Puente students host clean-up at Crystal Beach

Volunteers also invited to take part in event to help environment and marine life

BAYTOWN, TX — After making a pledge to raise awareness about the environmental damage caused by littering and the importance of beach conservation, students in the Puente Project at Lee College are planning to clean up a section of Crystal Beach in Galveston County.

The first-of-its-kind “Puente Clean Beach Crusade” will begin at 10 a.m., Friday, May 6, on South Crystal Beach Road in Crystal Beach. The students invite volunteers to join them and show the positive impact that can be made when the community comes together for a worthy cause.

The clean up will also demonstrate that young adults are committed to preserving the environment for future generations to enjoy, according to Puente student Javier Barajas. The students intend to make the crusade an annual event and hope to increase knowledge of the harm humans can inflict with their trash.

“Every time we go to the beach, we come across all kinds of litter, ranging from plastic bags to cigarette butts,” Barajas said, noting that much of the garbage ends up in the ocean and hurts marine life and animals that mistake the trash for food. “We are sick and tired of seeing a dirty beach, and we want to make Crystal Beach crystal clean again.”

The Puente Project at Lee College aims to increase the number of underserved students who transfer to 4-year colleges or universities, earn college degrees and return to their communities as leaders and role models. Latino students are provided with academic support centered on integrated reading and writing, English and an introduction to Mexican-American Studies; connected with community mentors; and exposed to new cultural experiences.

For more information about the Puente Clean Beach Crusade, contact Barajas at 760.658.4834.

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 South Liberty County, the college serves a geographic area of more than 220,000 residents that includes 14 independent school districts. To learn more, visit www.lee.edu.

Honors Program students enhance learning with service at nature centers

Students working in a local nature center
Students in the Lee College Honors Program are volunteering their time this semester at local nature centers, including the Exploration Green tree nursery in Clear Lake. Pictured from left to right are instructor and certified Texas Master Naturalist Jerry Hamby; instructor and Honors Program coordinator Georgeann Ward; and Honors Program students Maryori Portillo and Adam Naiser.

Students in the Lee College Honors Program are taking their classroom exploration of humanity and nature into the real world, volunteering their time this semester at the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Education Center in Baytown and the Exploration Green tree nursery in Clear Lake.

The student volunteers are part of the Human Condition, a unique Honors Program course that is team-taught this semester by instructors Georgeann Ward and Jerry Hamby. The seminar-style class combines the disciplines of English and the Humanities, emphasizing open discussion and encouraging students to ask bold questions and engage in critical thinking about the world in which they live.

Ward and Hamby introduced a unit focused on humanity’s relationship with nature, making time spent at the local nature centers even more meaningful. The Human Condition class has been given assigned reading from “The Purposeful Place” by Richard Louv and “Writing Takes Place” by Sidney Dobrin, two pieces that address the ways that environmental spaces affect and influence the human experience.

“Students are using these two pieces as a theoretical base to study the arguments in other pieces of literature, film and art,” said Ward, who also serves as coordinator of the Honors Program. “By having discussions and completing compositions using these ideas, we hope that students will begin to make connections between themselves, others and the world around them.”

Completing community service also makes the students even stronger candidates for transfer to four-year institutions, which the Honors Program endeavors to do by providing opportunities for scholarship, leadership and service. “Our work with Exploration Green and the Eddie V. Gray Wetlands Center help us promote those goals,” Ward said.

The students’ decision to give their time to Exploration Green, in particular, struck a chord with Hamby, a certified Texas Master Naturalist who has completed about 100 hours of training and 250 hours of volunteer work to earn and maintain that credential. He has long been drawn to the natural environment and spends a significant amount of personal time in the tree nursery himself – planting and re-potting trees, weeding plants and helping maintain the irrigation system for the 1,000 trees on the property, representing more than 40 different species.

Nurturing and learning about plants, animals and the biodiversity found in the Houston region gives Hamby a feeling of joy, sense of purpose and awareness of the power of place. He hopes the same lessons will resonate with the students in his classes, much in the way the seeds they plant at the nursery may blossom into trees that endure for generations.

“We want to stress the idea that learning requires you to occasionally step outside of your comfort zone,” Hamby said. “Your education isn’t sitting in a classroom; real learning takes place beyond those walls.”

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.