More than 250 grads recognized at 2016 Fall Commencement

BAYTOWN, TX — With their family and friends filling every seat of the Sports Arena, more than 250 graduates crossed the stage at the Lee College Fall 2016 Commencement ceremony to receive their associate degrees and certificates of completion.

2016 Fall Commencement
More than 250 graduates participated in the Lee College 2016 Fall Commencement, held Friday, Dec. 16, 2016, in the Sports Arena on campus. The ceremony was also streamed live online.

“You did it. You made it happen,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown, extending congratulations to both the graduates and the loved ones who supported them throughout their academic journeys. “There were a lot of challenges and obstacles, but you are here this evening and there is so much more to come. Education doesn’t stop tonight; our education lasts a lifetime. You have set a course, your path is before you and now it’s up to you to follow.”

As she praised the graduates’ hard work to achieve their dreams, keynote speaker and Texas State Sen. Sylvia Garcia shared two of her earliest aspirations. The eighth of 10 children born and raised in the small South Texas farming community of Palito Blanco, Garcia first wanted to someday work inside an air-conditioned building rather than outside in sun-scorched fields. Second, she wanted to make sure children in need of medical care would not have to stand in line to receive shots, as she and other poor youth from Palito Blanco did.

Garcia’s parents assured her that if she worked hard, got an education and kept her belief in God, she could reach any goal she set for her future. After earning a bachelor’s degree in social work from Texas Woman’s University and receiving a Juris Doctor degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University, the former social worker and longtime public servant realized they were right. A degree is the one thing in life that no one can give you or take away, she said, and the key to opening many doors and possibilities.

“No matter who you are or where you come from, tonight you’re all very equal because that’s the beauty of education: it’s the great equalizer for all Americans,” Garcia said, acknowledging that many Lee College students likely had to juggle their studies with a job, family and other responsibilities.

“You have an education and you have a shot at the American Dream,” she said. “Whether your father is a plant manager or a welder or you were raised by a single mom, inside of the classroom you can achieve anything you set your mind to. It truly is a place where the sky is the limit.”

Though she was elected controller for the city of Houston, became the first Hispanic and first woman to be elected in her own right to the Harris County Commissioners Court and has represented District 6 in the Texas State Senate since 2013, Garcia told graduates that her first two election campaigns were failures. Success and failure are temporary and neither is a reason to grow complacent or discouraged, she said.

“There should never be a time in your life where you’re not challenged, because it is the challenge that stretches you and shows you what you can be come,” Garcia said. “Use your will. Successful people aren’t stronger than others or necessarily smarter than others, but they have to have more desire than others. To succeed, you must desire to succeed more than anything else. Find something you can be passionate about. Find something where you can make your mark on this world. Keep dreaming. Reach for more. Do and dare.”

The message resonated with graduate Stephen Shea, a U.S. Navy veteran who moved to Baytown from Gardiner, Maine, to attend Lee College and pursue a new career in the petrochemical field. A former butcher who was looking for an affordable education that would fully prepare him for work in the industry, he earned an Associate of Applied Science degree in process technology and feels confident about his ability to find a job and hit the ground running.

“I was never a great student and I was nervous about keeping up with my classes, but my experience at Lee College has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Shea, who thanked his wife and family for their continuous support from his arrival in Texas through completion of his degree. “The instructors really encouraged me. They didn’t make it easy, but they were always willing to help. I can’t believe the connections I’ve made.”

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.

TRiO Student Support Services celebrates summer & fall 2016 graduates

BAYTOWN, TX — When Jarvis Booker joined the TRiO Student Support Services program at Lee College, he was looking for an organization or activity to help beef up his resume. Instead, he found a new family and discovered new dreams on the way to earning this fall Associate of Applied Science degrees in Process Technology and Manufacturing Engineering Technology.

TRiO SSS graduates
The TRiO Student Support Services program celebrated more than a dozen summer and fall 2016 graduates at a special ceremony held Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center on campus. The program offers participants a variety of services to help them successfully complete their chosen associate degree or certificate.

“It allowed me to enrich my character and develop determination, motivation and goals I never even had before,” said Booker, one of more than a dozen TRiO graduates from the summer and fall 2016 semesters honored at a special ceremony held Dec. 15, 2016, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the TRiO Student Support Services program at Lee College offers a range of assistance to help low-income students, first-generation college students and students with disabilities progress through the academic pipeline — from financial aid, registration, graduation and transfer assistance, to individualized education plans, individual and group tutoring and student success workshops.

“It was more than just help with registration and enrolling in the right classes. I learned things I never thought I would learn,” Booker said. “I received personal counseling in a more intimate setting. I learned to trust my advisers because they know what’s best for me. They want people to work hard, and it makes you a better person to know what you can accomplish.”

At the ceremony, each graduate received a customized plaque in recognition of successful completion of their chosen associate degree or certificate program. They also had the opportunity to award a special certificate to an instructor, staff member or loved one whose support made a difference during their time on campus.

“You have accomplished so much and demonstrated academically and scholastically that you are a college graduate,” Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown said. “You now have the tools, knowledge and training to be very successful. Look back and think about those in your family, friends and community who you can now help direct, guide and advise. Help someone like someone helped you.”

Treva Brown-Askey, a former TRiO participant and faculty member who chairs the Developmental Education Division at the college, also urged graduates to continue giving back to their community.

“Your journey doesn’t have to stop here,” Brown-Askey said. “You have the opportunity to do great things and the future is really yours. You have power. You are the example. We challenge you to take your experience to others. Keep moving forward.”

Brittnie Broglin came to Student Support Services shortly after losing her mother, struggling to make it through her first semester at Lee College while also working two jobs. Now, after earning a second associate’s degree in E-Business Web Development, she feels ready to step into a bright new future in the information technology field.

“They were there to support me, helping me transition after my mother passed and keeping me on track with the classes I needed,” Broglin said. “I feel wonderful. After all the studying and working, graduation feels like a burden has been lifted. I can breathe. To anyone considering TriO, I would say ‘just try.’ It can only help you.”

For more information about the TRiO Student Support Services at Lee College, contact 281.425.6500 or csebastien@lee.edu.

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 Program & Baytown Animal Shelter bringing dogs to campus

Pet therapy event Dec. 12-13 designed to help students relieve stress during finals

Pet Therapy 2016
Lee College Honors Program student Brenna Sallee (second from left) and the Student Honors Council came up with the idea to help students combat stress during Finals Week by bringing dogs from the Baytown Animal Shelter to campus. The pet therapy event is set for Dec. 12-13, 2016. Also pictured at the shelter (l-r): Cesar Lozoya, Honors Program student; Georgeann Ward, Honors Program coordinator; and Kevin Cummings, manager of Animal Services for the city of Baytown.

BAYTOWN, TX — Faced with end-of-semester essays and final exams as they enter the hectic holiday season, students in the Lee College Honors Program have partnered with the Baytown Animal Shelter to bring a little four-legged stress relief to campus during finals week.

The Student Honors Council will host a pet therapy event with dogs from the shelter from 12:30-2 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 12-13, in an enclosed area between John Britt Hall and the Advanced Technology Center. In addition to students, faculty and staff, members of the community are also welcome to pet, walk and even play fetch with the animals during their stay.

“I thought it would be a good idea to reach out to the Baytown Animal Shelter to see if they would be willing to sponsor a pet therapy event at Lee College,” said Student Honors Council President Brenna Sallee, who got the idea after seeing that other colleges and universities have helped students combat feelings of stress and anxiety by bringing dogs and puppies to campus.

“Their dogs would benefit from love and attention from the students at the college, and the students would benefit from getting outdoors to play with the animals,” she said.

According to the American College Health Association, pet activity programs have provided students with a safe opportunity to perform diverse connections, provided a healthy outlet for positive touch and promoted relaxation. Of 400-600 students who participated in a pet program at the University of Chicago, 89-94 percent strongly agreed or agreed the event helped decrease their overall level of stress.

Kevin Cummings, manager of Animal Services for the city of Baytown, jumped at the opportunity to showcase shelter animals at Lee College and raise awareness of adoption as an option. The shelter will also collect donations at the pet therapy event; toys are especially needed, and participants will be able to make their own toys at a creation station set up on site.

“Human companionship keeps the dogs alert and responsive, which improves their chances of being adopted,” Cummings said. “It also helps us advertise the wonderful dogs and cats looking to be part of a new family. Any exposure is good for our animals, especially during the holiday season.”

Georgeann Ward, coordinator of the Honors Program, helped the students pull together campus and community resources, but praised their initiative in bringing the pet therapy event to their peers. “Creating student leaders is one of the goals of the Honors Program,” she said.

For more information about the Lee College Honors Program or the pet therapy event during Finals Week, contact Ward at gward@lee.edu.

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 College to hold 2016 Fall Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 16

Ceremony will also be streamed live online via the Lee College website

Sen. Sylvia Garcia
Sen. Sylvia Garcia

BAYTOWN, TX – Lee College will recognize the achievements of more than 450 graduates at the 2016 Fall Commencement Ceremony to be held at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16, in the Sports Arena on campus. Texas State Sen. Sylvia R. Garcia will deliver the keynote address.

A livestream of the ceremony will also be available online via the Lee College website at www.lee.edu.

A native of the South Texas farming community of Palito Blanco, Garcia has represented Senate District 6 since 2013 and is chairwoman of the Texas Senate Hispanic Caucus. During the 84th Legislative Session, she passed 37 of her bills and served on the Education, Intergovernmental Relations, Transportation and Veterans Affairs & Military Installations committees.

After protecting children and the elderly as a social worker early in her professional career, Garcia entered public service with the city of Houston as director and presiding judge of the Houston Municipal System for an unprecedented five terms under two mayors. There, she worked to make the city court system more effective and efficient for the community. Garcia was later elected to city controller, earning a reputation as the taxpayers’ watchdog, and in 2002 was the first Hispanic and first woman to be elected in her own right to the Harris County Commissioners Court. As a commissioner, she continued her advocacy for working families and the most vulnerable, while also pushing for new jobs and economic development.

Garcia remains active in the Houston community, serving on more than 25 community boards and commissions including the San Jacinto Girl Scouts, which gave her the Board Award; Houston Hispanic Forum; American Leadership Forum; Battleship Texas; and the Museum of Fine Arts – Houston. She has been named “Humanitarian of the Year” by the National Conference of Communities and Justice and chosen as one of “Houston’s 25 Power People” by Inside Houston magazine.

The eighth of 10 children, Garcia’s parents taught her from an early age the value of education and hard work. She is a graduate of Texas Women’s University, which awarded her the Board of Regents Woman of Distinction Award, and earned a Juris Doctor degree from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University.

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.

‘Nutcracker’ and ‘Sugar Plum Fairy’ return to Lee College

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker at Lee College in 2012

BAYTOWN, TX — After performing holiday favorite “The Nutcracker” for three years in front of sold-out crowds – and with live accompaniment from the Baytown Symphony Orchestra since 2013 — the Bay Area Houston Ballet and Theatre (BAHBT) will return to Lee College this month to delight audiences with the beloved story of young Clara and her magical Christmas toy.

Three performances of “The Nutcracker” are scheduled for the Main Performance Hall at the Lee College Performing Arts Center (PAC): 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17, and a matinee set for 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 18. Tickets are priced at $20-45 and available for purchase online at www.lee.edu/pac or by calling the Box Office at 281.425.6255.

Tea Time with the Sugar Plum Fairy, 2013
Tea Time with the Sugar Plum Fairy, 2013

The only professional ballet company in the Bay Area with residence at the University of Houston Clear Lake, BAHBT has performed “The Nutcracker” for audiences in the Houston area for more than 40 years. The group produces a season each year in their performing residence at the University of Houston-Clear Lake that includes an eclectic array of ballets and musicals.

Families can create a special Christmas memory or start a new holiday tradition at “Tea Time with the Sugar Plum Fairy,” where children will meet and have their photo taken with one of the most iconic characters in “The Nutcracker,” known for her beautiful dance in the second act.

The ruler of the Kingdom of Sweets will greet, dance and spend time with children at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. in the PAC lobby, before the Saturday evening performance of “The Nutcracker.” Tickets for the tea are $25 and can also be purchased at www.lee.edu/pac or by contacting the Box Office.

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 College Vice President Debi Jordan to retire in January 2017

Debi Jordan and the Lee College leadership
Debi Jordan, second from the left, with Lee College President Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College’s Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI) 2016 scholarship recipients, Executive Vice President Dr. Christina Ponce and CCPI Grant Coordinator Kelly Dando at the 2016 CCPI Scholarship Reception. Jordan will retire from her position as Vice President of Workforce and Corporate Partnerships in January 2017.

BAYTOWN, TX When Debi Jordan was given the task of researching self-sustaining training programs at community colleges in 2005, she had no idea where it would end up. Seven years later, Lee College President Dr. Dennis Brown and its Board of Regents gave the go-ahead to launch the Lee College Center for Workforce and Community Development, and after a nationwide search, Jordan was selected to lead.

Now Jordan, the Vice President of Workforce and Corporate Partnerships, is ready to experience another new chapter: retirement. Jordan’s daughter is expecting a little girl in December, and she said though the decision was difficult, it became much easier with each ultrasound she saw.

“Being able to watch my daughter becoming a mom to her own daughter — it is coming full circle. I feel so blessed to have had such a great career, and Lee College really is my home,” Jordan said. “But this next part of my life feels so natural. With the help of a lot of great people, I believe this center — my third child — is in a great place. The foundation is stable, and under new leadership it’s poised to move to the next level. I’m ready to be a BeBe to my sweet Ella Rae, and to watch the center continue to grow.”

Over the past four years, the center has hosted 1,710 classes, served 7,694 different students and boasts a total enrollment count of 17,559 thanks to repeat students.

“Lee College is full of great people and Debi definitely shines in that group,” said Executive Vice President Dr. Christina Ponce. “She is one of the most professional, dedicated and hard-working individuals I have ever met. She has made such a tremendous difference not only at Lee College’s Center for Workforce and Community Development, but the entire community and the college as a whole. She is extremely loved and appreciated in our community for being an incredible civic oriented leader, a friend to all and a pioneer in workforce education. We are indebted to Debi for all she has been able to accomplish.”

Jordan helped establish and maintain partnerships with organizations like the Baytown/West Chambers County Economic Development Foundation, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, East Harris County Manufacturers Association, Economic Alliance Houston Port Region and the Greater Houston Partnership, as well as industry partners such as ExxonMobil, ChevronPhillips Chemical, Enterprise Products, Covestro, Shell, Bechtel and Jacobs.

“ExxonMobil deeply appreciates the support that Debi Jordan has provided our company during her time at Lee College, especially regarding our Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI) workforce development program,” said Connie Tilton of ExxonMobil Public and Government Affairs. “CCPI has been recognized across the state and nationally as a premiere program, and Debi’s leadership and vision has been the driving force behind it. Our workforce and community are better due to her dedication and hard work. Debi is leaving a legacy at Lee College, and it’s been our honor and privilege to work with her.”

Pam Warford, Executive Director of the Lee College Foundation, Director of Foundation and Donor Relations and a lifelong friend, described Jordan’s contributions to the college as intangible.

“She has increased our reach through relationships with individuals, organizations and consortiums.  These relationships have benefited the college in a huge way,” Warford said. “In addition, she has worked hard to bring the types of courses to Lee College that our partners in the industry have asked for — customized, fast-tracked training.”

Jordan helped organize and lead ExxonMobil’s initial $500,000 grant that established the CCPI. The grant, which has since increased to a total of total of $1.8 million, funds workforce development for the Houston-area petrochemical industry through nine local community colleges.

“Debi has been a unique asset to Lee College, and though we’re happy for her next chapter, we’re deeply saddened about losing her. Her networking skills, business acumen and passion for improving the lives of those around her will be missed,” Brown said. “We will conduct a national search for her replacement.”

In the interim, leadership of regional workforce initiatives will transition to Ponce. The Center’s leadership, which includes Interim Director of Corporate Services Marsha Tuha, Community Education Director Kimberlee Techeira and Business Operations Manager Delma Garcia, will lead the teams and day-to-day operations of the center under Ponce’s direction.

“I’ve known Debi for 10 years, and we’ve worked together for four years. I was a part of the center’s team when it began, so I’ve had a unique opportunity to witness and be part of the great things she’s done. She’s a special person to work for, because she’s so passionate and skilled at what she does. She isn’t just a boss, she’s a leader with a big heart,” Tuha said. “I’m happy that she’ll be able to spend time with her new grandbaby, but I’m definitely going to miss her. We all are.”

Jordan’s retirement is effective Jan. 1, 2017. She has also been a partner in an independent insurance agency in West Texas for nearly 30 years. She is a licensed agent, and plans on becoming more involved in the business.

Lee College thanks Jordan for her dedication & long-lasting impact in the community and workforce training.

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.