, within the warm and creative atmosphere that has long been part of the traditional coffeehouse scene where many performers have gotten their start.

The Lee College Music Club will sell coffee, drinks and snacks at the show, with all proceeds benefitting music students at the college.

All Coffeehouse acts must first audition to participate. For more information about the concert or to book an audition, contact Dr. Ken Booker, director of Instrumental Music, at kbooker@lee.edu. The deadline for auditions is Wednesday, Sept. 27.

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Regents approve $51.3 million budget for 2017-18, including salary increase

The Lee College Board of Regents unanimously approved this month at its regular meeting a $51.3 million budget for the 2017-18 year that included a 3-percent salary increase for all full-time employees.

The approved budget also slightly raises tuition for out-of-district students and those enrolled in the Huntsville Center prison education program; increases the registration fee for Huntsville students; and replaces a fee students once paid for online classes with a new technology fee. Approximately $700,000 will cover new instructional and non-instructional positions, and additional money was also set aside for new equipment, labs, computers and repairs to the science building.

The board also approved a resolution to pay all full-time and part-time employees for the week when campus was closed for Hurricane Harvey. In addition, employees required to report to work that week despite the campus closure will receive double pay for their time.

Other notable actions taken by the board in September:

  • Recognized the resignations of full-time faculty member Luke Armstrong and librarian Lakeisha Branch, and the retirements of faculty members Jim Richardson and Sunny Schultz
  • Approved the hiring of Madelen Franco as a new full-time vocational nursing instructor
  • Approved change of contract status for 20 faculty members from probationary status to a regular 3-year contract
  • Approved reclassification of five non-faculty employees: Delma Garcia, Laurie Oehler, Melissa Valencia, Lena Yepez and Gracie Luna
  • Approved sabbatical leave for faculty member Georgeann Ward for the fall 2017 semester
  • Authorized the president or his designee to negotiate final terms and enter into a new agreement with Lamar University to develop co-enrollment pathways for pre-engineering and technical degree-seeking students, create articulation agreements and implement telepresence classrooms

The agenda and agenda packet for the September meeting of the Board of Regents meeting are available online, along with an audio recording of the meeting in full.

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Student Government Association hosting school supply drive Sept. 11-15 for those impacted by Harvey

School supplies including pencils, pens, notebooks

The Lee College Student Government Association (SGA) is collecting school supplies this week to help children and families impacted by Hurricane Harvey start off the school year prepared for class and ready to succeed despite their losses in the storm.

The SGA Hurricane Harvey Relief School Supply Drive will be held from Monday, Sept. 11, through Friday, Sept. 15. Supply donations should be delivered to the Student Activities Office inside the Student Center.

Several items are needed, including:

  • Paper – lined paper, copy paper, construction paper, spiral notebooks, composition books and index cards
  • Pencils and Pens – blue or black ink pens, No. 2 pencils, colored pencils, eraers, pencil sharpener, pencil case, colored pencils, markers, crayons, highlighters, dry erase markers
  • Backpacks
  • Classroom Staples – staplers, staples, rulers, protractors, glue sticks, scissors, tape, calculators
  • Health Items – tissues, sanitizing wipes, hand sanitizer
  • General Supplies – paper clips, 2-inch 3-ring binders, pocket folders, report covers, Scantrons, blue books

For more information about the SGA Hurricane Harvey Relief School Supply Drive, contact Zane Moseley at smoseley@lee.edu or 281.425.6807.

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Senior adults and first responders to receive free entry Sept. 12 at Lee College Volleyball game

Senior Adult & Travel Program volunteers outside the Center for Workforce and Community DevelopmentThe Lee College Senior Adult & Travel Program invites senior adults – particularly those impacted by Hurricane Harvey or hard at work helping their affected neighbors – to enjoy a night away from the rigors of the recovery process when Lee College Volleyball takes on conference rival San Jacinto College.

The Lady Rebels will hit the court at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 12, in the Sports Arena.

“The senior adult program each year offers this fun night in partnership with Lee College Athletics,” said Lynne Foley, manager of the Senior Adult & Travel Program. “This year we would like to invite as special guests all senior adults impacted by the storm, and also the great senior adults volunteering in our community to join us.”

In addition to Senior Adult Night, the team has also designated the game “First Responders Appreciation Night” in recognition of the first responders across the community who helped to rescue and assist those in need during the storm. Seniors and first responders will get free entry to the game, and seniors will also get free pizza, popcorn and drinks with a photo ID.

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Study Abroad hosting informational meeting Sept. 12 for trips to Germany & UK in 2018

After taking trips to China, Costa Rica, Belize and the British Isles since the Study Abroad program was revived in 2015, Lee College students are now preparing to travel to Germany and the United Kingdom in summer 2018. Details about both tours will be shared this week at the program’s second informational session of the semester.

The Study Abroad Interest Meeting will begin at 2 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 12, in the Bayer Conference Center. Participants will learn more about the trip to Germany in May and the trip to the UK in August, including how to apply for scholarships to help cover the cost of travel. They will also have the chance to explore trip itineraries and meet some of their potential traveling companions.

Through the Study Abroad program, students are able to experience another country while also earning academic credit for their Lee College degrees. They enroll in specially designed courses before leaving that help to set a foundation for their journey and prepare them for all they will see, hear and do while abroad. Upon their return to Baytown, students have the opportunity to share their insights and impressions with the campus community.

For more information about Study Abroad, contact faculty members Dr. Nader Naderi at nnaderi@lee.edu, or Dr. Portia Hopkins at phopkins@lee.edu.

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After Harvey, Lee College Foundation opts to reschedule annual gala for November

The Thursday Night Band performs at the 31st annual Lee College Foundation Gala.

As residents in the local community continue to recover after Hurricane Harvey, the Lee College Foundation has decided to postpone its 32nd annual gala until November.

Originally scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 21 at Sylvan Beach Pavilion, the Lee College Foundation Gala is now set for Friday, Nov. 10, at the same location.

Foundation board members decided to delay the event – which raises money for scholarships and other forms of student support – out of respect for those affected by Harvey and working to rebuild after the storm.

“There are some who were virtually unaffected by Harvey, but there are many that were devastated,” said Pam Warford, executive director of Foundation and Resource Development. “In respect for those who are suffering, we felt that a postponement was in order. We care very much about those with losses, but still know that our mission is to assist students in their pursuit of higher education.”

The foundation will be sending letters about the rescheduled gala to all those who have already received invitations, with additional correspondence to follow. For more information about the Lee College Foundation Gala or donating to the foundation, contact Warford at 281.425.6361 or pwarford@lee.edu.

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