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

The Nutcracker
The Nutcracker at Lee College in 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lee College offers more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs, as well as non-credit workforce and community education courses, that prepare its diverse student body for advanced higher education; successful entry into the workforce; and a variety of in-demand careers. With the main campus and McNair Center located in Baytown, Texas, and a satellite education center in nearby South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Students in Life Skills class enjoy holiday fun with seniors

BAYTOWN, TX – The students in Cindy Barny’s Life Skills class for the intellectually disabled are like many of their Lee College peers: They enjoy using the computer and learning new things, love spending time with their friends at school and look forward to all the jingling bells and whistles of the holiday season.

Life Skills students pose with seniors
Volunteers from the Lee College Senior Adult & Travel Program hosted a dinner and game night Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, for students and families in the Life Skills for the Intellectually Disabled class. In addition to gift bags from the Center for Workforce and Community Development, each student received certificates of completion for the fall semester.

For the last four years, their festive fun has included a holiday dinner hosted for the students and their caretakers by the Senior Adult & Travel Program. Both the Life Skills and Senior Adult & Travel programs are part of the Center for Workforce and Community Development.

“A lot of us know and love someone with an intellectual disability, so we thought this would be a fun thing to do,” said program manager Lynne Foley. At this year’s dinner, her team of volunteers decked the classroom in red and green decorations; served up plates of pasta, salad and garlic bread; passed out holiday gifts; and led several rounds of bingo for the excited students and their families.

“We take so much more from them than we would ever be able to give,” Foley said.

After more than 20 years teaching the Life Skills class, Barny knows firsthand the positive impact that her students — whom she lovingly refers to as “friends” — can have on the lives of the people who know and care for them. It was Barny who started the program at Lee College, with the goal of providing post-secondary education and socialization for intellectually disabled members of the community.

“As people, they finish high school and want to go to college, too. They’re so proud to be Lee College students,” said Barny, who teaches the class how to use computers, navigate the campus, work with money, discuss current events and interact with others, among other skills.

“We’ve been a family together; they’re a joy, and their hearts are so beautiful,” Barny said. “We don’t want them to just sit at home in front of the television – we want them to have something of their own. This class keeps their minds stimulated and gives them a little more independence from mom or dad.”

That’s just what Barry Hawkins discovered after enrolling his son, Jason, into the Life Skills program earlier this semester. Jason insists on attending class meetings by himself, leaving his father to his own devices for the weekly two-hour session.

“He loves it,” Hawkins said. “He looks forward to coming to class and he’s always happy when he leaves. This has been a great thing for him; he wants as much independence as he can get.”

Annette Venegas has been one of Barny’s students nearly as long as the Life Skills program has existed. Her parents, Rudy and Susan, credit the class and instructor for being a bright spot amid the challenges of their daughter’s life.

“Annette was going through turmoil, but being here has helped her a lot,” Susan Venegas said. “It’s a blessing.”

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 center in nearby Liberty, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 13 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.