Texas Nonprofit Theatres honors Lee for hosting youth conference

Dr. Dennis brown accepts the plaque on behalf of Lee.
Lee College received an award plaque this month from Texas Nonprofit Theatres for hosting the organization’s 22nd annual Youth Conference, which brought 400 young people from across the state to campus for a week of performances and workshops. Pictured, from left: Walter Stricklin, Performing Arts Center director; Dr. Veronique Tran, Vice President of Instruction; Dr. Onimi Wilcox, Dean of Academic Studies; Ryan Martin, production specialist; Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown; Kim Martin, technical theater instructor; and Mark Hall, vice chairman of the Board of Regents.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College earned recognition this month from Texas Nonprofit Theatres (TNT) for hosting its 22nd annual Youth Conference. The gathering brought 400 young thespians and their directors and chaperones from across the state to campus for a summer camp-style week of performances and workshops.

Kim Martin, technical theater instructor and an officer on the TNT Board of Governors, presented the honorary plaque from the organization at the June meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents. The 2017 TNT Youth Conference, held from June 6-11 at the Performing Arts Center and various buildings around campus, marked the second consecutive year that Lee College has been selected to host the event.

“The TNT executive committee and officers wanted to give deep gratitude to Lee College for the wonderful job of providing amazing facilities, extraordinary service and unwavering support as hosts,” Martin said. “They can’t stop telling me how wonderful this place is. I’m proud of that and proud to be with Lee College, and I want you to know people from around the state recognize that, too.”

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.

Lee College Huntsville Center celebrates largest graduating class in 51-year history


Lee College graduation at Wynne Unit in Huntsville, TX, 06-10-17
More than 180 offenders incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) received associate degrees Saturday, June 10, 2017, at the Lee College Huntsville Center commencement. The ceremony took place inside the Wynne Unit prison in Huntsville. It was the largest graduating class in 51 years. The Huntsville Center is one of the oldest and biggest correctional education programs in the United States, with a growing enrollment of more than 1,200 students at six TDCJ prison units.

Nearly 200 incarcerated by Texas Department of Criminal Justice earn associate degrees

HUNTSVILLE, TX — As he embraced his wife and his mother after receiving his Associate of Applied Science degree from the Lee College Huntsville Center, Quincy Moore, Sr., struggled to describe what it meant to be one of more than 180 graduates honored at the commencement ceremony inside the chapel of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) Wynne Unit prison.

The Class of 2017 is the largest in the 51-year history of the Huntsville Center, one of the biggest and oldest correctional education programs in the United States. The center offers associate degrees and certificate programs in technical and academic fields to a growing enrollment of more than 1,200 students across six TDCJ units.

“There’s not an adjective to properly explain how I feel with my family being here with me, as well as this accomplishment that I made,” said Moore, who majored in horticulture and earned cum laude honors. After completing 16 years behind bars, he looks forward to freedom and using his degree to provide for his family and set a more positive example for his youngest son, Quincy Jr.

“Scooter (Langley) was a great instructor who taught me how to till soil and plant seeds, but I also cultivated my mind,” Moore said. “Education broadens your mind and offers you different opportunities. It exposes you to different things, and it has changed me for the better.”

Lee College Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown praised the Huntsville students — dressed in traditional black robes and mortarboards over their white TDCJ uniforms — for pursuing education and taking steps to become fully employed and productive citizens upon release. Recidivism data show that offenders who receive education while in prison are significantly less likely to return, he said.

“The curriculum is strenuous, rigorous and challenging, and they have achieved a major milestone in their lives,” Brown said. “We are so proud to have them leave here today, go out into the world and represent us as Lee College graduates.”

Before the graduates were called to the front of the chapel to receive their degrees, commencement speaker Terrell Blount reminded them to remember that life unfolds in phases both good and bad. The key to getting over the inevitable bumps in the road is being resilient and focused on the greater goal: leaving prison walls and never coming back. Completing a Lee College education is a way to truly prepare for that eventual release, rather than just biding time by waiting to go home, he said.

“When you’re hit with something, do not simply get up; you rise to the occasion and above the critics who say you don’t deserve a second chance or a third chance,” said Blount, himself a former offender who now serves as a program associate for the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City. “Rise because every morning leads to a new day. Rise because when you’re released, you’re not an ex-inmate or an ex-convict. You’re a person who serves a purpose on the planet, ascending to new levels.”

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.

‘Ready to Work’ grant program trains students for petrochemical careers

Free program offered through the workforce center targets unemployed & underemployed

H-1B Ready to Work Petrochem Grant grads and staff from the Center for Workforce and Community Development
Graduates of the Lee College H-1B Ready to Work Petrochem Grant program gathered with staff from the Center for Workforce and Community Development on Thursday, May 18, 2017, to celebrate completing their classes and earning nationally recognized industry credentials. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, the program offers free training to help the long-term unemployed and underemployed prepare for petrochemical careers.

BAYTOWN, TX — After completing free training at Lee College and earning craft and trade credentials recognized by employers around the country, nearly 40 students are now ready to begin careers in the booming petrochemical industry.

Lee College celebrated in late May the newest graduates of the H-1B Ready to Work Petrochem Grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. Offered through the Center for Workforce and Community Development at no cost to eligible participants, the program is designed to help the long-term unemployed and underemployed gain the knowledge and skills they need to prepare for high-growth and high-demand industry jobs in the Texas Gulf Coast region. Courses include pipefitting, welding, millwright, electrical, instrumentation, first-line supervisor, project management and process technology refresher — all taught by instructors with years of professional experience, using the latest tools of the trade and new technology found in the real-world working environment.

Dedra Moore had been looking to get into instrumentation for two years when she learned about the H-1B grant program and was referred to Lee College by Workforce Solutions.

“I didn’t give it a second thought; I was determined to get into that class and I didn’t want to miss a thing,” Moore said. “Our instructors were amazing. They motivated us and made sure each individual student understood every concept. They gave us 100 percent more than what we learned in the textbook. We were taught what to expect when we get into the industry, things to look for and the right questions to ask. When we get out there, we’ll know exactly what we’re looking at and what to do.”

At the end of each course, students receive certificates confirming they have successfully completed training and earned the National Center for Construction Education & Research (NCCER) credentials that employers in the petrochemical and construction industries trust and can verify.

“With all your hard work and dedication, you persisted to the end,” Marsha Tuha, director of Workforce Development, told the graduates. “This is the first step toward some amazing changes to come in your lives.”

And that’s exactly what graduate Roger Williams is confident he will make after completing the H-1B pipefitting course: a major change for the better. The Trinidad native led a rough life before immigrating to the United States, where he has earned his GED and also plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree after finding a position in the petrochemical industry.

“This program has been a life-changing experience and the perfect start,” Williams said. “I encourage and talk to everyone I know about it because it’s wonderful and it’s worth it.”

For more information about eligibility for and enrolling in the H-1B Ready to Work Petrochem Grant program at Lee College, contact the Center for Workforce and Community Development at 281.425.6311 or visit www.lee.edu/workforce/ready2work.

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.

Spring 2017 grad prepares for ‘a writer’s life’

The Sprinkle Family at Lee College
After completing Honors Program courses and earning her associate degree in May, Lee College graduate Miranda Sprinkle (third from left) will head off to Roanoke College in Virginia to pursue a bachelor’s degree in literature and a career in writing. Also pictured, from left: Jeff Sprinkle, Waylon Sprinkle, and Kim Sprinkle.

BAYTOWN, TX — “Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved,” said William Jennings Bryan, Secretary of State to former Pres. Woodrow Wilson, more than 100 years ago. And while Jennings was likely referring to the destiny of the United States, the sentiment is just as easily applied to humans — especially those who have discovered what they want to do, and more profoundly, who they want to be.

“I want to write. I want to be a writer. I want to touch other people the way I’ve been touched by the writers I love so much. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love books and didn’t want to live everyday without words,” said 24-year-old Miranda Sprinkle, a May 2017 Lee College graduate who has a plan and a destination clearly in her sights.

“It took me a while to develop that plan, partly because I just wasn’t sure what it would look like,” she said. “I knew what I loved; I love words. I love the possibility of words. But I didn’t know what a career would look like for me — a career that would allow me to support myself while pursuing my passion.”

Without a firm idea of the right career to pursue, Sprinkle opted to work after finishing high school rather than attempting college without well-defined goals. But the urge to write never left her alone, and she started researching degree paths and curricula.

“Over time, I began to realize that what I really wanted to pursue was a literature degree. I think, for me, that’s the best way to prepare myself to become a writer. And that’s what led me to publishing,” she said. “What better way to learn about being a writer than to work with professional writers as an editor at a publishing house?”

Sprinkle enrolled at Lee College for the fall 2014 semester, appreciating that the campus was so close to home and more affordable than other institutions. She wanted to take Honors Program courses to better prepare herself to move on to a university and signed up for “The Human Condition,” a unique seminar-style class that combines the disciplines of English and Humanities and emphasizes open discussion and critical thinking. Her instructors were encouraging, engaging and supportive in a way she had never before seen from a teacher.

“You’re exposed to different writers, philosophers, historians — different points of view on a whole range of ideas,” Sprinkle said. “The semester I took the course it focused on gender. That was the lens through which we viewed everything we learned. That process shows you how important perspective is. The lens you view your world through determines what you think, so changing that lens can deepen and broaden your perspective. I loved it.”

By the time she was taking The Human Condition, Sprinkle was focused on finding the four-year college or university that would be the best fit for her. As she researched the publishing industry, she came to the conclusion that the East Coast was where she needed to be if she was going to be serious about breaking into the world of publishing.

When the acceptance letter came from Roanoke College in Salem, Va., Sprinkle said she cried for about 10 minutes. Through a combination of scholarships, grants and student loans, a little more than 96 percent of tuition, board and meal costs will be covered — alleviating her fears about the financial burden to her parents, Kim and Jeff Sprinkle.

“My parents and I toured the campus. It was so beautiful and I felt like I really fit in. It just felt right. I wanted this so much,” Sprinkle said. “I just sat there, holding the letter. I kept reading, over and over, the sentence telling me I’d been accepted. The letter informing me how much in scholarships I’d been awarded came a few weeks later.”

That would qualify for many as a major life-moment. Its significance is underscored because Sprinkle did not immediately go to college after graduation. Statistically, college completion becomes even more difficult if a student chooses not to continue on to college immediately after graduating from high school.

“What a blessing,” said Kim Sprinkle. “Miranda would be looking at so much more debt if it weren’t for her time at Lee College. She is the first one in our family to graduate from college and my husband Jeff and I are very proud of her. We are looking forward to her continued progress towards her bachelor’s degree at Roanoke College. Lee College has truly impacted our family.”

Waylon Sprinkle, Miranda’s brother, is a U.S. Navy veteran currently attending Lee College.

“The Lee College Veterans Center has supported him in his pursuit of a criminal justice degree,” said Kim Sprinkle. “And while he’s always wanted to be a lawyer, his instructor at Lee College has helped him identify a range of career options. Now Waylon is considering a career with the FBI. Lee College has certainly played a role in the future of both our children.”

Now, the Sprinkle’s first college graduate finds herself ready to travel down her next path. The family will leave Baytown in late August to drive Miranda to Virginia to begin her new journey at Roanoke College.

And while practical matters like working through the summer to save money and finding a job as soon as she gets to Salem are in the foreground, the writer-in-waiting said she also can’t help but think about what lies ahead: “the life of words I’ve been dreaming of.”

For more information about the courses and opportunities available to students through the Lee College Honors Program, visit www.lee.edu/honors.

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.

Lee enrolling students in EMT courses coming to Baytown in July

Scholarships & payment plans available for those seeking EMT training, certification

Students practice loading patient into ambulance
Students in the Lee College EMT program practice loading classmate Makenzie Lowery, acting as a patient on a stretcher, into the full-size box ambulance simulator located inside the classroom at the Lee College Education Center – South Liberty County. Also pictured, from left: Hayley Bosarge, Chris Daniel, Tricia McQueen, and Dillon Danek.

BAYTOWN, TX — The Center for Workforce and Community Development at Lee College is bringing EMT classes to Baytown next month for those interested in preparing for a rewarding career on the front line of emergency medical care.

Scholarships and payment plans are available for students who enroll in the EMT course in Baytown, which will begin Monday, July 10. Two class sessions are being offered to help shift workers and others who want to complete training while juggling work and other responsibilities: a morning class from 8 a.m.-noon and an evening class from 6-10 p.m.

The EMT program at Lee College includes 144 hours of classroom instruction and 80 hours of rotations in clinical and ambulance settings. The curriculum requires students to master key skills and work through scenarios they will encounter in the field, from patient assessment and basic airway management to bandaging and splinting, bleeding control and spinal immobilization.

Students who successfully complete the EMT program are prepared to take the National Registry Assessment Exam to earn certification as an EMT, which qualifies them for entry-level positions responding to emergency calls, providing immediate care to the critically ill or injured and transporting patients to medical facilities. Students also need EMT certification to become firefighters or move up to careers as an Advanced EMT, EMT-Paramedic or Licensed Paramedic.

“A good EMT is someone who cares about people and can adapt to different environments and circumstances,” said Michael Cooper, who manages the EMT and Fire Science programs for the college and has been a certified medic herself for more than 30 years. “Every scene, every house, every call is different. Improvise, adapt and overcome — it’s part of doing the job. It gets in your blood.”

For more information about enrolling in the EMT program — especially getting ready for the July 10 start date in Baytown — contact the Center for Workforce and Community Development at 281.425.6311 or visit www.lee.edu/ems-program.

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.

Warford named Student Success Person of the Year

Award honors Warford’s diligent work to help students overcome financial barriers

Pam Warford selected Student Success Person of the Year
Pam Warford, executive director of the Lee College Foundation and director of Foundation and Donor Development, was honored as Student Success Person of the Year at the May meeting of the Board of Regents for her work to help students overcome financial barriers to their education. Pictured, from left: Executive Vice Pres. Dr. Christina Ponce, Director of Student Success DeDe Griffith, Warford, former Board of Regents Chairman Ronn Haddox, and Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown.

BAYTOWN, TX — Lee College has awarded Pam Warford, executive director of the Lee College Foundation and director of Foundation and Donor Development, the honor of Student Success Person of the Year for her tireless work and continuous efforts to help students overcome financial barriers that might otherwise prevent them from pursuing higher education.

DeDe Griffith, director of Student Success, presented Warford with the award plaque in May during a special presentation at the regular meeting of the Lee College Board of Regents.

“Her heartfelt desire to see students succeed and her diligent work at meeting their financial needs has fostered a culture of caring for students who may not have even attended college had it not been for scholarships,” Griffith said of Warford. “She provides the college with great communication with our external constituents, serves as a legislative liaison for the college, builds relationships and provides a spirit of camaraderie.”

In the nearly two decades she has spent at Lee College, Warford has been instrumental in helping secure funding for scholarships and other forms of support that help students reach their educational goals. With her leadership, the Lee College Foundation Gala raised a record $175,000 in 2016 – dwarfing the $9,800 raised at the gala when Warford arrived at the college in 1999. In addition, the fund balance of the Lee College Foundation increased from $4.7 million to more than $10 million during the same time period. Under the guidance of its Board of Directors, the foundation will award approximately $600,000 to students in the 2017-18 academic year.

When Hurricane Ike struck the Texas Gulf Coast in 2008, Warford created the Student Success Fund to help those facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses. She helped implement the first online scholarship application and expanded the types of support and availability of scholarships to ensure all students are eligible for assistance – whether enrolled full-time, part-time, in dual-credit classes for high school students to earn college credits, in non-credit classes offered by the Center for Workforce and Community Development, or in the Lee College Huntsville Center for students incarcerated by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Warford also supported the creation of the Britt/Hodgin Second Chance Scholarship benefiting students in the offender education program, and even found funds to purchase uniforms for the Model United Nations student organization to wear in a national competition earlier this year.

Though pleased by how much the college’s resources have grown over the course of her career, Warford gets the most joy from connecting with students and hearing how they were able to pursue their education and achieve their dreams with the support of the foundation and its donors. Receiving the Student Success Person of the Year honor for her work is incredibly humbling, she said.

“Seeing students get excited about their futures is the ultimate gratification,” Warford said. “Their success makes everything we do worthwhile.”

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.

Spring 2017 grad conquers 20-year cycle of destruction

Adrian Touchstone joined Honors Program and maintained 4.0 GPA during college career

BAYTOWN, TX — Before he was a Lee College Hall of Fame inductee and Honors Program student with a 4.0 GPA and mission to make a difference, Spring 2017 graduate Adrian Touchstone was stuck in a pattern of drugs, crime and incarceration.

It was during yet another stint behind bars that Touchstone finally realized that breaking the destructive cycle and starting down the path to higher education and a more purposeful life would require two major changes to his self-awareness and perspective. First, he had to take full responsibility for himself, his thoughts and his actions instead of blaming other people or difficult circumstances. Second, he had to embrace selflessness instead of the selfishness that had long defined him.

Adrian Touchstone receives his degree from Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College president
Adrian Touchstone, left, receives his Associate of Arts degree in alcohol and drug abuse counseling from Lee College President Dr. Dennis Brown at the 2017 Spring Commencement ceremony held in May. Touchstone broke a 20-year cycle of drug abuse and incarceration to graduate from Lee College, where he served as a student ambassador and earned acceptance into the Honors Program.

“From the time I was 20 until now, I was trying to figure out how to do the wrong thing, the right way,” said Touchstone, 43, who received an Associate of Applied Science degree in Alcohol and Drug Abuse Counseling at the 2017 Lee College Spring Commencement. He credits his family and loved ones for being supportive despite the odds he faced.

“Taking responsibility gives you power,” Touchstone said. “I started wanting to bring something to life instead of taking out of it. My way of thinking changed to doing the right thing, the right way. I’m taking my stumbling blocks and making them stepping stones.”

Studying to become an addiction counselor fit his new plan perfectly; he could go out into the community and help others conquer the demon of drug abuse that he had one faced. After enrolling at Lee College and starting the program with success, Touchstone earned acceptance into the Honors Program and realized that being two decades older than many of his peers was a strength and not the weakness he had first feared. Voicing his thoughts and listening to his classmates’ views in “The Human Condition,” a unique seminar-style Honors course that emphasizes critical thinking and discussion, showed him how his past experiences could be used to share knowledge with and learn from others. He began to see society and himself through different lenses and felt his mind grow in unexpected directions.

Forging strong, personal connections with motivated and knowledgeable instructors and earning scholarships from the Lee College Foundation made Touchstone eager to give back to the institution. He became a Student Ambassador, completing 90 hours of service in each semester of his first year, and was active in the Drug-Free Campus Committee, the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act Advisory Committee and other organizations that emphasize serving and uplifting others.

With his Lee College journey coming to an end, Touchstone is more committed than ever to recreating a meaningful life. He hopes to pursue a bachelor’s degree at University of Houston Clear Lake, then a master’s, and plans to do his part to positively impact others and make the world a better place. Being recognized by Lee College for his hard work inside and outside the classroom reminds him that making responsibility and selflessness a part of his mindset has been more than worth the effort; in fact, it has literally made the difference between life and death.

“When I started I had no idea where I would be at this point in my life. God was working,” Touchstone said. “I try to be better person every day so I can give God something to work with when He calls me. I want to give people hope and encouragement because there is always something new over the horizon. It’s never too late to start a new journey in life. Lee College is an opportunity to start a new path, follow a new dream and have a new ending. I’ve found myself in many different ways and places every day.”

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.