ACC Students and COVID-19

Story by Duncan McIntyre

We are all still living through one of the most significant periods in human history. Each person you encounter has likely experienced an unexpected change in their own story because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The virus has affected each of us in a unique and perhaps fundamental way.

COVID-19 precautions have forced students and educators to adapt to a novel form of learning dominated by virtual meetings, webcams and Wi-Fi. Students who were already facing the challenges of higher education have had their decisions strained even more by COVID-19 and it’s ripple effects. 

Whether it be financially, mentally, emotionally or even spiritually, the past couple of years have significantly affected us all and as a society we will be recovering from this for years to come.

A decade ago, Michelle McKown was a student at Austin Community College. Ten years later during the fall semester of 2019, McKown returned to complete her undergraduate psychology degree. 

A few months later in March of 2020, ACC shut its doors to in-person learning for the first time and began the transition to online education.

“I started the semester before the world turned upside down,” McKown said.

We can all remember the beginning of quarantine where life became simpler and vastly more complicated all at once. 

For some students, this time away from the hustle and bustle of the world allowed a moment to pause and reflect.

Andres Rodriguez, a high school student taking dual-credit courses at ACC, says he’s not the same person he was when the pandemic began. For some people, Rodriguez said, “it gave them an opportunity to reassess themselves, and figure out where they needed to go and what they needed to do.”

McKown also saw this as an opportunity to do some reassessing of her own. 

“The pandemic forced a restart on me, so I wanted to take advantage of that and not waste this opportunity,” McKown said.

McKown’s restart included decisions on what and who to keep in her life, and what to change. These decisions affected her spirituality and sense of self. 

“What all those choices boil down to is the fact that we, as human beings, are not good at letting go of things that are no longer what they once were,” McKown said.

The new COVID-19 world is a place of contrasts. In some ways it seems some good came out of this period of self-reflection. However, it is undeniable that many experienced great difficulties and losses as well.

Leslie Tejeda, a general studies student at ACC, said she experienced difficulties grasping the material in some classes due to the nature of online learning. Tejeda also said that she experienced, “a lot of isolation, I didn’t even go outside.”

Rodriguez says he is fortunate that he did not personally lose any family members because of the virus. 

“I know a lot of people that lost family – aunts, uncles, grandparents,” Rodriguez said.

From elementary school to graduate university, students have also been learning to adapt to a changing educational environment. This has been easier for some compared to others.

Rodriguez is someone who found classes harder because of the switch to online learning. 

“I took a couple classes online, it was alright, but some of them were more difficult because of their workload,” Rodriguez said. “The cameras in my opinion, aren’t as effective as in-person learning.”

Tejeda was in the same boat and said that not being able to go to class in-person made grasping the concepts taught in class difficult.

On the other hand, there are students, myself included, that think online learning was easier. McKown said that during the pandemic she discovered that she actually preferred taking classes online.

“I love the freedom that online asynchronous learning affords me,” McKown said. “Now I get to work on things in a way that works with my schedule, and I have to say that I really love it, which was a huge surprise for me.”

The past few years have been tough and the end of the pandemic has yet to be seen. We can’t forget that we are in this together. 

McKown offered words of encouragement for those who may still be struggling.

“You are not struggling right now because you aren’t enough, things aren’t hard right now because you’re somehow not strong enough to handle it,” McKown said. “If things feel hard right now, it’s because they’re hard… We have to be kinder to ourselves.”
ACC offers mental health resources to any students who need them. Students can find them at https://www.austincc.edu/students/mental-health-counseling. If you need more immediate help, you can call 512-472-HELP (4357)

Your Finals Survival Guide

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story by Gloria Nguyen

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

By Duncan McIntyre

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 it’s 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.

ACC Students Take Control of Their Finances with Help from Student Money Management Office

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story by Gloria Nguyen

College can feel like the void between childhood and adulthood, but once a young person graduates high school and advances to the higher tier of their education, they are considered adults and must become more responsible for the decisions they make regarding money. 

However,​​ an ING Direct study found that 87 percent of teens surveyed knew little about personal finance. 

Understanding how complicated and frustrating money management skills are, Austin Community College’s Student Money Management Office (SMMO) is here to help students take control of their money. Money management skills are even more crucial for students who plan to transfer to a four-year university, as the financial burden is much heavier in most cases. 

Shannon Pinales, an ACC student who just got accepted to the University of Texas at San Antonio, shared that she was never taught about money in her teenage years. At ACC, she sought help from the Peer Money Mentor Program (PMMP) offered by SMMO. 

Shannon Pinales and her acceptance letter from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Photo provided by Shannon Pinales

“Before I was in that program, even talking about the word ‘budget’ was enough to get me anxious. It wasn’t a territory I could speak about,” Pinales said. 

However, having been in that program for one year, Pinales is now confident that she is at a good place with her budgeting. She has also helped the office with some scholarship workshops behind the scenes. Pinales has learned valuable information about the money sources, where to find them, and how to apply for them. 

“The whole application process is overwhelming,” Pinales said. “But the office has helped me have a better idea of what I need to do on a weekly basis, monthly basis, and so on.”

Pinales, who will be transferring to a four-year university, said that she did not wish to take out any loans and would spend her weekends working on scholarship applications. 

“At ACC, I was able to not take out any student loans and always had a refund every semester,” Pinales said. “My budget would look completely different as I’m transferring to a new school. I don’t want to put any loan pressure on me.” She said she is grateful for learning how to take control of her finances before transferring to a four-year university.

Amber Rodriguez, like most young adults, would spend all the money she had in her bank account because she did not know any better. 

Amber Rodriguez representing her new school, Texas State University. 
Photo provided by Amber Rodriguez

But now, that’s all in the past. Rodriguez now has savings she is building on and extra money in case of emergency thanks to the Peer Money Mentor program.

Rodriguez took part in the Rainy Days Saving Program of SMMO, which has an incentive of $25 in cash to maintain a balance of $475 or more for 30 or more days.

Participating in this program changed Rodriguez’s relationship with money. 

“I had almost $500 in my bank account, which I had never had before,” Rodriguez said. “Having that much money really helped change my mindset and started making it fun for me to save money.” 

What bothers Rodriguez the most regarding transferring are transportation and food costs. When she was at ACC, she had a free transportation card on the bus and train. 

Now studying at Texas State University, Rodriguez takes the bus from North Austin to San Marcos every day. 

“Since I’m at school all day, I’m spending way too much eating out,” Rodriguez said. “I realize I have to start packing more than one meal to save some money.” 

Arjana Almaneih is studying at the University of Texas at Austin and living in North Austin. She does not worry about transportation costs since her husband picks her up after school. 

Arjana S. Almaneih throws up her horns in front of the University of Texas at Austin. 
Photo provided by Arjana Almaneih

However, Almaneih has spent much more on textbooks and food compared to when she was at ACC. She said that professors at ACC were more likely to minimize course materials, so she did not have to spend too much buying textbooks. She has also spent quite a lot of money on eating out since it is inconvenient to pack her own meals.

“Participating in the Student Money Management Office during my two years at ACC completely changed my financial situation, and not to be dramatic, but my life as well,” Almaneih said. “I went from constantly going negative in my accounts and zero savings to living very financially stable. I have three different savings accounts and feel very confident and comfortable with my financial situation.” 

Almaneih is grateful for being a part of and learning from the PMMP. 

“Because of the knowledge I gained, I am attending the number one public university in Texas and the tenth best public university in the United States on a full-ride scholarship as a first-generation student,” Almaneih said. “Because of my time with the PMMP, I will receive my bachelor’s degree with zero debt.”

Almaneih shared practical advice for students at ACC who are trying to build a solid foundation for their finances. 

“I would highly suggest any and all ACC students to get involved with Student Money Management,” Almaneih said. “Whether that’s through a workshop, a financial coaching session, the Rainy Day Savings Program, the peer money mentor program, or just paying attention when they come to your class!”

The PMMP will return in Fall 2022. ACC students can easily find more information and waitlist their names at the SMMO’s website. Information about scholarships workshops and Rainy Days Saving Program can also be found on their website. Students can reach out directly to them by calling 512-223-9331.

Financial Aid for Beginners

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Written by Duncan McIntyre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Students Stay Active

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

By: Pete Ramirez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ACC Students Take on Virtual Events

Three students of Austin Community College share their perspectives on how virtual events have impacted their life, and what they believe could be done better; a guide for officials to consider, and implement into the academic format we now consider our new normal.

By: Renata Salazar

Austin Community College has continued virtual learning during the global pandemic for over an academic year, as of now. As we approach another semester of online education, it is easy to become overwhelmed during the school year when navigating online classes and might often feel discouraged from the lack of every day interaction  with classmates and staff. ACC provides more than education, as students continue to develop relationships and interact with each other through student organizations and events. From Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, to online advising, ACC continues to provide several virtual events and resources that allow students to unwind between classwork, and tips to stay on track with  online courses. 

ACCENT spoke with student Katheryn Pharr, an active member in the Student Life community, Vice President of ACCess Autism Iva Millsap, and Todd Snow, a student pursuing studies to qualify for a bachelor’s in software development at ACC to learn how student organization can be another resource for peer support. Three students with varying perspectives share their take on the perks and disadvantages of ACC’s online presence and what the school and student organizations can do to improve them.

Pharr feels that in-person events are more casual and provide a sense of community that virtual events lack. 

“Student life is doing a great job making sure we can still connect with each other even though we’re all isolated and spread out” Pharr says. 

Pharr attended Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, a recurring event within Student Life. One thing Pharr appreciates from virtual events is the ability to go back and review the event with recordings. Pharr is open to the potential virtual events possess with the fact that abilities such as recordings and screen grabs, allow students to utilize the information from events at any given time.  Regarding school resources, Pharr primarily takes advantage of online advising and the ASL IT Lab online. 

“I appreciate that even though we are not able to be in-person on our respective campuses, that these services are still available. Although helpful, there is something lost by not physically occupying the same space,” Pharr says. 

She added that it is easy to become distracted during online advising, whereas “in-person the advisor can probably tell when the student loses focus.”

The increase of virtual events in student life has made some student organizations get creative and implement new perspectives into their events.  Vice president of student organization ACCess Autism, Iva Millsap believes the new virtual platform has driven them to find new ways to make events more interactive by implementing new concepts. 

“We had an event where our members would create artwork on how their autism affected them in sensory ways.,” Millsap says.

Though Millsap feels she has been equally involved during the pandemic similarly to in-person events. She still prefers attending events in person due to the sense of community that in-person events can bring to some students. 

Virtual events may seem more complicated than a casual in-person event, but ACC’s online platform has encouraged some students to give Student Life a try. Snow shared that his involvement with Student Life became more frequent once Student Life events began going virtual. What kept Snow from getting involved with in-person events prior were factors such as commutes and personal obligations, which can be the case for many other students.  

“Virtual events have been great for me. These events have allowed me to explore aspects of SL and ACC that wouldn’t normally pique my interest or just would not have been a priority,” Snow says. 

Proving virtual events do present advantages towards students thanks to their accessibility. Snow aforementioned the knowledge they have provided him and how much more understanding he is of what ACC offers to students. Adding he believes the benefits are definitely there when contrasting to in-person events, hoping that “any events in the future conducted in-person maintain a virtual component.

Virtual events and resources prove to have both pros and cons. Though students seem to prefer in-person events as they present a sense of community that can’t be rendered through a screen,  they have managed to adapt and make amends with the pandemic and restrictions we abide by during this era. 

Some students are even benefiting from this  virtual environment and are becoming more  involved with Student Life at ACC for the first time, just like Snow.  

“I have a much broader understanding of campus operations and the ACC mission.  Virtual events have shown me great opportunities for apprenticeships, internships, and have fundamentally altered how I look at my career and academic choices.”

COVID-19: How a Pandemic Changed The Way We Live

Whether a student or a professor, or working at an office, or at a store, life has changed. As the number of cases in Travis and Williamson County continues to rise, life will continue to be different and will never be the same.

By: Angela Murillo Martinez

It is no surprise that nobody’s life is the same as it was before the pandemic occurred. Whether a student or a professor, or working at an office, or at a store, life has changed. As the number of cases in Travis and Williamson County continues to rise, life will continue to be different and will never be the same. Many have had to embrace change as they’ve had to continue working or even going to school, and as time continues it becomes more of a new reality. New routines are being built and embraced openly as there is no other option, but to continue in the midst of a pandemic. 

According to the CDC, as of July 25th, the total number of cases in the whole United States is 4,099,310. A major spike in cases occurred as many states allowed public spaces to re-open such as stores, amusement parks, churches, workplaces, and many more. In the state of Texas, it is reported that there are 369,826 cases. Although the number of cases continues to rise in the state, public spaces in the state continue to remain open. In Williamson County alone, so far 5,145 cases have been reported in one day, and in Travis County, 18,939 cases have been reported.

 It is important to remember to follow safety procedures to avoid furthering the spread of COVID-19 and to make sure that everyone remains healthy and safe. If one finds themselves going out, don’t forget to bring a face covering. As of the third of July, all Texans are required to wear face masks in public spaces. Failure to comply with such orders may result in a warning at first and in further violations, one can be fined up to $250. Additionally, it is important to respect the space of others and maintain a six feet distance when out in public. The Texas Health and Human Services also recommends washing one’s hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds and also mentions avoiding touching one’s face with unwashed hands. Amongst other actions shared on their website to prevent the spread of COVID-19, an important one is too often disinfected surfaces that are often touched by others. 

With this being said, people have to keep working, students have to continue going to school, and in general, life has to continue. The only difference now is exactly how life is being continued by people. For Stephanie Murillo, a student studying criminal justice and obtaining her paralegal certification, she has had to not only adjust to a new job but also adjust to working from home and taking online classes. It had been only two weeks at her new job as a court clerk when her office was closed and she had to start working remotely. Now it’s been five months and she’s had to learn everything through zoom calls and emails, while also managing her online classes. She admits that it has been hard having to manage to work at home and taking online classes, especially since her hours at work have extended. No longer being able to follow the usual seven to five schedule she had been following before the pandemic. “Before I was able to leave work at five and it would stay there, and I would be able to come home or go to school. 

But now I just feel like I work extra hours because my office is my room.” On top of that, she admits that taking her classes online has required more time and commitment. To her, it seems that her days have only gotten longer and the workload has become heavier. 

Furthermore, she has felt it was a difficult transition to have to learn everything she needed to know remotely and to also learn how to manage all the technology necessary to continue. “I was in the process of learning my new position but then when the pandemic started, I had to be trained in something that was new to my co-workers, which was working remotely from home.” Despite the difficulties and challenges she has had to face, she has grown to like working from home and admits that she will find it difficult to return to the office. Although she’s been told that they will return to the office since June, so far the official date is still uncertain and continues to change as the situation escalates. They have planned to return to the office on August 17th, though this isn’t a set date. So for now, she continues to work remotely and learn as much as she can while being physically apart from her co-workers. 

For other students such as Kylie Birchfield, a talented photographer studying photography, she’s had more time to focus on her passion. Though she did find the last couple of months left in the Spring semester difficult as a result of transitioning to online classes, she has found herself with more free time on her hands as a result of the pandemic. Not only has she been able to work more on her own personal photography projects, but she’s also been able to get an internship with Austin Woman Magazine. “I know not a lot of people have gotten good things out of this, but for me, I’ve had a lot of good things come out of it.” In her internship with the magazine, she has been able to do a feature with them on COVID-19 where she photographed three women who find themselves on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. 

She has found that as more people spend more time on social media, the more people she has finding her page and lining up to work with her. Although now, there are certain safety procedures she follows to avoid furthering the spread of COVID-19 such as maintaining a distance and wearing a mask when working with others. As the previously mentioned guidelines are more implement into one’s new daily routine, she often has to remind herself of bringing her masks and maintaining a distance at photoshoots. 

“Sometimes I have to rethink what I’m doing in photoshoots. I can’t get up close, can’t move their hair, I have to ask them to move their hair around.”

 With this being said, she continues to find herself with more opportunities and considers this a “kickstart” for her career. Despite losing her job as a result of the pandemic, she finds herself blessed to have the free time she has now and has been using it to do what she loves. 

Others like Mary Monk, a student studying Government, no longer finds herself having to commute to her classes. Hence, saving her time that she would spend taking the bus and traveling from class to class. While she did find it hard to transition to online classes at the end of the Spring semester, she realized that in most of her classes they were easy to finish without meeting in person. As a result of the pandemic, she has found it hard to find an internship or a 

job. 

“Your Freshman summer is supposed to be the time where you get internships and jobs, and it’s so hard because I applied to so many internships and they’ve just been like ‘oh, we have to see because of COVID’… So it’s been really difficult in that regard,” said Monk

Although Monk was used to her friends going to different schools and living far, resulting in not being able to see each other often. She now finds herself talking more consistently with them through text and video calls. 

“With family, at first, I think we were all on the same page, but as time goes on, and people are in their homes for longer, our family gets a little divisive on what we should be doing, and what caution we should be taking,” said Monk 

 But as far as her immediate family, she finds herself at home with them safely and spending more time together as they are unable to go out. As she continues to take online classes, she sees this as an opportunity to further her studies. 

“I feel like I can take on more than I probably thought I could if I had to do them all in person because with actually going to school, physically, you have to take into account how long it’s going to take you to go from one building to another.”

 Now, Monk takes her classes online, her room becomes her classroom and she no longer has to leave it to attend class. She plans that if the pandemic continues on for longer, which she thinks it will, she will most definitely take more classes and hopes to find an internship that can begin to prepare her for her career. 

Despite being unable to meet on campus or be physical together, organizations are still continuing to meet through video calls. One of those organizations being the German club, which has met every three weeks during the summer. Although there are certain things that have changed and other things that they are no longer able to do since moving to video calls, the club hasn’t changed that much. “We do the same things, we just do them differently. We used to play board games, and we obviously don’t do that anymore, but we played hangman at a bunch of the meetings I remember going to, and we still play hangman online,” said the club president Lauren Sanders.

Though their group has gotten smaller since they transitioned to video calls, they have built a small, defined group who all meet together and converse in both German and English. They do admit that it has been harder to get people involved since they are no longer able to put posters around the Highland campus or have people show up after German class, but still, they continue to meet and encourage that all those interested in German no matter the level of expertise, to join them. 

Since the pandemic started, the club never planned on stopping and quickly continued moving forward.

 “I thought the club was going to end, seeing how things were going, only a few of us were left. But when they were saying, we have to decide who’s going to be the president, treasurer, and secretary, ‘I was like ok, we’re still doing this. I’m in’ and I mean it’s something to do when I’m at the house quarantining all day,” said Emiliano Antunano. 

 This same resilience has kept them going through the pandemic and continues to push them despite having to continue meeting online in the upcoming fall semester. The club which consists of German speakers of all levels has a supportive and welcoming community, where they are all helping each other improve their German, but also keep each other company in the midst of the pandemic. In the words of a club 

member, 

“I hope to go to the in-person meeting when all this ends since I haven’t been able to go to those since I joined after all this happened,” said Marshall Brown. 

While life had seemed to pause at the beginning of the pandemic, people were unable to continue like this forever, and life has had to continue. As people begin to return to work at their offices or at stores or begin to go out again or return to campus, it doesn’t mean that the pandemic has completely gone away. If anything, the number of cases continues to rise, and therefore, everyone should continue to be careful to protect not only their health but the health of others. Everyone is having to face a new reality and is experiencing new routines, so no one is alone in this situation. Although life continues with uncertainty, if everyone works together and follows the necessary precautions, soon we’ll be able to all be together again on campus.

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LGBTQIA+ Breaking Down the Acronym

In recent years, more and more letters have been added to the acronym. But what do they mean? ACCENT sat down with Matthew Campbell, the co-chair of LGBT Equities committee, to discuss what exactly goes into LGBTQIA+.

By: Alexa Smith

Almost everyone has heard the acronym LGBT at some point and understands what it means. In recent years, more and more letters have been added to the acronym. But what do they mean? ACCENT sat down with Matthew Campbell, the co-chair of LGBT Equities committee, to discuss what exactly goes into LGBTQIA+. 

“You have the standard LGBT; Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender. Q is for queer or questioning. I for Intersex. A for Asexual. And then the plus goes on to add more. So we have nonbinary, nonconforming, pansexual.” Says Campbell, then went on to say how the acronym even includes more than that. He recommended a couple of resources that give an extensive view of all the different identities included under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Campbell shared this article from The New York Times as well as this article from Human Rights Campaign. With all the recent additions, it can be hard to understand what falls under the LGBT Acronym. Campbell described it this way, “Some things that normally hadn’t been under LGBT are now starting to fall under it more. This is my way of looking at it; if it doesn’t fit a heteronormative of a man and a woman then it is grouped under LGBT. That’s one of the things I love about  being so active in the LGBT community. It is so open and so giving and so caring that when these things don’t fall under standard man to woman we’re like ‘You know what, come on over here.’” 

Campbell was one of the original members of ACC’s LGBT Equity committee. He says, “being a gay male myself the committee was very close to my heart. Being a very active member of the community I felt it was a really good thing…Our students and our faculty and staff need something like this so they know they have someone at the college they can talk to.” The LGBT Equity committee came out of the Gay Straight Alliance, which was a student organization. Now that they are a committee they are able to offer more resources to more students. The LGBT Equity committee offers ally training for faculty and staff, hosts events, and provides resources to ACC Students. The LGBT Equity committee has tons of opportunities for students to get help or even connections. You can check out their website here to see what resources and online events they offer. 

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The Time I Realized I’m a Minority

According to the Austin Community College Fact Book, minority students make up over half the percentage of total students who were enrolled in the spring 2020 semester.

By: Emily Pesina and Angela Murillo Martinez

Over the years, we’ve more than often heard the word, minority, be brought up in discussion. Whether it’s heard on the news, read in an article, or tossed around in an interview, the term is no stranger. Although a minority is usually perceived as going hand-in-hand with race and ethnicity in the United States, definitions differ between the way they are used by people. Denotatively speaking, minority means “the smaller part or number,”. According to Merriam Webster minority in social terms is defined as “a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment,”. 

According to the Austin Community College Fact Book, minority students make up over half the percentage of total students who were enrolled in the spring 2020 semester. ACCENT spoke with a few students to get their story of their journey. 

Nikko Vafaee, transferred riverbat with a keen eye for photography, current track in pre-law, and a snapshot in her mind of creating an impact, expressed feeling the minority when she joined an organization after transferring into college. 

“I joined this organization and I [felt] like “dang I do feel like the minority”… I [was] the only white/Persian here.” 

During her earlier years in public school, diversity was the norm as cliques and clubs were integrated, however changes came with college. 

“It was strange because I’ve never been in that situation… where it’s not diverse,” said Vafaee. 

The same contradictory knowledge between your comfort-zone and the real world was noted by Diana Gorostieta, a first generation student and ACC alumni. Gorostieta recognized her minority position upon entering college, describing it as “the whole pot”, which opposed her high school experience of previously making up the Latino majority. As a DACA student pursuing education with limited resources, Gorostieta tackled challenges through finding guidance and support through ACC’s Ascender program, which opened up doors for her. 

“Stay active within the community. That way you’ll build connections, friendships, and that leads to other comfort zones..it’s a home away from home,” said Gorostieta. 

With an overworked automotive tool in one hand, and a pencil for schoolwork in the other, Armando Sanchez is an individual paving his future as the next generation’s leader.

“The moment I realized when I really was a minority was when I was thirteen, and my grandparents were [filing paperwork] for me to be on DACA,” said Sanchez. 

 Upon the process of filing fingerprints, portraits, and sealing the contract with a signature, Sanchez understood the purpose of this years later when his ability to work, drive, and study in the United States was protected by a 6’ x 4’ identification card. Sanchez expressed how his future relies on the decisions of the supreme court in terms of possibly overturning DACA was further realization of the minority. However, through an internship, a never-before-seen snapshot formed in his mind as he found himself working alongside government representatives. 

“Two years ago I thought I’d just be working on cars. Now I want to make a difference, create an impact…[and] we were doing something, showing those who see us as not doing anything important later in life… anything you do, we can do too,” said Sanchez. 

With an associates degree under his belt and a current pursuit in a duo major/minor, Sanchez shares how he feels that he can relate to the apprehensive feelings new or incoming riverbats may have. 

 “When I first came to ACC, I felt like a nobody. [Everyone] seemed so educated, well-informed, and that made me feel like a nobody… for that reason, I understand their level. Students come across to me as if they’re afraid to speak up, or to do anything because no matter what they do, it won’t matter. If you feel like that, that’s okay. Learn to oppress that feeling… don’t be afraid of who you want to be,” said Sanchez. 

Sanchez stresses the importance to remember who you are. His optimism, eagerness, and overcome-challenges continue to be recognized by all that he meets. 

For Maudriel Goodlet, a liberal arts student, the word minority means “a group of people who don’t have the same privileges than the more powerful group in America.” 

“America is supposed to be for everyone that lives [here], and some people don’t have access to those privileges,” said Goodlet. 

 Her realization of being a minority started in kindergarten, where white children made up the majority of her peers. Goodlet noted that she didn’t look like everybody else, and while she initially didn’t care, others started to realize and comment on her exterior differences. 

Growing up in Minnesota, Goodlet recalls experiencing weird situations from getting stared at in public to being asked unusual questions such as, “Do you have a lot of money?”, or constantly hearing comments such as, “your dad is black.” A certain situation at the store still lingers in her mind, when a lady purposely pushed her basket away from Goodlet, where the woman had left her purse. 

“She was going to go into the bathroom, and I was going to go to the bathroom too, so I wasn’t worried about the purse she was leaving in the basket,” said Goodlet

Being able to move to Austin and receive higher education allowed Goodlet to learn not only about herself, but about the community around her.

 “They wanted to teach people in public school, where the government has a heavy hand in their education that everybody has a place here. Not true…It really matters what you look like,” said Goodlet. 

  Although she feels ACC is inclusive, Goodlet would like to see more diverse professors.

 “I really liked having a black teacher for my English class. That was really cool. She talked a lot about racial issues and tensions, and she was inclusive with everyone in the class,” said Goodlet.

ACCENT thanks the students that participated in sharing their voices, and the students that will lead the next generation as future leaders. 

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