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.

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.

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.

Class of 2017 told to ‘stay in the driver’s seat’ at Spring Commencement

Newest Associate Degree Nursing graduates also recognized in separate Pinning Ceremony

Lee College 10 a.m. Graduation ceremony
Lee College recognized more than 630 graduates at the 2017 Spring Commencement held Saturday, May 13, 2017, in the Sports Arena on campus. Sisters Tina Pennington and Mandy Williams, better known as “Red” and “Black,” delivered the keynote address and encouraged graduates to face their fears, polish their soft skills and remain strong and driven in pursuing their dreams.

BAYTOWN, TX — As a capacity crowd packed with family, friends and supporters cheered and applauded from the audience, more than 630 Lee College graduates were recognized for earning associate degrees and certificates of completion at the 2017 Spring Commencement ceremonies.

“You cannot imagine how proud we are,” Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown told the graduates. “As you move forward, know that this is not the end of your journey; it is the beginning. It’s the time where you think about your next steps, and I would also ask you to remember those that will follow you. You have blazed a trail. Thank you for what you’ve accomplished, and for what you’ve done for those that will follow you because of the successes you have earned.”

In their keynote address to the Class of 2017 – which included nearly two dozen IMPACT Early College High School students receiving their associate degrees before their high school diplomas – sisters, authors, educators and entrepreneurs Tina Pennington and Mandy Williams encouraged the graduates to remember that some of the greatest blessings in life can come from confronting the most difficult and challenging situations. Pennington and Williams, better known as “Red” and “Black” respectively, learned that lesson firsthand after Red’s husband was fired from his job and she turned to her sister for help mastering the family’s finances. Black, who earned an MBA in International Finance from New York University and London Business School before retiring from the oil and gas industry at just 40 years old, assured the nervous Red – a Theater Arts graduate at Wake Forest University who became a full-time wife and mother and was initially intimidated by financial terminology like “assets and liabilities” – that the job loss and subsequent processes of learning about personal finance and rebuilding her life would be the best thing to ever happen to her.

The frank and candid messages the sisters exchanged during Red’s period of crisis formed the basis of their national bestseller, “What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired!” which features practical guidance and advice about achieving financial health and a richer, more satisfying life. Initially launched by Neiman Marcus, the book has since been adapted into an educational program at KIPP Houston High School and incorporated into book study programs at more than 30 percent of Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison units. Along with financial literacy, Red and Black also emphasize the need for soft skills like critical thinking, problem solving, communication and teamwork.

“Once I started doing personal finance, realized the importance of the soft skills I already had and just stopped to think about things, I realized she was right,” Red told the Lee College graduates. “It really was the best thing for me – but more than that, it was the best thing for my daughters, and to be able to talk with students like yourselves and others we come across.”

As the first woman to race the road course at Indianapolis, Black used racing analogies to present the graduates with an essential life choice: being a passenger who lets life control them, or being a driver who controls their own life. Remember the important corners on the track that require a steady hand, and keep the fun of the curves in perspective of the bigger picture, she said. Most of all, stay in the driver’s seat instead of simply coasting along.

“Think of all the times you could have quit, all the excuses you could have made, but you kept going. You’re here today and you’ve proved that you are strong and driven,” Black said. “None of us know where our lives are going to take us. Take a deep breath, hold on to the steering wheel and throttle on.”

2017 Associate Degree Nursing Pinning Ceremony

Lee College Nurse Pinning ceremony
Lee College welcomed the 60 newest graduates of the Associate Degree Nursing program into the nursing profession at the annual Pinning Ceremony held Friday, May 12, 2017, in the Sports Arena on campus. Each graduate received a pin to signify completion of their Lee College journey and entry into the next phase of their lives and careers.

The 60 newest graduates of the Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program received pins to signify completion of their Lee College journey at the annual Pinning Ceremony, where they were also welcomed into the nursing profession and charged to devote themselves to the welfare of the patients that will soon be committed to their care.

ADN faculty presented individual awards to students who displayed academic and clinical excellence and best represented the unique spirit of nursing, before calling each student to the stage one by one to be recognized. As a special twist this year, graduates were given the option of having a registered nurse of their choice join Director of Nursing Tracy Allen to congratulate them and affix the coveted metal pins to their starched, white uniforms.

Graduates then lined up to receive the symbolic light of knowledge from their instructors, passing the live flame from one ceramic lamp to the next and reciting the Florence Nightingale Pledge taken by all professional nurses.

Citing a quote from former Pres. Teddy Roosevelt about the importance of striving for success and staying in the arena despite failures and shortcomings, Allen praised the graduates for their consistent effort to complete the rigorous program and prove their knowledge and mastery of the important skills and abilities they need to be effective nurses. The nursing pins they earned at Lee College will become one of their most prized possessions as they continue into the next phase of their lives and careers, she said.

“You are well prepared and ready to enter the workforce in the greatest profession in the world,” Allen said. “Congratulations — we are all very proud of you.”

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 to recognize more than 630 graduates at 2017 Spring Commencement

Graduates of Associate Degree Nursing program will also receive pins in separate ceremony

BAYTOWN, TX – Lee College will recognize the achievements of more than 630 graduates at the 2017 Spring Commencement Ceremony. Tina Pennington and Mandy Williams, sisters better known as “Red” and “Black” who co-authored a book about personal finance and developed an educational program to promote financial literacy, will be the guest speakers.

Spring Commencement will be held at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Saturday, May 13, in the Sports Arena on campus. The ceremonies will also be streamed live online via the Lee College website at www.lee.edu.

Born in New York, Pennington and Williams — or Red and Black, respectively — wrote the nationally recognized best seller, “What I Learned About Life When My Husband Got Fired!” after Pennington’s husband lost his job. A Theater Arts graduate from Wake Forest University and stay-at-home mom, Pennington quickly realized how little she understood about the family’s personal finances and turned to her sister for help. Williams, who holds an economics degree from Wilkes College, earned an MBA in International Finance from New York University and London Business School and retired from the oil and gas industry at just 40 years old, responded by taking her sister on a frank and candid three-month tour through the real world of money.

Their book features a wealth of practice guidance and advice about managing personal finances to achieve financial health and a richer, more satisfying life – exploring everything from specific issues like balance sheets and credit cards, to long-term financial planning and more fundamental concepts like values, time management and handling stress. Initially launched by Neiman Marcus, the book has since become the basis of the “Personal Finance & Life 101” program the sisters developed and taught at KIPP Houston High School. The book has also been approved by the Texas State Board of Education as a personal financial literacy textbook, and is being introduced at Texas Department of Criminal Justice units as part of a book study program.

Now authors and educators, Red and Black also write columns about personal finance and are frequently invited for speaking engagements and appearances. They delivered the keynote address at the spring convening of the Educate Texas STEM Accelerator in March, and have also spoken this year at the Greater Houston Partnership’s UpSkill Houston Regional Faculty Summit and the Texas Career Education Winter Conference.

2017 Associate Degree Nursing Pinning Ceremony

Spring 2017 graduates of the Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) program at Lee College will be honored and welcomed into their new profession at the annual Pinning Ceremony set for 7 p.m., Friday, May 12, in the Sports Arena.

As part of the ceremony, nursing graduates will receive a special pin signifying their participation in the Lee College ADN program. They will also recite the Florence Nightingale Pledge, an oath named for the founder of modern nursing and taken by all professional nurses. Faculty members will recognize students who have demonstrated high academic achievement and clinical excellence throughout the two-year program, and lead graduates in a sacred lamp-lighting ceremony that symbolizes the passage of knowledge from one generation of nurses to the next.

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 honors first graduates of the Weekend College

Less than 2 years after program launched, nearly 30 students will receive associate degrees

Lee College's first Weekend College graduation event held in Rundel Hall, 05/07/17
Less than 24 months after enrolling in the Weekend College at Lee College, the first graduates of the innovative program were honored at a ceremony held Sunday, May 7, 2017, and will receive associate degrees at 2017 Spring Commencement. Pictured, back row, from left: Jessica Francis, Olivia Barillari-Davila, Ezequiel Arriaga, Christopher Ramirez, Gerald Garcia, Gabriel Peterson, Tyler Butler, Juan Herrera, Alex Garza, George Jewell and Jose Castillo. Middle row: Raquel Velazquez, Rosa Ibarra Castillo; Reyna Gomez, Jameal Jones, Christy Ary, Cathy Graham and Ronise Devore. Bottom: Brittany Farrias and Cinthia Aguillon.

BAYTOWN, TX — Less than 24 months after entering the Weekend College at Lee College and embarking on a brand-new journey targeted to adult learners and working students juggling school with other responsibilities, the first 28 graduates of the program were honored at a special ceremony held just days before they cross the stage to receive their associate degrees at the 2017 Spring Commencement.

“It is amazing to recognize the very first graduates of our Weekend College program. You all are truly trailblazers. Because of your persistence and cooperation, we’ve developed something that will serve a lot of students in the future,” Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown shared with graduates in a keynote address at the ceremony, held Sunday, May 7, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center. “What you have done sets in motion something that will inspire those who will follow you someday.”

Funded through a $2.7 million First in the World Grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the Weekend College gives students the opportunity to earn associate degrees in less than 2 years by attending classes only on Friday evenings and Saturdays. Five majors are offered: Transfer in Allied Health, General Studies – Social Science Concentration, Business Administration and Management, Industrial Welding Technology and Computer and Network Maintenance Technology.

Of the first cohort of students to enroll in the Weekend College in Fall 2015, fully 65 percent are expected to complete their degree programs within three years or less – significantly more than the state average of 12 percent. Much of that success is attributed to the program’s unique design, which keeps the same groups of students together from enrollment to graduation or transfer; offers courses at multiple campus locations, with many delivered in a hybrid format that blends online and classroom instruction; provides block scheduling that enables students to know exactly which courses to take and when they will be held; and ensures Weekend College courses are never dropped or filled to capacity. Students also work with a completion coach who helps them apply and enroll, secure financial aid and conquer any challenges that arise during the program or after graduation.

“You would never have made it through the Weekend College if you didn’t have ambition, faith and belief that this could be done, and you did it,” Brown said. “You challenged yourself in this program, and you should continue to challenge yourself. Never settle for the least; always look for the most. Go out, find, search, seek and make it happen. Education is the one thing that no one can ever take from you.”

At the ceremony, graduates received glass trophies acknowledging their completion of the program and awarded certificates to someone whose support made a difference during their Lee College career — whether it was a faculty or staff member, classmate, parent, spouse or even their child. Reyna Gomez, who will be receiving an Associate of Applied Science degree in Management, thanked Weekend College Completion Coach Jessica Falla for helping her at every step of the journey.

“I started the program really nervous and was going to stop going to school completely, but you were always there from the beginning,” Gomez said, referring to Falla and the other Weekend College staff and instructors whom she got to know in the program. “Nobody knew I was struggling trying to keep up with my classes, but I had a dream to accomplish. Though it wouldn’t be easy, you told me it would be worth it. Thank you all, because I made it.”

The Lee College Foundation also awarded scholarships to four of the top Weekend College students in the 2017 graduating class that can be used to continue their education or for expenses they face as they prepare to enter the workforce. Recipient Alex Garza, who maintained a 4.0 GPA while attending classes and working a full-time schedule of 40-50 hours per week, plans to earn a specialized certification in computer technology and pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Houston.

“I would tell anyone thinking about signing up for the Weekend College to go for it,” said Garza, who will receive an Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer and Network Maintenance Technology. “You get to know your fellow students and instructors in a way you wouldn’t if you were in a more traditional program.”

The tight, close-knit bond shared by the students, instructors and staff is part of what makes the Weekend College so special. Grant director Victoria Marron encouraged the graduates to stay in touch with each other and their Lee College family as they continue into the next phases of their lives and careers.

“I’m full of thanks, appreciation and reflection,” Marron said. “Creating a program from scratch is no easy task and it takes a village to come together. When you get this degree and walk across that stage, take a moment and look around you. You’ve defeated so many odds and all your cheerleaders have been there to support you. Know that we support you and encourage you still.”

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.

Completion Coach motivates Weekend College students to persist to graduation

Jessica Falla, Weekend College Completion Coach
Jessica Falla, Completion Coach for the Weekend College at Lee College, counsels a student during a session in her office. The Completion Coach works with Weekend College students to offer support and help break down barriers they encounter before enrolling in the program and through graduation. A free information session about the Weekend College is set for Thursday, April 13.

BAYTOWN, TX — As a community college graduate who took developmental classes, commuted to her Queens, N.Y., campus and juggled schoolwork with caring for her grandmother, Jessica Falla is especially well suited for her role as the Completion Coach for Lee College’s innovative Weekend College program.

Whenever a Weekend College student needs help with a problem inside or outside of the classroom, Falla is only a phone call, text message, email or visit away — and many students credit the consistent, warm and knowledgeable support of their Completion Coach for motivating them to conquer challenges and persist toward their degree.

“The common ground is that everyone is filled to the brim with responsibilities. No one can be just a college student; they have all of these roles they play that have to remain intact even while they go to school,” said Falla, who holds a Master of Education degree in school counseling.

“I understand what it’s like being pulled in so many different directions, and I was always grateful for the personal interactions I had with staff and counselors when I was in college,” she said. “I want students to walk into my office and feel they can relax and open up. Whatever barrier they’re facing, I take it on with them and we will overcome it together.”

Weekend College students can earn associate’s degrees in less than 2 years by attending classes only on Friday evenings and Saturdays. Funded through a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the program caters to adult learners and others who want to advance their careers but have to balance classes with work and other responsibilities.

A free information session for prospective Weekend College students will be held from 7-8:30 p.m., Thursday, April 13, in the Rundell Hall Conference Center on campus. Faculty, staff and current students will outline the five different majors offered — Transfer in Allied Health, General Studies – Social Science Concentration, Business Administration and Management, Industrial Welding Technology and Computer and Network Maintenance Technology — and give details about enrolling for the Fall 2017 semester. Information will be available in English and Spanish, and refreshments will be provided.

Additional information sessions are set for May 21, June 10, July 18 and Aug. 2.

Weekend College students are kept together in small cohorts of 18-25 people from enrollment to graduation or transfer. Courses are offered at multiple Lee College locations to make them more convenient, and many are delivered in a hybrid format that blends online and classroom instruction. With block scheduling, students know exactly which courses to take and when they will be held — and once accepted into the program, they are guaranteed to always have the classes they need for their degree.

For her part as Completion Coach, Falla considers herself to be a student advocate. She regularly drops by classes and makes herself available on Fridays, Saturdays and any day students need her. She helps them decide if the Weekend College is the right fit for their goals; connects them to campus and community resources; invites them to bring their children and families to college events; and breaks down the parts of applying for and attending college that overwhelm them the most.

It’s also important to encourage students to take ownership of their education and be accountable for their own learning and success, said Falla, who enjoys being a role model and trusted adviser as they pursue higher education and work toward a brighter future.

“I get to know these students for two years and watch them graduate,” she said. “We’re very lucky to see them grow, adjust and reach their reward. It’s a great and wonderful experience.”

For more details about the Weekend College at Lee College or the upcoming information sessions, contact Falla at 281.425.6421 or Outreach and Recruitment Specialist Sharon Guillory at 832.556.5776, or visit www.lee.edu/weekend.

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.