Lee students selected for scholarships to pursue careers in chemical industry

Lee College students selected to receive scholarships this year.
Lee College students selected to receive scholarships this year from the Community College Petrochemical Initiative attended a recognition luncheon Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, at the ExxonMobil office in Baytown. Pictured (l-r): Woody Paul, Manager of the ExxonMobil Baytown Olefins Plant; Dr. Christina Ponce, Lee College Executive Vice President; students Crisol Napoles, Edmeade Prentice and Christopher Patterson; Dr. Angela Oriano, Lee College Vice President of Workforce & Corporate Partnerships; and Dr. Dennis Brown, Lee College President.

BAYTOWN, TX — After leaving school 10 years ago to focus on his family, Christopher Patterson willingly accepted a pay cut to be able to return to Lee College and finish what he started: pursuit of an associate degree.

Now majoring in process technology, Patterson is one of three Lee College students who will receive scholarships this year from the Community College Petrochemical Initiative (CCPI). Crisol Napoles and Edmeade Prentice were also selected and joined other scholarship recipients Aug. 3 at the ExxonMobil office in Baytown for a recognition luncheon. In total, CCPI awarded $45,000 in scholarships to 38 students from all nine community colleges along the Texas Gulf Coast that can be used for tuition, fees, books or other training program expenses.

Funded through a grant from ExxonMobil, CCPI is a collaboration of the Texas Gulf Coast community colleges to recruit and train the next generation of petrochemical and construction trades workers for the Houston-Galveston region. Since its launch five years ago, ExxonMobil has contributed more than $2 million to CCPI to support training in petrochemical fields like computer-aided drafting and design, electrical technology, instrumentation, machine technology, millwrighting, pipefitting, process technology and welding. Lee College is the lead institution in the initiative.

“I have an analytical mind and as I dive into process technology, I always want to know more,” said Patterson, who will graduate from Lee College in a year. “The CCPI scholarship means so much to me. I had to make several sacrifices in order to come back to school and even though it may be hard work, I know it will pay off for me and my family in the long run.”

Potential salaries average nearly $100,000 a year for skilled workers in the growing chemical manufacturing industry, and companies are projected to need more than 50,000 new workers in the Gulf Coast area over the next 10 years. In a keynote address to the scholarship recipients, Mike Zamora, director of Americas Regional Manufacturing for ExxonMobil Chemical, praised the work of the CCPI and noted the wealth of opportunities awaiting students as they prepare to embark on petrochemical careers.

“The Community College Petrochemical Initiative partnership is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when employers and educators work together,” Zamora said. “Encouraging and developing a well-educated and skilled workforce is vital to the industry’s success in meeting a growing global demand for chemical products and continuing economic growth and prosperity in Gulf communities.”

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.

Foundation brings donors together with scholarship recipients

Six people posing, both donors and student recipients
Donors to the Lee College Foundation met the recipients of their scholarships Friday, April 7, 2017, at the 15th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast. The annual gathering allows students to share with donors how their generosity has made a difference. Pictured from left: Louise Mann, donor; Drake Salinas, student; Nancy Mann, donor; Denia Aleman, student; Michael Mann, donor; and Claudia Wyles, representing corporate donor Community Resource Credit Union.

For the individuals and businesses that donate to the Lee College Foundation, there is no greater proof of the positive impact of their generosity than meeting and hearing the stories of students awarded tuition and textbook scholarships.

Students like Maryori Portillo, a first-generation college student and recipient of the Wallace Heaner Tuition Scholarship and John and Stella Pepper Textbook Scholarship who had children at a young age and dropped out of high school. After earning her GED and experiencing difficulties in her first try at higher education, Portillo came to Lee College and enrolled in two classes: English and speech. Instructors recognized she had special talent, but the cost of out-of-district tuition and other expenses nearly forced her to quit school after just one semester.

“They immediately saw potential in me that I didn’t see in myself and introduced me to the Honors Program,” Portillo shared April 7 at the 15th annual Foundation Scholarship Breakfast, where donors connected with scholarship recipients and learned firsthand how the funds made a difference in their lives.

“Thanks to the scholarships, I was able to return to school,” she said. “I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to go to sleep without college tuition keeping you up at night. It’s a weight lifted off your shoulders and a worry gone. I would not be standing here without your help.”

Or students like Audra Smith, a process technology major and intern at Chevron Phillips Chemical who received a workforce scholarship from the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA). EHCMA donated $170,000 to Lee College this year for student scholarships and other support for craft and technology programs.

A donor and two students stand and pose.
The Lee College Foundation hosted a reception Tuesday, March 28, 2017, for students who received workforce scholarships from the East Harris County Manufacturers Association (EHCMA) to meet managers and other personnel from the association’s member companies. EHCMA donated $170,000 to Lee College this year for student scholarships and other support for craft and technology programs. Pictured (l-r): Jarvis Booker, student; Bear Estrada of Ohmstede; and Tevin Goodman, student.

Just before she started classes, Smith lost her home to a fire and learned her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. Four months into the program, her mother passed away – and soon after, so did her father and grandfather. Knowing she would not have to worry about paying for school helped her persist in the program despite her losses, determined to earn her degree and keep the promises she made to herself and her family.

“Workforce scholarships help us, as students, achieve our greatness,” Smith told managers and leaders from EHCMA’s member companies in late March at a student and donor networking reception hosted by the foundation. “By donating money for these scholarships, you all are changing lives every day.”

Under the leadership of its Board of Directors, the Lee College Foundation has raised outside funds since 1968 to provide for student needs. The fund balance for the foundation now exceeds $10 million and all students are eligible to receive scholarships — those pursuing academic and technical degrees, as well as those 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, and in the Lee College Huntsville Center prison program.

Although the foundation has historically focused on accepting scholarship funds, board members consider other worthwhile initiatives that directly affect student success and promote the student’s ability to reach their education goals. To that end, tax-deductible contributions from industry and private donors also support the Student Success Fund, created to help those facing extraordinary circumstances pay for college-related expenses that might otherwise derail their journey.

“One of the most heartwarming things about Lee College is knowing how much this community loves this institution,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown. “The consistent outpouring of generosity helps ensure students can do the three most important things: enroll, persist and graduate. We want them to get here, stay here and leave here with a degree.”

For more information about donating to the Lee College Foundation, contact Executive Director  Pam Warford at 281.425.6361 or pwarford@lee.edu.

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 hits record-high enrollment with 7,280 students

BAYTOWN, TX — A record-setting 7,280 students are pursuing associate degrees and certificates this fall at Lee College, marking a more than 5 percent increase from the previous year and representing the highest ever enrollment since the college was founded in 1934.

Preliminary headcount data from the 12th day of class also shows that the fall 2016 semester is the second consecutive fall semester that enrollment at Lee College has increased. Slightly more than 6,900 students were enrolled in fall 2015.

In addition, Lee College leads all community colleges in the state in the growth of contact hours — the number of hours that students are scheduled to receive instruction. More than 1.22 million contact hours have been counted this fall, an increase of 19.5 percent from fall 2014. Contact hours are the basis on which the state Legislature decides how to fund community colleges.

“Everyone played a role in helping us achieve these milestones,” said Pres. Dr. Dennis Brown, who touted the enrollment increase in an address to faculty and staff as they prepared to welcome students back to campus for a new academic year. He also noted that the college had received reaffirmation of its accreditation for the next 10 years by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, a major accomplishment and campus-wide effort that required the college to demonstrate compliance with 95 different standards.

“We continue to grow, and we continue to proudly serve the students and communities in our service area,” Brown said. “In every way and always, what you do makes a difference.”

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.

Mexican American Studies students to unveil mural at Baytown library

BAYTOWN, TX — Students in the Mexican American Studies program at Lee College will unveil a new, hand-painted mural next week at Sterling Municipal Library that draws on the history of Baytown and depicts the stories of those who have made an impact on Latino and multicultural history in the region.

The mural will be revealed in a special reception set for 6-8 p.m., Wednesday, May 4, in the library conference room. The event is free, open to the public, and being presented in conjunction with the Puente Project at Lee College and with the cooperation of Sterling Municipal Library.

A group of 8 students created the mural for “HUMA 2319 – American Minority Studies: Chicano/Latino Art,” an interdisciplinary Mexican American Studies course that examines the diverse cultural, artistic, economic, historical, political and social aspects of minority communities in the United States. Students in the class have explored topics ranging from race and ethnicity to gender, socioeconomic class, sexual origin, and religion.

Much of the public art created in recent years has been more graphical in nature, said Orlando Lara, instructor of the HUMA 2319 course and lead faculty member for the Mexican American Studies program. By contrast, Mexican muralists of the 1920s and 1930s — and later Chicano muralists of the 1970s and 1980s — created artwork that experimented with social and political content. He hopes the students’ mural will begin to bring back the more social and political aspects of art.

“I hope this will help reinvigorate their love of learning, community work and the role that art can play in recovering and acknowledging history,” Lara said. “For the community, both the students and I hope that it will help spur a more robust and urgent public art movement in Baytown.”

Felicite Herrera said creating the mural has given her and her classmates the opportunity to send a message and make people see what is happening in their city. “It’s about empowering everyone and not letting Mexican-American and African-American history be erased,” she said.

For more information about the mural unveiling or the Mexican American Studies program at Lee College, contact Lara at 281.425.6431 or olara.

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.