Ascending to New Heights

Story and Photos by: McKenna Bailey

Have you ever seen a poster around an Austin Community College campus that catches your eye, but you walk right past it? No matter which campus you attend, each of the communication boards provide helpful resources, information about student organizations, and other ways to engage yourself within the community. For many, Hispanics and Mexican-American students at ACC, a single poster provided them a life-changing experience.  

Right now, there are 130 thriving students that are participating in the ASCENDER program. According to Megan Diaz, the outreach specialist for the program, Ascender is, “A program for all 1st year ACC students, and it’s a transfer-mentor program which means that all students are paired with a mentor to give them guidance and support during their first year of college.”

The mentors involved in the program are community members from all walks of life. With a wide range of degree fields, these mentors are able to guide their students on the career path of their choice. Ascender comes from a student-made acronym of “Ascend”, meaning; Achieving, Student, Confidence, Encouraging New Dreams. 

Alejandra Polcik, the supervisor of Hispanic outreach projects, said Ascender, “Encapsulates the concept of the program, where the focus is on the success of the students, especially disadvantaged students. The goal is to transfer them to a 4 year [University], and eventually return to Ascender as a mentor.”

Ascender not only provides assistance to Hispanic or first generation college student but anyone who finds themselves struggling academically. The program combines accelerated instruction in english, math, academic counseling, and writing assistance. 

“All people are welcome to join Ascender as it is a very inclusive program, based on the principle of family, teamwork, and helping to care for each other. Ascender is very active at ACC, and also the Austin city community by taking part in events or creating their own special events.” says Diaz

In October 2019, Ascender participated in walking in the Viva La Vida parade in Downtown Austin. The Mexic-Arte Museum sponsored and created the 36th Annual Viva La Vida Parade & Festival this year. Otherwise known as the Día de los Muertos Parade, the event highlights the current Hispanic cultures in Austin, while using the day of the dead as a medium to celebrate Austin Hispanic heritage.

The event started first with a parade showing different aspects of Hispanic culture, like pre-Columbian to Austin-weird, then followed with a festival full of dancing, music, traditional food, and crafting marigold flower crowns. 

If you or someone you know would like to get involved in Ascender, visit their website to see upcoming events and how you can get enrolled into the program.  


The Tricky Balance Between Study and Sleep

A “Chicken or Egg” Dilemma, and How Students Can Fix It

Story by: Jace Puckett

College is a precarious balance between students’ social lives and classes; careers and exams; and, perhaps most importantly, sleeping and studying. Putting off study time can lead to long nights of cramming; conversely, losing sleep can cause students to crash instead of studying. It easily becomes a matter of “chicken or egg”—which came first, and which causes which?

It isn’t uncommon for students to seek help with their study and/or sleep habits: Jordan Easley, an academic coach at Austin Community College’s San Gabriel campus, estimated that around 80 to 90 percent of the students he sees report poor sleeping habits in addition to poor study habits.

“I definitely make it a priority to make sure everyone is healthy, treating themselves right, and not burning out, because all of it is very interconnected,” Easley said. 

“Having a job, being a parent—which is also a job—or being in school—which is also a job—they’re all a form of obligation. I think that people give themselves the most leniency when it comes to schoolwork because they see it as something that is more flexible. … They tend to underestimate the amount of time and effort that it will take to complete an assignment, so I think that’s the one [obligation] that gets dropped the most often.”

On the other hand, it’s easy to justify losing sleep to study, according to an article on Study International News.

 “Most students probably know that depriving themselves from sleep is bad,” author Sharuna Segaren, a senior education journalist at Study International, reports. 

“But nonetheless they’re willing to sacrifice sleep and as a consequence, health, telling themselves it’s just for a short time and they can soon start sleeping 12-hours a day once the semester draws to a close.”

To find a better balance between time spent studying and time spent sleeping, Danny Ugarte, an exercise fitness major at ACC, suggested separating classwork into daily tasks depending on when each assignment was due. He lamented about his misunderstanding of assignment deadlines: 

“I’ve had plenty of times when I thought that something was due on one day and it wasn’t, so I ended up not sleeping that night and doing the assignment.”

Easley stressed the importance of time management and prioritizing. Students can determine what is the most pressing task at hand and complete it first so that they have more time for what matters most to them.

“You have to know what’s important to you. If your classwork is important to you, you have to make the time for it. If your work is important to you, you have to make the time for it. If your family is important to you, you make the time for it. Make your sleep and your health important to you, and make the time for it.”

Surviving Sickness

Tips and Hacks on How You and Your Family can Use to Help Prevent Getting Sick this Year

Story by: Nalani Nuylan

So it’s that time of year again. Sure we love Halloween candy and the pumpkin spice lattes, but we can confidently say we hate cold/flu/allergy season. It’s never fun: the runny nose, sore throat, fevers, and in worst-case scenarios, the vomiting. So how can we stay safe from evil bacteria and viruses? Here are some helpful life hacks and tips you can use to prevent getting sick. 

Know the warning signs:
Before we go and find remedies to cure us, we first need to know what exactly you are fighting. According to the National Institutes of Health colds, flu and allergies affect your respiratory system, making it harder to breathe. However, each has its own symptoms to look out for:

  • Flu: look for fatigue, aches and pains and a high fever that lasts for several days.
  • Colds: sore throats, runny nose and cough, but no fever.
  • Allergies: your eyes will become itchy and watery. Please note that allergies are different because your body is reacting to a trigger rather than fighting a virus.


Wash your hands: 
Now that we know what you look for, washing your hands is one of the first things you need to bo. This small act does wonders. If you wash your hands for 20 seconds or more with warm water and soap, the amount of damage to your health will notably decrease. Just sign the ABCs with warm water when washing then you’re done, that’s all you need to do. 


Clean, Clean, Clean:
It goes without saying but in addition to the time you spend time washing your hands, you should also spend time cleaning the surfaces your hands touch. Disinfecting doorknobs, refrigerator handles, keyboards, steering wheel and your phone regularly can go a long way. Leaving you and your loved ones free from another day of catching a cold. 


Cover your cough and sneeze: 
This is a pet peeve to most, especially yours truly. Cough and sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away, or cough and sneeze into your upper shirt sleeve, completely covering your mouth and nose. For extra protection, sneeze and cough away from other people and food, preferably the ground with your back towards the crowd. BBC’s Science Focus Magazine estimates your sneeze alone travels 25 feet away from your runny nose. That is a lot of surface area and a lot of people to infect. We don’t want what you have, so keep it to yourself. 


Get some Zzz’s:
Fun fact whenever your body sleeps, it heals itself. The same can be said for when you’re sick. Sleep and let your body use the valuable energy you would use for walking to fight the bacteria instead.


Load up on fluids: 
The more you pee, the better you’ll be. Jokes aside, according to, liquids keep your respiratory system hydrated and filters out the viruses out of your body. Water is good, but all liquids help in this case: orange juice, chicken broth, hot tea with honey, to name a few. 


Even though rest is important, breaking a sweat can strengthen your immune system. According to, a low impact/low energy exercise routine such as walking or yoga, “[takes] 25% to 50% less time off from work during cold and flu season compared with couch potatoes.” Meaning if you want to be sick for only two days instead of four, go outside and take a walk. 


Take a steamy shower:
The steam from the shower can help with congestion and cough. The shower opens up our pores in your skin, enabling you to breathe better. When it comes to your health, there is no such thing as too many washes. Plus, studies conducted at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York have shown that viruses survive better in dry air rather than humid/steamy air. 


Eat the Super Soup:
There is a reason that Chicken soup is what your mom gave you whenever you were sick. Not only is it comfort food, but it provides your body the nutrition it needs. The warm broth will not only keep you hydrated but also soothe your sore throat. The carrots, onion, and celery are rich in vitamins A and C. The chicken and noodles provide a source of protein and carbs to keep you full. 


Of course, these are just hacks you can do at home to help yourself out. If you need antibiotics or medication, please go to your doctor for help. If your doctor recommends getting a flu shot, CVS and Walgreens offers them for free. If you want to learn more hacks check out Leander ISD’s recommendations, National Health Institutes warning signs,’s tips, and’s gallery.       

Student Government Association takes on Washington DC

Photo Story by: Nikoo Vafaee

Hello Washington DC! The E-board members from ACC’s Student Government Association recently took a trip to Washington DC to attend the American Student Government Association conference. The conference was located in their hotel which included daily workshops on how to better their leadership, make connections, and more! After all the training they then got to explore many historical sites. Come along and see some photos of Washington DC!

Pocha Concha: Turning Hate Into Love

Finding your strength in your heritage.

Column by: McKenna Frausto Bailey

With Hispanic Heritage month coming to a close, I wanted to reflect on something new I’ve come to embrace about my Mexican-American heritage. My family on my mother’s side is from Mexico. During the Civil Rights movement, my grandmother faced a lot of racism because she’s Hispanic and speaks Spanish. My mother doesn’t know Spanish since my grandmother didn’t want to teach it to her, and as a result, I didn’t grow up speaking much Spanish either. 

Now, I can speak Spanish (or rather Tex-Mex), but I’m not fluent yet. I love my Hispanic heritage because Spanish is a beautiful language and there are so many mysteries about Mexican history that fascinate me. I love calling myself Tejano or Tex-Mex. I feel that it’s a part of my identity.

Recently, while scrolling on twitter I came across an interesting term from Buzzfeed; ‘Pocha Concha’. I recognized ‘Concha’ as it translates to ‘shell’ in English and is also used to describe my favorite Hispanic treat, Pan Dulce (sweet bread), aka Conchas. However, I didn’t understand ‘Pocha’, or ‘Pocho’ if you’re a boy. 

According to Maya Murillo (@mayainthemoment), a Buzzfeed producer who coined the term ‘Pocha Concha’ on their YouTube show Pero Like,

 “[A Pocha/o is] a derisive term for people who are whitewashed in America but who have Mexican descent. It basically means your Spanish is bad, you’re a 4th generation Mexican-American, and it’s used to offend someone by telling them they aren’t Latin enough.” 

The Britannica Encyclopedia defines a Pocha/o as, “A derogatory term typically used by native-born Mexicans to describe U.S. born Mexicans that don’t speak Spanish. They aren’t considered either Mexican or American.” Pocha has much of the same meaning as ‘Chicano’, but less political. 

However, there is more to the story. Maya continues, “So I took that word, reclaimed it, and combined it with my favorite dessert and now it’s a term of endearment to describe love for others and self-love.” 

I fell in love with this immediately. While some might still see the term (Pocha), as racist, I think it’s a good thing what Maya has done by turning a historically derogatory word into something we can take honor in. 

I welcome the term, Pocha Concha. It’s a way for us Mexican-American’s to find some of our identity in our heritage and embrace our culture. It makes us unique. It strengthens us. Knowing our roots and our culture gives us a powerful sense of self. Just because someone is a 4th generation Mexican-American, or has a bad Spanish accent, doesn’t make them any less Latino. Maya emphasizes these ideas in her final statement. 

“So go ahead, use Pocha Concha. Use it, and use it proudly. Don’t let anyone else tell you that you’re not enough. Take control of it. Be you. Be empowered by it.”

Now every time I see a Concha it reminds me of my self-empowerment; that I’m reclaiming my culture and learning more about my heritage. Thanks to Maya, I have a special phrase to remind me of my journey. 

ACC Discusses Forming Volleyball League

Why an ACC volleyball league would provide more than just an opportunity to play.

Story by: Alexa Smith 

In Priya Parker’s book, “The Art of Gathering” she discusses how gatherings must have a purpose. One might think the purpose of gathering for a volleyball game is to simply play volleyball. However, it is clear that for the women on ACC’s volleyball team it has become so much more. 

Tracy Partin has been a kinesiology professor at ACC for 12 years and a Student Life and Intramurals coordinator for 9 years. Recently, Partin has seen ACC’s volleyball team grow in a way it never has before. For the first time, ACC is considering forming its own volleyball league. Over 40 girls showed up to tryouts for the Fall 2019 semester but only 20 girls were able to play on teams.

 “My goal is to get everybody playing,” Partin says.

Which is what lead him to the idea of forming ACC’s own volleyball league. The league could potentially launch in the Spring semester and would allow more girls to play. 

The Lady Riverbat volleyball team in action.

So, what keeps these women coming back? What makes the purpose of these gatherings more than just playing volleyball? When talking with Partin and observing the two volleyball teams ACC currently has, it was clear that the women were not just finding a place to exercise but a place to form friendships and community.

“There’s a bonding that’s very special between the women in volleyball.” 

These are not just empty words. The team’s bond shines through in their gameplay as well. They don’t let one point go by without coming in for high-fives and cheering each other on. Critique and direction are necessary for sports, but the women on the ACC team deliver it carefully and with compassion. Rarely would they use phrases like, “You need to talk more” it’s always “We can talk more.” Even though they have only been playing with each other for a short amount of time, they already think as a team. 

This is what makes ACC’s volleyball games more than a simple gathering for the purpose of playing volleyball.  ACC’s volleyball games serve to support community, comradery, and personal development. The creation of ACC’s own volleyball league would not just provide a space for women to play their favorite sport, but also a place for women to support and uplift each other. 


A Wash of Green Paint

How Greenwashing Muddies Product Waters

Story by: Jace Puckett

2019 has been a relevant year for the green movement. In August, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg traveled to New York to attend the UN Climate Action Summit. As talk about climate change continues, we have seen a trend of companies within the last decade that market their products to be environmentally conscious. From Hydro flasks and Kånken bags to reusable metal straws, numerous products have been advertised as being “green” when in fact that is not always the case. A certain marketing tactic called “greenwashing” makes it difficult to tell what is or isn’t environmentally friendly. A spin on the word “whitewashing,” the act of concealing unpleasant facts about a person or organization, greenwashing is the act of disguising products and services as “green” or “eco-friendly” when in fact they aren’t.

“[Greenwashing is] inevitable because there’s a market advantage to having a product that’s differentiated by its green properties,” says Caleb Crow, the Energy Conservation Manager of the Office of Energy and Sustainability at Austin Community College. “If a green label is…raising the cost of whatever you’re talking about, that is a competitive disadvantage for that product, compared to a similar product that maybe didn’t go through a vetted process, but puts a similar-looking but rather meaningless label on the product to confuse a buyer, and then that product is, therefore cheaper, even if it’s in other ways similar. So greenwashing has a negative effect on the marketplace because people will be motivated by cost in many instances.”

Research on the effects of greenwashing on buyer decisions is limited, but there is certainly a demand for green products, to which companies are responding for better or worse. A 2010 study done by Richard Dahl suggests that buyer skepticism can make these misleading advertisements “risky ventures” for companies, many of which are simply trying to profit as much as possible.

“There’s been a lot of analysis of greenwashing, and the public has caught on to it,” Claudette Juska, a research specialist at Greenpeace, commented. “I think in general people have become skeptical of any environmental claims. They don’t know what’s valid and what isn’t, so they disregard most of them.”

The burden of proof often falls on the party making the claim, but several companies commit what has been termed the “sin of no proof,” one of seven “sins of greenwashing” named by TerraChoice. Because companies fail to provide proof of their environmentally-friendly claims or lie altogether (“sin of fibbing”), it may be up to buyers to determine which products are green and which are brown, the opposite of green.

However, buyers don’t have to assume full responsibility: “In terms of [the] Energy and Sustainability office for ACC, we’re doing research on individual product lines that we can then refer to individual buyers,” Crow said. “We have the benefit of being able to think ahead and research.”

Student Discounts

Story by: Nalani Nuylan

Money makes the world go round. With bills, gas,  and tuition, life can be hard for a student on a strict budget. But don’t think that a tight wallet will determine your resources. By using your ACC Student ID or email you and fellow Riverbats can save a little cash while receiving the same quality product if you were to pay at full price.

The Austin Metro:
CapMetro is Austin’s public transportation system with a plethora of bus routes, a train line that runs from Downtown East Austin to Leander and paratransit services. ACC students can get all Metro services for free using the ACC Green Pass. The Green Pass can take students to all 11 Austin campuses. All riders must show their ACC ID upon request. To learn how to find out more click here.     

Adobe Products: 
This one is for all the artists’. Riverbats have a special student discount for using Adobe Creative Products. Adobe and its various software can help you create anything and everything from graphics to videos to animations to your website. All you need is to start your seven-day trial as a student and provide your ACC email to save over 60 percent of what an individual would spend using Abode.  

Spotify Premium Student: 
With Spotify’s Premium Student, you as a student of ACC can listen to songs offline without interruptions and get both Hulu and Showtime for only $4.99 per month. If you graduate or transfer out of ACC, Spotify will give you up to 12 months from the date you subscribed, while the services are available to re-verify your student price. Students can also cancel anytime.  

The Balton Museum of Art: 
Located on UT’s Campus, this art museum is student-friendly. When shown an ACC ID,  students have a five-dollar entry fee compared to the $12 emission fee for the standard adult. With upcoming exhibits such as Medieval Monsters this October and Cabaret Crusades III: The Secrets of Karbala, a three-dimensional puppeteer piece, in December there is plenty of visual wonders to explore. 

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema:
Who doesn’t love a movie with some amazing food? With their six locations throughout the Austin area, there is no reason to go see a movie. When you show your student ID, your ticket will cost the matinee price regardless of the time of day. So the next time you have a little free time from homework, treat yourself with some classic queso and a blockbuster at the Alamo. 

Based in Round Rock, Dell offers a wide range of discounted products for University students as well as the military. All you need to do is click on the category that fits you, then happy shopping!


This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of restaurants and retail stores that offer student discounts that we didn’t cover. If you are on a budget the best thing to do is ask whenever you are out shopping. Saving money and using your student status while you have it is the smart thing to do, so use it.