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 When she came back to ACC ten years later, she found that HSA was no longer active.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.

Restoring Our Earth in a Week

At ACC, we don’t just celebrate Earth Day, but rather Earth week. The college will be hosting their annual Earth Week events virtually for the second year in a row due to the pandemic.

By: Zeus Enloe

Hollie Sampson Student Leader

This year, there are over 50 videos and activities for students to choose from to learn the ins and outs of sustainability. Events will kick off  on April 19, students have the option to attend a variety of virtual events held by ACC and other organizations in our community. These events include trivia games, recycled crafts, and more. There are also resources for students to learn more about sustainable practices in their personal time. To learn more, ACCENT spoke with several staff members and students involved in ACC’s sustainability initiatives as well as the Earth Week festivities.

At ACC, Earth Week events are organized by the Office of Sustainability. Additionally, each ACC campus is home to its own Green Team. The Green Teams are collaborative student and faculty groups working towards the goal of increasing sustainability on our ACC campuses. 

Carol Knight, ACC’s administrative assistant and Green Team coordinator for the Cypress Creek Campus, explains Earth Day as “a way to draw attention to things that directly affect and influence you know ones daily lifestyle and choices.”

 This was echoed by Andy Kim, the energy & sustainability director, when asked why ACC students should even care about Earth Day to begin with. 

“Everything we do in our daily lives affects our environment, no matter how trivial it is,” Kim says.

Throughout the entire week, students will be given ideas on how to incorporate eco-friendly practices into their daily lives such as creating a DIY home garden, learning how to cook vegetarian dishes, or take on challenges that reduce electricity usage in their homes. Activities are open to students with any level of knowledge about sustainability. 

[F]or those that don’t necessarily know much about sustainability, Earth Day/Week is an opportunity to learn about and get involved in sustainability at ACC and at home. It is a time for us all to shout from the rooftops how important it is to live a sustainable lifestyle and how easy it is to do so,” Jasmin Rostamnezhad, ACC’s sustainability coordinator, says.

Student leaders Celeste Mills and Holli Sampson agreed, telling ACCENT that we should work towards sustainability every day, and Earth Week is a way to remind us of this. 

Mills advised, “We need help to make companies accountable and make it possible for everyone to live a sustainable life.”

Mills will be hosting an Earth Week book club featuring “Kleptopia: How Dirty Money Is Conquering the World” by Tom Burgis as well as “The Uninhabitable Earth” by David Wallace-Wells. 

Sampson  organized a trash pickup for students to partake in on April 25. Students can find a space in their local community that needs to be cleaned and will receive a voucher for a free slice of pizza from Toss Pizzeria for their efforts. Students can walk around and pick up trash, even if they’re only going on a 15 minute walk with their dog.

 “[It’s] Such an easy way to get things done and it feels good,” Sampson says.

Something new to Earth Week this year are the Energy and Sustainability Office’s meetups. The meetups will be recurring throughout the week and will allow students the opportunity to connect with the sustainability staff and learn more about ACC’s green initiatives. 

“Sustainability touches on just about everything and anything we do,” Kim says. “[It’s] Not just one day. We need to think about our limited resources.”

After Earth Week ends, students are still encouraged to continue practicing the tools and resources learned from these events. Knight suggested that students “find one thing” that they care about and find a way to connect it with Earth Day.

 “[There is] always something more to learn that I can do that can help minimize the things that are bad for the planet,” she says. “For example, a student that enjoys cooking can look into green cooking and container gardening. 

There are also events hosted by organizations outside of ACC. Both Kim and Knight suggested that students look into the nonprofit organization called Keep Austin Beautiful.  Rostamnezhad suggested getting involved with a nonprofit called EartShare of Texas and their daily eco-friendly challenges for the month of April.

“ [I] would encourage everyone to participate in the #MyEarthMyTexas Challenge April 1 – 30, 2021. This challenge will show you easy ways to reduce your environmental footprint at home and you get prizes for it!” Rostamnezhad said.

Earth Day celebrations are not only beneficial to our planet and community, but can also lead to great memories. For Kim this was when he was challenged to make wearable items out of reused objects. Something that still sticks with Kim is how one person apparently made a hat out of kitty litter packaging. For Knight, this was the many projects that have been implemented at the Cypress Creek campus, such as the butterfly garden.  Students can make their own memories this year, whether they are interested in gardening, sustainable cooking, trash pick-ups, or even informational presentations. Get involved, get educated, and make a difference. Find the full list of Earth Week events here.

Leadership Conference Aims to Build Students’ Confidence

Austin Community College Student Life is kicking off 2021 with the first annual Student Leadership Conference! This web-based convention allows ACC students to attend panels, meet with guest speakers, and network with their fellow peers. ACCENT met with organizers of this event, students, and guest speakers to get the scoop.

By: Adam Cherian

Austin Community College is kicking off 2021 with the first annual Student Leadership Conference! This web-based convention allows ACC students to attend panels, meet with guest speakers, and network with their fellow peers. 

Starting on Feb 4, this virtual two-day event will encompass central themes of confidence, resilience, and civic engagement. Students will have the opportunity to build such skills by listening to guest speakers such as local Austin icon, Evenlyn from the Internets.

Each day is divided into different time slots, where panels and networking will take place. The organizers realize that building networks of people during the Covid-19 pandemic is not easy, so the conference organizers have dedicated a whole hour each day for the sole purpose of meeting with other students. 

ACCENT had the opportunity to speak with ACC students, Ashley Pesina and Todd Snow, about why they were attending this conference, as well as what they are expecting to gain from attending.

“I want to strengthen my leadership skills. I am the new president of the new student organization LatinX Student Union. It will definitely help me in this new opportunity to be a better leader,” Pesina said. 

Snow, who is now the current president of the Student Veterans Association of ACC, is attending for similar reasons.

 “Even if a person will never be in a leadership role, the skills a good leader needs are skills everyone should have.” Snow said. 

Many students, like Ashely and Todd, are looking for better ways to increase their leadership skills, especially while we are in a pandemic and are unable to meet in person. 

“…we have been virtual for a year almost so I am used to participating in events online,” Pesina said. 

Snow disclosed with us that he would not  have been able to go if it were an in person event, which raises the question of accessibility. Having virtual events for the past ten months have created a space where everyone can safely participate in large events.

For instance, there are over 130+ students planning to attend this conference. 

“I would recommend an ACC student to attend this conference because it will help them gain leadership skills and network with different people,” Pesina said. 

Janelle Greene and Darrell Merriweather, guest speakers for the Resilience: Reaching In, Reaching Out, Reaching Around panel set to occur at 10 a.m. on Feb 5 will discuss how people can remain resilient in these times, while also maintaining civic participation in our communities. 

With the panel’s intention to educate the attendees of the panel on the ways to remain resilient in the face of hardship, they also strive to connect with students in different ways, especially during the pandemic.

“We wanted to bring about different strategies…finding support groups…being able to bounce back and persevere through these times,” Merriweather said. 

Kelsey Sisler and Jamal Nelson, organizers for the event, stated that though the theme of this year’s conference is confidence building, Nelson explained that this conference is more than just that but that civic engagement and acquiring leadership skills are also the focus. As well as trying to build leadership qualities after traumatic experiences. 

When we asked Sisler about what she was specifically doing to plan for the event, she emphasized that diversity was extremely important. Both planners made diversity a huge priority, which is seen in the panelists they are having.

 Both organizers exclaimed to us how much easier it is to plan this event online. Though they both experienced “Zoom fatigue” while planning, the accessibility of having it online is worth the fatigue.

 “The take away from the conference should be the information gathered, and the larger network built,” Nelson said. 

The Student Leadership conference of 2021 is one of the largest virtual conferences held by ACC Student Life that allows students to get connected with your peers, as well as get informative talks from highly experienced individuals. 

Visit the Student Life website to learn more about the schedule of events and registration.