Joy and gratitude abound at 13th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast

Before she was awarded a scholarship from the Lee College Foundation, Honors Program student and Nigerian immigrant Gift Sampson had to make the difficult choice between paying tuition or taking care of household bills. At her husband’s insistence, the tuition always came first.

“After we paid the tuition, we didn’t have enough money to see us to the end of the month,” Sampson said through tears at the 13th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, held Friday, April 10, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center on campus. “But he told me: we are going to make it. …And I worked so hard. I went to the Writing Center every day, to the point where I called and they knew my voice.”

Each year, the foundation breakfast gives scholarship recipients and their donors the opportunity to connect and become acquainted. Students personally thank donors for the tuition or textbook assistance that helped fund their education, while donors see and hear firsthand how their generosity has made a difference.

“I just get amazed by what we have at Lee College and in this community,” Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown said at the breakfast. “In the eyes of the donors, you can see the excitement they have for what they have been able to do: helping us get the students here, keep the students here, and graduate. And in the students, you can see the progress and the growth that they’re making because you believed in them. There simply aren’t enough ‘thank-yous’ we can give.”

Sampson described how she and her husband’s shared faith in her lifelong dream of receiving a college education kept them going despite myriad challenges – from conquering the English language barrier, to overcoming doubts about her own ability to excel academically after coming from a culture where women were valued only for their potential worth as brides and wives.

“When I received the $1,000 scholarship, that was how it all started and that money meant the world to me,” said Sampson, who received the Cindy McNeill Memorial from the foundation. “There is a text in the Bible that says that if you cast your bread upon many waters, that it will come back to you in so many ways. The bread that you cast touched me in another part of the world and now I am here today, because of you. I cannot be more grateful.”

For John Allen, a Barbers Hill High School senior taking dual-credit college courses in process technology, receiving the Chevron Phillips Workforce Development Scholarship through the Lee College Foundation opened a world of new possibilities for his future.

“The money for tuition and books has been really helpful to me and my family, but the money is just the beginning,” Allen said at the breakfast, noting how much he has gained from his relationship with Todd Jackson, the Chevron Phillips employee mentor with whom he was paired as a scholarship recipient.

“He took me on a tour of the plant and I was able to see how to apply what I’m learning in class to the real world. You all have motivated me for success.”

*****

Watch Gift Sampson’s emotional speech describing how Lee College and the Cindy McNeill Memorial have changed her life.

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Top students to be recognized at Presidential Honors Day 2015

More than 50 of the best and brightest Lee College students will be recognized at Presidential Honors Day 2015, to be held this Tuesday, April 14, at the Performing Arts Center with a reception to follow.

Students will receive awards for outstanding performance and/or achievements in academic and technical studies, as well as for involvement in various campus organizations and special projects. Make plans to join the celebration!

 

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Annual Tech Night set for Tuesday at the Sports Arena

High-school students from surrounding districts, current Lee College students and members of the community are all invited to Tech Night, to be held from 6-8 p.m., Tuesday, April 14, in the Sports Arena. The annual event showcases the wide variety of  technical programs of study that the college has to offer.

Through hands-on demonstrations and exhibits, Tech Night participants will learn about the wide variety of programs available at Lee College that can lead to jobs in the technical, industrial, science and health care fields.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet with faculty and counselors to learn more about financial aid and the registration process. Door prizes and a $500 scholarship will be awarded.

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American Idol finalist Casey Abrams coming to the PAC

Casey Abrams – the multi-talented, multi-instrumentalist whose jazzy vocals and deft handling of the bass guitar led him to a top 10 finish on season 10 of “American Idol” – will perform live next month at the Lee College Performing Arts Center (PAC).

The Casey Abrams concert is set for 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 9, in the PAC main performance hall. Tickets for the show are $20-30 and available for purchase online, or by calling the Box Office at 281.425.6255.

A natural-born musician and creative spirit, the 24-year-old Abrams is an Austin native whose childhood home resonated with the music of the 1950s and 1960s. At just 10 years old he moved to Palm Springs, Calif., to attend the prestigious Idyllwild Arts Academy, where his father continues to teach. By sixth grade, Abrams had begun playing the electric bass guitar and later developed mastery of the guitar, upright bass, cello and drums. He credits his time at Idyllwild – and the mentorship of jazz and upright bass instructor Marshall Hawkins, who played with legends like Miles Davis and Roberta Flack – with helping shape his sound and development as an artist.

Abrams returned to Austin to audition for “American Idol,” earning a coveted golden ticket and ultimately finishing as the sixth-place contestant overall. Shortly after his “Idol” run, he signed with Concord Records and began working on his self-titled debut album in London with famed producer Martin Terefe, known for collaborations with artists like Jason Mraz, Mary J. Blige and Cat Stevens. Abrams sang, co-wrote and played the bass, acoustic guitar, drums, Wurlitzer and even a recorder on the album – highlighting his depth as a musician and soulful, agile vocals.

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This Week in Innovation – Helping students become critical thinkers

Teaching Critical Thinking Dispositions

By John D. Eigenauer, professor

Mortimer Adler, the founder of the Great Books program at the University of Chicago, once famously wrote that critical thinking could not be taught. In his essay, “Critical Thinking Programs: Why They Won’t Work,” Adler wrote, “I would almost say that, for critical thinking, devising a special program to produce the desired result is a chimerical effort. It cannot be done.”

Certainly Adler had in mind a skill independent of content area—a skill that one used whether thinking about philosophy or physics. However, current studies in the field of critical thinking do not support Adler’s claim. In fact, they indicate that critical thinking skills that span domains can be taught and can result in measureable improvements.

Those who study critical thinking divide that world into two parts: skills and dispositions. Critical thinking skills refer to practices that can be communicated in a classroom and learned by students—skills such as “how to construct an argument,” “how to analyze an argument,” or “how to evaluate an argument.” Substantial evidence indicates that certain methodologies such as argument mapping are extremely helpful in teaching these skills. And, against Adler, targeted instruction in such skills does, in fact, improve more general (and measureable) critical thinking skills. Tim van Gelder even provides evidence that one semester of targeted instruction in critical thinking using argument mapping as the foundation of the course results in measureable gains equivalent to or greater than those gained through four years of an undergraduate education.

Of course the greater challenge facing educators, beyond that of giving our students skills in such discrete areas as argument analysis, is to help them cultivate habits of mind that define them as critical thinkers in life. However, as Barry Leshowitz (et al) writes, “Unfortunately, the results of any number of national and international studies indicate that few high school graduates (or entering college students) are able to apply higher-order thinking skills to problems faced in everyday life.” In other words, the ultimate challenge in the field of the pedagogy may be helping students have the disposition to be critical thinkers in and out of the classroom. To do this, I maintain that we must understand the human brain and help students to understand their brains.

Cognitive scientists label the two primary modes of thinking as Type 1 and Type 2 processing. These modes correlate to brain systems that are called System 1 and System 2. (A recent and thorough treatment of these systems can be found in Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow). In general, Type 1 thinking is characterized by automaticity—quick, heuristic-type thinking that is sometimes labeled “lazy” or “emotional.” Type 2 thinking is characterized by conscious effort—methodical, volitional enlistment of cognitive resources that involves awareness of things such as the need for evidence, rejection of biases and emotional reactions, and careful logic.

To get a feel for the distinction between these two systems, I developed a quick test that I gave to 320 college freshmen and sophomores. It reads as follows:

“Imagine being at home or in a library or at a friend’s house or anywhere you might do schoolwork. For homework, you are given the following question: ‘Should the death penalty be legal?’ What would you do to try to best answer the question?”

Educators easily reply something like “I would do research.” Students, however, are not so consistent in their responses. My survey found that only 40 percent of students gave an answer that could be interpreted as akin to “I would do research.” A full 60 percent of students took a stance on the issue itself and replied with the equivalent of “The death penalty should be legal” or “The death penalty should be illegal.”

This simple test provides some interesting insights into the use of System 1 and System 2. Educators, trained to approach questions from the perspective of creating an answer that will be judged based on the use of evidence and logic, picture themselves using System 2—slowly and methodically gathering evidence, building a case, and holding that case to the standards imposed by an intellectual authority. Absent that training, many students automatically deploy System 1 and provide an automatic, heuristic, lazy, or emotional response.

From this simple example, we can see more clearly that the challenge that confronts educators when it comes to asking our students to deploy higher-level thinking skills consistently is a neurological one. In other words, sometimes our students’ brains’ natural tendencies get in the way of careful thinking. Obviously, this does not mean that any given student will only react quickly (and perhaps unthinkingly) to a given question, resulting in shoddy use of evidence and questionable conclusions. This is meant to alert us to brain systems at work that may not be immediately apparent to us as educators.

What should we do to help students cultivate dispositions toward critical thought? I would suggest that we need to create awareness. I present students with a wide variety of research and narratives that help them understand that humans don’t naturally and consistently use System 2. These resources help students understand that we all need to be aware of our tendency toward sloppy thinking, and that their job is to exert effortful control during intellectual tasks such as writing argumentative essays, analyzing arguments, or simply reading. This awareness, I believe, is the first step in creating student dispositions toward critical thought.

Allow me to give an example of how awareness may improve critical thinking dispositions. I teach my students about amygdala hijacking, a neurological phenomenon whereby we lose our ability to deploy System 2 because part of our brain has detected a threat. That is, we can’t be slow-thinking, reasonable people in the presence of a threat. Students learn that threats are not only physical (think noises in dark places or wild animals in National Parks); they can be ideas as well. Being aware of the fact that our brains can find ideas that oppose our beliefs, threatening to the point that we can’t be logical, helps students see the need to consciously and willfully “override Type 1 processing” (as Keith Stanovich writes).

Next, I would suggest that the ultimate goal of critical thinking is to question answers rather than to answer questions. Most teachers find the prospect of having inquisitive, questioning students distant and exciting. Frankly, I can think of few things more gratifying than having a room full of students eager to get at the truth, even if it means questioning my authority, insisting on seeing the evidence, or practicing active skepticism. Therefore, ignoring the fact that having questioning students can be threatening, and assuming that we would like to have such students in our classrooms, we should ask, “How do we get there?”

We teach things that are open to critical inquiry, but we often teach them as if they are not. Or, students assume that they are not open to questioning, or we don’t make it clear that the content we teach is open to questioning, or we assume that opening our content to critical inquiry will erode our credibility or even education in general. But if we want students to become critical thinkers—thinkers who question before accepting—we need to make explicit the idea that everything is open to critical inquiry. We should tell students, “Your job is not to learn this. Your job is to question it.”

What should be questioned? There are numerous ideas that we could allow our students to question. Here is a short list: Freudian psychology, all of metaphysics, virtually every political claim, theories of self, theories of history, theories of economics—including Communism, trickle-down economics, Socialism, Keynesian economics—educational theories (including ideas about group learning, the use of technology in the classroom, the value of the lecture), all social mores, and common prejudices. The list could be very long. One could even question Mortimer Adler’s assertion that critical thinking cannot be taught.

To get to the point where students practice active skepticism, insisting on evidence before accepting an idea (a very good definition of a critical thinking disposition, by the way), students not only need to be given permission to question, they must be required to do so.

Even though I believe that instructors will be able to generate skeptical inquiry in their own disciplines in a variety of ways (if they put their minds to it), I want to offer one example of a practical means of getting students to see what this means. I call this “generating alternative theories.” Here is a sample problem:

From the 1960s to the 1990s, researchers believed that the primary cause of men abusing their spouses was that men themselves had been abused as children. They theorized that men that came from abusive homes were much more likely to abuse their spouses later in life than men who did not come from abusive homes. After the 1990s, however, researchers began to suggest alternative theories. These theories contradicted those held from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Instructions: Think of an alternative theory (explanation) that is quite distinct from the one that relates spousal abuse to growing up in an abusive home. Explain your theory in as much detail as possible.

The key thing to recognize is that the goal is the creation of alternative hypotheses. This hypothetical reasoning forces us to hold two scenarios in mind and ask what evidence would be necessary to accept one, reject one, or reject both. This is the basis for Aristotle’s dictum that “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

To get to the point where such exercises are appropriately challenging for students, many hurdles must be cleared. First, students must have skills gained through targeted instruction that allow them to perform tasks such as analyzing, creating, and evaluating arguments. Second, they must be made aware of our cognitive limitations as humans, even if that awareness amounts to something as simple as knowing that we all have a System 1 and a System 2. Third, we need to open our content to questioning. Fourth, we must teach our students how to question. Fifth, we must require that they question. Taken together, these steps will help our students develop the internal disposition toward being critical thinkers.

Eigenauer is a professor of philosophy at Taft College in Taft, Calif. He can be reached via email to jeigenauer@taftcollege.edu.

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Weekly Wellness from Jason Summers

ADHD: We Have Not Properly Diagnosed This Condition

By Dr. Eldon Dahl

When medical treatment for ADHD involves added side effects, such as strokes, convulsions, hallucinations, depression, and suicide, you have the wrong medication. These are very serious side effects for treating a not-so-serious health condition.
Taken from the Toronto Star report, “The regulator says the benefits of the drugs, when properly prescribed and used, outweigh the risks.” But what if the condition of ADHD is wrongly diagnosed and grouped as a mental disorder? Like drawing fish in a net, they become part of the catch. Children as young as 6 are being drugged for ADHD. The article goes on to say, “All side effects doctors aren’t required to report.” Parents are left in the dark, for they don’t know all the risks.

According to the CDC, 1 in 5 children have a mental disorder in the USA; potentially, that is 6.6 million children needing prescription drugs, which is big business and normally for the extension of their lives.

When we think of ADHD, we associate the condition and victims as being erratic in behavior and hard to control due to their overactive minds. Children that are diagnosed as having ADHD disrupt the norm; in classrooms, they need added attention, which takes the teachers’ attention away from fellow students. Home life is also disrupted as they constantly move like rabbits. In other words, they are much more work than non-ADHD children.

Society needs these children controlled and the only means they have at their disposal is pharmaceutical drugs. Clarification must be given: ADHD children are not stupid or retarded in development. In actuality, their intelligence is above normal in most cases. The diagnosis is wrong. Physicians group ADHD behavior but don’t check if the patients have any other underlying medical conditions such as dietary triggers. Instead, they are grouped as mentally unstable.

The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry conducted a study involving 7-year-old Swedish students. The Comorbidity of ADHD in the General Population of Swedish School-age Children. The study concluded that pure ADHD is rare, even in a general population sample. Thus, studies reporting on ADHD cases without comorbidity probably refer to highly atypical samples. By and large, such studies cannot inform rational clinical decisions.

Medical comorbidity–more specifically, psychiatric comorbidities–occur alongside eating disorders. Understanding that comorbid conditions are intertwined with an eating disorder, and treating both the eating disorder and co-occurring illness (in this case, ADHD) are critical in dealing with the issue for recovery. When comorbidities or the underlying issues are present, the main objective of treatment is psychiatric and medical stabilization. The core issue, the diet, must be addressed first before patients can be treated therapeutically for ADHD.

The western diet is the main cause of ADHD; hidden refined sugar is one of the main culprits. The clinical Raine Study followed 2,868 live births, and 14-year follow-up. Two major dietary patterns were identified: “Western” and “Healthy.” A higher score for the Western dietary pattern was associated with ADHD diagnosis (odds ratio = 2.21, 95% confidence interval = 1.18, 4.13) after adjusting for known confounding factors from pregnancy to 14 years. ADHD diagnosis was not associated with the “Healthy” dietary pattern.

Conclusion: A Western-style diet may be associated with ADHD. Before we begin medicating our children, the first step needs to examine the diet; and, once the diet becomes “healthy,” the condition may no longer exist.

After dietary factors are addressed, treatment can begin. I would recommend L-Tryptophan (fermented) with P5P to enable the Tryptophan to cross the blood-brain barrier in order to reach the cell membranes. Clinical studies suggest 800 to 1,000 mg per day.

L-Tyrosine (fermented) is useful, especially in cases where adrenaline and dopamine metabolism problems exist. Therapeutic range is between 6,000 to 10,000 mg per dosage. This is not to be used by individuals who are unable to synthesize L-Tyrosine from L-Phenylalanine (i.e. individuals with phenylketonuria).

GABA has demonstrated an amazing potential for treating ADHD–mainly as a calming agent that helps to relax the brain, which is essential for ADHD. Positive results have been reported with doses between 1000-1500 mg/day, 2 to 3 times per day.

Dahl is the Founder and CEO of Life Choice TM nutraceutical product line.

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LC opposing legislation that would allow Barbers Hill to create junior college

Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown and the Board of Regents have vocally opposed a pair of bills that, if passed by state lawmakers, would allow the Barbers Hill Independent School District to create a limited public junior college of its own.

The proposed legislation — Senate Bill 1514 and House Bill 3521, filed by Texas Sen. Brandon Creighton and Rep. Wayne Faircloth — supports the creation of a local community college that would serve the residents of Chambers County and neighboring areas, according to The Baytown Sun. Both bills have been referred to committee.

If approved, the community college would be funded through the existing tax base in the Barbers Hill district, estimated to be worth nearly $7 billion. On its website, the district notes several key points related to its quest to start its own junior college, including  the intent to ensure that Barbers Hill residents will not have to pay increased taxes if they become part of the Lee College district; that Barbers Hill students will pay lower tuition and have a college facility in closer proximity than Lee College; and that the college would work closely with industry to create technical and vocational training.

Brown traveled to Austin in late March to discuss Lee College’s opposition to the proposed legislation, sharing with lawmakers that Lee College has provided Barbers Hill with all appropriate services — including dual-credit college courses for high-school students. State Rep. Wayne Smith, who represents Baytown, agreed that Lee College has been doing a “grand job of serving folks in that area” and has also said he does not support the proposed legislation.

The college has recently reduced the cost of tuition for high-school students in dual-credit courses, and Barbers Hill officials have indicated they are not dissatisfied with Lee College, Brown told The Baytown Sun.

“Since Lee College is, in the words of Barbers Hill ISD, providing excellent service to the school district, which falls within the mandated community college service area boundaries for Lee College, there is no reason to create a limited purpose community college district,” said Brown, who will again travel to Austin to testify against the proposed bills should they be taken up by committee.

“There are no career and technical interests of students and employers in the Barbers Hill school district that are not being met.”

Brown also noted that it would be incredibly difficult for the proposed Barbers Hill limited purpose junior college district to receive the necessary regional accreditation from the Southern Association of College and Schools Commission on Colleges. Without accreditation, course credits would have no value and could not be applied toward technical degrees or transferred to other institutions.

If passed, the bills could also present challenges for existing community college districts around the state and create a battle for resources that are already limited, Brown said.

“The college districts adjacent to Barbers Hill ISD are all concerned about the impact of this legislation,” he said. “Approving this legislation will further dilute the available state funds for supporting the 50 existing Texas public community college districts.”

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Debate Team wins national championship titles for second consecutive year

For the second straight year, the Lee College Debate Team capped off a record-setting season by earning a trio of national championship titles: the 2014-2015 International Public Debate Association (IPDA) Season-Long Community College Champions, the 2015 IPDA National Championship Tournament Community College Champions, and the 2014-2015 Team IPDA Squad National Championship.

Team members will host “An Evening of Debate” from 6-7:30 p.m., Friday, April 10, at the Bayer Conference Center on campus to showcase their talents and celebrate their success. The event is free and open to the entire community.

Lee College is the only 2-year institution in the IPDA to repeat as national champions and the only 2-year institution to win season-long and tournament titles in the same year – beating opponents from elite college and university debate teams from around the world.

In total, Lee College debaters won more than 150 awards and honors over the course of the competition season and finished as the top-ranked program in Texas within a field that included Texas State, Texas Christian University, Stephen F. Austin and East Texas Baptist universities, among others.

“What began in 2013 as a simple idea and a couple of enthusiastic students has grown into back-to-back National Championships and a dozen dedicated debaters,” said Joe Ganakos, head coach. “They’ve proven themselves to be exceptional ambassadors for Lee College, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the best and brightest university students in the nation.”

The team success was augmented by outstanding individual performances.  The duo of Team Captains Cody Bijou and Reagan Dobbs captured the 2014-2015 Team IPDA National Championship.  Captain-elect Kyle Diamond won the 2014-2015 Varsity Division Championship at the IPDA national tournament in Boise, Idaho, and was also honored as a tournament double octo-finalist. Dobbs was both the Varsity Division runner-up and third-place speaker, and Bijou finished the tournament in third place in the Varsity Division, as the fourth-place speaker and as an octo-finalist.

In the Novice Division, Dax Ramgoolam was the 2015 IPDA National Championship Tournament runner-up and captain-elect Rigo Ruiz finished as the season-long runner-up. Ruiz was also the second-place novice debate speaker at the national tournament and a novice double octo-finalist, while Joselyn Mendoza finished in eighth place in the season-long Novice Division standings.

The Debate Team will return to competition in September 2015 at The Mendoza Debates at Lee College to kick off the 2015-2016 IPDA season. Lee College will also host the 2016 IPDA National Championship Tournament next April. For more information about the Lee College debate program, contact Ganakos at 281.425.6502 or jganakos@lee.edu.

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Parent College 101 & college placement testing set for Saturday

Lee College will host a free, bilingual “Parent College 101” session Saturday, April 11, for parents and families of junior-high and high-school students to learn how best to prepare their children for college and a successful future.

Parent College 101 will be held from 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at the Rundell Hall Conference Center. Participants will begin the day with a light breakfast before breaking into sessions that cover college basics, common language, typical costs and certificate and degree programs. There will be a special focus on educational and job opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math – dominant industries within the Baytown community – and all information will be available in both English and Spanish.

Parent College 101 attendees will also be able to take a campus tour and receive hands-on assistance with applications for college admission, financial aid and scholarship awards. Those who pre-register online here will be entered into a drawing for door prizes, including a Lee College tuition scholarship.

The goal of Parent College 101 is to help parents discover ways to create a college-going expectation in their family and support their child through the college process. For more information, contact Daisy Aramburo at 832.556.4026 or daramburo@lee.edu.

Texas Success Initiative Assessment (TSIA) Saturday

While parents and families attend Parent College 101, high-school students can complete Texas Success Initiative college placement tests. Check-in for the testing will be held from 8-9 a.m. at Rundell Hall.

Each student who tests will have their name entered into the drawing for a Lee College scholarship. Students who test and have parents attending the Parent College 101 session will have their name entered twice into the drawing.

Students who wish to test must pre-register here. They must also have their Lee College application, pre-assessment activity and pre-registration completed by 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 8, and will need to show a photo ID and pay testing fees at check-in: $10 per section for first-time testers, and $15 per section for re-testers.

For more information about TSIA Saturday, contact Tracy Steenholdt at tsteenholdt@lee.edu or call the Information Desk at 281.425.6384.

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Registration still open for Kinesiology Club Boot Camp

Good news! It’s not too late to join the 5th annual Kinesiology Club Boot Camp for college employees.

“There is no minimal fitness level. We have workouts for all levels so just come and do your best,” said Graeme Cox, chair of the Kinesiology, Athletics and Wellness Division.  “Our goal is not to weed out the weak; rather, our goal is to encourage you to increase your fitness level, which I can guarantee will happen if you stick with us for the month.”

The boot camp is designed as a fundraiser for trips in July and December to the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (TAHPERD) conferences.  Students are also presenting the boot camp for the professionals at those conferences, making the college employee camp a great learning experience for them.

Classes will be held in the Sports Arena from 6:15-7 a.m., each Tuesday and Thursday in April. Kinesiology Club students will be guiding the workouts under Cox’s supervision.

The boot camp is open to college employees and students and includes a t-shirt and certificate.  The cost is $30 for full-time employees, and $20 for part-time employees and students.  Anyone who would like to make a donation of $20 toward the conference trips will gladly be given a shirt.

Interested? Email gcox@lee.edu for more information or to ask questions.

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