Computer Science Club Highlight

Story by Nathan Lu

Graphic by Claudia Hinojos

When first enrolling in Austin Community College, very few students recognize the importance and benefits of joining a student organization. Although it may appear that spending numerous hours in meetings is a waste of time when other obligations such as school, work, and family take precedence, joining a student organization like the Computer Science Club is one of the best decisions that a student can make.

Produced and written by Nathan Lu, the video interviews Computer Science Club members Hani Kamee, Malik Rawashdeh and Jason Kim covering their experience in the student organization.

The Computer Science Club (CSC) is one of ACC’s most active and largest clubs, where students interested in programming, technology, and software can share common interests, support each other, and work on projects that impact the community. Hani Kamee, a passionate Software Development major, joined the club during the Spring 2022 semester.

At first, Kamee was hesitant to join the club because he did not know what to expect from a tech-related student organization, but he quickly realized that it was one of the best decisions he had ever made. “I know for a fact that when you surround yourself with like-minded people, you will thrive and prosper, and that’s what I did,” Kamee said. 

The group’s primary purpose is to provide a community where students from all backgrounds can experience the power of coding and support each other throughout the process. Although the club is geared toward Computer Science students, the group welcomes all students interested in technology.

Malik Rawashdeh, the club’s vice president, saw the expansion of the club first-hand, from a group of 50 students to an active community of 300+ members. By inviting professionals from the tech industry to speak during the club’s general meetings, members can learn from experts and visualize a clear path towards a job in software engineering.

“We’ve had a freelance web developer come in and talk about his day-to-day work, professors come in and speak about their graduate studies in machine learning and neural networks. The blockchain club at UT Austin gives an intro to cryptocurrency and the blockchain itself,” Rawashdeh said. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all club meetings have been entirely virtual, but the club has consistently grown in size while beginning to shift back towards in-person meetings.

Members of CSC aren’t just satisfied to be typical CS students either; instead, they go out of their way to build projects that impact the community. “Our first project was a website portfolio, where anyone interested in building a personal website could join and share work,” said Jason Kim, the club’s treasurer. The club has also organized a browser-based game, machine learning subgroup, and a discord bot, all projects outlined and created by club members.

One of the more notable projects the club has worked on is an overlay system to improve accessibility for disabled people concerning video games. In traditional first-person shooter games, sound and communication are vital to playing any game competitively. Club members knew that solving this problem would significantly bridge the gap between the disabled and gaming communities. The team created an overlay system to visualize sound in the form of visual cues on the screen and a detailed voice chat transcription service. By utilizing their knowledge of audio manipulation and native system manipulation, the team provided accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing community and was able to see the impact of their work first-hand.

Additionally, CSC holds interview preparation events on a regular basis for members interested in preparing for the job acquisition process. “Through our tech-interview workshops and mock interviews, [students] were able to prepare themselves for the job searching process, and several of our members landed jobs at very well-known tech companies,” said Rawashdeh. 

While the club recognizes that working on projects is essential, homework help is still at the core of what the club stands for. By building a diverse community of students with different skill sets, there is no question left unanswered, no matter how difficult the question is. “Every time I’ve asked for help, I got it,” said Kamee. The world of software engineering is one of the most technically challenging fields, but by collaborating with others, the Computer Science Club ensures that those who need help can receive it. The club hosts general meetings every week and has various club projects and events occurring throughout the week, free for anyone to attend. 

The Computer Science Club welcomes students from all backgrounds and aims to foster a supportive and encouraging environment. Rawashdeh encourages anyone interested in coding to join CSC and experience the thriving community first-hand. “If there is one thing that I’ve learned from the club, it’s that coding is a collaborative effort. If you might not know something, somebody else probably does,” Kim said. 

For further inquiries or questions, join their Discord channel today!

ACC’s Radio-Television-Film Department Has Brand New Digs

The radio-television-film (RTF) department’s new home at Austin Community College is located at the school’s Highland campus in north Austin.

A screen shows the words "A production of Austin Community College's Radio-Television-Film" in a TV control room.
An image of the control room within ACC’s new facilities the radio-television-film department gets to utilize. Photo by Pete Ramirez.

Story by Georgina Barahona

Edited by Pete Ramirez

As part of the college’s second phase of renovations to what was once the Highland Mall, the department now boasts a state-of-art facility where students can gain real-world experience.

The department, which has been a feature at ACC for more than 40 years, was previously housed at the college’s Northridge campus and made its move to Highland in the midst of the pandemic during the spring of 2021. 

Through RTF’s new facility and the expert professors leading the program, ACC provides students with a wealth of opportunities to expose young creatives to various challenging and in-demand fields such as videography, podcasting and directing. 

“The professors are really good at helping beginners and making sure you are being led properly and that you are trying your best,” current RTF student Brailand Rangel said. “We usually come out with some great products in the end.”

“Digital storytelling is everywhere,” RTF Department Chair Christian Raymond said. “Never in the history of civilization – I don’t exaggerate when I say this – have there been more kinds of digital stories being created: from games to podcasts, mixed realities, and virtual reality.”

A young woman sits in a directors chair smiling while holding a slate.
A potential ACC student sits in a chair while holding a film slate during a tour of the Radio-Television-Film department at the recent ACC Highland Open House event held on April 23, 2022. Photo by Pete Ramirez.

ACC’s RTF department has a wide variety of courses to take and high-level equipment students can gain experience with. This experience is necessary for students looking to take the next step in their careers. 

“At Highland, there is what we call the creative digital media center which is all these different departments coming together,” Raymond said.

The department offers more than technology-related courses such as some focused on streaming TV and production management. If you’d like to see the entire catalog of in-depth courses RTF has to offer, click here.

Details On The Creative Digital Media Center

One of the many features of the RTF’s new space at Highland is a multi-cam broadcast studio which includes three cameras and a control room.

Another feature is the film production soundstage which includes a 10,159 square foot green screen studio.

The news desk within the RTF department’s multi-cam studio. Photo by Georgina Barahona.

The new facility also includes collaborative learning environments such as flex media labs that are equipped with new technology to support any project. There are also digital media labs with access to the entire Adobe Creative Cloud Suite that students can use for post-production editing.

Once projects are ready to view on the big screen, students can now utilize a brand new 49-seat screening room that comes complete with surround sound.

For those interested in the audio side of things, there are podcasting and foley studios in the new space at the Highland campus as well.

And for those who like to stay behind the scenes, the new facility hosts a large equipment room where students can check out gear such as state-of-the-art cinema cameras and boom kits.

A man stands in front of a green screen while he talks about the weather.
ACCENT contributor Morris Haywood stands in front of a green screen within the RTF’s new facility. Photo by Pete Ramirez.

Partnerships and Collaboration

ACC’s RTF department is growing now more than ever not only through improvements but through partnerships as well.

The college and the RTF department have established a partnership with local non-profit organization Austin PBS which now shares space with ACC at the Highland campus.

“It made sense to welcome PBS as part of ACC,” Raymond said. “We have programs with Austin PBS that include paid internships and co-creation opportunities so literally classes collaborating with PBS on projects.”

No matter what your current major is at ACC, there’s a way to participate in a project being developed in the RTF department. From game designers to drama actors or music composers, there are multiple opportunities to get involved.

This board controls the sound system for the new studio at ACC’s Highland facility. Photo by Georgina Barahona.

“There are plenty of different media forms being shaped now,” Raymond said. “Media is constantly evolving which is part of what makes it such an exciting space to be in.”

The department also offers open spaces that are referred to as “Creative Collaborator Labs”. In these labs, RTF students can post current projects under development onto the department website so students from other majors can search and match themselves with a project that they’re interested in.

This process is very interactive and allows students the chance to meet other creatives that have similar interests and goals within the industry.

If you would like to check out the currently available projects and connect with like-minded students head over to this link.

Setting Up Students For Success

With Rangel’s experience in the RTF department, jobs are now recruiting her for opportunities to work outside of the school where she can expand on the skills learned at ACC.

Even in the first few courses that are needed to start out in the RTF department, there are plenty of hands-on activities students can look forward to.

“Even with the first two classes at ACC I learned a lot,” Rangel said.

A woman sits in a news set while a camer moves in front of her.
Another potential ACC student sits at the news desk within RTF’s multi-cam studio. The department was giving tours to anyone who was interested during the recent Highland Open House event. Photo by Pete Ramirez.

Choosing to become a part of the RTF department can potentially lead you to opportunities equal to what Rangel has found. The department prides itself on creating an enveloping environment that prepares students for anything their prospective field of study might throw their way.

Professors, mentors and staff at ACC’s RTF department are ready to help students align themselves in the right direction in order to set them up for success in their future careers. 

From courses such as streaming television and broadcast production, to film and emerging media production, game design, and animation and motion graphics, there is an endless list of courses students can explore until they are on the right path. 

Come join the RTF Department at ACC!

If you have any questions about the RTF department, please direct them to Department Chair Christian Raymond or Instructional Associate Laura DiMeo.

Get Ahead On Your Degree Plan By Taking ACC’s Summer Classes

Registration for the 2022 summer semester began on April 4 for all current or returning Austin Community College students. As of April 18, new students can register as well.

Written by Morris Haywood

Edited by Pete Ramirez

ACC will be providing over 2,400 open sections across eleven campuses this summer so students can continue their education and pursue their academic goals. 

Summer semester classes will begin on May 31 and end on August 8.  Depending on the student’s major and schedule, ACC offers 10- week, 9-week, or 5-week courses with varying start times. 

In-person classes will be offered on campuses across the Central Texas area and virtually as well. While class times are still available, students should consider what days fit into their schedule. The time length of each class is necessary to review also. 

“Timing can be a bit longer,” ACC’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Engagement and Academic Success, Guillermo Martinez said. Martinez, who has been working in education for eleven years and with his current department for 6 years, said class times vary but there is a need for students to continue their education. 

“Depending on the days chosen, classes can be only an hour but be every single day, which is different from the normal 16-week session. So there are different options for students,” said Martinez. “Evening and weekend classes are popular, but you have people that come in from work and the day may be a little bit longer for them”.

Due to the pandemic, there are many more virtual options this summer compared to years past. 

Online classes for students range from regular online instruction, synchronous virtual class meetings, hybrid distance, hybrid classroom, and hyflex – a face-to-face (F2F) synchronous course section that allows students to attend virtually on any given class day. 

With all these options students can continue to learn without much interruption to their summer plans.

“More and more we are trying to do the regional approach,” Martinez said. He explained that ACC is trying to institute ‘destination campuses’ based on the size of the class and specific courses. For example, the destination campus for the North is Round Rock, the central destination is Highland, and the South Campus destination is Riverside.  

“But we try our hardest to spread out and that is also the positive with the growing distance learning courses and that is more opportunity to take classes from anywhere,” Martinez said.

As always, support for students is available during the summer as well. 

From financial aid, student support service, and free tutoring the usual opportunities will still be present for students looking to continue their academic goals during the summertime. 

This also includes students attending or enrolled at a university.  

“How can we provide the support that is needed?” Martinez said. “Let’s figure it out and talk that through.”

Martinez emphasized the many ways students can find support without added stress, by noting that counselors and staff are still present during the summer months. 

Martinez believes that students’ time and mental health need to be prioritized and education should not be another stressor in their lives. 

Students enrolling for summer classes can get ahead on their degree plan and even graduate earlier than expected. 

“With summer registration it’s a great opportunity to keep going. It takes time to grow a habit,” Martinez said. “Students tend to get in the flow in the fall and spring and then if you take two months off, you can forget things.” 

Martinez mentioned that many students disappear after the spring sessions, but by just taking at least one class the academic momentum can build.  

“If you enroll in one course in the summer, it can go a long way to keeping the habit going,” Martinez said. “I think it’s helpful going to school so the student can finish.” 

“[Summer courses are] slightly different, but don’t forget to ask for help,” Martinez said. 

Students can still register for classes until May 16.

Schedules for the summer semester as well as financial aid, admission help, and contact information can be found at https://start.austincc.edu.

How To Write A Successful Scholarship Essay

Scholarships are the easiest way to receive financial help when it comes to college. Austin Community College’s fall 2022 semester deadline for their general scholarship application is May 1.

Written by Jonathan D. Gonzales

Edited by Pete Ramirez

With ACC’s general scholarship, students can be considered for more than one hundred different scholarships by submitting one application. 

All of these scholarships are funded by the ACC Foundation which raises money throughout the year to ensure that all members of the community get an opportunity to pursue their dreams. In the past year, the foundation has handed out over $2.1 million in scholarships to ACC students.

Being awarded a scholarship can usually cover the majority of expenses a student would need for classes and can also be used to improve a resume. 

ACC’s general scholarship and most others require applicants to write an essay about themselves and why they deserve to be selected for the award. 

According to one of Austin Community College’s Strategic Programs Specialists Ann Schuber, there are a few things to keep in mind when writing your scholarship essay. 

  1. Answer every question thoroughly. This helps the reader understand what you’re saying in detail. 
  1. Make it a point to mention your major, classes and personal experience to make it unique and personal.  
  1. Don’t be afraid to tell your story and boast about your accomplishments. Other awards you may have received can increase your chances of receiving a scholarship. 

“The main thing that students struggle with in creating these essays is starting it,” Schuber said.

Starting an essay can be quite difficult for many students. One way to approach it is to break down the essay into parts and try to complete one part every day. Before you know it, you’ll have a solid piece of writing that you can work with and improve upon. 

Students who need assistance with any part of their scholarship essay should contact an ACC strategic specialist to guide them through the process. Email them at [email protected] or schedule an appointment with them here

For more information, please visit this website.

Learn How to Go Green with ACC’s Green Team

Story by Georgina Barahona

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Have you ever wondered what you could do to protect the natural environment around you? Have you ever tried to calculate and lower your carbon footprint? 

Austin Community College’s Office of Energy & Sustainability can help you address these questions and discover how you can get involved in creating a more sustainable world through green initiatives led by their Green Team.

The large and ever-growing department’s Green Team consists of ACC faculty, staff and students who volunteer to improve environmental sustainability on campus and throughout the surrounding city.

The office and its Green Team work to continuously elevate the knowledge of sustainability to those they have the opportunity to work with, students and community members alike.

The Green Team welcomes all volunteers with open arms, no matter what community they come from. 

Inspired by the work of the Office of Energy & Sustainability, Angelica Ruzanova, a first-year journalism major at ACC, decided to join the Green Team last fall.

“Our ACC Green Team works by offering particular activities, advocacy and action,” Ruzanova said. 

The organization has a calendar of events accessible to anyone who wants to join their movement in ecological restoration, including events offered by The Trail Foundation.

“The Trail Foundation is a beautiful place to start with hands-on projects,” Ruzanova said. “We do planting, weeding, invasive species removal, trash clean-up, mulching, and other ecological restoration activities on the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail.” 

Angelica Ruzanova works with other Green Team members to spread mulch at the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail. Follow the foundation’s Instagram account @thetrailfoundation.

You can find the organization’s events calendar by clicking this link. The Green Team provides a wide variety of events curated to teach individuals how to take that first step towards environmental awareness.

One of the upcoming events that is open to ACC students is the Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability on Monday, April 4, 2022 from 1 pm to 5 pm. 

The event is a free student virtual summit with the theme being student empowerment and climate action. If you would like to attend the conference, send an email to the Green Team at [email protected]

If you get involved with ACC’s Green Team, they’ll introduce you to the seemingly endless possibilities to learn new and realistic ways to combat climate change.

From helping to implement sustainable living ideas into a conference like Adulting 101, to acquiring access to off-campus events where other like-minded individuals share ideas about approaching ecological restoration, there are countless opportunities to get involved.

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Sustainability Manager at ACC’s Office of Energy & Sustainability, works with her teammates and volunteers to find new and creative ways to make fighting climate change accessible and achievable to the everyday person.

“My passion is working with each person & getting them to understand that the little things you do have a big impact,” Rostamnezhad said. “I do that by tabling with students at ACC and creating resources for people to use after their time at ACC.” 

Jasmin Rostamnezhad, Sustainability Manager at ACC’s Office of Energy & Sustainability, speaks to ACCENT reporter, Georgina Barahona, about her office and the Green Team’s recent work.

Ruzanova says the Green Team is a place where you can share your ideas about sustainability and work with the team to turn those ideas into reality.

“Starting small, on an individual level is what makes it special,” Ruzanova said.

“You can go from so many angles with sustainability because it’s a universal movement acknowledged throughout the world, with people from different demographics and different socio economic levels bringing something to the table by sharing their stories,” Ruzanova said. 

“Having organizations such as ACC Green Team, who work so hard to organize these events, is a step towards widespread sustainability in our community in Austin and a realistic example of what action is capable of,” Ruzanova said.

But ACC did not always have sustainability in mind. As the consensus around climate change reached a tipping point during the 2000s, the college moved to change with the times.

The blueprint to enact college-wide sustainability policies was created and adopted by ACC in 2009 with the C-9 Sustainable Practices Policy and the Sustainable Construction and College Operations Guidelines/Procedures. In the same year, ACC joined the Carbon Commitment, which is a public pledge for the school to take steps to make the entire college carbon neutral. 

As these initiatives were put to the forefront of the college’s taskbook, the steps to creating climate neutrality among the college were put into full effect.

But wait, what is climate neutrality? 

In simple terms, it means reducing greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide, which is created by burning fossil fuels, as soon as possible by balancing those emissions so they are equal to or less than the emissions that get removed through the Earth’s natural absorption. Fundamentally, it means we reduce our emissions through climate action.

Rostamnezhad realizes that her work is cut out for her but she is driven by the hope of building a better world for all of Earth’s inhabitants. 

“Ultimately what inspired me to get into this field is the impact that our climate issues and environmental problems have on certain communities as well as low income communities and disadvantaged communities that are unfairly targeted by our behaviors everyday,” Jasmin Rostamnezhad said. “I think that should inspire everyone to want to change the way that they live.” 

Explore Inside Austin Community College’s Dental Hygiene Program

Video and story by Gloria Nguyen
Edited by Pete Ramirez

Dental hygiene is a growing field and in high demand in Austin.

With the goal of producing competent entry-level dental hygiene professionals to meet the market requirements, Austin Community College’s Dental Hygiene program strives to provide future dental hygienists with the best education and training program in town.

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program is proud to be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation – the national programmatic accrediting agency for dental and dental-related education programs at the post-secondary level.

Students accepted into this program work with faculty who hold an average of 26 years of experience working in the field.

One of the main reasons for the recent growth of dental hygiene is the high pay grade. According to Indeed, the average base salary for dental hygienists in Austin is $39.22 per hour. 

“A lot of our students can be independent financially just by working part-time,” Professor Sima Sohrabi, the clinic coordinator of the program, said. 

“The pay is very compatible with engineers, but it takes only two years for our students to be able to work,” Sohrabi said.

Sima Sohrabi, the clinic coordinator of the program, poses in front of the administration desk.

Sohrabi also mentioned that usually her students start looking for jobs before they graduate. By the time they graduate, they already have job offers lined up. One of the biggest hurdles for the students in the process is obtaining their license. 

The license pass rate for students in the program so far is 100%.

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program is highly selective. “There are about 80-100 applicants per year, but we only take 18,” Sohrabi said. “Lots of students couldn’t get in on their first try.”

To be qualified for admission, applicants are required to get a minimum Test of Essential Academic Skills score of 58.7 on both the Reading and English sections of the exam. 

“On a scale of ten, I’ll give the hard level of that exam a six,” Christina Marie Kumar, a first-year student in ACC’s Dental Hygiene program, said. 

First-year student Christina Marie Kumar prepares to see her patients.

Kumar was accepted into this program on her first attempt. Sharing about her experience, she underlines the importance of studying actively. 

“It’s important to fully understand the subject matter of the exam and your testing style,” Kumar said. “Then, I’ll do a self-assessment. How confident do I feel with the Reading and English sections?”

Because the program is compressed into two years instead of four, the course schedule is tight. 

“This semester in particular, my schedule is Monday through Thursday,” Kumar said. “Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday are clinic days. Those are days I’ll be seeing patients in the clinic. And the rest are lecture days.”

“When you hear about dental hygienists, you automatically think of teeth, but we’re so much more than that,” Kumar said. “There are so many people who come to the dentist when they’re in pain. I get to see these people and assess things like blood pressure and cancer screening.”

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program also offers good-quality dental services to patients. “When patients come here, they get a head and neck cancer screening, extraoral and intraoral screening, dental X-ray and a very thorough teeth cleaning,” Sohrabi said.

Sohrabi explained that after coming through the screening process, patients will be assigned to students based on their scale level.

Patients can get complete cleaning with everything included for as low as $20. More deep and complex cleaning, if needed, is $40. 

Patients are required to have a flexible schedule. They should have time in their schedule for three to five appointments that are three hours in length.

“We need time to do faculty checks, paper work, and they’re still students,” Sohrabi said. “But consider the fee, it’s worth spending time.”

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program is currently accepting patients. The department is located at Eastview Campus, 3101 Webberville Road, building 8000. Call (512) 223 – 5710 to find out more and schedule your first appointment. 

Black Voters Matter Tour Visits ACC

On February 16, 2022, organizers from Black Voters Matter visited Austin Community College’s Highland campus as part of their Campus Blackout Tour. The outreach tour across Texas aimed to educate and register young voters ahead of the recent March 2 primary election. The weeklong bus tour began in Houston, Texas on February 14 and ended in Tyler, Texas on February 18.

Story by Ky Duffey

Edited by Pete Ramirez

“Are y’all registered to vote yet?” Black Voters Matter senior organizing manager, Dionna La’Fay said to two ACC students as they walked by.

La’Fay and her colleagues stood in the breezeway outside ACC’s Highland campus engaging with students and handing out flyers with instructions on how to register to vote.

Organizers from Black Voters Matter set up a table at ACC's Highland campus.
Black Voters Matter organizers set up in the breezeway at Austin Community College’s Highland campus. Photo by Ky Duffey

A non-profit organization that focuses on voting rights and community empowerment, Black Voters Matter stopped in Austin on the third day of their bus tour. While in town, the tour made stops at ACC’s Riverside campus and Huston-Tillotson University, a historically black college.

Traveling around the state in a bus wrapped in the photos of members of the Freedom Riders movement of 1961, which includes the late congressman John Lewis, the organization also held voter registration events in San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth.

“While these conversations are necessary for traditional 4-year university students, the 2-year college students are the folks that will be engaging the workforce sooner,” La’Fay said. “So it’s better for us to educate them and teach them how to advocate for themselves now while we still have their attention.”

A table with Black Voters Matter swag like fans, face masks and buttons that the organization was passing out to students.
While the non-profit organization was on campus, they engaged with students using Black Voters Matter branded gear to start conversations and ask them if they were registered to vote. Photo by Pete Ramirez

Black Voters Matter was founded in 2016 by LaTosha Brown and Cliff Albright with the goal of increasing power in communities by focusing on voter registration, getting out the vote, independent election-related expenditures, and organizational development and training for other grassroots groups. The organization bases itself in Atlanta, Georgia, yet as of 2020 has expanded to Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Alabama and Mississippi. 

The bus tours were created to allow the organization to travel across the Southern United States in order to galvanize voters and stop voter suppression, especially in swing states.

During the 2018 elections, Senator Ted Cruz narrowly defeated Democratic favorite, Beto O’Rourke, by less than 3%. Last year during the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump won Texas by a 5.58 point margin, the narrowest for a Republican presidential candidate in the state since 1996. 

Political experts see this as an indicator of Texas edging closer to becoming a swing state. Black Voters Matter view it as an opportunity to challenge more Texans to become engaged in the political process and vote.

The Black Voters Matter tour bus parked at Huston-Tillotson University. There a handful of people standing outside the bus and taking photos of and with the bus in the background.
The Black Voters Matter tour bus during their visit to Huston-Tillotson University. Photo by Ky Duffey

“Our goal with the bus tours is to remind students how important and easy it is to vote and engage before the primaries,” La’Fay said. “Voting is one aspect to building power.”

With the recent implementation of the controversial new Texas voting law, SB 1, voting rights organizations like Black Voters Matter are galvanized in their efforts to expand the electorate in the state.

“Organizations like the Texas Civil Rights Project have been amazing with making sure that we’re educated on the changes,” says La’Fay. “It’s not stopping anything we had already planned.”

For ACC students who want to get more involved with the electoral process, La’Fay recommends a few things:

  • Look into state boards, commissions and precinct chairs because some of them help to create local policy
  • Become a poll worker. According to La’Fay, several polling locations were closed in 2020 because they had staffing shortages.
  • Join organizations like Black Voters Matter that work on voter registration and civic education in your community.

“As you learn, share what you’re doing with the folks around you so we can build power together,” La’Fay said.

You can find more information about Black Voters Matter at blackvotersmatterfund.org or by visiting their Instagram page @blackvotersmtr.



Your Preparation Guide for Winter Storm Landon

Austinites carry groceries from a local store on February 15, 2021. Winter storm Uri brought historic cold weather to Texas, causing traffic delays and power outages. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)

Forecasters across the nation agree that winter storm Landon will blanket much of the state of Texas in freezing temperatures, sleet and possibly snow beginning Wednesday night. Here is your prep guide to keep you and your family safe.

Story by Pete Ramirez

Due to the incoming freezing conditions, Austin Community College has announced that all campuses will be closed Thursday and Friday and has canceled all in-person and online classes for those days as well.

Nearly a year ago Texas struggled to endure winter storm Uri, which caused the state’s electric grid to fail, left millions without power and led to the death of hundreds of Texans. 

Although the Texas legislature passed a law requiring power companies to weatherize their plants, Governor Abbott admitted that the possibility of blackouts still exist.

Forecasts for the next five days predict life-threatening, below-freezing temperatures across most of the state. 

Now is the time to prepare.

We’ve compiled a guide to get you and your loved ones ready to deal with potentially dangerous, cold weather without the aid of electricity.

Stay Connected to Reliable Information

If your electronics still have power, use social media to receive the latest updates on the weather, warming center locations and free food opportunities in your area. 

Use social media to search for mutual aids in your area who can provide additional support and resources.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management’s website will also have a list of warming centers.

Conserve Your Power

If your power remains on, reduce your home’s strain on the electric grid by keeping your thermostat below 68 degrees, unplugging devices that are not in use and avoiding the use of large appliances such as washing machines.

Try to Keep the Cold Air Out

If you have a garage, avoid opening it.

Find drafty edges of windows and doors and plug them with towels. Close all blinds and curtains. If possible, designate a “warm room” to reside in to concentrate body heat.

Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

Open cabinets beneath sinks to allow warmer air to circulate through.

Allow faucets to drip.

Disconnect and store garden hoses.

Locate your water shutoff valve and keep it accessible. If pipes burst, immediately use this valve to shut off the water to your home.

Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning/Death

During the week of winter storm Uri, eleven Texans died due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do not “warm up the car” with the garage door closed.

Do not use a generator indoors.

Do not burn charcoal or wood indoors.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 immediately.

Snow Can be Used as Drinking Water

Forecasts don’t indicate much snow for Central Texas but if you’re in a northern part of the state, this could be useful.

Find the cleanest appearing snow and gather what is needed.

Place a small amount of snow in a pot over a safe heat source.

Do not place a large amount of snow in the pot to begin. Snow is a good insulator and you will burn out the bottom of your pot.

Once the small amount of snow is melted into water, slowly place more snow.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends bringing the water to a rolling boil for at least a minute to “kill most germs.”

Items to Consider Purchasing/Locating, If Possible

  • A three-day supply of water, non-perishable food, fomula and baby purees.
  • A cooler full of ice to keep refrigerated items cold.
  • Pet food.
  • A generator and extension cords.
  • Flashlights and batteries.
  • A first-aid kit and necessary medications.
  • Blankets.
  • Matches.
  • Gas for your vehicle.

If you feel like this guide is helpful, please share it with your family and friends.

Stay safe!

Your Finals Survival Guide

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story by Gloria Nguyen

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Finals season is here. It’s time for us to push through the last few weeks of the semester and finish off in a positive way. 

With final projects, essays and tests to worry about, this time of year can be extremely hectic and stressful for students. It can be daunting to find motivation during finals week when all you want to do is cuddle under a thick blanket and drink hot chocolate, but don’t let yourself off the hook just yet! 

To help you survive finals week, we’ve gathered tips and preparation advice from Austin Community College students and academic coaches. 

ACC student, Victoria Regalado, keeps the studying habit of slowly exposing herself to the content of her class over time. 

Regalado likes to run through the materials posted on Blackboard before class to become familiar with what her professor is going to talk about. This practice keeps her engaged with the materials that may appear on future tests and lessens the burden of cramming in all the concepts at the last minute. 

Like most students, Regalado has had some difficulties preparing for her finals in the past. Last semester was Regalado’s first semester at ACC and she admits she did not know how to prepare for exams or what to expect during finals. 

“I was in a class where we weren’t given that many details about what would be on the final, so I had no idea what to focus on,” Regalado said. “I was freaking out.”

To push through that difficult time, Regalado reached out to her classmates to exchange the information they had about the finals. She also looked over past exams to try to identify the professor’s testing style. 

“It’s kind of comforting to know that many people are on the same boat with you,” Regalado said. “We helped each other and the final results turned out well.”

Being an engineering major at ACC demands Alya Mansoor to be a strict planner. Mansoor says she works on school work from the afternoon until evening time. 

An image of a young woman wearing glasses and headphones studying for an exam using her textbook and her laptop computer.
Alya Mansoor, engineering student at ACC, studies for an upcoming exam.

“A big thing that I do to keep the balance between my work life and study life is to create a structured schedule,” Mansoor said. “At the beginning of the school year, I’ll get a big calendar and write down all of my deadlines for homework and exams. As time goes on, I’ll fill in things that pop up too” 

This calendar helps her keep track of due dates and allows her to plan out her work ahead of time. 

To study for finals, Mansoor formulates a study plan catered to each class based on previous exams and the professor’s formatting. If she has an upcoming textbook-heavy exam, she will focus on her textbooks and support her studying by reviewing notes and homework. 

“If I have an exam that relies on homework and practice, like Calculus, I’ll work through problem after problem and review my notes again.” 

For a cumulative exam, Mansoor takes a different approach. “That’s a longer process and I have to start ahead of time and pay close attention to the course materials from the beginning of the class,” Mansoor said. 

Because Mansoor says she fidgets frequently and is not good at concentrating for long periods of time, she uses the Pomodoro technique to study productively. 

Using this method, you break down your working time into 25-minute chunks (pomodoros) separated by five-minute breaks. After about four pomodoros, you take a longer break of about 15 to 20 minutes. This technique can help anyone who feels distracted or overwhelmed to focus their attention on the task at hand. 

“I’m using the Pomodoro method and I’ll keep using that,” Mansoor said. “It helps me keep my concentration better, especially for something big like finals.”

Sherry Yang, an academic coach at ACC, notices that a common mistake students make when studying for finals is procrastination. 

An image of a beautiful smiling woman with long hair looking towards the camera.
One of ACC’s many academic coaches, Sherry Yang.

“Some students didn’t plan ahead and didn’t know how much time they needed to prepare for finals,” Yang said. “In worse cases, some students barely studied until the final days.” 

This habit of barely studying leads students to cram all the information at the last minute and results in poor retention of the material and lower test scores. 

“If you try to stay up late to memorize as much as you can, usually you’re going to feel tired the next day and not going to remember a lot of information,” Yang said.

When students come to Yang for advice, she recommends at least two weeks to prepare for a big test. 

“Let’s say if they have a test on Friday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m., we recommend students to study in the afternoon from 2 or 3 o’clock for the two weeks before the final,” Yang said. “That way, you can get used to doing those kinds of subjects in that time frame. On the actual test day, you’re not going to get super anxious and stressed out.”

This semester, ACC has been hosting a mix of in-person and virtual classes. For either type of class, Yang recommends familiarizing yourself with the environment you are going to be in during your exam. 

“If you’re going to take your test in front of your desk, you’ll want to study in front of your desk a while before the exam day,” Yang said. “If you’re going to take a test in a class, it might be better to study in a library or a public place. If you get too comfortable studying at home, taking a test in a different environment with people around may make you feel anxious and overwhelmed.”


Preparing for your final exams can be overwhelming, especially during the ongoing challenges of the pandemic. If you have had difficulty studying for finals, book an appointment with ACC academic coaches at their website. Academic coaches are available on several campuses district-wide.

Good luck to everyone with your finals!

Looking for a Job? Let Career Services Help

Story by Duncan McIntyre

Edited by Pete Ramirez

One of the most stressful aspects of college is figuring out what to do after you’re finished. From communications to STEM, students often wonder where their feet will lead them in today’s constantly shifting career landscape. Then they’ve got to think about resumés, interviews, cover letters – where to begin? Searching for a job can be overwhelming but fear not, Austin Community College’s Career Services has you covered.

“We’re here for [the students],” said ACC’s Career Resources Director, Trish Welch. During the week of October 24 through 29, Career Services is hosting Career Ready Week which is a full week of events to assist students with anything they might be having trouble with. From deciding on a major to dealing with anxiety in the job search, Career Ready Week has resources and events built specifically to help students succeed.

“We have a job fair; we have hundreds of employers who are excited to hire students, we have so many employers who have remote work and sign-on bonuses,” said Welch. Employers will be giving presentations and, for students actively looking for work, the job fair has full-time jobs, part-time jobs and internships.

There is also a session that examines the recent trend of working from home called Remote Control. “It’s how to find remote work. A lot of students are interested in remote work, but there are also hidden dangers,” said Welch. “We want to help you navigate that process.”

In order to make students more presentable to potential employers, there are sessions that help them look at their social media presence and credit reports. “Some jobs do pull your credit report,” said Welch. “It’s important to know what’s on your credit report, what your credit score is and how that may impact future employment.”

Career Services has a variety of tools available year-round as well. Edgar Medina is the supervisor of the first-of-its-kind kind Career and Transfer Center at ACC’s Highland campus. Medina said they offer, “career exploration, career guidance, job search, job readiness, resume reviews, interview preparation and mock interviews.”

The program also has counselors who can administer career assessments and help students decide on majors. For even more fine-tuning, there are specialists who work with students to research labor market information.

If you’re looking for even more help on your post-academic path, Career Services also offers the Strategies for Today’s jobs class. It is a 4-week intensive course that walks Riverbats through the job search process from start to finish. Katie McClendon is the Supervisory Coach for the class. She said the class is there to, “Identify a target job, prepare materials, build a network, negotiate a salary, be ready to interview and also to think a little about their career progression and development,” said Katie McClendon, supervisory coach of the class.

The instructors for Strategies for Today’s jobs are well-versed in the Austin job market and specific industries that students seek employment in. They also provide one-on-one coaching to make career obstacles more manageable.

Paige Swanton and Cristian Ortiz are two students who utilized Career Services to further their educational and career aspirations. Ortiz first enrolled at ACC in 2016. He took one class at a time until he decided to challenge himself academically.

Ortiz became a career scholar, which is a scholarship for students who are pursuing a career straight out of school. After receiving the scholarship, he decided to focus on his career and future.

Ortiz was given an opportunity to work with other career scholars on a job agency and has since pioneered a student-led peer-to-peer employment agency.

Swanton connected with Ortiz as a fellow career scholar. She learned about a job opportunity through a career scholar discord chat and now works for ACC as a tele-recruiter.

Swanton has high praise for Career Services and recommends them to other students. “Everybody helps, if you need something they have someone for you,” Swanton said.

For Riverbats looking towards the future, Cristian added, “None of us are perfect, and most of us have a lot of time to perfect ourselves. If you are worried like I was, we have time – it’s just a matter of building those skills.”

For more information on Career Ready Week, the Strategies for Today’s jobs class or anything related to finding a job, visit the Career Services website here.