ExxonMobil gift benefits students from GCCISD, Barbers Hill

ExxonMobil donated $20,000 to Lee College and created two endowed scholarships focusing on local student excellence.

The ExxonMobil Advanced Technology Scholarships will be offered to select students graduating from Goose Creek CISD or Barbers Hill ISD who plan to pursue a petrochemical career through training at Lee College.

Baytown Chemical Plant Site Manager Wim Blokker said, “ExxonMobil is proud to establish these scholarships to aid in student success. We have the best in Baytown with Lee College and their premier energy education programs, and this scholarship funding will help us achieve our goal of helping petrochemical students fund their education. Our hope is that many will pursue a career at ExxonMobil Baytown.”

From left, Lee College Major Gifts Director Jennifer Garcia, ExxonMobil Baytown Area Public & Government Affairs Manager Aaron Stryk, Lee College Provost Douglas Walcerz, Lee College President Lynda Villanueva, ExxonMobil Baytown Chemical Plant Site Manager Wim Blokker, Lee College Board of Regents Chair Gilbert Santiago, Lee College Associate Vice President Dometrius Hill.

Helping Students Help the Planet


Emily Macias (left) and a fellow student collect sediment samples for the Living Shorelines Project.

Emily Macias has always known she wanted to work in the wild. Since she was a kid, she dreamed of spending her days as a marine biologist, zoologist, or even a veterinarian. But it wasn’t until she came to Lee College that she discovered how to make her dream of working with wildlife a reality.

After high school, Macias enrolled at Lee College in hopes of later transferring to a university as a marine biology major. Little did she know that her experiences at Lee College were just the beginning of a fascinating career path in environmental science.

Jim Dobberstine, environmental science faculty member at Lee College, was one of the instructors and mentors who helped Macias discover a love for environmental science and set her future in motion.

“[Jim] took us on field trips to places like the eco center and Armand Bayou Nature Center, and brought in guest speakers to lecture us on what they do with their careers,” Macias recalls. “The guest speakers and field trips were eye-openers for me, and I battled for a moment with what I wanted my career choice to be.”

That summer, Macias volunteered for the Living Shorelines Project lead by Dobberstine. An ongoing team effort between Lee College, University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) and the Galveston Bay Foundation, the Living Shorelines Project offers students first-hand experience in field research and lab work.

“I learned many things from that project, but most importantly, I decided to continue my career in environmental science,” said Macias.

The Living Shorelines Project aims to understand various shoreline erosional trends and how they affect plant and marine life throughout the Bay Area. The data is then used to compare unrestored natural marsh sites and traditionally armored sites near each project. Students from Lee College, in collaboration with students at UHCL, work alongside professionals in the respective fields from Lee College, UHCL, Galveston Bay Foundation, Texas Parks and Wildlife, and others.

“Often times, these students are in a transfer pipeline, so getting them involved on this level gives them not only research credentials at the freshman and sophomore level, which is very unusual, but it also provides them an opportunity to matriculate with upper-level students,” said Dobberstine.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for students to start working on a project such as Living Shorelines, and a few years later, they naturally transition to a leadership role within the program as part of the partnerships developed under the program.

“I look at these things as career development, so the longer they are in it and the more different layers, the better,” said Dobberstine. “They are prepared for whatever career direction they’re going in or academic direction, in some instances where they’re going to grad school. It gives them that type of preparation on several different levels.”

A stellar example of the program’s success, Macias received an associate’s degree in environmental science from Lee College, then transferred to UHCL where she is currently majoring in environmental science and specializing in chemistry. She continues to work at Lee College as a lab tech in the environmental science and chemistry labs, and serves as a leader and mentor to students active in environmental science field research projects.

New Plan Offers Discounts for ’21 GC Grads

With student persistence and success their primary goals, the Lee College Board of Regents approved a plan that will save 2021 Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District (GCCISD) graduates hundreds of dollars this fall. Under this dynamic plan, GCCISD graduates who register for at least 12 credit hours will receive an $800 discount on their tuition and fees, while graduates who register for at least 6 credit hours will receive a $400 discount during the Fall 2021 term.

“Approval of this support plan shows that Lee College is committed to helping students continue their educational goals and overcome the impacts from the coronavirus pandemic,” said Gilbert Santana, Chairman, Lee College Board of Regents.

To receive the discounts, students must be 2021 graduates of GCCISD and seeking a degree or certificate. Students must complete the FAFSA or TASFA prior to registration, but the assistance is considered first-dollar, which means it is awarded to students regardless of the amount of financial aid they receive.

To encourage persistence at Lee College, these discounts will continue in Spring 2022 for 2021 GCCISD graduates who earn a C or higher in all of their fall classes.

“As things slowly start to return to normal, we want to encourage students to keep striving for the degree or certificate they have always dreamed of achieving,” said Dr. Lynda Villanueva, Lee College president. “This plan is one way to bolster their dreams and give students a helping hand to persist in their education.”

This most recent plan is in addition to the free books already being offered to all students currently enrolled at Lee College.

The Student Assistance plan includes:

  • 2021 GCCISD graduates who enroll full-time will receive an $800 discount on their tuition and fees.
  • 2021 GCCISD graduates who enroll half-time will receive a $400 discount on their tuition and fees.
  • These conditions will also apply for 2021 GCCISD graduates who enroll in Spring 2022, provided they earn a C or higher on all classes they took in Fall 2021

Visit the Student Support Plan website for more information on how to qualify for discounts. https://www.lee.edu/free/.

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 receives largest gift ever, $5 million from MacKenzie Scott

Lee College is honored to announce it has received a $5 million gift from author and philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott
MacKenzie Scott

The gift recognizes Lee College’s innovative work to support its most underserved students, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The unsolicited gift is the largest gift ever received in the college’s 87-year history.

Lee College President Dr. Lynda Villanueva commented, “We are overwhelmed by Ms. Scott’s generosity, and we are thrilled to be recognized for our transformative student success work.”

In 2020, Lee College awarded more than $2 million to students for unmet basic needs like food, housing, childcare and medical expenses through its Lee Cares program. Dr. Villanueva said, “This incredible gift will let us significantly expand our work supporting our students and community as we emerge from this global health crisis.” The college also offered free tuition during Summer 2020 and partnered with local school districts to provide free tuition for 2020 graduates for the fall semester. The result was a 41 percent increase in enrollment in the summer and an overall 1 percent increase in headcount for the fall. Dual enrollment at local high schools also increased by 18 percent over the previous year. 

“This donation recognizes the College’s visionary leadership — along with the really hard work of our faculty and staff to ensure our students realize their educational goals. This gift is confirmation of the life-changing work that is being done by Lee College, work being recognized nationwide,” said Lee College Regents Board Chair Gilbert Santana.

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 Specialist Joins Dept. of Ed Roundtable

Dr. Brandon Warren, Lee College Huntsville Center’s Transition Specialist, met with U.S. Department of Education Secretary, Miguel Cardona in a roundtable discussion about extending government funded Pell Grants to currently incarcerated students.

Image of Dr. Brandon Warren, Lee College Transition Specialist, Huntsville Center
Dr. Brandon Warren, Transition Specialist, Lee College Huntsville Center

Warren was recommended by the Vera Institute of Justice to participate as a key contributor in the virtual discussion, because of his expertise in transition operations and his first-hand experience with education in prisons.

“The most important thing I wanted to point out was the undeniable value of having college in prison,” said Warren. “Beyond the practical benefits of saving taxpayers money by reducing recidivism rates and increasing employability once prisoners get out, there’s also a personal transformation and a family restoration that happens when students in prison accomplish their educational goals.”

He further recommended that all degree and certificate programs should come from accredited institutions like Lee College, and the coursework should be just as rigorous as the institution’s “free world” counterparts. Warren also emphasized his belief that people in prison with long-term and life sentences should not be excluded from accessible education.

“Even if someone is serving a long-term or life sentence and will never get out of prison, they are the ones who create and maintain the culture inside the prisons,” he said. “If they change, the entire prison culture will change for the better.”

Having served several years in prison himself, Warren is a formerly incarcerated student and an alumnus of the Lee College Huntsville Center. In 2015, he returned to the prison system, but this time to help other currently incarcerated students prepare for success after their release.

As a Transitional Specialist for the Lee College Huntsville Center, Warren does this by assisting in job placements, continuing education, and helping incarcerated students find the resources they need to live a constructive and meaningful life outside the prison walls.

In 2020, Warren earned a Doctor of Education from the University of St. Thomas, and he continues to pour into Lee College Huntsville Center, the very place that gave him his fresh start in life.

Dr. Lynda Villanueva, Lee College President, said she is proud of the valuable mission that continues to be accomplished at the Lee College Huntsville Center.

“Lee College believes in second chances and the transformative power of education in the lives of students and their families,” said Villanueva. “We are honored that our institution was represented as part of this critical discussion with Education Secretary Cardona.”

Lee College’s Huntsville Center currently provides academic and technical programs to more than 1,200 incarcerated students at eight Texas Department of Criminal Justice units.

LC Board Elects New Chair, Officers

The Lee College Board of Regents unanimously elected Gilbert Santa to serve as chairman of the Board of Regents for the next two years. Other newly-elected officers included Judy Jirrels, vice chair; Mark Himsel, secretary; Daryl Fontenot, assistant secretary. The Board of Regents is reorganized every two years to coincide with the election schedule. 

Gilbert Santana, New Chairman of the Lee College Board of Regents
Gilbert Santana, Chairman LC Board of Regents

As a native Baytownian and Lee College alumnus, Santana has lived and worked his entire life in Baytown. He owns BDI Resources and Staffing Connection, and proudly offices on Texas Ave. Santana serves on various committees and boards for the City of Baytown, GCCISD Education Foundation Board, Rotary Club of Baytown, Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital Board, Baytown Chamber of Commerce Board, Lee College Foundation Board and several other local organizations. 

“I am honored to be selected to serve as chair of this hard-working and dedicated group of individuals whom I also consider to be my dear friends,” Santana said. “Lee College is a blessing and a strength to our community and our state, and I am excited to be a part of this wonderful institution.”

Lee College President, Dr. Lynda Villanueva said she is enthusiastic about the future and what it has in store for Lee College.

“The Board of Regents and Lee College remain focused on improving student experiences and outcomes, and ensuring that we are the workplace of choice for faculty and staff,” said Villanueva. “I believe we have an amazing team in place to make these things happen.”

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.

LC Lowers Risk Level to Green

Lee College announced it will lower the health risk level on campus to green beginning Monday, May 24. The announcement came after new guidance was released by the CDC. As a result of a lowered risk level, the College will now be able to provide more in-person classes at full capacity while maintaining an online option as well.

“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome our students and staff back to campus,” said Dr. Lynda Villanueva, Lee College president. “It has been a challenging year, and I am so grateful to our faculty and staff for being resilient and flexible during this time. I’m also proud of our students for their persistence and can-do spirit through it all. We look forward to busy, successful semesters this summer and fall.”

Registration at Lee College is now open for everyone for Summer 2021 and Fall 2021. The College is offering free books for all students this summer and a discount for full-time students of up to $400 on tuition and fees during the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 terms.

All students and employees are encouraged to protect themselves against Covid-19 by becoming vaccinated if they have not already done so. On June 8, Houston Methodist Hospital will host a vaccine clinic inside the Lee College gym for those who wish to receive their first or second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

To see a full list of campus updates and guidelines associated with the green risk level, see the Lee College Coronavirus information website. https://www.lee.edu/coronavirus/.


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.

2021 Nursing Grads Celebrate Pinning

Congratulations to the 2021 Lee College Nursing School Graduates: Lorella Ames, Kimberly S. Bell, Latoya L. Blair, Katrina M. Broussard, Darylynn Carter, Maria Fernanda Chavarin, Hershelle Johnette Christian, Stephanie Michelle Davis, Angelica Estrada, Lorena Garza, Danielle Denise Gladney, Katelyn Elizabeth Granelli, Natalie L. Jackson, Yareli J. Juarez, Maleatria A. Kitchen, Sonia Renee Lansford, Samantha Lara Lerma, Natalie Kay Martin, Jazmine Iris Martinez, Joselyn Mendoza, Sarah A. Monaghan, Tara Faith Priddy, Rachael B. Reynolds, Regina Lee Roach, Jacob M. Rogers, Kelsey Ann Caluyo Roque, Joselyn Rosas, Sheri Dawn Taylor, Ifeoluwa Eunice Temi-Ogunyemi, Samantha Kaye Thrush, Guadalupe Velazquez, Lakeshia L. Walker, Jessica Renee Whitehouse, and Guadalupe Zepeda.

After overcoming unprecedented challenges surrounding the pandemic, the Lee College Nursing Class of 2021 celebrated its long-awaited pinning ceremony last Thursday with 34 graduates proudly completing the nursing program.

According to Dr. Janena Norris, dean of nursing and allied health at Lee College, the class of 2021 is an extraordinary class worth celebrating because of their determination, willpower, and drive to succeed.

Nursing graduates in white uniforms standing in an arena next to chairs holding symbolic lamps.
2021 Lee College Nursing School graduates are shown at the traditional pinning ceremony. Faculty members present the nursing pin to new graduate nurses as a symbolic welcome to the profession.

“The class of 2021 has endured an overwhelming amount of challenges. With the restrictions of the pandemic, they had to overcome challenges in getting clinical placements to complete required hours and complete many of their courses online rather than in person. The stress of having nursing school without peers and faculty around them daily created another challenge. Some of them also battled personal hardships and struggles as well,” said Norris.

Most 2021 Lee College nursing school graduates were from the Baytown area with some traveling from as far away as Humble, Texas.   

Norris said many of the 2021 graduates have already received job offers and can enter the workforce with a graduate nurse permit. While they must still take their state board licensing exam and pass to obtain their permanent nursing license, they can begin work with a graduate nurse permit.

Female nursing graduates in white uniforms and masks holding symbolic lamps.
The lamps symbolize knowledge that is passed from instructor to graduate nurse.

“Nursing school is extremely hard even during perfect circumstances, but surviving nursing school amidst a global pandemic is really remarkable,” said Norris. “We are so proud of them and can’t wait to see the big things they accomplish.”

Regina Roach, a Lee College 2021 nursing school graduate said there was a brief period during the height of the pandemic when she wasn’t sure she would make it through the program.

“There was a point when we were homeschooling our three kids, our nursing classes were delayed, none of us had ever taken online classes before, and I came close to quitting,” said Roach. “But my nursing friends and I stuck together and the instructors were so supportive. They still text us and call us to encourage us. The staff is really amazing.”

As a second-career nurse, Roach said she always felt like God made her to serve others, but she never considered nursing until after she delivered her first child in a hospital. From that point on, she felt called to be a nurse.

“I had no idea what nursing school was going to be like going into it,” said Roach. “School was never difficult for me, but nursing school is a whole different world. I studied like it was my fulltime job.”

Four females in white uniforms and masks holding symbolic lamps.
Roach (center right) is shown with her support system and fellow nursing graduates.

Although nursing school is a lot of hard work, Roach said it is extremely rewarding to know that you can accomplish your dreams. She encouraged anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in nursing to go for their dreams and to look into what the nursing program at Lee College has to offer.

“Just go for it,” Roach said to anyone interested in a career in nursing. “Ignore the people who don’t believe in you because you will find your people who believe in you and will help you succeed.”

Roach was hired immediately after graduation and will begin her career as an ICU nurse at HCA Healthcare in the coming weeks.

For more information about how to make your dream of becoming a nurse a reality, visit the Lee College nursing program website at www.lee.edu/nursing.  

Campus Program Focuses on Sexual Assault Awareness

According to RAINN’s website, every 73 seconds a person is sexually assaulted in the United States. However, many of those cases go unreported because of fear or confusion surrounding the incident.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), and the Lee College Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act (SaVe) program wants to remind everyone about the on- and off-campus resources available to assist students and employees at any stage in their journey as a survivor or a person who supports survivors of sexual assault.

You are not alone.
CampusSaVE reminds you April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month 
For resources: www.lee.edu/titleix/available-resources/
Lee College

Kassandra Flores, Puente Program Coordinator and Campus SaVE Advisor explains that some individuals may have experienced this type of assault and developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result. Programs like Campus SaVE and SAAM are designed to help educate faculty, staff and students and give them a means to identify and name some of those experiences.

“I think one of the greatest things about Sexual Assault Awareness Month is that people are actively sharing their stories, statistics, resources, and most importantly, showing support,” said Flores. “Sometimes all the other person needs to hear is ‘I believe you’ and ‘you are not alone.’”

If you or someone you know has experienced any form of sexual violence, to include sexual harassment, stalking, intimate partner violence, or sexual assault, help and resources are available.

The Campus SaVE advisory committee consists of both campus and community representatives. This group meets several times each semester to discuss policy and bringing information to the campus regarding sexual harassment, domestic violence, stalking, dating violence, and sexual assault.

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 Offers Student Discounts, Free Books

The Lee College Board of Regents on Monday unanimously approved a student support plan that will provide free books to all students this summer and save full-time students up to $400 on tuition and fees during the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 terms. The support plan is another way Lee College is striving to help all students continue their educational goals and overcome the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Lee College’s student assistance for summer, fall and spring is designed to encourage students not only to finish the journey they started previously at Lee College, but it will hopefully attract many students who were going to enter college last fall but postponed their plans due to the pandemic,” said Dr. Douglas Walcerz, provost and vice president of academic and student affairs at Lee College. “Now that we are closer to the end of the pandemic than the beginning, we look forward to more and more students feeling confident about enrolling and finishing their degree or certificate here at Lee College.”

Although degree seeking and certificate seeking students are required to complete the FAFSA or TAFSA to receive the benefits, this assistance is considered a first-dollar scholarship that is awarded to each student regardless of the amount of financial aid they receive.

Because the program is designed to encourage persistence, students must take advantage of the Fall 2021 assistance to be eligible for the Spring 2022 assistance. Plan details are outlined below:

Summer 2021

1. Dual-credit, and degree- and certificate-seeking students will receive free books via the myBooks program.

2. Degree- and certificate-seeking students must complete the FAFSA/TASFA to qualify for benefits.

3. Benefits are paid by the college, regardless of how much financial aid a student receives.

Fall 2021

1. The fall support plan only applies to degree- and certificate-seeking students (non-dual credit).

2. Students will receive free books via the myBooks program.

3. Students must complete the FAFSA/TAFSA to qualify for these benefits.

4. Benefits are paid by the College regardless of how much financial aid a student receives.

5. Students will receive a discount on tuition and fees of $400 for full-time enrollment, or $200 discount on tuition and fees for half-time enrollment. There is no discount for student enrolled at less than half-time.

6. Students who pass all of their fall courses with a C or better receive the same assistance for free books and the same discount on tuition and fees on their spring courses.

Spring 2022

1. The spring assistance only applies to degree- and certificate-seeking students who received free books and tuition discounts in the fall semester. Students who were not enrolled in the fall are not eligible for free books or a discount on tuition and fees in the spring.

2. Free books and tuition discounts are paid by the College regardless of how much financial aid a student receives.

3. Full-time students will receive a discount on tuition and fees of $400 and half-time students will receive a discount on tuition and fees of $200. Students who pass all of their fall courses with a C or better receive free books and a discount on tuition and fees of $400 for full-time students and $200 for half-time students.

Students who have one enrollment intensity in the fall, e.g., full-time, and a different enrollment intensity in the spring, e.g., part-time, receive the corresponding discount in each semester.

4. Students who will be within 15 semester credit hours of completing an associate degree by the end of the fall semester receive an additional $100 discount if they meet with an academic advisor and sign a completion plan prior to Friday, Oct. 29, 2021.

Lee College advisors will be available to help explain the student support program and answer any questions students or their parents may have about how to qualify for the discounts. Students are also encouraged to visit the 2021 Support Program website for more information: https://www.lee.edu/free/.

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.