Basketball team visits Carver students

Basketball team visits Carver Elementary students
The Lee College Runnin’ Rebels encourage students of Carver Elementary School before the STARR test.

Head Coach Roy Champagne and members of the Lee College Basketball Team recently visited Carver Elementary School in Baytown, where they passed out pencils and offered words of encouragement as students prepared to take the STAAR test.

“We’re here to tell you that we’re behind you,” Champagne said. “These guys have all been there before, and they know that if you do your best, that’s all that matters. If you get nervous or you don’t know an answer, take a deep breath and don’t give up. We don’t win every game we play, but we learn from every situation.”

Joy, gratitude at 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.

Foundation Scholarship Breakfast attendees
Students and donors got acquainted at the 13th annual Lee College Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, Friday, April 10, at the Rundell Hall Conference Center.

“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. 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.”

Gift Sampson (scholarship recipient)
Scholarship recipient Gift Sampson (center), along with her husband Garland Blanchard (left), thanked donor Kelly McNeill (right) for her generosity.

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.”

The Lee College Foundation is a non-profit entity that raises private funds to help support scholarships and other worthwhile initiatives that directly affect student success, and promote the student’s ability to reach their educational goals. This year, the foundation endowment topped $10 million for the first time in history. For more information about the foundation or the Foundation Board, contact Executive Director Pam Warford at 281.425.6361 or

American Idol finalist Abrams to play Lee College

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 in May at the Lee College Performing Arts Center (PAC).

Casey AbramsThe 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 at, 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 recorder on the album — highlighting his depth as a musician and soulful, agile vocals.

For more information about Casey Abrams at Lee College, visit or contact the PAC Box Office at 281.425.6255.

Debate team national champs again

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.

Debate team posing with awards Members of the Lee College Debate Team after the 2015 IPDA National Championship Tournament in Boise, Idaho. Pictured (l-r): front row – Cody Bijou (captain), Reagan Dobbs (captain); second row – Joselyn Mendoza, Shawn Start, Emily Trevino, Rigo Ruiz; back row – Himmler Assing, Dax Ramgoolam, Brandon Reinertsen, Kyle Diamond.

Lee College is the only two-year institution in the IPDA to repeat as national champions and the only two-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 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