AACC honors Lee College for diversity efforts

Lee College employees pose with diversity award.
Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College President; Mark Himsel, Lee College Regent; Judy Jirrels, Lee College Board of Regents, Secretary; Jessica Falla, Lee College HSI STEM Grant Success Coach; Susan Moore-Fontenot, Lee College Regent; Victoria Marron, Lee College Executive Directory HSI Initiatives; Pete Alfaro, Lee College Board of Regents, Chair; Gina Guillory, Lee College Regent; Michael Pounds, Lee College HSI STEM Grant College Completion & Transfer Coach; Gilbert Santana, Lee College Regent.

When Lee College was recognized this week with the American Association of Community Colleges’ Award of Excellence in the category of Advancing Diversity, the honor reflected innovative work by people and departments across campus.

In announcing the award, Lee College President Dennis Brown said, “This recognition is a testament to the tremendous work being done by our faculty and staff in creating a culture that empowers our diverse student population to thrive, succeed and realize successful futures — whether they choose to continue their education or move on to rewarding careers.”

The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) is the primary advocacy organization for the nation’s community colleges. The association represents nearly 1,200 two-year, associate’s degree-granting institutions and more than 12 million students. “Winning in a category or being identified as a finalist for a category is always a huge honor,” says Brown. “For any institution, it’s like the Academy Awards for community colleges.”

Joining Brown in receiving the award were Lee College’s Executive Director of Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives Victoria Marron, Executive Vice President Dr. Christina Ponce and Vice President of Workforce and Corporate Partnerships Dr. Angela Oriano.

Victoria Marron said the efforts to improve the college experience for historically under-served populations benefits all students.

“We’re really trying to plan for the future growth, not just of our community, but of the college and addressing our growing Hispanic population is important for us as a college,” she said.

“We’ve been very blessed in having several different grant awards, and by centralizing those awards it allows us to work collaboratively across Lee to help all students.”

A prime example, Marron said, is the STEM lab, which is open to all students. “When the grant was written, because it comes from the Hispanic Serving Institutions department in the Department of Education, they’re expecting certain measurements and certain other activities to target low-income and Hispanic students.”

In making the award, the AACC statement said, “Lee College has taken a strategic, proactive approach to addressing inequities hindering the persistence of its under-served students, especially the growing Latino population.

“With a grant from the U.S. Department of Education Hispanic Serving Institution division, coupled with other funding sources, the college established a centralized Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives Department.

“The HSI Initiatives Department allows the college to provide students with a centralized hub to take advantage of academic support,” the statement continued.

“The college has targeted communities with the lowest college-going rates by taking its Mobile Go Center, which includes a wide array of resources, directly to families. Lee College also has offered city-wide STEM recruiting activities.”

Marron said, “What set us apart is that we took a really proactive approach to planning for the future.”

One of the innovative programs Lee has implemented is Weekend College which enables people who are working full-time to attain an associates degree or technical certification in 24 months or less by attending class on Friday evenings and Saturdays.

Marron said, “One of the things we’ve learned over the last six years is really how to leverage different grant funds with high-impact best practices. That formula is really making a difference. As a result, for example, we were able to develop a plan and write a successful grant application for our First in The World Grant, which in turn helped us develop our Weekend College.”

Lee College’s Weekend College has achieved a three-year graduation rate of 70 percent, far exceeding the 20 percent three-year graduation rate for Texas community college students overall.

The First in the World grant requires research comparing student outcomes in the grant-funded program with similar students in traditional programs. Marron said the Weekend College students have shown higher GPAs and higher graduation rates in that research.

“Much of this success can be attributed to the pathways we created that laid their whole degree plan out for them. They knew what they were taking every single term. And they were assured that wouldn’t change. We coupled that with intensive support from a college completion coach.”

Marron said the Lee College designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution is through the U.S. Department of Education. Criteria include that at least 25 percent of full-time students are Hispanic and that the institution’s students are eligible to receive Pell grants.

The designation makes the college eligible for some additional funding sources and requires an effort to streamline and improve services.

“When you can target and provide assistance to your under-served populations, you are providing services to all students,” Marron said. “That’s the beauty of this kind of scalability of practice and resources.”

“Advancing diversity doesn’t mean that we’re saying we’re as diverse across campus as we need to be, rather we’re advancing to the point of where we’re going to be.

“We got an award and we’re incredibly grateful for it, but this is just the beginning.”

Lee College was also a finalist in the award for College and Corporate Partnership. Joining Brown in receiving that finalist award were Bob Cautadal, manager of the ExxonMobil Chemical Plant, and Connie Tilton of the ExxonMobil Public Affairs Office.

Lee College has been honored by AACC multiple times in recent years — in 2017 as an AACC Award of Excellence Finalist for Advancing Diversity, Faculty Innovation and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership. In 2016 as an AACC Award of Excellence Finalist for Faculty Innovation, Exemplary Board/CEO and Outstanding College/Corporate Partnership, and in 2015 as an AACC Award of Excellence Winner for Student Success as well as an AACC Award Finalist for Exemplary Board/CEO.

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 center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Lee aims to keep kids active and engaged this summer

BAYTOWN, TX – The Center for Workforce and Community Development at Lee College is offering summer camp programs to give kids and teens an active, engaged, and healthy summer. The Kids at College Summer Camp Program offers children ages 5-17 an opportunity to meet new friends, discover new interests, and create memories for a lifetime.

Lee College encourages parents to register their children for any of the hands-on, educational, creative, or athletic camps offered in both Baytown and Liberty, Texas. Camps offered will include creative/art courses, career exploration, brain training, teen courses, sports, and more.

“The 2018 Kids at College Summer Camp Program is a wonderful opportunity for children to keep their bodies and minds active,” said Angela Oriano, Ph.D., Vice President Workforce & Corporate Partnerships. “Each camp is an adventure that offers personal growth for our community’s youth. Our campers walk away with new skills, increased confidence, and more independence that stay with them throughout their lives.”

The 2018 Summer Camp Guide is now updated with new camps and available online for viewing at www.lee.edu/kids. The guide provides parents with all the information they need to decide on a summer camp, including descriptions, camp dates/times, locations, and pricing. Camps vary in dates, start/end times, and prices, to allow parents to find a camp that fits their schedule and budget, along with their child’s interests.

Some popular camps from last year scheduled to return for 2018 include Art Extreme Camp, Culinary Arts, Creative Writing, Fun and Funky Clay Creations, Volleyball, and Basketball. Many new camps will be available including Advanced 3D Video Game, Healthy Me, Little Code-a-Pillar, Virtual Reality: The Future is now, and Vision Board Fun, just to name a few. New this year to the Baytown location is Camp Z, a zombie-inspired kids’ camp complete with science experiments, creative writing, arts and crafts, a scavenger hunt, a live-action zombie hunt, and more.

For more information or to register your child for a summer camp, visit the Kids at College website at www.lee.edu/kids or call 281.425.6311.

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 15 school systems. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

EnergyVenture Camp Invites First-Time Students to Apply for Scholarships

BAYTOWN, TX – The Center for Workforce and Community Development’s Kids at College program at Lee College is excited to invite first-time students to apply for a scholarship to this summer’s EnergyVenture Camp. With the help of industry partner, ExxonMobil, full scholarships are available to qualified students covering all fess associated with camp activities.

EnergyVenture is an intensive 36-hour week-long day Kids at College Summer Camp designed to help students ages 12-14 years old develop their focus on the energy industry and the career opportunities it holds. The program was developed for young students to learn through fun, hands-on STEM experiments and activities in science and computer labs, in hopes to increase awareness of the good paying, high skill jobs available in the industry.

EnergyVenture Camp will run June 4-8, and July 9-13, Mon.-Thurs. from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., and Fri., 8:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. To apply for a scholarship, parents or guardians must bring their child’s Texas School ID, School Report Card, or Progress Report to 909 Decker Dr., Baytown, TX, 77520. Students must be 12 years of age on or before the first day of camp.

“EnergyVenture camp is a gem in our community,” said Angela Oriano, Ph.D., Vice President Workforce & Corporate Partnerships. “The camp helps to foster students along a career path to the Gulf Coast’s energy industry.”

For more information about EnergyVenture camp, visit the Kids at College website at www.lee.edu/kids or call 281.425.6311.

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.

Baytown Concert Band to host concert April 21 at PAC

The Baytown Concert Band will present its Spring Concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 21, at the Lee College Performing Arts Center.

Ken Booker, conductor of the Baytown Concert Band and Director of Instrumental Music at Lee College, said the theme of the evening’s free performance is “Vesuvius,” which is also one of the pieces being performed.

“It’s a community band that has a few students in it, but most of the people in it are from the community,” he said.

Booker said most of the music is classical, though he does introduce some newer selections as well. The Concert Band mainly differs from an orchestra in that it has no string instruments.

In addition to conducting and teaching, Booker is a composer, and the performance will feature one of his compositions titled “Black Water Scenes.”

“It’s really about East Texas,” Booker said. “One of the movements is called “Red Clay.” He said the title “Black Water Scenes” is meant to evoke the feel of the woods of that region.

“You see that still water that is black because of the shadows. The cypress trees and stuff like that make it look kind of (black),” he said.

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.

Jazz @ Lee College Friday, April 13

The Thursday Night Band will present a free concert under the direction of Ken Booker at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 13, in the Performing Arts Center.

Featured performers will be trombone instructor Carl Woodall and vocalist Kevin Lewis.

Lewis is a former Lee College music student who now teaches in Goose Creek CISD. He will be performing “Route 66,” “Kissing a Fool,” and “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy.”

Booker said the night’s program will include many big-band favorites.

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.

Lee presents comedy night April 13, 14

Lee College Theatre presents 30 short comedy plays in just one hour. The performance is in the Black Box Theatre of the Performing Arts Center.

Tickets are $10; $5 for Lee College students, faculty, and staff.

The Friday performance is at 9:30 p.m., following the Jazz@Lee College concert in the adjacent main hall. The Saturday performance is at 7:30 p.m.

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.

Honors students named Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship semifinalists

Lee College has the distinction of having two of its honors students selected as semifinalists 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 neurosurgeon.

“Words can’t express how overjoyed I was when I received the email stating I had been selected as a semifinalist.” 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 semifinalist as beneficial. Mentioning in my transfer applications that I am a semifinalist 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 semifinalist.

“Being considered for this prestigious scholarship has really opened things up for me. As a Jack Kent Cooke semifinalist, 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 semifinalist 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