Women’s Volleyball and The Future of Sports at ACC

The Women’s Volleyball Club at ACC has been seeing some big changes lately – in both the organization and its members. Meet the team and read about some of ACC Sports’ recent developments here.

By Eliana Nieto and Nathan Adam Spear

The time is 6:00 PM on Feb. 1, the energy in the gym is buzzing and excitement grows palpable as game time nears closer for ACC’s Women’s Club Volleyball team. Kaieva, a player and first year ACC student, warms up with her teammates after traveling all the way to San Antonio for their game against the University of the Incarnate Word; but, listening to music, Kaieva doesn’t let any pressure break her focus – for her and her teammates, what makes the whole thing worth it is simply being part of the team. After scoring a point, she says, “I cannot even describe how exciting it is. …you truly feel like that is the moment when you feel part of the team, which is super awesome.”

The members of the nine-woman student organization that I spoke to all shared grit and a true passion for their sport ,as well as an appreciation for the opportunity at ACC. Since the team had formed earlier last year, sports at ACC has grown in outreach and as a whole as well. Now in recent semesters, the girls have had the opportunity to play games both here in Austin, as well as in San Antonio against other schools like Incarnate Word and Palo Alto College. 

The ACC Volleyball team plays a match at the Austin Recreation Center in October, 2023. Photo taken by Ky San Diego.

The transition into becoming a traveling team and finding a permanent home to practice in has not been easy, but through the determination amongst teammates and efforts of leadership, the possibilities have been opened up more for the volleyball team. Elisha Macgregor, a Student Government officer who has been advocating for the group and helping promote their activity across campuses, even recalls a moment last year when the volleyball players had been told they could not participate in a game scheduled in San Antonio – but only after the team had driven several hours to go play it. 

MacGregor clarifies that they lacked the necessary approval from Dr. Rhodes – ACC’s previous Chancellor who was still leaving the position at that time – for the trip. She adds that the reason why more opportunities for the team have become available now is the sport’s purposeful transition from a part of curriculum, which requires more approval for activities, to existing as a Student Organization like other clubs.

The added flexibility as a club has been a huge benefit for the sport and others like volleyball at ACC to stay active, especially without an official place to play on most campuses, including Highland. The Coach of the team and athletics manager at ACC for 14 years, Tracy Partin, explains that “…to practice, for us to play our games – It was really tough this Spring. Most of our games have been on the road because I was not able to secure a rec center or a gym. That’s why we need a gym.” 

Around a year ago, the clear lack of a recreation center or active sports team at ACC is actually what brought MacGregor to work with the Student Government Association only a few days after she had first enrolled in the school with a major in Sports Psychology. “My goal was to work with elite athletes, and I was looking for a place where I [had] access to them,” she says, “then when I came here, there was like … nothing. It was like nada.” 

Deciding that “someone needs to do something about it,” MacGregor has been working with Coach Partin and the SGA to get approval for work on a new “multi-purpose center” at ACC’s Highland campus.  The initial intention for the location was solely as a gym area to be used by ACC’s sports teams for home games and intramurals; but the expanded title of “multi-purpose” room is part of an effort by the student planners to broaden the services offered and subsequent appeal of these developments.

ACC’s Chancellor, Russell Lowery-Hart (right), holds a volleyball signed by the Women’s Vollyeball Club and given to him by Elisha MacGregor (unpictured) to promote the team during his campus tours in October, 2023. Photo taken by Nathan Adam Spear.

Now, MacGregor says, the recreation center can benefit the general student community as well as the school, and she references “gaming rooms” at Tesla work facilities when observing how having a similarly no-stress zone on campus could benefit success rates. “Why don’t we maximize our potential?” 

“We have the money… We just need to find a way to request something,” she added, describing how plans to address a less specific population are more likely to yield positive data and approval from the board. “Like is this a need? Do we need a gym or do we need a multipurpose room?”

A closed entrance to the unused building at ACC’s Highland campus that students are campiagning to develop into a new “multi-purpose center”. Photo taken in May of 2023 by Nathan Adam Spear

More so than the money, MacgGregor emphasizes that ACC even already has the space for these developments. Large yet somehow without drawing attention, a building connected to building 4000 at the Highland campus currently stands without any official use by the school according to MacGregor’s research. “Based on the report that I read, the company who is in charge is waiting upon request to do whatever the college wants,” she said before pointing my attention toward the wall in 4000 which currently blocks off a former entrance to the area.

A wall in building 4000 of ACC’s Highland campus which MacGregor says previously led to the now unused building beyond it. Photo taken in May of 2023 by Nathan Adam Spear

For a perspective on size, she describes the unused building’s original features from when it was a shopping mall before being purchased in 2012. “They had a food court over there, they had a Macy’s over there… I think they used to even have like, ice skating.”

MacGregor says that currently her focus is on simply attracting attention toward the multi-purpose room for gathering data and observing its need – “we need to push publicity,” she says, which has since involved developing the sports and volleyball community at ACC.

Now it seems that passing advertisements for the women’s volleyball club – like on the ACCTV slideshows that decorate campus walls – has become a common experience for many in-person ACC students. MacGregor says tabling on campus to receive petition signatures for the project has also proven very effective for promotion, boasting a current number of over 800 students signed on already.

Until these ambitious developments see light, Coach Partin says that for now, “With the rec centers, it’s been pretty good. The fact that I used to work with them made it easier for me because I knew a lot of people had a lot of contacts within Austin. But they have their own programs, and then they have contract labor groups that are in there using the gym – So especially this spring was really tough. I’m hoping someday, ACC will be able to develop or build an activity and wellness recreational sports center for the students.”

Volleyball Club Coach Partin puts up the River-Bats handsign during one of the team’s games at the Austin Recreation Center. Photo taken in October of 2023 by Ky San Diego

All of this recent growth has opened up a new reality for the Volleyball Club girls, as their team is finally getting the resources it needs to really practice and find a home. Especially since the team has started traveling, Coach Partin’s biggest hope is for motivation towards these changes to continue. Currently, the club’s teams are practicing at the Austin Recreation Center when the schedule and availability permits, but Partin stresses that ACC opening its own recreation center could be a big game changer – not just for the athletics department, but for students in general. He says wellness and community is just the beginning of what a recreation center could offer to the student body. 

Not only has the ACC’s Women’s Club Volleyball Team and Athletics Department been going through big changes, but so have the members of the team due to the organization’s development. The members I spoke with say they have all gained unique experiences that have contributed to the quality of their group and their own personal growth after joining the team.

The ACC Women’s Volleyball Club join hands before a game. Photo taken in October of 2023 by Ky San Diego

Adia, a third-year member as well as President of the now Student Organization, discussed how joining volleyball has allowed her to have fun while fulfilling leadership positions and completing a lot of behind the scenes work for the team. “…a lot of the time it’s chaos times ten, you know, managing everything. We’re a very small team that works our tournaments and games and all that. I get here and I get to watch the behind the scenes, I get to up-rep, down-rep and get to enjoy with everybody but it’s so different when you also play because that connection that we share- just our little team is all so different. It’s a lot of fun to just experience both sides.”. 

Although Adia’s schedule can become jam-packed, she emphasized that the team spirit and the sport itself make up for it. “I’m an assistant property manager so I already do my career stuff and ACC is where I come to play volleyball for me to get my associates. But it’s definitely helped, I had an injury in high school and I wasn’t planning on playing again until I came to ACC, so it’s definitely helped me grow as a person again and come back into it- and getting you know, to work out again and get to meet all these fun friends, it’s definitely been a lot of fun.”.

There is also no shortage of leadership positions and opportunities within the ACC Club Volleyball Team for students like Kaieva Jack, a first-year student and Vice-President of the Club Volleyball Team. She highlighted how her time so far with the team has prepared her for responsibilities that surpass the world of sports. Kaieva also appreciates how inclusive the team and the members of it have been, and how this has changed a lot of her past perceptions about being new to a group. “It helped challenge me because it forced me into a leadership position… being on a volleyball team, you have to have some type of leadership. Even if you’re not the quote-unquote ‘captain’, you still have to be encouraging, which takes leadership skills within yourself to push yourself and others.” 

Kaieva also adds that the friendships she’s been able to make are a crucial part of enjoying her sport to the fullest. “It challenged me to really get out of my comfort zone socially. I’m used to playing club teams or school teams, where I know everyone, right?- Coming to ACC, where I don’t know anyone in the beginning, and then having to play with these girls every week and playing tournaments with them, it was very uncomfortable, but super fun.”

If there’s one person who truly stands as a testament to the power of friendship and team sports facilitating personal growth, it would be Valerie, a second-year student at ACC and first-year member of ACC’s Club Volleyball Team. Valerie explained to me that she had plenty of fears before joining the team, but now she has built some amazing friendships as a result of taking that leap. “Whenever I was trying out for this team, I was very very anxious- And so whenever I walked in, I actually started talking to Kaieva, she was the first person I met, and after starting to get to know everybody, not just her, but as a community of people that were there, I was like, wow, these are really great girls. You’re making a lot of friendships, we’ve all gotten so close.”. 

The team poses for a quick picture with ACC’s mascot, R.B. Photo taken in October of 2023 by Ky San Diego

Perhaps the most amazing part of it all is that the anxiety that Valerie once felt when transitioning to a new team is what she says has become one of the most grounding and comforting experiences for her so far. “This is the closest I’ve gotten with a team in the entirety of me being in sports – from middle school to now. I feel like I’ve grown up enough to understand different people’s perspectives, and it’s like we all have a lot of things in common now. It’s a breath of fresh air to be able to be able to bond with a team the way that I’m able to. I thought it’d just be a regular team that I’d see like twice a week, but after the first couple of practices, I was like, dang, I’m actually getting really close with these people. And we’re all in it together no matter what at this point.”.

The Women’s Club Volleyball team has proven to be a strong group, bearing through the hardships of finding recreation centers to play and practice at, as well as picking up traction to become a traveling team and develop their own recreation center. With ACC’s sports community and especially the volleyball team’s activity now on the radar, there’s no telling how far athletics can grow at the college.

The Making of “Underground”

Read how ACC and it’s Creative Co-Lab program connected two students for the creation of “Underground,” a music video directed by RTF student Schelby Deady with the titular song written by Christian Glakas, an ACC student musician.

Christian Glakas (left) and Schelby Deady (right) holding their respective equipment. Portrait photos taken by Collin Eason.

Everything it’s fine, I am just so tired” are the first lines of Underground, a song written by ACC Digital Composition student Christian Glakas. In the featured music video, a man sits in the darkness of his music studio when a female figure appears from the door. He acknowledges her with a crestfallen and exhausted gaze, but decides to go back to his work without a word. The darkness of the room appears to drag him down as the song continues with the lyrics, “Walk on eggshells, walk on by…”

Isolating from the people we love is a familiar response to many. Artists, especially, often find themselves hiding in their work to ignore the reality that surrounds them – but art can be a platform for healing too. This duality of art’s importance is the emotional narrative that Radio Television Film (RTF) student Schelby Deady wanted to address in the music video for “Underground” which she directed in 2022. 

On Feb. 28 of 2024, their music video was presented at the “Arts and Digital Media Student Networking Mixer” as a leading example of the possibilities found in ACC’s recently-created Creative Co-Labs Connect program — an online platform offered by the RTF department and Arts and Digital Media where students can connect to each other’s artistic projects. The tool uses a “finding each other” approach for a collaborative trade of talent, purpose and passion between users. In the case of Deady and Glakas, their music video stands among the many examples of the program’s success not only due to the art they created, but for the story that both of the artists brought to the table.

In 2022, Deady was double majoring in RTF and Emerging Media at ACC when she was assigned to make five short films at a length of no more than five minutes for her Film-Style Production class. The challenge sparked her idea of an opportunity to try something different.

“I went to my professor and I told him that I wanted to do a music video,” Deady says across the video call, her sharp green eyes accentuated by her black-toned makeup. “It was kind of uncharted territory and not a lot of people do that.” To the aspiring film director, exploring new artistic disciplines is important and music videos, especially, represent an important part of her time as a teenager.

 “I grew up watching MTV and having music videos literally all night long and all day long,” she says. “In my free time if I’m like painting or doing art I’d have music playing on my computer and I’d be watching music videos.”

Her first attempt at a similar project was for one of her favorite songs, “Dead People Are Crawling in My Head” by Sleepy Dog. Attempting to explore a long-time idea she had at that time, Deady didn’t have a Creative Co-lab to find extra talent and had to network in her classes until she found an actor for the project. Sleepy Dog agreed to her request to make the video but never gave her official credits, so she looks at it only as her first attempt at a music video and  not as an “official” success. She would not try again until 2022, when she proposed the idea to her professor for the short-film assignment.  

“I like how music videos can be so nonlinear. Things don’t have to make sense, but the visuals complement the music or enhance the music,” Deady says, her creative persona enchanted by the dreamlike art decorating her room walls. “There is so much more you can do with a music video, and they’re shorter, so it’s like making a short film.” 

The versatile RTF student was looking for musicians with completely recorded songs under around three minutes. After she sent a flyer to the music department chair and posted it on Creative Co-Labs, she received around 10 to 15 submissions.  

“[We] had cool ideas in our head of what we wanted to do with it, but my big thing was I wanted the musician to also play a role in creating the visual aspect of it.” 

Deady and her partner went through all of the submissions until they landed on Christian Glakas and his song as the ideal subjects for the goal of their project. Glakas, whose artistic name is Merciful Heavens, enrolled at ACC in 2022 to expand his knowledge in digital composition after playing in bands for most of his life. He had been spending the last six months finishing on recording a couple of songs when he came across Deady’s flyer. 

“For me it was awesome timing,” Glakas says with a cheerful and mellow voice. “The songs were almost experiments. Learning vehicles to try all these different tools that I had in my computer at home but that I didn’t really know how to use,” the singer-songwriter says.

Merciful Heavens’ music balances folksy alternative pop and indie rock. His lyrics invite the listener to take the time to appreciate all sensations, sounds and nuances of the present, as if exploring the world by walking. The introspection is carried by the energetic sounds of the guitars and drums, characteristic of the indie genre that thrives on experimentation and warm rhythms. 

The making of his song “Underground” was one of the pandemic project experiments he finished in 2022. The piece was born from a trajectory moment in his life when a gradual vocal inefficiency affected his speaking capacity completely. His voice started to wear down and became raspy and higher pitched. Different doctors gave him different diagnoses, but they all agreed his vocal cords worked inefficiently with each other. 

“One doctor made an analogy and said that if my vocal cords were like two hands trying to come together at the same time to catch a ball, one would arrive at the ball early, the other would arrive late, and they would drop the ball,” Glakas says. 

He described the feeling of being an observer in life and not a participant. He had to monitor his speech as if he had a certain number of “talking tickets” each day: If he talked too loud, he described how it would cost all of his talking-time in 10 seconds. 

“Most people don’t think too closely about their breathing when they’re talking. They just talk,” but Glakas says that singing is easier. “With singing, you get to take a big breath and you already know what you’re going to say. And one of the things that you can describe as what makes a good singer is someone who delivers a line in a way where the consonants don’t interrupt the vowel sounds as much.” 

Glakas decided that he would use his limited talking time to sing. Singing only in small increments, he explained that whether it was “bad” or “good” didn’t matter because the fact that he could sing a few lines was already enough for him. Glakas endured both the pandemic and personal isolation, transforming the detachment fears into a playful, musical self-discovery. 

“Singing that way was actually a good relief because from my whole life leading up to that I was really hard on myself to sing,” he says. “I would sing something 40 times until I got it right. But now I feel lucky to be able to get three lines out.” 

When Deady and Glakas met to discuss the collaboration for the first time, Deady realized that her collaborator’s journey and family were important roles for the song and his story. Deady says she remembers how the musician “kept expressing how much his family supported him during that time, but also how it created some sort of distance between them at the same time.” 

That is the duality she sought to depict in the video for “Underground”: hiding from the people who are most important to you in whatever ways you can and failing to express your truth, because as in the case of Glakas’ experience, finding the words can involve dealing with both emotional and physical pain. After he told Deady how much time he spent during the pandemic in his music room, she wanted to bring that safe place to life and incorporate it as part of the narrative in the video. 

Glakas’ family appears in the video as well, doing what they do in real life as described to Deady: his two kids playing under his desk and his wife checking on him every once in a while. The student director hoped to capture a time capsule of Glakas’ life, a memento of that whole period he endured. Unlike the first time she made a music video, this time Deady had more experience and a bigger crew. 

Glakas, colorfully lit by his computer screen in a still of the “Underground” music video.

“I think my mark is the concept of dreaming. Whether it be nightmares or aspirations or just absolute confusion. I want to personify what’s going on in our heads and make it a visually moving piece of art,” she says.

In “Underground” she shows the struggle of a man, both husband and father, finding himself and the warmth of those he loves in the music he plays. Their collaboration is a testament to the talent of these two ACC students and the possibilities available by connecting with others in mutual artistic endeavors – a task now made easier through the Creative Co-Lab program that Deady oversees herself as part of her job at ACC.

The young film director now holds her two certificates in RTF and works in ACC as a Teacher’s Assistant. For the Creative Co-Labs Connect program, she keeps track of the current and past projects that students submit.

“We have received 220 submissions in total, and 50 this spring semester,” Deady says, “I like the work and I like seeing what ACC students are up to. Sometimes I get to read the scripts or if I see something and I know of someone who could do it, I can like bring it to their attention or reach out to that person and like be like, ‘hey, I know someone who might work for what you’re looking for,’” Deady says with a smile. On a creative level, she is coming up with new scripts and thinking of possibly turning a music video idea she has into a narrative piece. 

On the other hand, Glakas, working on his Digital Composition degree, has performed his songs for the Flex Factory Concert Series at ACC’s Highland Campus and Kick Butt Coffee. Now, he is focusing on bringing to life a new challenging idea: to incorporate theater into his musical performance. He is searching for dancers and actors at ACC who would like to join his new, collaborative endeavor. 

“There’s so many of these kinds of projects,” Glakas reflected. “I think there’s so many people who are so good at so many different things. And you grow so much and it helps you to connect with so many things about yourself, and grow more than you would ever do it alone.”

You can find the “Underground” music video here.

OPINION: These Are The Stakes

Dash Kostka, ACC Student and Political writer for his site The Dash Files, argues for the importance of a win for the Democratic party in the upcoming 2024 presidential election. He says, “We can either choose to preserve our democracy by re-electing Joe Biden, or can choose to end it by allowing Donald Trump to win.”

By Dash Kostka

This November, the voters of the United States, the oldest living democratic republic on earth, will head to the polls to decide whether to extend the lease on their nation’s constitution, its guarantees of freedom, and its promise of the rule of law – or to instead plunge the very foundations of our republic itself into the dark by electing Donald Trump to a second term as President of the United States. The drastic consequences that will result from your vote, or your choice to not vote, will far outlive just the next four years.

The Threat of a Second Trump Term

Nothing about this election can be treated like it’s normal. We cannot sit back and ignore the fact that the Republican nominee for President was impeached for attempting to extort the President of Ukraine and for inciting insurrectionists to attempt a coup at the United States Capitol to steal an election he lost. We cannot act like it’s okay that Trump is under indictment for 85 felonies, which include alleged criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States, deliberate mishandling and dissemination of classified documents, racketeering, and falsification of business records. And don’t forget he’s been found civilly liable for sexual abuse, defamation, and fraud.

We should all be reminded: Donald Trump was a really bad president. And if elected again, his top priorities will include unfunded tax cuts for the wealthy, a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, appointing hundreds of right-wing judges who will annihilate abortion rights, and abandoning NATO. He’ll also pursue a psychopathic agenda called Project 2025, which includes creating internment camps for deporting 13 million Latinos, systematic targeting and imprisonment of journalists, appointing special prosecutors to arrest his political opponents, banning abortion pills nationwide, deploying the military to shut down protests, revoking broadcast licenses for news networks that criticize him, instituting a national ban on pornography, as well as banning parental surrogacy and no-fault divorce.

Furthermore, if Trump wins, it’ll likely render him totally immune from prosecution for his 85 criminal indictments. The Supreme Court might also allow Trump to pardon himself of his federal crimes. He would, by definition, become a King. If there’s any greater threat to American democracy than this, I cannot think of one.

A Uniquely Dangerous Man

Donald Trump wants to incinerate the Constitution and lay waste to the rule of law because you, the American voter, are the only thing standing in his way. He tried to end American democracy on January 6th, and he’s trying to do it again. We all saw it with our own eyes. You cannot be a populist who wants to supposedly “fix the system” if you only love democracy when you win. Trump’s true interests are neither with repairing America’s institutions, nor to actually “Make America Great Again.” It’s all a big lie.

There’s a reason Trump believes the rules shouldn’t apply to him – and why he’ll govern like a mobster. He’s the toxic byproduct of a nation that has for multiple generations rewarded wealth and privilege while simultaneously diminishing the value of hard work and merit. Trump believes in perpetuating the darkest side of American greed and inequality – what Martin Luther King called the “two Americas” – where oligarchs bask in their inexhaustible quantities of wealth and affluence, while “millions of work-starved men walk the streets daily in search for jobs that do not exist” and parents are denied the help they need to raise a family because Republicans needed the money to cut taxes for multinational corporations. 

Trump contributes to our country nothing but fraud and grift. What kind of “billionaire” begs his supporters to buy $60 “God-Bless-the-USA endorsed Bibles” or those ridiculous $200 gold “Trump sneakers.” It’s a joke! This is a man who scammed thousands by convincing people to attend his fake college, Trump University, and had to declare bankruptcy four times for his failed Atlantic City casinos. Ask yourself, how incompetent must you be to lose money running a casino?

Billionaires like Trump who’ve never experienced an inkling of financial hardship believe they’re entitled to certain rights that ordinary people like you are not. He thinks he’s a better person than you because his name is on a couple of skyscrapers and his Schwab account is bigger than yours. And that’s why he’ll spend his presidency cutting taxes for people like himself, while accomplishing nothing to improve your way of life. Trump thinks that because his face was on reality television, and yours wasn’t, that his opinions and worldview are inherently more valid than yours. And that is why, should he win re-election, he’ll make his entire second term about himself. 

If you’re among the millions of people in this great melting pot of a nation who don’t conform to the sinister identity requirements to be a first class citizen of Donald Trump’s America – if you don’t have white skin, or you aren’t male, straight, cisgender, a natural-born citizen, or Christian, there will be nowhere to hide if he wins. Trump believes you’re “poisoning the blood of our country,” and that’s why his original slogan, “Make America Great Again,” has never changed: His campaign has always been driven by fear and resentment in the fact that America no longer belongs to a select few, and that you, this nation’s new diverse generation, have an equal shot at attaining freedom, civil rights, and the pursuit of happiness. 

Joe Biden for President

In October of 2020, the New York Times endorsed Joe Biden for President, stating that “[i]n the midst of unrelenting chaos, Mr. Biden is offering an anxious, exhausted nation something beyond policy or ideology. His campaign is rooted in steadiness, experience, compassion and decency.” They endorsed him because he would “embrace the rule of law,” “return a respect for science and expertise to the government,” “stand with America’s allies,” “work to address systemic injustices,” and “would not court foreign autocrats or give comfort to white supremacists.” By this metric set in 2020, Biden has met the mark. And yes – we are better off than we were four years ago:

When President Biden took the oath of office in January 2021 on the steps of the Capitol, its interior was still being repaired from the January 6th coup, and its exterior was littered with 400,000 American flags marking those lost to COVID-19. There was no darker time in American history besides the prelude to the Civil War that a president entered office. Yet, during this dire moment, Biden’s leadership shined. With the freshly-minted COVID-19 vaccine coming online, he promised to deliver 100 million shots within 100 days. He did it in 58, while in the meantime ushering $1.9 trillion in badly needed stimulus for the economy.

When Biden faced inevitable setbacks, such as COVID variants or inflation, he responded by doing something about them. With the help of congressional Democrats, he signed into law the largest investment in public infrastructure since the 1950s, the first major gun control bill since the 1990s, hundreds of billions in new funding for manufacturing semiconductors and microchips, allowing Medicare to negotiate the price of prescriptions, capping the price of insulin to $35 a month, and investing billions to fighting climate change, which is estimated to cut carbon emissions by 40% by 2030. I understand that not everything is perfect – interest rates are high and groceries cost too much. But after four years of things getting better, where unemployment is at 50-year lows, inflation is falling, crime is down, and wages are up – let’s build on the progress instead of handing the reins to a psychopath.

Illustrations by Ruby Krimstein

Yes, our 46th president is really old, but what matters infinitely more is the age of his ideas. I’d rather have an elderly President who believes in the basic human rights and constitutional protections for gay people to marry and attain employment, for women to obtain safe and legal abortions, and for racial minorities to earn equal status in society – than to elect a (barely) younger candidate who wants to take American society back to the 1950s. 

Quoting David Sedaris of The New Yorker to put this year’s choice between President Biden and criminal defendant Trump in perspective, “I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. ‘Can I interest you in the chicken?’ she asks. ‘Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?’ To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.” To ponder a third-party candidate who cannot win is to let millions of Americans choose the platter for you. “I mean, really, what’s to be confused about?”

Vote for President Biden on November 5. The stakes are too high for you to stay home.

Painting RED

ACC’s Black Box Theater held a production of RED last spring. Read about the Rothko-inspired show and the creative ways ACC’s Drama Department and Art Department collaborated to promote it.

On Feb. 17, in a tucked away art classroom at ACC’s Highland campus, several students could be seen spending their free time on a seemingly peculiar activity: painting various objects red with members of the Drama and Art department. This strange sight was a result of the two departments joining forces for the promotion of ACC’s showcase of Red, a stage play which took place over several weekends at the school’s black box theater during the 2024 Spring semester. 

The idea of painting objects red for an exhibit outside of the theater was both to reflect the play’s title – of course – as well as to reference 20th century artist Mark Rothko, the subject of the story. Everyone in the community was invited to partake in the activity, where participants chose any object of their liking to bring and paint red with the small group.

The red objects displayed outside of ACC’s Black Box Theater before holding a production of RED.

Written by John Logan, Red is set in New York City during the late 50’s, the story is about Rothko’s curious career in the modern art scene and follows the artist during a creative struggle with his assistant, Ken. The two men question one another about the deeper meanings of art and Rothko is challenged to discover how his paintings will fit into a materialistic world – a type of world he despised. 

Director Ryan Williams, a semi-recent alumni of ACC who has previously worked on other productions at the school, was excited to be a part of the 2024 project. He said, “The show involved the subjectivity of art and the concept of one’s perspective.”

The ACC based production took place at the school’s black box theater in the Highland campus and ran during weekends from Feb. 23 through March 3, where the actors Merrick Milburn (Rothko) and Julian Bennett (Ken) took center stage for the two-handed production. When it came to casting, the ACC drama department said they welcomed everyone, and auditions were limited only to people with an interest in participating. 

Rothko (Milburn, left) and Ken (Bennett, right) are engaged in intense discussion during a scene of the stageplay.

Additionally, the set and costumes were the projects of a small team of ACC students and alumni designers. In a letter for the review website CTX Live Theatre, Williams said this team, “put in so much love and hard work in creating the world that is RED, and without them there would be no show.” 

Wanting to have an exhibit that incorporated these artistic concepts and would immerse the audience, the director said his intention with the painting event was to “spark thought, memories, conversation, and most importantly, the feeling of red as folks walked into the space.” 

With art as a central theme of the story, Peter Bonfitto, the Director of The Art Galleries at ACC, called the collaboration between ACC’s Art and Drama departments a “natural fit”. At the painting event he said, “ It’s always good to collaborate and create a partnership with another department at ACC.” 

Not only was the collaboration beneficial in bringing attention to the play for people outside of theater itself, Bonifitto said, “It was also a great experience for students, faculty, and staff to get together to have a workshop and have some fun making a unique display for the college.”

 David McNiff, a student who attended the painting activity, was asked why he wanted to contribute to the project. He replied, “Because I like to support all of the various activities at ACC, I’ve been a long-time student, and I currently take any art class that I can that fits my schedule, and this seemed like a really fun project to work on.” 

Another student, Charles Scarborough, was approached with the same question and said,  “I just love exploring new ideas, and so this was something unusual that called to me… I also really want to support the art community at ACC, and this is such a nice cross-section of theater and art.”

Beyond just supporting the ACC art community, students who were a part of the painting session also wanted to come together to find and talk with others interested in doing the same. Adjunct Art Professor David Thorneberry had an appreciative response when asked about his reason for participating. “My favorite [part] about this was that it opened up art-making to the general public outside of the classes, and one of my big goals in teaching art is to make art accessible to everybody, not just talented people, but art is a thing everyone should do.”

The push at ACC towards further collaboration for creating or promoting projects across departments, seems like a clear result of the many artistic and creative communities that are active here at the school – and it has certainly been observed in the various projects and experience involved in producing Red. Gallery Director Bonfitto hopes that the projects have “set a new standard” for more similar collaboration in the future, which he emphasizes could be a benefit to the students involved.

Red items displayed at the Highland campus, this photo and others from ACC’s Drama website.

“Hopefully, it’s a way to build community and get students from other departments to meet and work together on something new,” he says.“They can learn about different programs and feel comfortable going to spaces that they don’t normally go to or meet in.” 

If you missed the chance to watch Red earlier this semester, there is no need to panic. ACC will be putting on other productions toward the end of the semester and in the summer. Curtain Call will open at the black box theater on May 9, and Hearts Like Fists will follow on the weekends of June 6 through the rest of the month. To find more information regarding upcoming productions, visit admc.austincc.edu/drama/. Information on exhibitions from the Art department is also available online here, admc.austincc.edu/tag/

Rising Star: Isis Destiny

ACC student and independent musician, Amira Armstrong – or Isis Destiny, as she’s known in the industry – sat down with us for an interview before her upcoming tour. The multi-talented artist lets us in on the creative influences for her recent EP, “Scorpio Rising” and her experience with ACC’s music department.

Photo from Amira Armstrong’s instagram, taken by Amy Primrose (ig: @theprimrosephotography)

Written by Josie Hurt

From her formative years in Austin’s music scene to her struggles with imposter syndrome and other roadblocks, Amira’s story is a testament to her passion for music and the triumph of artistic expression over any obstacle.

So, starting off easy… what initially sparked your interest in music and how did your journey begin as a musician?

I can’t really think of a time that something specific sparked my love for music. At a very young age I was writing my own songs and singing for fun. It wasn’t until I was about 12 that my mom got me guitar lessons over the summer for  my birthday. Once I learned how to put chords to lyrics, it was kind of game over, so I took it a lot more seriously at that point. I was like I’m going to be a pop star! I’ve always had big dreams for sure. I’ve always very much been a music lover.

So you’re around 12 years old and you’re getting into guitar and then you go into fine arts school?

So after the lessons were over I just kept practicing and practicing. Then I started going to open mics. The year of 8th grade, the middle school I was at became a fine arts academy. At that point I applied and I got in. I went for orchestra. I was playing viola, so it wasn’t really for singing or songwriting. I will say that learning how to do classical music and instrumentation at a larger scale definitely added to my style and added to the way I look at creating music. 

Do you feel like going to school for music gave you an advantage as a musician?

Yes and no. Yes it did in a way because I felt a lot more secure in the way I was creating my music. It gave me a lot of structure. Without that structure I think I would have a hard time making songs. So just being in that orchestral setting there’s a lot of layering going on. There’s the viola, the bass, the cello and they all have different instrumentations happening. Being able to observe that did give me an advantage when it comes to the way that I make my own songs. I just felt a lot more secure.

How do you feel like growing up in Austin has impacted you as a musician?

It has done wonders for me! A family friend had opened up the skylark lounge, a blues bar off of airport, around the time I was in highschool. Both of my brothers were working at the skylark lounge, so I grew up going there. They always had amazing blues musicians coming in and performing and just being able to see them perform and then just being in this city where there was constantly music going on, constantly festivals, south by, fun fun fun fest. The moment I was old enough was going and running around those spaces. That was very inspirational to just be able to see other people creating and see other artists in the flesh. I definitely also would say that it inspired me and it made me just kind of visualize “Oh, what do I see myself as? Which of these artists on the stage would I want to be?”.

Is there something that you pick up on as a person who plays live music when you are watching other people’s live performances?

Oh everything! I am analyzing everything. The lights, the sound, if there’s choreography. I really like when there’s a live performance and the artist is singing, and there’s choreo, and there’s background singers, and there’s all the instruments. That’s definitely my favorite to observe. I get most inspired by artists who really make it this full experience, like you’re being entertained, you  know? Then on the other hand, I also love someone who just gets on stage and pours their heart out.

Where do you think you fit on that spectrum of very performative and very raw?

I think I started off very raw. I would say I fit on that side more but I am pushing myself to fit into that other area where there’s a lot going on, there’s the full band, there’s the choreography. I just think it looks very thought out and I personally like the way that it feels when I’m going to a live show. I think people that have that whole spectrum of different things happening during their show. It’s just more entertaining unfortunately. I hate that it’s about being entertained but at the end of the day I do want music to be something that I am doing full time so I feel like it’s good that I can tap in and be raw and just play with my guitar but I want to be able to do the full thing. The choreo, the band, and everything. Because long term I think it’s more… profitable. I hate that word.

You touched on ways that you’ve changed as a musician, what other ways have you evolved over the years?

I used to hate social media. I was anti-instagram. I still haven’t folded and gotten a twitter but through being in school, especially taking PR and marketing, hearing about how people in that world look at musicians, it was really scary because it just makes you realize that as a musician most people aren’t even going to look at you unless you have at least 5k to 10k followers. My teacher told me “You could be the best musician. You could have an amazing voice, but if we go to your page and you only have 400 followers, you’re not getting a deal!”. I’ve had to adapt. I’m always on my phone now, which is something that I don’t love. I live in this world where everything is about creating content and I think as musicians that is a huge thing that a lot of us are having to adapt to.

In what ways do you think ACC has contributed to your evolution as an artist?

It contributed in a lot of ways. Before I was in school, I was definitely still taking my music seriously but once I started, it became a snowball effect. A lot of the teachers at ACC are music professionals themselves, in whatever area they specialize in, so there’s a lot of networking opportunities. I would say that I also learned to take myself more seriously since I’ve been at ACC. That’s just benefited me greatly because I’ve gotten involved in a lot of programs, I’ve gotten a lot of internship opportunities.

Now I’m interning at Space Flight Records, which is a non-profit record label. I’m helping them with their marketing which is really cool because I’m around a lot of musicians while I’m helping them out! My teacher was talking about how badly you have to have a website so now I have a website. Honestly in almost every single way it has pushed me. Even today being in ensemble, I’ve never done that before. The music program here has been amazing and I wouldn’t go back. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be here.

What inspired you to come to ACC in the first place?

I tried for a very long time to teach myself. A lot of people in the music world who haven’t gone to college for music will say “You don’t need school to do it, just use youtube academy.”. Girl, I need school. Because I tried youtube and tried googling things but it just was not happening for me. I think it was post-covid and I wasn’t doing shit with myself. I was just working at a bar and only sort of taking music seriously. I wasn’t going and performing much. There were just a lot of things lacking in the music world for me. Ultimately, I decided to go back because FAFSA had offered to support me going to school. I just felt like it was a really good opportunity. I wasn’t doing anything else and I wanted to make the most of being able to go to school and not be financially burdened. The worst that could happen is I hate it but I’ve loved it so far.

Changing gears a little bit, what is the origin of your stage name Isis Destiny?

Isis Destiney is part of my name! My full name is Amira Isis Destiny. I decided to go by that because no one has called me that name before. Honestly when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be called it came out of nowhere. Isis is an Egyptian goddess. She’s the goddess of maidenhood and a healer and I really like that. Destiny… well, we all know what destiny means. For my music I try to stay very positive and although some of my songs are sad I try to be very uplifting and choose my words wisely because I think music is powerful. I want my music to be healing for those who listen to it which is why I thought I would go with that name. It’s like “destined to heal with my music”.

Do you feel like there’s any themes you return to in your music besides mental health?

Besides mental health. I sing a lot about love. Not necessarily relationships but I would say loving life. At the root of it though a lot of my songs are about mental health, just finding yourself and your journey in life.

What do you hope people take away from listening to your music?

I hope they hear my lyrics and they can relate and maybe feel less alone. Then also what I’m trying to focus on more so with my music is I want people to feel super pumped. I want to make more dancey music so I’m working with a band right now to make my music more upbeat. I would love it if people were dancing. If they were like “we gotta groove to this”. That’s what I’m going for.

What does the music creation process look like for you? Do you start with writing lyrics or the instrumentation?

It goes all over the place. There’s been times I’m on a walk and lyrics will come to me. One time I was hiking and a full song came to my head. I pulled out my phone trying to record the lyrics so I didn’t forget them. There’s times like that and then there’s other times when I have more intent. I’ll sit down at the piano and find some chords and usually if I sit there and meditate enough lyrics will come to me. I would say that it’s all chaos. Usually lyrics come first. Sometimes when I can’t think of lyrics I’ll start with chord progressions. I’ll use a book of poetry I’ve had since I was a kid and flip through the pages then piece together words until they feel right.

Is there a part that you like the most about making music?

I would say performing. That’s not even the actual making of it. I would say the mixing and mastering. When I’m in the studio and doing the fine details, hearing the whole song together. I also love dubbing like when you add harmonies on top.

What do you like the most about performing out of all the different parts of music?

Because that’s finally when you get to share with other people and see what they think. It feels really good because when you’ve worked really hard on something for so long it’s just nice to see other people enjoy or relate or connect to something I’ve put a lot of energy and time into.

What are some of your biggest musical influences?

People that inspired me the most are probably Erykah Badu, Kali Uchis, Lauryn Hill. Her MTV unplugged acoustic album specifically. I grew up listening to that album and it changed my life. Some of my youngest memories are listening to that album. That whole album is very spiritual. She talks about her connection with God. That is one of those experiences where it is very raw. There’s times where she is on stage and she’s doing the choreo and she’s singing and doing the full band but that album it’s just her and her guitar and she kills it. That album is so inspirational to me. Then there’s this underground disco house music called social lovers. It’s funny because when I found them I thought they were huge but when I checked their instagram they only have a thousand followers. Their songs are very thought out and vibey and makes you want to dance but they’re also deep and relatable. I definitely try to combine a lot of influences from those that inspire me. My music is very much a mesh of those artists.

Do you have any defining moments for you as a musician or experiences that have had a significant impact on you?

The first thing that came to my mind is when I was about 15 I did my first real performance where my name was on the roster and I got to perform with Margaret Wright. She was definitely an Austin blues legend. So that was very influential for me. She had a residency at the sky lark so I got to spend my years as a teenager watching her perform. Being able to sing with  her on stage and then her complimenting me made me feel like I had something. Another turning point, which is darker, is when I was 17 there was this guy, a teacher, who was inappropriate with me. He was very creepy and because I had a shitty experience with him I got really depressed. I was working on an album and was really excited to put out music so I felt really taken advantage of in that situation. So it deterred me for a second. For a moment I thought maybe I wasn’t supposed to do music, maybe the music world is just toxic. That’s something I hear about is that it’s a very male dominated industry. A lot of the time these men are trying to take advantage of us. That ended up giving me this weird determination to prove that wrong. So I felt very determined to be successful without the help of a man.

I think that determination has pushed me in a lot of ways to grow independently as an artist. He was teaching me a lot about music theory and that honestly partially made me think I don’t need anybody. I can go to school and do this by myself. That was definitely a moment where my determination came from anger.

What other challenges have you faced as an artist and how did you overcome that?

As an artist one of the biggest challenges I faced is imposter syndrome. Honestly there’s so many amazing talented people that exist so the world is big and I’m just a little speck in the sky. Part of me is like why would I be deserving? I mean I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, I was diagnosed bipolar when I was about 12 years old. As an artist I’m constantly having to eb and flow with that manic depressiveness. I have really good weeks and I have really bad weeks. During those bad weeks my imposter syndrome gets really bad, but I’ve gotten to a point, especially through ACC, where I feel like I’m past that. I feel like my dreams are attainable. I think that really what it is is like what my marketing teacher said. That you could be the most talented person in the world but there’s certain things that people look for so you can be sustainable in something you’re passionate about. I feel like I’ve gotten to this area of confidence where I think it’s realistic as long as I put in the work to get anything I’m wanting. That’s definitely something I still struggle with. My down weeks I could literally just sleep in bed for a week. But I do have a really good support system.

With a tour coming up and an EP that recently came out, how do you balance the stress of being a musician?

I don’t sleep as much haha. I spent a lot of my younger life doing whatever I wanted. I dropped out of highschool at 16. I did get my GED but the point is that I wasn’t doing anything I cared about, I wasn’t chasing my dreams for a large part of my life. There was a lot of time that I feel like I’ve wasted. Now that I’m in school, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just going to be busy. So I don’t really hangout with my friends as much. It’s about school and it’s about music. So if I have to stay up until 3am several days a week to get the tour flyers done then so be it. That’s why you have to put in the work. Management wise it’s not sustainable, but I know that school isn’t going to last forever. Once school is over I’ll be able to breathe a little bit easier with it just being music. I’ll have all these tools that I learned from school to just continue pushing. As far as balancing it, I drink a lot of yerba mate. I pray a little bit. Even on the days where I’m really having a hard time I still do what I need to do.

Do you feel like spirituality influences your music?

I would definitely say so! I was kind of talking about my name and how my name is based off of the goddess of healing so when it comes to my music I want it to be healing for people to listen to my music. So I am a spiritual person and I want that to resonate with people in my music.

So you have a pretty big tour coming up, how have you been preparing yourself mentally and physically for this?

Honestly I’ve had to force myself to take a few down days because it has been nonstop. This month every single Saturday I’ve had a gig. So I’ve been performing a lot this past month. I’ve also just been trying to get through my classes. Tourwise, I have two days a week that are dedicated to band practice and one day a week dedicated to choreography practice. I’ve definitely put a lot on my plate. All of the venues I created a lineup of artists. It’s delegating with the artists, and checking to see if the sound is good. It’s like every aspect of the tour I put on myself but I’m not mad at that. It’s been a really good learning experience. Everything feels like it’s falling into place. Initially finding band members and people to do the choreo, and the lineup for the show, was initially stressful but once I got all of that settled I’ve been like lets just prepare and promote. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about touring and I hope to potentially help other artists in future  since I know what needs to be done. 

Are there any cities or venues that you are particularly looking forward to?

I’ve never performed in San Antonio so I’m really excited for the show at the happy times bar. It’s going to be a full fem showcase so everyone is going to be super feminine. I’m excited to see how that plays out since a lot of people on the showcase are from San Antonio.

Final question, if you could collaborate with any musician, living or dead, which one would you collab with?

Kali Uchis! I would love to. I just love her music and she’s still very much in the world of pop and she definitely inspires me a lot and feel like our music would go really well together.

Additional portait photos of Amira Armstrong at ACC’s Highland Campus, taken by Collin Eason

Check out Isis Destiny’s music on Spotify, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and Youtube! Her upcoming tour dates are…

5/31/24     San Antonio      Happy Place Bar

6/01/24     San Antonio      Reggae Bar

6/02/24     San Marcos       Alchemy Records

6/03/24     Austin               Volstead Lounge​

To find more information about Isis Destiny check out “isisdestiny.com”

Meet ACC’s Tech Experts

With the arrival of our digital age, new technology is constantly finding ways to be incorporated in the classroom. Who helps Austin Community College tranisition to this new era of complex programs and internet-aided learning? Joey Machado and ACC’s other Educational Technologists.

By Dash Kostka

Joey Machado, a 60 year old staff member, always keeps two beautiful watercolor paintings hanging on the wall of his office at Austin Community College’s Rio Grande campus. They were created by his teenage son while he was recovering in the hospital last year from a biking accident. The paintings also serve as a positive reminder of how far his son, who recently found a new passion for photography, has come in his physical recovery.  “[It] kind of brightens my day knowing that he has an artistic side,” Machado said.

Joey Machado’s LinkedIn Profile Picture.

As an educational technologist for the college, Machado is one of several dependable staff members across ACC’s 11 campuses who are vital to ensuring every classroom’s technology can operate over the course of every day, week, and semester. He says the vast majority of his work is to answer technical questions and fix various issues that may come up on a day-to-day basis. If a student can’t see their grades or if a program like Respondus Lockdown is malfunctioning, Machado  is the one they call for help. Classes go by fast during the day, and faculty often doesn’t have time for any technology breakdowns, so Machado says that his office has a “hotline for faculty to get a hold of us.”

Unusually, Machado found his way into this line of work through studying music at a community college in San Antonio. Eventually his education led him toward transferring to the University of Texas – Machado made a point of putting up a “hook-’em-horns” when I asked him about his educational background –to study at the Moody College of Communications. After graduating from Texas with an emphasis in RTF  production, Machado’s career took a winding path, including as an employee for the now-defunct Time Warner corporation. He finally landed at ACC eight years ago, and from my interaction with him, he seems to enjoy his job and his positive impact on students and faculty.

Graphic by Ruby Krimstein

Machado’s role at ACC is not just limited to fixing snags in technology during the day – he is also intricately involved in educating faculty. Over the last ten years, and accelerating during the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, technology has played an ever-expanding role in fostering and transforming a modern college education. Out are the days of mountains of paper assignments, now education resources like online Learning Management Systems” (LMS) and virtual classes on Zoom are what’s in. 

Every time that ACCintroduces new technologies or virtual systems to its classes, such as the introduction of Blackboard a few years ago, Machado says he is out on the front lines “endorsing and supporting” each platform and helping professors understand how they work. 

Just this past fall, ACC introduced a new virtual-education software program called Panopto. The system allows students to produce and submit video assignments while also having a place for  professors to post instructional videos as well.Machado saw that Panopto was implemented and understood by the faculty it serviced,  helping lead the way for ACC’s push toward  “Hyflex” instruction. Hyflex teaching allows for classes that have some students attending in-person, while other students attend virtually through Zoom. 

Machado admits that the “greatest challenge” of ACC’s gradual march towards integrating technology in the classroom is that it is a “whole different environment,” and therefore has a  “learning curve” for faculty who are unfamiliar with certain LMS programs like Blackboard or Canvas. “But once they make the leap, and they see the benefit, and how everything is easily integrated, then they’re sold on the product.”

As a man who has worked with technology his whole adult life, Machado believes that receiving a modern education in media and technology is very important in our ever-changing world. According to him, the work that students put in during their time in college by educating themselves in various aspects of digital platforms like cyber-security acts as a kind of “pre-job training for what’s out there.” He emphasizes that  employers want to hire prospective employees who can transfer their knowledge from certain platforms to others.  

Machado anticipates that as long as ACC continues to carve a path forward by integrating more technology into the classroom, his niche skill will continue to be vital across campus. Soon, he says, there will likely be a new digital platform that educational technologists like him will need to introduce to the faculty to make their jobs a little bit easier, and the value of an education at ACC a little bit better.

What About the Adults?

For the next five years after July 1, 2024, ACC will be  covering the cost of tuition for all incoming high school graduates – as part of ACC Chancellor Lowery-Hart’s goal to reach a 70% completion rate. Members of the Student Government Association are now asking for student participation in an ACC board meeting on May 6, which will determine whether an amendment should be added to benefit all ACC students in their last semester.

Written by Gabriella Plasencia

For the next five years after July 1, 2024, ACC will be  covering the cost of tuition for all incoming high school graduates. The project is a part of ACC Chancellor Lowery-Hart’s goal to reach a 70% completion rate, which came as a result of House Bill 8 changing the school’s funding model to be “outcomes-based” in the latest legislative session.

Though seemingly a step in a good direction, some students expressed that the project neglects ACC’s high number of adult learners. Members of the Student Government Association are asking for student participation in an ACC board meeting on May 6, which will determine whether an amendment should be added to benefit all ACC students in their last semester.

The initial proposal, referred to as the “First Dollar” pilot program, was first proposed by Chancellor Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart on January 8, and aims to alleviate the cost of education to incoming college students. Beyond just support, the program has also sparked constructive criticism from some students who say they are already struggling to stay in school or do not fit this traditional profile of a college student. ACC bestowing financial aid to fresh out of high school teenagers or anyone with a completed GED, called into question the equitable nature of the program when it comes to ageism and prioritizing one demographic over another in the student body.

On April 1,  Rio Grande Campus Senator Carey Cranor advocated for the nontraditional students at another board meeting discussing prospects of the free tuition project. Because of the board’s heavy emphasis on helping recent high school graduates, Cranor took to the stand to represent the experience of adult learners coming back to school multiple years after a high school diploma. 

Furthermore, he shared the obstacles that come with being an adult who wants to uplift themselves in the field of education and its opportunities. “I’m in full support of it, however the messages they touted were ‘culture of belonging’ and ‘equality’ and as it stands, the free tuition program does not support either of those visions,” Cranor said, “It does not support equality and borders on age discrimination. It does not support a culture of belonging because it tells adult learners that they will always come second.” 

While being in full support of ACC’s attempts to alleviate the financial toll of college for its students, Cranor argued for a way to include everyone, suggesting an amendment that would cover the tuition of anyone in the last semester of their two year associates or four year bachelor’s degree plan at ACC.

In regards to amending the current project, Chancellor Lowery-Hart emphasized that the school’s goal is likely to “extend this to everyone” but asked that more data be presented to address Cranor’s suggestion in the May 6 board meeting. The initial program, which is written to be officially reevaluated in five years instead of the intended 10, is currently operating with a 7.6 million dollar budget – based on the estimated cost of the plan if it had been active last year.  Continued funding for the program and its possible amendment will rely on positive results in these next five years, with increased graduation rates and student successes dictating whether or not it will become a permanent avenue for free tuition in the future. 

“So if we start on the backend, the last semester, we’re rigging the numbers in our favor to continue this program,” Cranor said. As it stands now, higher education is generally more accommodating to a student with a blank slate coming from one educational institution to another as opposed to an adult who’s been working full time and living independently. “I hate to say this, but for a lot of our adult learners, it’s an even larger gamble for them to be in college than someone who is fresh out of high school because they’re coming from one school to another. Meanwhile for adult learners, they are one bad day, one bad grade from quitting and being done with it,” Cranor said. 

Kristen Hummel, cofounder and president of The Scholarship Society composed a statement in support for the last semester tuition being covered for all students. In it, she details the age cut off on scholarship applications that adult learners face while searching for ways to pay for college. As it turned out for her, many of the scholarships she came across made 22 the max age, sometimes even 25, for applicants. “I sincerely don’t know if it is simply a matter of ignorance due to bad data, or unintentional focus on the inspiring potential of youth, but adult learners are set up to fail socially, financially, and–indirectly by the demands of life–academically,” Hummel wrote. 

The notion of solely investing in the youth for a better future may come from underestimating the success of adults who are already active in their education as well as the extent of their presence in higher education. Hummel wrote, “We have the potential to enrich this school with new organizations, community contributions that result in awards, and sharing wisdom and leadership skills with younger generations. Please help students like… myself, and the determined members of The Scholarship Society stay here and accomplish great things. Please support this amendment for last-semester tuition for ACC graduates.”

To show support for the amendment and/or the initial pilot program, Cranor suggests emailing the Chancellor’s office or attending the May 6 board meeting – which is planned to be held at 3:00 PM in room 2110 of building 3000 in ACC’s Highland Campus.

SGA Pushes Period Products in ACC Bathrooms

Two student-run clubs at ACC have partnered together to provide free menstrual products in every bathroom at ACC.

Written by Alice Wilson

Throughout the semester, the Student Government Association (SGA), along with the recently formed Safe and Empowering Knowledge for Sexuality (SEKS) club, have been campaigning to secure funding for free menstrual products to be available in every ACC bathroom.

“[In the Fall 2024 semester]… we will be launching our research trial, which will be helping with our data to get ACC to fund free menstrual products across all campuses and all bathrooms,” said Nivedita Anandaramankala, the chair for the project and historian for the SGA, in an episode of ACCENT’s podcast. “We will be conducting surveys during the project and after the run… tell everyone about it.”

The two groups’ main priority is to gather sufficient data about both the need and expected effectiveness of a program like this, in order to make a convincing presentation to the higher-ups at ACC. With 11 ACC campuses located throughout Central Texas, their first challenge has been navigating the differing financial policies of each.

“Every campus is different,” said Marisela Perez, the former president of the SGA and co-chair of the project. “We actually visited all of them in December to understand if they’re accessible or not. We realized that [period products] are in Student Life [rooms] on some campuses… [San Gabriel] campus already has them in the bathroom and that’s something that Student Life manages from their budget.” Some campuses, such as the one in Elgin, have period products in certain bathrooms funded by teachers or staff. “That was our first challenge, to understand the situation in so many different campuses. The budget, because, again, we are just a student organization. Our job is just to do the research and present it to the administration, so hopefully they address the situation.” 

Group photo of some attendees to the Ascender program’s “SEXucation SEXsion” featuring Alejandra Cardenas of the SEKS club (lower middle left) on February 14, 2023. The SEKS club will be hosting a similar “Seksapalooza” event on April 25. Photo courtesy of the SEKS club.

With available access to proper hygiene products, the research shows that having a period need not impact the daily lives and education of female students. Without access, however, reports show that periods become a disempowering experience, impact women’s education and even become sources of anxiety and shame.

According to a study published by the research site Statista, 25% of female students in the United States are unable to do schoolwork because of a lack of access to period products – an aspect of a larger issue referred to as “period poverty.” Period poverty encompasses both a lack of access to menstrual products – largely but not solely due to economic factors – as well as insufficient education about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. A 2021 study from the BMC Women’s Health Journal reflects that this is more commonplace than one might expect, reporting that 10% of college-aged women experience the effects of period poverty every month. These numbers are higher among low-income families as well, particularly amongst immigrants to the US and first-generation college students. 

One plausible reason that menstrual products haven’t already been made available in all restrooms at ACC, might be that they are currently available at student life for free already. Despite this, representatives from both the SGA and SEKS club make the case that this isn’t enough; that ACC needs hygiene products available in the bathrooms themselves. Their reasoning comes from Student Life’s restricted hours, which don’t always or even often align with the needs of part-time students who rely on night classes. What’s more, the location of the Student Care Center is not easily accessible to all buildings or classrooms in ACC’s large Highland campus; additionally, visitors without a student ID card are prevented from accessing menstrual products at all. 

Adding to this, the SEKS club believes that many students may feel uncomfortable sharing their personal health information with unfamiliar people manning the desk at Student Life (no matter how friendly and approachable ACC’s staff might be).

A 2023 study also published by Statista, reports that 63% of teenage students in the US are “especially self-conscious of periods in the school environment,” and 88% of students “hide period products when walking out of class to go to the bathroom.” The SEKS club argues that these numbers give firm ground to the importance of offering free menstrual products in all public female restrooms – beyond just ACC, which already seeks to provide access to groceries, transportation, and child-care programs at no cost.

Why are periods so taboo? “It’s because we don’t talk about it,” answers Alejandra Cardenas, founder of the SEKS club. “That’s what needs to change.” Cardenas’ main goal in starting the ACC Student Organization was to tackle such stigma that continues to exist not only around menstrual health and education, but sexuality in general. “My hope for the club is that we can hear people out. If we want to talk about Safe Sex… if we want to talk about pleasure, because that’s also important, if we want to talk about anatomy, that’s fine. I just want it to be as inclusive as possible too.” Aside from physical access to period products themselves, tackling the stigma around menstruation is one of the main goals of the SEKS club and SGA’s partnership. “[Periods are] something that you are supposed to be celebrating, it’s womanhood,” affirms Anandaramankala. “Even now, my friends [are] educating their brothers on it. Which I find is the most amazing thing ever.”

When one in four girl’s experience in education is limited by a seemingly preventable access-barrier, it’s hard not to question what the hold up is. Undoubtedly, a consciousness of the school’s budget, paired with doubt around the importance of having menstrual products in the bathrooms, have impeded both the SGA and SEKS club’s goals. Anandaramankala is confident, however, that new awareness around the lack of available menstrual care will make all the difference about showing the importance of their efforts.

“It’s not just that people don’t know about it, it’s that it’s never been brought up before. The only reason why we have the student care center, the only reason why we have student life, is because someone brought it up,” said Anandaramankala, “and this right now is students bringing it up. We’re hoping this will cause a bit more noise than an employee [would].”

What happens from here? The organizations emphasize that the realization of the project in full will depend primarily on student participation. Research trials will begin at both Highland and Rio Grande campuses in Fall of 2024, where a survey will be available via a scannable QR code in the bathrooms. The two organizations are calling on the collective student body at ACC to take part.

“Do the survey,” urges Anandaramankala. “Your voice is so important, and I don’t think people realize that.”

Epiphanies and “What Matters!”

Connections were made and defining moments were shared last month at the Presentation Hall of the Highland Campus, after ACC’s new Chancellor and students of various backgrounds were gathered in meaningful group conversation. The occasion? a student event titled, “What Matters to You Matters! Finding the Authenticity That Shines Through In Applications,” hosted by The Scholarship Society on March 23. 

Written by Nathan Adam Spear

Connections were made and defining moments were shared last month at the Presentation Hall of the Highland Campus, after ACC’s new Chancellor and students of various backgrounds were gathered in meaningful group conversation. The occasion? a student event titled, “What Matters to You Matters! Finding the Authenticity That Shines Through In Applications,” hosted by The Scholarship Society on March 23. 

Kristin Hummel, President of the recently-formed student organization, said the event was a product of the Scholarship Society’s founding mission to help students “build the strongest scholarship applications possible” and “organically connect with new interests that will help them have a richer academic life.” This mission brought other student groups like the Honors Student Organization, both the SEDS and SEKS clubs, and a few of us here at ACCENT Media out to table for the event.

Notably, the small expo’s guest list also included a presentation from ACC’s new Chancellor, Russell Lowery-Hart; Given the hour, he recalled a time in Waco when, simulating the life of a person experiencing homelessness, he realized fully: “what mattered [was] the communities that I was trying to support, more than it ever mattered what people called me or what my organizational title was.” 

At the event, the ACC President then opened the floor by asking the audience for their own similar “moments of epiphany,” – and the room full of diverse student leaders did not come up short providing their own inspiring and occasionally tear-jerking responses. 

SGA Member Carey Cranor, who is running for Senator of the Rio Grande Campus, spoke up about a time he felt stuck in a well-paying but unfulfilling job that he said was, “so easy they could probably train a monkey to do it.” Fearing that he “might never achieve anything ever again” in the position, Cranor said his “moment” of change came after being laid off. “I felt relieved, because now my life could actually start.” 

Theodore Courtois, a founder of the ACC group Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS), shared his experience as a “non-traditional first-generation student” as well as his past struggles with “imposter syndrome”. Youthful and well-dressed, Courtouis remembered a validating moment after taking SEDS to Space Vision, “the largest space-related student conference in the country,” where a guest speaker reminded him that he too was one of “the future leaders of the aerospace industry.” The student leader included that ACC was critical for his confidence, saying, “I found myself in a room of people, [where] I didn’t have to act like I belonged.” 

Hummel, the event’s host, also took the metaphorical stand to share her story. Learning her “abuser had been paroled in January of 2023”, she left school and “wandered the country, literally, for a month.” Many introspective questions later and Hummel made her decision to return to ACC –  since then, the present-day IT employee and group president said she “got plugged into all the resources and figured out how to be a student here… how to be a leader here and how to put on events like this today.” Applause followed her words, likely fueled by both her inspiring story as well as the audience’s appreciation for her work on this impactful event.

After several more inspiring accounts were given by other brave students who shared their various journeys, the Chancellor concluded the conversation by wording the importance of hearing about these moments. Lowery-Hart defined good leadership as “walking in life knowing that every single person that comes in contact with you has their own story that’s worthy of acknowledgement.” 

Beyond just this discussion, the “What Matters to You Matters!” event consisted of an afternoon full of event activities that all reflected the Scholarship Society’s goal of community building and career readiness, including: a workshop on using Linkedin, a photobooth for free professional headshots, as well as several relevant panels like, “All About Student Government ” led by SGA Members Edwin Escamilla and Elisha Macgregor, or “What Does Passion Have to do with scholarships?” presented by Hummel herself.

If you want to join in on any future events by the Scholarship Society, or if you just want to see the resources that their group has to offer: check out their page on MySL to contact them and keep track of their upcoming plans!    

Return of Staple!

After a five year hiatus, STAPLE! the Independent Media Expo is returning on April 13-14, along with its goal to bring together Austin’s renowned and beloved community of independent artists.

Written by Ruby Krimstein

After a five year hiatus, STAPLE! the Independent Media Expo is returning on April 13-14, along with its goal to bring together Austin’s renowned and beloved community of independent artists.

For its 16th showcase since 2005, the two-day event is promising a vibrant and engaging experience for local artists and art lovers alike at a cost of $12 per ticket and free entry for kids 12 and under. The expo will feature over 100 local artists in the Mabee Ballroom at St. Edward’s University and exhibit a dynamic array of mediums including comics, zines, crafts and tabletop games.

The project’s founder, Chris “Uncle Staple” Nicholas, says that STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo seeks to recognize the value of independent art as something broader than a collection of individual disciplines. This is important for many creatives at a time when being a professional artist can often be a financially risky endeavor, which was Nicholas’ own initial experience when he first began creating and self-publishing comics.

“It’s really hard to distribute this kind of work,” he said in a conversation with me before the event, “It’s a lot of work to make it but then once you’ve made it, getting it out into the world is a whole nother ball of wax.” 

The common challenge for Independent artists to distribute and sustain themselves through their art, stems partially from the fact that producing art can often be a personal, passionate and even a laborious effort. For many independent artists and creatives, the presence of financial, social and psychological barriers can put pressure on their ability to share their ideas and fully embody their internal drive to create. Observing these challenges for artists is what Nicholas says ultimately inspired him to found STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo. 

“Art is a form of communication and communication is a human need,” Nicholas states, “We have to communicate.” 

Being from a comic book background, Nicholas holds a keen appreciation for mediums that straddle traditionally separate creative realms, of which he says independent art has a unique capacity for. “[Art] is a form of expression,” that he says occurs best when someone “has this inspiration, or this desire, to get their thoughts out into the world, and… various mediums in which they can do it.” 

The event is a product of this goal to amplify and celebrate the expressive, collaborative and educational function of art: “It’s a very powerful medium to get any kind of story or message out”, noted Nicholas. Emphasizing the value when it comes to reaching young people in particular he added, “We’ve always tried to involve younger folks in the show because that’s the next generation of people who’re going to be making stuff, right?”

Many who are independently moved to practice art do it from a place of innate love or highly personal vision, and STAPLE! The Independent Media Expo has long been committed to giving those people with something to express a place to fully and broadly express it. After nearly two decades, the Expo’s reach has expanded and so has its impact: “People hear about it and show up to come and support the artists because it’s very important,” says Nicholas. “That’s what keeps me going. That’s what keeps the artists coming back to this.”

Panel discussions and presentations will include:

  • Q&A with Guest Comics Creator Ron Rege’ Jr
  • Webcomics 101 by TheStarfishface – A How To
  • Webcomics Roundtable Discussion, with Mattie Lubchansky, Litterbox Comics & TheStarfishface 
  • Indie Tabletop Role Playing Game Design & Publication
  • Comics and Zines in Education – A Presentation by St. Edward’s Faculty
  • Working with a Team in Animation – Featuring Powerhouse Animation
  • “Don’t Panic!” Managing Your Career as a Digital Creative

The full lineup of guests, exhibitors, and panel descriptions can be found at www.staple-austin.org  

Tickets are available at Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/staple-the-independent-media-expo-2024-tickets-813467231387?aff=oddtdtcreator

Uncle Staple has also provided ACCENT Student Media with two free tickets to give away to our student readers! If you are interested, we will send the access link to the first person that responds to this Google Form: https://forms.gle/hTNJu9kvCgrL9pYx5

Photo courtesy of Uncle Staple with credit to Henry Lister.