Financial Aid for Beginners

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Written by Duncan McIntyre

In the age of COVID-19, students in higher-education institutions around the world have had to cope with a rapidly changing collegiate landscape. Classes are largely being held virtually, and students have had to deal with the financial strain caused by a global economic downturn. Some students may now, more than ever, need additional resources to help pay for school.        

For students at Austin Community College, this help can come in many forms. In addition to federal grants and loans, emergency relief funding from the American Rescue Plan now offers assistance to students who have been financially impacted by COVID-19.

The process to apply for financial aid can be difficult to navigate, and some students may not know what assistance is available. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is one of the most commonly utilized tools for students seeking aid, but there are also lesser-known avenues that students can take.                                                                          

Belinda Peña, an outreach coordinator for the ACC work-study program, discussed some of the benefits of applying for FAFSA.                                                                                        

“The main benefit is you’re applying for several types of financial aid all in one application,” Peña said “With just the FAFSA application, students are applying for grants, loans and work-study, which is a type of part-time work that students can do on-campus or off-campus.”                              

Another application, the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) is also available. “The TASFA is very similar – it’s just for a specific population of students.” Peña said “So if they’re undocumented, for example, they may qualify. With the TASFA they’re applying for grant money and work study.”                                                                                                      

The financial aid department also offers resources for students who need help applying for FAFSA and other types of assistance. On their website there are videos with step-by-step instructions, and a chatbot that students can use 24/7 to locate relevant information.                     

The department also offers virtual workshops at certain times of year. In October, when the FAFSA application for the 2022-2023 school year opens; there will be a month of workshops that students can attend to get help completing their applications.                                                   

Peña also encourages students to seek alternative forms of aid. “Here at ACC we have over 600 scholarship opportunities that only require one application,” Peña said “On our website we also have a list of external scholarships. You can apply for external scholarships that are offered through different nonprofits and organizations throughout Texas.”                                                    

Isabel Torres is a single mother, an ACC student, and a participant in the work-study program. In regards to the financial aid process, Torres said “It was super easy. Financial aid was really good about giving me the steps for doing the financial aid application and explaining the differences between the grants.”                                                                                                        

Torres also connected with student assistance services, where she was able to find help caring for her child while continuing to pursue her education. “I have a daughter who’s 4, and she goes to the ACC child lab. She’s got great instructors,” Torres said.                                        

Isabel Torres smiles at the camera wearing a red sweater while her daughter sits on her lap smiling as well.
Austin Community College student, Isabel Torres, and her daughter. Torres has utilized ACC’s student assistance services to complete her FAFSA and access childcare which is helping her complete her schooling. Photo provided by Isabel Torres

Before coming to school, Torres was concerned about the affordability of education. “It was not in the budget at all,” Torres said. “Financial aid was a really crucial part of continuing my education.”                                                                                                                          

Students may be offered participation in work-study in their financial aid package. In work-study, they can earn $15.60 an hour, but unlike traditional aid such as grants and loans, students don’t have access to all the money offered at one time.                                                           

Torres recommends the program to all students. “The best thing about it is that you can make your schedule, you’re not going to be forced to work 40 hours a week,” Torres said. “The program is really flexible.”                                                           

As a participant in the program, Torres is employed by Student Affairs and works closely with advising and academic coaching counselors. In doing so, she has gained essential skills that will help her in careers to come.              

“I learn a lot of tools that are essential, especially interacting with people. Communication is going to be essential no matter what career I intend to go towards,” Torres said.                  

For students who are curious about the work-study program, or are trying to find help paying for school, Isabel has these words of advice: “I feel that at some point each student should try to meet with an advising counselor or check out student assistance resources. There are so many good tools that we offer. They really do want to help. You can ease the burden of responsibilities and focus on your future.”                                                                                                                          

The FAFSA application for the 2022-2023 school year opens in October, but applications are still available for students who have already started classes and who need aid.  Students looking for help paying for school can contact the student services help desk by calling 512-223-4243.

Graduating Virtually

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story and Video By Pete Ramirez

In order to protect ourselves from COVID-19, much of our lives and work have been pushed into virtual settings. Austin Community College’s spring 2021 commencement was no different and was also forced to be held virtually. 

ACCENT wanted to check-in with students graduating during this unusual time, so we reached out to a pair of recent ACC graduates, Emily Pesina and Ashley Silva. ACCENT editor-in-chief, Pete Ramirez, spoke to both graduates to understand what their graduation experience was like and what they had planned for the near future.

A picture of a smiling young woman named Ashley Silva. And a small screen with a picture of a smiling young man named Pete Ramirez.
Ashley Silva, a recent Austin Community College graduate and recipient of the spring 2021 Chancellor’s Student Achievement Award, speaks to ACCENT editor-in-chief, Pete Ramirez, about the her graduation experience.

Student Organization Profiles

By: Patrick Davis

Joining a student organization at Austin Community College may be the last thing on your list considering the demands from classes, work, family responsibilities, internships, and more. However, there are students involved in student organizations who will tell you that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks. ACCENT met with three students involved with student organizations to hear about their experiences.

ACC’s Student Life website has a list of 115 student organizations, although not all of them are active. If a student cannot find the organization they are looking for, an advisor will work with the student to create a new organization. That is exactly what happened to Devin Driskell of the Future Business Leaders of Austin (FBLA) and Ashley Pesina of the Latinx Student Union (LXSU).

Pesina was a member of the Hispanic Students Association (HSA) in 2009. When she came back to ACC ten years later, she found that HSA was no longer active. With Advisor Jessica Oest’s help, Pesina started working on a new student organization for Latinx students. LXSU officially became an organization in Oct. of 2020.

The group’s primary purpose is “helping individuals escape a sense of otherness that the Latinx community is often confronted with,” Pesina said.

Although LXSU is concentrated on the Latinx community, the group welcomes all students.

Ayeesha Green giving a presentation on finance during a virtual Future Business Leaders of Austin (FBLA) meeting
Ayeesha Green giving a presentation on finance during a virtual Future Business Leaders of Austin (FBLA) meeting.

FBLA was also founded by a student who couldn’t find the club they were looking for. Since starting FBLA only two years ago, the student organization membership has grown to have 50 members to this day. The group aims to “help people be ready for their journey into the business world,” Driskell said.

While the group is focused on business majors, Driskell believes that the skills fostered by FBLA such as public speaking, networking, and interview skills, can be of use to students who are pursuing any degree plan.

Alpha Gamma Pi is the ACC chapter of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), an international honor society for community colleges. The group was founded on four hallmarks: scholarship, leadership, service, and fellowship. PTK works in the community through service projects and volunteer opportunities.

Alicia Stadler is currently the vice president of PTK of the Highland campus and has served as president and historian in past semesters. Stadler said that she initially joined PTK to improve her transfer application but gained a tight-knit support system.

“The officer team has become my family. I love them all. They’re great people,” Stadler said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student organizations have moved their club meetings and events to online platforms such as Google Meet and Zoom. Pesina has noticed that meeting virtually makes it challenging to bond with other LXSU members. However, Driskell has actually seen a rise in FBLA membership since the start of the pandemic, presumably because virtual meetings are more convenient for students to attend than in-person events. The biggest challenge these students have faced when joining or starting the groups has been finding the time to participate and organize activities.

Driskell sees a silver lining in that challenge, as it has helped him improve his time management skills. He has also become more comfortable with public speaking.

In addition to time-management, Pesina also cites greater patience and accountability as qualities she has gained during her time with LXSU.

Driskell, Pesina, and Stadler all speak highly of their time spent in student organizations. The time invested can create new friendships, networking opportunities, and real-life skills. Student organizations give their members the chance to work with a diverse group of people, including other students, advisors, and industry professionals.

Stadler encourages anyone who has the opportunity to join a student organization to do so.

“You never know if you’re going to meet your best friend, or meet somebody who could help you get into these dream schools, or just meet some really, really great people.” Stadler said.

Plastic Free July

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Austin Community College’s Sustainability Coordinator, is interviewed by ACCENT’s Editor-In-Chief, Pete Ramirez.

By Pete Ramirez

Take a look around you. How many items in your vicinity are made from plastic? 

With a quick scan around my room, I can count at least twenty things that have some sort of plastic used in the product. I’m sure your number is nearly the same, if not, more.

 Plastics have infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. They are so ubiquitous that it’s hard for me to imagine a world without them.

Our global obsession with the low-cost and convenience of plastics has come with a hefty price to our environment. 

You’ve seen these images of huge, floating garbage patches in the ocean. Next time you go to a beach or to the Greenbelt, take a good look around and you’ll find plastic waste throughout the most popular locations. 

For those of you who are tired of the abuse we are inflicting on the Earth, Plastic Free July is a perfect opportunity for you to commit yourself to being more conscious about your plastic consumption and adopt new habits that decrease your use of plastic altogether.

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Austin Community College’s Sustainability Coordinator, said that Plastic Free July is an “educational opportunity to bring this issue of plastic pollution to the forefront of people’s minds.”

The month-long event gives people the opportunity to take on the challenge of decreasing their plastic consumption or eliminating plastic from their lives entirely.

“It’s not about telling people, ‘Don’t consume plastic for the whole month’ and then don’t think about it,” Anne Cuzeau, a computer science major and sustainability steward at ACC’s Energy & Sustainability department, said. “It’s more about having a really big global conversation about plastic and how we can address this crisis.”

“[ACC] is always trying to come up with ways to do Plastic Free July all year long,” Rostamnezhad said.

In 2020, ACC officially became a styrofoam free campus, Rostamnezhad said. This means ACC does not purchase products with styrofoam packaging. If a product arrives with styrofoam, the energy & sustainability department will reach out and notify the vendor that the school needs their products packaged differently.

As many of us now know, recycling is not all it’s cracked up to be. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, less than 10% of plastics actually find a repurposed life as a new container, the majority of the remaining 90% is usually buried in the ground at a landfill.

The folks at ACC’s Energy & Sustainability Department have long recognized this and have taken concrete steps to embrace composting throughout it’s campuses. It’s not hard to locate a compost bin when at an ACC location.

Not only is plastic harming the environment and its biodiversity, it’s also harming the health of human beings.

“Plastic is made through the oil industry and the chemicals that are within the plastic can leach into the foods that you are eating from packaging or can leach into the foods that you heat up in the microwave,” Rostamnezhad said. “Those include a lot of cancer causing chemicals so you’re basically ingesting the plastic which is really bad for your health.”

In addition to the chemicals plastics can leach, microplastics, which are microscopic particles of plastic less than 5 millimeters, are another way plastics end up in our bodies, Rostamnezhad said.

“The average human eats a credit card of plastic a week,” Rostamnezhad said. The study by the University of Newcastle in Australia, who first made this assertion, says that most microplastics are ingested by humans via tap and bottled water.

In an effort to reduce her plastic consumption, Holli Sampson, a sophomore geology major at ACC, said that she implements creative ways to repurpose her plastic containers to organize and store her school supplies, spices, and makeup.

“It becomes a fun game to see how you can reuse an item instead of sending it on its way to somewhere you’re not sure of,” Sampson said. “Also, it saves you money!”

Rostamnezhad is currently working on an educational flyer that explains exactly what steps people should take in order to reduce plastic waste in their personal lives. 


Anne Cuzeau, sustainability steward at ACC’s Energy & Sustainability department, speaks to Pete Ramirez, ACCENT’s Editor-In-Chief.

A few simple tips shared by Rostamnezhad, Cuzeau and Sampson are:

  • Consider carrying a pouch full of compostable utensils and straws in your car so you won’t need to accept single-use plastics when you pick up food from a restaurant.
  • Contrary to common belief, the city of Austin does not recycle plastic bags. Instead, take your plastic bags to your local grocery store and they will recycle the bags for you. Go to this website to find the nearest participating grocery store.
  • Buy reusable water bottles and containers that bring you joy so you are more likely to continue to use them.

“At the end of the day, just do your best,” Cuzeau said.

If you have any questions or ideas you would like to send to ACC’s Energy & Sustainability department, email them at green@austincc.edu.

The Energy & Sustainability Department is also working with the purchasing department at ACC to develop training and rules to limit and eventually eliminate the purchasing of single-use plastic.

All three of the women interviewed for this piece brought up a common issue of pushing back against large companies that are the main culprits of plastic creation and waste. 

“How can we get the big corporations who are putting these plastics out for us to consume to scale back?” Cuzeau said. “Clearly, this is not going to come from them. It’s going to come from the bottom up.”

“I don’t think we’ll be able to make a difference until we start holding companies accountable,” Rostemnezhad said. “They need to start innovating and coming up with ideas on how to change packaging and change their products.”

We all have the power to change these corporations and that starts in our wallets and where we choose to spend our money. Look to spend your money with businesses who are making steps to reduce and eliminate their plastic consumption.

“Plastic Free July is great,” Sampson said. “It’s a start, but we should all work together to become a plastic free society as much as we can.”

Weather Affecting ACC’s Agriculture Department

By Nick Brown

Austin Community College’s 17-acre Sustainable Student Farm, located at ACC’s Elgin campus, is home to a herd of sheep, an orchard, a greenhouse, and a small plot dedicated to vegetable production.

It is also where you can often find Savannah Rugg, Department Chair of the Agricultural Sciences Department, who leads a small team that runs the farm.

Although trending in a positive direction, the farm has certainly faced challenges from this year’s weather.
First was the winter storm. While the orchard remained intact, heavy snow and freezing temperatures brought by the storm resulted in a significant loss of plants in the farm’s greenhouse that were used for propagation.

“It did push the season back,” Rugg said, referring to the plot of vegetables on the farm.  The late start after shifting planting from February to April means now-maturing plants are faced with current, intense temperatures, and thus less flower production.

“If we had more hands it probably would have been a relatively productive season because we have gotten a lot of rain,” Rugg said. “We haven’t had to irrigate too much like a couple summers ago when we were hardly getting any.”

The recent rain, however, has also had an affect on the farm. “With all the rain we are getting and the high heat days, the weeds are probably the biggest challenge for us right now.”

ACC Alumni Making a Mark in West Texas

Sarah Vasquez (right) interviews an ACC student for ACCENT while on campus when she attended the school in 2009. Photo taken by Karissa Rodriguez

By: Pete Ramirez

It’s not uncommon for a portion of students to find their way back to school at Austin Community College. Sarah Vaszquez enrolled at Texas State University immediately after graduating high school. Eight years later, she enrolled at ACC.  Now, Vasquez is a freelance journalist and photographer whose work can be found in the New York Times, Texas Tribune, Texas Highways Magazine and others. 

It is common for students, of any age, to start here in order to get there. After graduating high school, Vasquez became a student at Texas State University. About two years into her higher education journey, she decided the best thing for herself was to take a break from school. During her time away from school Vasquez began writing her own blog called So Many Bands, which covered the independent music scene in Austin. 

“I was interviewing anybody and everybody who would let me,” Vasquez said. “I was so shy, my brother would sometimes ask band members if I could interview them.” 

After a few years, Vasquez decided to step back into the world of academia as an ACC student. In her first semester, she was recruited to work for ACCENT’s newspaper, which had its last publication in 2014.  

“[ACCENT] gave me the space to learn everything I wanted to learn,” Vasquez said. “I learned photography, how to edit audio and work on video.”

While working for ACCENT, Vaszquez picked up as many assignments as she could to become the Campus Editor and, eventually, Assistant Editor. Vasquez credits ACCENT for giving her low-stakes opportunities to grow as a journalist.

Sarah Vasquez Photo 2 - Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.
Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.

“I feel like ACC legitimized my career,” Vasquez said.  “It opened so many doors for me and gave me confidence to come out of my shell.”

After graduating from ACC with her associate’s degree in journalism, Vasquez was selected to take part in the Poynter Institute’s fellowship for a semester which is one of the most recognized schools of journalism.

After completing her fellowship, Vasquez returned to Texas State University. She quickly fell into the fold at the student-run radio station, KTSW 89.9, where she continued to develop her journalism skills in an audio format.

“I don’t think I would’ve been as prepared for the work at the university level if it wasn’t for ACC,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas State in 2012 and decided to take a four-month internship with Marfa Public Radio. After growing up in the fast-paced Austin area, she found joy and calm in the slower-paced west Texas town. Half-way through the internship she began working at the Big Bend Sentinel part-time. After the internship ended, Vasquez was hired as a full-time staff member for the newspaper.

“I was the general assignments reporter [at the Sentinel], so I covered everything,” Vasquez said.

In 2016, after working for the Big Bend Sentinel for three years, Vasquez decided to go her own way and become a freelance journalist and photographer covering the west Texas area.

Vasquez’s photography and writing for the Texas Tribune during February’s winter storm was essential coverage for rural west Texas communities that are often overlooked.

Although her path to ACC was not straightforward, Vasquez’s story is a testament to the valuable opportunities and connections that can be made at ACC.

“[ACC] exceeded my expectations,” Vasquez said. “I had no idea I would go on this journey.”

Vasquez plans to continue her work as a freelance journalist and photographer in the west Texas region.

Juneteenth: History to Present Day

Juneteenth marks our country’s second independence day. Although it has long been celebrated in the African American community, this monumental event which is also known as “Black Independence Day” and “Texas Emancipation Day,” is beginning to see mainstream celebrations. While the holiday was informally commemorated for years, Texas became the first state to honor the day as a state holiday in 1980.

By Kimberly Dalbert

Many cities have parks where Emancipation Day celebrations took place, which also includes Austin. Austin’s Eastwoods Park prior to 1930, was referred to as Wheeler’s Grove. The site is historically significant for hosting one of the earliest Juneteenth celebrations in Austin in the latter part of the 19th century. The restrooms at the park now used to be the Eastwoods Shelter House.

On “Freedom’s Eve,” also known as the eve of January 1, 1863, at the stroke of midnight, all enslaved people in the Confederate States were declared legally free, but not Texans. Although the Emancipation Proclamation was made effective in 1863, most slaves in Texas were still unaware of their freedom and that the war had ended in April of 1865. When Union troops arrived in Galveston Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, commanding officer, District of Texas, from his headquarters in the Osterman building (Strand and 22nd St.), read ‘General Order No. 3’ on June 19, 1865. This order stated that the people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the executive of the United States, all slaves are free.


Juneteenth Historical Marker, 2201 Strand Street, Galveston, TX, on June 6, 2021.


Photo Kim Dalbert


The mural was created by Houston artist Reginald C. Adams.


Photo Kim Dalbert


Eastwoods Shelter House, Eastwoods Park

Photo Austin History Center

Eastwoods Shelter House, Eastwoods Park, is now the restrooms.

Photo Kim Dalbert

Austin’s 2018 Juneteenth Parade

Photo By David Brendon Hall

Photo By Jana Birchum

June 18, 2013

Juneteenth day celebration in Texas, 1900.

Photo Austin History Center

King “fuh-fuh” X, an Austin activist who organized StarPower Black Collectives, and has led many protests over the past year. Emancipation Proclamation that leads to the Bell of Freedom.

Carver Museum, Austin, Tx, September 29, 2020.

Photo Kim Dalbert

 There are five statues, the lawmaker, the minister, the former slaves, both male and female, and the child, a daughter.

 Carver Museum, Austin, Tx, September 29, 2020

Photo Kim Dalbert

Juneteenth day celebration in Texas, 1900.

Photo Austin History Center

Pride Month: Legislative Edition

By: Kyrios LoNigro

This year is seemingly the worst on record for LGBT+ equality. More than 250 anti-LGBT+ bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the U.S. Texas is the leading state with 12 bills being proposed this legislative session, targeting transgender youth. One banning a type of school sports participation and, another, health care access to transgender children. and another. Debates over transgender people living freely in the U.S. have been shown to have negative consequences on their mental health.

Mateo Marquez, theater student, says his K-12 experience was exhausting. In high school he encountered more than name-calling, just for being a transgender student.

“Freshman year I was threatened,” Marquez said. “I was harassed [by one specific classmate.]”

Marquez’s classmate told others at school that transgender people needed to die. Despite this harassment, Marquez says the school did not seek disciplinary action against the boy. This type of discrimination causes many transgender students to drop out of school.

The Trevor Project is the country’s biggest LGBT+ youth crisis phone line, focused on supporting suicide prevention efforts for those under the age of 25. Phone calls drastically increase when when trans-phobic rhetoric circulates and bills are proposed.

Missi Patterson an ALLY at ACC said, “I hear so many people in the lawmaking community say, ‘You’re either a man or a woman. It’s just science.’ I want them to understand that that’s not even true.”

Texas and Florida are the two top states with the most instances of Fatal Anti-Trans violence, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

“It’s scary because your life is at risk here – they’re making fun of you solely because you’re trans.” Marquez said. “You don’t want to be hate-crimed for it, but you also want to stick up for yourself.”

Ari Thomas, a health science student who is also gay and non binary. Although they believe their sexuality hasn’t received negative responses at ACC, they have not come out as non-binary.

“I’ve never had anybody say anything to me just because I’m gay,” said Thomas. “People don’t know I’m non binary at ACC but that’s mostly because I’m doing online classes and haven’t gone to in-person classes yet.”

Thomas expressed that if they did encounter discrimination they wouldn’t know how to handle it due to lack of face-to-face interactions with instructors in remote classes and online information.

“I’ve never seen anything LGBT related on the website,” said Thomas.

Neither Marquez nor Thomas knew about ACC’s LGBT+ Equity Committee, whose aim is to provide education to faculty, staff, and students at ACC about LGBT+ issues.

A primary component of the committee is their advocacy for long-term systemic change that can be achieved by policy revisions and support networks through their ALLY program and events.

Despite one of the committee’s goals of providing support, the committee is not often easily accessible. A Google search brings you to their Facebook where little information is provided on the committee – only their email.

“You have to know how to search for us,” Matthew Campbell, co-chair of ACC’s LGBT+ Equity Committee, said. Campbell said the secrecy is due to bigoted language they have received in response to trying to reach students through ACC’s email contact lists.

“It’s usually on the lines of homophobic or religiously motivated,” Campbell said. “We don’t do that anymore.”

Campbell also shared the committee is working with ACC to require students to participate in sensitivity training to mitigate the issue after they expand their ALLY program. So, for the moment, the committee is building their own email lists and operating by word of mouth.

 “All organizations have to go through a chain to be able to access those email addresses,” Campbell said.

Interested students must opt into receiving their newsletters and emails. Campbell shared that the committee has been receiving more engagement recently, but the pandemic has made connecting to students difficult, being that information isn’t as easily found on posters on campus or other ways.

In her psychology class, Patters creates space for her LGBT+ students by asking them to put their pronouns in their zoom names. Additionally, she asks them to provide their preferred name at the beginning of class.

The Ally Program trains ACC employees to create space and support for LGBT+ students. Employees of ACC can become an ally by filling out an interest form. Interested parties will be notified when a training is available.

“[The training] wasn’t difficult at all,” Patterson said. “We had an incredible guest speaker from UT and it was really enjoyable.”

In addition to the ALLY training, Patterson recommends training on how to be an advocate through organizations like the Texas Freedom Network, Texas Rising, and Equality Texas.

Many LGBT+ youth and adults are not accepting of these bills filled with trans-phobic rhetoric being proposed into the Texas legislature.

“We don’t need people checking our genitals. End of story. We are who we are. We are just like everyone else,” Marquez said.


Mateo Marquez, Ari Thomas, Missi Patterson, Matthew Campbell
(left to right) Mateo Marquez, Art Thomas, Missi Patterson, Matthew Campbell

How Students Stay Active

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness.

By: Pete Ramirez

One of the most significant ways the pandemic has affected Austin Community College is by the cancellation of in-person intramural sports. Losing these extracurricular events placed a hold on what is normally a fun way for students to stay active and socialize with their classmates.

No one has felt this loss greater than Tracy Partin, intramurals coordinator and health & kinesiology professor at ACC.

“It’s been kind of tough, the last year, not being able to see my students or get out on the court with them,” Partin said.

Knowing that COVID-19 restrictions would push people towards the couch, Partin found a way to continue to inspire ACC students to work on their fitness. Last March, Partin began sending an email with workouts and health tips to his subscribers every Tuesday and Thursday during the semester.

Partin’s email fitness program hasn’t missed a semester since it began a year ago.

“Tracy’s emails have been great,” said Brienz Edwards, a student at ACC studying peace and conflict within the interdisciplinary studies program. “I used to think that a gym was a pretty necessary part of working out and it has been quite the revelation for me that that’s not what I really need.”

Edwards mentioned underestimating a workout Tracy sent earlier this semester that only called for using a kitchen chair for the movements. 

“I was like, ‘oh I can do a chair workout, that’s no problem’ and I was immediately sweating,” Edwards said. “It sounds ridiculous that you can sit in a chair for ten minutes and sweat but I promise you.”

Partin’s fitness emails not only include workouts for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels but they also touch on mental health and wellness advice.

“I send them suggested YouTube workout videos,” Partin said. “And on Thursdays I touch upon mental health a little bit. Stress relief. Things that you can do mentally to help your mindset.”

For Jeshika Lamsal, a prospective ACC student and subscriber to Tracy’s fitness emails, staying active means being conscious about what you are doing.

“My favorite way to stay active is first meditation and second is working out,” Lamsal said. “I think everyone should try to meditate.”

Lamsal encouraged ACC students to adopt a meditation practice a few times a week at first and then slowly increase the frequency as time progresses. 

Lamsal also compared starting a meditation practice to going to kindergarten and learning the alphabet. When you first begin, you may not know anything about the subject but as you continue to practice, you learn and grow to have a better grasp of the practice.

Regardless of the route Partin’s students take to stay active, his ultimate goal is to get his subscribers to reconnect with their bodies and improve their mental and physical health.

“It gets those endorphins going and it does make you feel better so anything you can do – whether it’s taking a walk, whether it’s doing some exercises at the house – it helps”, Partin said.

Edwards said her favorite way to stay active is by taking walks at her own pace through her neighborhood.

“It’s a really good way for me to get back into my body and be able to think clearly”, said Edwards. “It helps me organize my thoughts for whatever I need to do next and reconnect with myself but also with the world outside.”

With his fitness emails, Partin wants ACC students to realize that there are simple yet effective things they can do to be active while staying within and nearby your home. 

“Most importantly, try to keep a consistent time when you are going to workout”, Partin said. “There’s going to be those days where you are tired and want to blow it off, but you’ve got to push through.”

Partin said he will begin to send out his summer semester fitness emails on June 8 and students will be able to sign up via Student Life.

“I would just like for the students to know they can contact me at any time,” Partin said. “I want them to know that there is somebody out there, that we do care about them.”

Taking Initiative: Why, and How Students Should Start Honoring Asian Heritage This Month

ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

By: Renata Salazar

How much do you know about Asian American heritage? 

This is the question students at Austin Community College should ask themselves when learning to embrace and honor different cultures and their traditions– a crucial factor to creating a welcoming and inclusive community at ACC. ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

“Something I will never forget is where I come from, my background and origin is from Asia,” Tsai said.

Tsai honors his Taiwanese heritage in America by enjoying local Asian food as well as keeping up with films and books from his culture.. There are also official and local communities with events to celebrate diversity through Asian art, political issues, food, and other traditional rituals. Tsai is also able to help students with their career goals as an Asian American career counselor at the college like Hzu.  

Hzu, an engineering major at ACC, is a taiwanese student who moved to Texas four years ago. As a minority in the U.S. Hzu consistently absorbs and learns more about different cultures, while still honoring his own.

 “A big part of our Asian culture/heritage is having a very strong family bond,” Hzu shares, “we have a lot of festivals that are meant to be celebrated with family members, such as Lunar New Year, Moon Festival, and Qingming Festival.”

Student Opal Framnes, an Taiwanese student and mother working towards a major in TV production, believes being able to interpret and explain your own culture is an important factor when letting people hear your story.

“We have to do our own part first, and create opportunities that allow people to understand our culture”  

“Everybody has different stories no matter who you are, so we need to let people listen to us”

“Even though most of our cultures are not similar at all, I think ACC, or any other institutions should do the same to educate their students to be open-minded” states Hzu.

“Different departments officiate events organized by the college that allows students and staff to participate and learn more about or even just help promote social justice.” 

Implementing these events to get to know other people from various cultures sparks a conversation where students can mutually benefit from each other’s experiences.

To shed a light on the positive and interesting aspects of Asian heritage Framnes believes “It comes down to being a better person, we are living in a different country and we can contribute to a lot of things.” 

Educating students, and ourselves is pivotal. Whether through your own research online or participating and seeking to learn about different heritages, you are taking the initiative to honor a different culture unlike your own. It is common for ACC students to come from a homogenous background. Tsai believes it is “very important to promote awareness of the idea of multiculturalism, diversity, equity and inclusiveness coming from any curriculum design”  

ACC’s Dean  made a statement regarding recent hate crimes against Asian Americans, officially demonstrating their stance of support against anti-Asia hate crimes. “The college is working to establish a new Asian-American cultural center and it has been an ongoing project now becoming part of the 2022-2025 Academic Master Plan.” 

“It will be so nice for students to know that they have a student organization that belongs to them, and feel comfortable sharing their culture.” Tsai states.

With the following steps: hiring personnel and establishing other aspects, we should look forward to seeing ACC’s Asian American Cultural Center be installed in Spring 2021. 

Alongside the new cultural center, students like Hzu are also in search of ways to get more Asian American voices involved at ACC. One of Zhu’s goals is to become a person that advocates for Asian American voices like his own. 

“People only listen to the ones that are influential, so to let more people know our heritage, the way is to succeed and use your power and influence to change what people thought about you stereotypically.”

“This is all about educating oneself,” With relevant climates pertaining to Asian Hate crimes, it is important to know what you can do to support Asian Communities and prevent racially motivated crimes, and his response was–participate. 

“Everything comes down to being aware of the prejudices and stereotypes we might usually project on to other races,” Tsai says.