Inside ACC’s Professional Nursing Program

The Health Sciences department at ACC has a profound reputation in Austin.

by Foster Milburn

Graphic by Claudia Hinojos

Health science students at Austin Community College are prepared for the fast-growing healthcare industry as the college offers a flexible education pathway, realistic hospital settings, and a high state pass rate. 

A career as a registered nurse might be ideal for students who are driven to help others and are passionate about science. 

Post COVID, the supply and demand for nurses has resulted in a shortage of nurses globally. With the high demand, the pay remains an appealing incentive for entering the work field.

According to Indeed, the average yearly salary for a registered nurse (RN) in Texas is $89,905; a well-paying salary in the field results from the long hours and the emotional pressure of being a nurse. 

At ACC, students have a wide range of options in picking their major or starting a trade-specific program. 

Professional nursing is different from other areas of study as it requires the student to apply and be accepted into the program, whereas other studies are open to students at any time. To be registered in this program, students are also expected to complete a series of prerequisites. 

If a student is interested in nursing, they should go to the ACC website. Professor Abraham, an Associate Degree Nursing (ADN) level two professor, advises: “Definitely, the Health Sciences page is the best place to start.”

One thing to think about prior to considering nursing school is the complexity and dedication required. “What helps is having a realistic goal when starting nursing school,” Professor Abraham said.“Nursing school is a full-time job.” 

That might raise the question of whether you can work outside the classroom to provide income for your living expenses beyond what you receive from loans. “Yes, you can. It will not be easy, but it is possible.” Christina Berger, a level II ADN Student at ACC and a mother of two, points out.

For many students, having a job while in school is necessary. An outside income is a requirement as some live independently or have children. Christina Knighton discussed working while being in the program. “I understand that it is reality, and we can’t not all work. Students have scaled back their hours to ensure they have more time for the program,” she said. 

So, you might be wondering what other options are available. Knighton brings up the option of saving between semesters to have extra income during semesters. “This program is a full-time job,” she said.

With the disclaimers addressed, it would be best to meet with an advisor if a student is still interested in starting the program. It can be something other than Health Sciences, too. 

Christina Knighton spoke about her personal experience with her advisor, “I started by speaking to my advisor, who gave me information about the prerequisites for the ADN program. She helped me stay on track and made sure I met the deadlines for application.” 

The application process can be confusing for students navigating through the steps for the first time. It is much more information than other programs of study because it is specialized and more selective. 

However, that does not mean there aren’t people to help you along the way. Because of having high standards going into the program, the resources continue beyond the application process. 

“Once in the program, there are retention services available that can help with financial aid, study tips, and time management,” Knighton said. 

Regarding the prerequisites, one might ask if they are beneficial to the courses they are required to take. For the professional nursing program, ADN, the associate degree plan requires four prerequisites. If taken subsequently, the classes can be completed in approximately three semesters. 

“Pharmacology and Anatomy & Physiology give you the foundation for going into nursing school,” Knighton said. “When you have a deeper understanding of how the body works, it is easier to understand the disease processes you learn about once in the program.”

Secondly, the other requirement for applying for admission into the program is the HESI exam. The exam is a test that covers the material learned in the prerequisites where students are “tested on knowledge and how you would apply that knowledge in a clinical setting,” Knighton said. 

The HESI Admission Assessment fee is currently at $62.00. The minimum passing score is 75 percent, and the test covers anatomy, physiology, math, reading, grammar, and critical thinking. 

The HEXI exam varies in complexity. “Exposure to NCLEX style questions helps a lot when preparing for the HESI or nursing school exams in general,” Knighton said. 

The NCLEX is the exam taken after completion of the program. “You can find them online, and there are many apps you can download for free,” Christina Berger said. 

To conclude, it is best to speak directly with an advisor if one is considering the Nursing program or any other Health Sciences program. They can give you more personable advice while understanding your circumstances. 

The nursing program here at ACC has an outstanding reputation within Texas and across the country. Austin American-Statesman presented the program with the 2020 Best of the Best Award on Jan. 11 of last year – an endowment worthy of what it offers. 

Why You Should Join the Honors Program

Spring semester is around the corner, meaning students are taking the important step of making their schedule before registration ends on Jan. 3. 

What many students are not aware of is that their classes can improve significantly by enrolling in an honors course, which, no, is not part of an elite society. Instead, it is an academic program ready to encourage and celebrate curiosity. 

Story by Marisela Perez-Maita

The ACC Honors Program provides a number of benefits from classes to internships and scholarships opportunities. Dr. Anne-Marie Thomas, chair of the Honors Program and also an honors class professor, has seen over the years how students connect with one another and live experiences that traditional classes do not normally offer. 

“Small classes allow a lot more close interaction between the students themselves and the faculty,” she explains. “To me, that’s a big selling point. All honors classes have a substantial discussion component which encourages and strengthens the spirit of inquiry in the students.” 

Students realize the difference between traditional and honors classes right away. 

Aatmodhee Goswami, an ACC Computer Science student, started his academic journey in 2020 during the pandemic. “Since it was online, it was a little bit harder to get that sort of interaction with professors, especially with 30 or 40 people in a Zoom call,” Goswami said. “I learned, but it wasn’t as interactive as I would’ve liked it to be.” 

ACC Computer Science student Aatmodhee Goswami shares insight on honors microeconomics and English composition classes he took during an interview with reporter Marisela Perez-Maita.

Upon finding out about the smaller class sizes that honors classes offer, Goswami decided to sign up. Since then, he shares that taking these classes provided a fun and interactive academic experience. 

“I personally really like the fact there is a personal connection with each of the professors. I can remember specific experiences with them,” Goswami said.

Goswami shared that each one of these courses has influenced his academic journey and general interests. The microeconomics course with Professor Croxdale prompted him to self-study AP Macro, and after his first composition class with Professor Thomas he is now into science fiction. 

In honors classes, students get the opportunity to get a deeper dive into a particular subject, Dr. Thomas explains. She teaches composition with a focus on science fiction as well as a literature course on apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction.

During an ACCENT interview on the Honors Program, Dr. Anne-Marie Thomas explains everything that the program has to offer.

“For example, the theme for Professor Endl’s Astronomy class is about whether there is life in the universe, and apart from studying the possibilities for life on other planets, with an instructor who has actually discovered an exoplanet, students get the opportunity to use the telescope at the Round Rock campus,” Dr. Thomas said.

In the Honors Program courses, students still cover the same transfer requirements as a traditional class, but with deeper discussions and experiences, including field trips, visits from guest lecturers, or service learning. 

There is no due date for enrolling in an honors class as they follow the regular registration timeline. However, not all courses are offered every semester and there is a maximum of 15 students per class. 

It is important that students check early to make sure their plans are aligned with which courses are available.

To be part of the Honors Program, it is necessary to apply and meet only one of the listed requirements among which include having a 3.25 college GPA from at least 9 college hours or being in the top 15 percent of one’s graduating high school class.

Once accepted, students can become even more involved in the program. The paid internship opportunity to be an Honor Ambassador includes students engaging in leadership activities at ACC events, doing recruitment and classroom presentations, and creating social media content. 

Nora O’Halloran signed up to be an ambassador after her first honors classes. “As an ambassador, everyone does what their strengths are or what they are interested in learning. For example, we have people who love editing videos and that’s what they are learning in school, so they get to edit the fun videos that we work on,” O’Halloran said. 

The position has online and in-person flexibility so students can choose what works best for them. 

“We have ways to make things accommodating, which is one of the many wonderful things about being an Honors Ambassador,” she said. “The key is to get involved as much as you can; reach out to Dr. Thomas and explain your interests. You can volunteer in the Honors Student Organization as well. All of these will help you in the long run.” 

Apart from Honors Ambassadors, the Honors Program has a partnership with the University of Texas at Austin called UT’s Youth and Community Studies (YCS) Fellows Program. It consists of a series of spring workshops about civic leadership, community building, social justice, and restorative practices. Students who participate and complete the YCS Fellows program are eligible to become interns in another program at UT along with receiving transfer advising from the university’s advisors. 

The YCS program provides a certificate upon completion, which, along with all the experience from the internship, can help students get into UT if that’s what they are  aiming for. 

Even more, if students need help regarding honors courses and transfer goals, they can set up an appointment with Jana McCarthy in the Honors Program‘s website who specializes in advising for honors students. 

To find out more, the Honors Program social media provides information about what they are up to as well as future ambassadors openings. For example, two weeks ago was Honors week across the ACC district. Numerous events happened everyday both on campuses and online, such as the Columbia University School of General Studies Information Session and “A Legacy Beyond Bloodline” talk with the UT professor Dr. Octavious Butler. 

Students may get the misconception that these courses are difficult, but, according to Goswami, even a class like Calculus II is interactive. “I do suppose Honors classes take more work, but I for sure take more out of it and they are more fun,” Goswami said.

If students want additional recognition on their transcripts, they can go to the website and read how to become an Honors Scholar along with the steps to apply for the Honors Scholarship. 

Be the student that takes advantage of all of these benefits and celebrate curiosity with the Honors Program by enrolling in honors Spring semester classes!

Activist Brandon Wolf on the Pulse Massacre and Finding a Sense of Belonging

Hosted and produced by Morris Haywood

In this podcast, ACCENT’s Morris Haywood sits down with Brandon Wolf, an LQBTQ+ advocate and survivor of the Orlando Nightclub shooting, to talk about humanizing marginalized experiences, gun safety reform, and recent Florida legislature prohibiting instruction of sexual orientation.

Listen to the full podcast on our Anchor page.

“All the moments you think you earned your place can be ripped away,” said Wolf, “part of me wanted to find a place that would see me.”

This podcast was recorded in May of 2022.

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!

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.

UT Students Seek Help From ACC With Community Outreach Initiative

The student-led Texas Civic Impact Council needs help from Austin Community College and other Austin area colleges to shine a light on socio-economic opportunities for the community ahead of a major transit infrastructure project.

Written by Ky Duffey

Edited by Pete Ramirez

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist and author.

Mead’s exemplary words are not lost on Vaishnav Kuruvanka and Ruth Mewhinney, two University of Texas-Austin students and co-founders of the Texas Civic Impact Council (TCIC). TCIC is a student-led organization that strives to bring the community together by engaging college students to work as a team to solve social issues.

Sponsored by Promoting Education Across the Country (PEAC), a platform that supports youth entrepreneurs at the community level, TCIC aims to be a bridge for student progress on city-wide issues. 

While TCIC has made strides so far in launching social campaigns, its newest campaign is focused on Project Connect, an upcoming transit infrastructure project for the city of Austin. Find out more about TCIC and how to apply here.

The following is my recent conversation with Kuruvanka and Mewhinney about TCIC and Project Connect.

Ruth Mewhinney and Vaishnav Kuruvanka are co-founders of the Texas Civic Impact Council and students at the University of Texas at Austin. Their organization is looking to get ACC students involved in their work helping to shape Austin’s massive transit project known as Project Connect.

Ky Duffey (KD): Tell me about Project Connect. 

Vaishnav Kuruvanka (VR): Project Connect is a $7.1 billion investment in public transportation in Austin. There are three components to it: a light rail connecting North and South Austin, an expanded all-electric bus fleet and an underground transit tunnel that will go through downtown. The purpose is to make it easier to get around Austin through public transport. 

We at TCIC are interested in it because we see it as more than just an infrastructure investment. We see it as a way to connect Austin geographically and socially. We see it as a way to develop jobs and affordable housing. To initiate this equitable and innovative future for our city. It’s a generational opportunity. When will we see this kind of investment again?

Ruth Mewhinney (RM): If Project Connect is done well, we’ll be creating communities of opportunity in the four corridors of the city the project will engage. To make projects like this work, we need community engagement to make sure community priorities relate to public policy. We recognize this as an amazing opportunity, and our job is to amplify community voices. We want to serve as an accountability check for Project Connect and what it can do for the citizens of Austin. 

So basically, how can the infrastructure in Austin, the fastest growing city in America, bring opportunity for us to connect statewide and nationally.

KD: How did TCIC come about?

VR: TCIC is a chapter of a non-profit called PEAC. PEAC has one main goal: getting young people involved in solving social issues. 

When I moved to Austin, I noticed there were so many great students here yet they weren’t all working together on issues they commonly deal with. So I decided to get a bunch of diverse students together to see how we can tackle common issues. 

I met Ruth in 2019 and we worked to build TCIC from the ground up. TCIC’s goal is to connect students to the city of Austin and take an interdisciplinary approach to solving social issues. We represent 9 colleges on campus and two representatives on the council from each college.

KD: Your goal is to get college students across Austin involved as well through fellowships. Tell me about those.

RM: To be a council member in TCIC, you have to be a student at UT, but we wanted to make sure TCIC is not just representative of UT students, but any young person in Austin. 

So TCIC is leading a student-led, grassroots community engagement along key Project Connect corridors. There are three ways for students across Austin to get involved. 

We have community engagement fellows who are leading that boots on the ground engagement. 

We have data fellows who are cataloging and analyzing that data. 

And we have design fellows who are taking all these data and stories and turning them into the written content we’ll present to the City of Austin and Project Connect leadership.

VK: The main goals of our fellowships are to strengthen the connection between Austin residents and city leaders, getting people across Austin to work together from City Council, company leaders, and community members. 

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this is called Project Connect, I think there is an opportunity to connect Austin here in a deep and meaningful way, and students are a very important part of that opportunity. 

This isn’t a UT Austin issue, this is an Austin issue, so we welcome students from across the city to join us.

Texas Civic Impact Council members pose for a picture in downtown Austin. Photo provided by TCIC’s Instagram account @peac.tcic.

KD: How can students in Austin apply?

VK: We have a simple application at www.bit.ly/tcicfellowship

You don’t have to have a lot of skills to get involved in this project, you just need an interest and passion for serving your community. No matter whether you’re an undergrad or grad student, all are welcome.

RM: TCIC is student-led and student-built so come on board! We need numbers to do community engagement.

VK: The community engagement fellows are the lifeblood of our project. If we don’t have a lot of students out there connecting with the community, we can’t get the data to present to community leaders. 

So we need a lot of people who can be boots on the ground.

RM: We’re the only program that is entirely student-run. You may see other programs similar to us, but they aren’t doing it like us. Student-led!


Find more information about Project Connect here.

Engaging with your community, especially at the college level, not only provides an opportunity for you to be a voice for those who are usually ignored within our neighborhoods. It’s also an opportunity to show desired transfer universities and future employers your efforts to make the world a little better. 

Young people across the country normally feel that their voices are not taken seriously. This initiative is a chance to highlight voices that have been drowned out in the past. 

Do your city and yourself proud. Join TCIC to connect with others around Austin fighting to make this city’s future equitable and enjoyable for all.

ACC’s Student Government Association and How You Can Get Involved

Story by Gloria Nguyen

Graphics by Kate Korepova

Edited by Pete Ramirez

The Student Government Association (SGA) is a student organization comprised of members who have been duly elected from the student body of Austin Community College District.

According to SGA’s constitution, their goals are to facilitate understanding of democracy in our college, promote involvement among all members of the college community, and most importantly, to make the interests of the student body heard in our college in academic, institutional and campus affairs.

“A strong, enthusiastic and well-trained SGA, is for the betterment of all ACC students”

Mohammed Elghoul, advisor for ACC’s Student Government Association

In order to fulfill their goals and ensure they are listening to students, SGA recruits students from all 11 campuses and from all aspects of life. 

Mohammed Elghoul, SGA’s advisor, says this approach improves the lives of the student body. “When ACC students have quicker access to an SGA member at their grade reviews or a more immediate place to express their concerns, student lives are better,” Elghoul said.  

A group of students stand out side and smile for a picture in front of a tall clock tower.
Members of Austin Community College’s Student Government Association stand for a picture with their advisor, Muhammed Elghoul, during the recent Conference on Student Government Associations. Photo provided by Muhammed Elghoul

In line with their approach to being an advocate for the student body, SGA is currently focused on a district-wide information-gathering campaign collecting feedback to better understand the needs and state of housing for ACC students. Their short survey has been shared by the school via email and can also be found here.

SGA tries its best to represent ACC students but COVID-19 has made it challenging to find opportunities to connect directly with the student body. 

“One of which, which is a bit challenging now because of the COVID, is to have fellow students come to a selected location and talk to them,” Elghoul said. “That way we can figure out what is important for fellow students.”

One off-campus activity that took a pause due to the challenges of the pandemic was the annual toy drive that is coordinated by SGA with the help of the honors society, Phi Theta Kappa. This event, which serves underprivileged youth in Travis County, is one of the student organization’s largest events of the year.

“We collect toys from boxes on most campuses,” Elghoul said. “Students bring the toys to the sheriff’s office. They have a list of families in need and want toys for the holiday and do an annual donation drive.”

The current president of ACC’s SGA, Isaiah Smith, is working with his team to develop more ideas for events and activities where students can connect with SGA members.

An young African-American man dressed in a suit and bowtie smiles for a photo with an American flag in the background of one side of the frame.
Austin Community College’s Student Government Association President Isaiah Smith. Smith and the SGA strive to advocate for all ACC students. Photo provided by Isaiah Smith

“We’re trying to get other departments at ACC involved in SGA activities,” Smith, said. “SGA is supposed to be representing our school as a whole, not just SGA members.”

Smith is leveraging his position within SGA and his expanding network of connections to improve the lives of all ACC students.

“I’m in the process of building a massive communication channel,” Smith said. “If any of our students have any issues, maybe with safety, we can easily get in touch with the ACC Police Department.”

Apply now to be a member during SGA’s 2022-2023 academic year.

As a member of SGA, students have opportunities to travel and meet other student leaders at other colleges, be invited to local exclusive events and represent their fellow students. 

The application period has started and will end on April 13. 

Find the application here.

Elections run from April 15 to April 25. 

There are many positions that can be filled by students and they are all up for election. A full list of positions can be found here.

Only prior SGA members can run for executive board positions. Senate positions are open to all.

All applicants are required to be enrolled in a minimum of 6 credit hours and maintain at least a 2.5 GPA.

“We used to [hold the election] over the course of 7 days, so by 10 days, people will have more time to prepare and encourage people to vote for them,” Elghoul said. 

As the student leader of SGA, Smith points out some characteristics that members of SGA should cultivate. 

Smith said members should be assertive, flexible and caring. 

For future members of the organization, Smith’s advice is simple: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” 

A group of students stand inside and smile for a picture next to large letters lit up in lights that spell "COSGA."
Members of Austin Community College’s Student Government Association stand for a picture during a recent Conference on Student Government Associations. Photo provided by Muhammed Elghoul

Elghoul is committed to continuing to guide the SGA to better understand and serve the ACC student body. 

“If you want to represent the students, you have to know the students,” Elghoul said.

For more information about SGA, check out their website and follow them on Twitter and Instagram. If you have any questions about SGA, you can reach out to Elghoul at [email protected]

Financial Aid for Beginners

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Written by Duncan McIntyre

Edited by Pete Ramirez

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 the 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 her career 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.

COVID Safety

COVID-19 has changed the way we work, eat, play, and overall live. Reporter, Marissa Greene captures some images that you may have found to be familiar during these times.

Marissa Greene

mask on the ground

As more people utilize face masks to protect themselves from COVID-19, the more we might see them in places other than the trash. Social media has started to urge that people dispose of their used face masks properly by cutting the ear rings before disposal.

caution tape on a pole in front of a playground

A park in Pflugerville, TX has wrapped caution tape around swings, jungle gym, and more to prevent children spreading the virus from these commonly touched items.

gloved hands with a pumpkin on the floor

Although we may feel that wearing gloves while grocery shopping, using the ATM, and touching other public-accessible items may be another preventative, the CDC on the other hand suggests that gloves are primarily necessary when cleaning or caring for someone who is sick.

hands sanitizing

When washing hands is not an accessible option, using hand sanitizer can be a temporary alternative when needing to disinfect hands in the moment.

white, red, grey, and green masks lined up

Face masks and covering have evolved since March with improved ear loop functionality, patterns of fabric, and has even become an addition to ways people represent themselves.

hands washing with soap

Hand washing is necessary to keep yourself and others safe. The World Health Organization and the Center of Disease Control recommend washing your hands in warm water for at least 20 seconds. 

person at computer on desk

Since March, Austin Community College students, professors and other staff have transformed the classroom and social community to an entirely virtual platform. Many students graduating Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 will be earning their degrees and certificates via their computer screens.

Local Coffee Shop Bennu Opens Third Location

By Alexa Smith

An Austin Staple, Bennu Coffee, has recently opened their third location on Jacob Fontaine Lane right next to Austin Community College’s Highland campus.

Bennu’s first location opened on East Martin Luther King Blvd. in 2009. The coffee houses’ second location was opened in 2017 after Bennu owners Stephanie and Steve Williams bought the location formerly home to Domincan Joe’s.

Bennu has long been a staple for college students around Austin, as they used to offer 24 hour service. This was a hit for students to stay up late studying for exams and getting homework done. While their hours have been reduced due to COVID-19, students still flock to all three locations to get a dose of caffeine and productivity. 

The new location on Jacob Fontaine Lane is part of the overall development of the area around Highland. If you haven’t made it to campus in a few months, you’d be surprised to see there are apartments and a small shopping center quickly growing. This will offer ACC students more food and drink options within walking distance of The Highland Campus, something that was missing before these developments.

 While Kick Butt coffee and 89 Degrees are nearby, they can take a while to walk to and aren’t the best option for grabbing a bite in between classes without driving. 

The new Bennu location and other restaurants nearby, such as The Pho and iBubbleTea offer easily walkable options right next to the Highland campus. 

The hours of operation for this new location are from 6 am to 7 pm. Bennu coffee also offers take out as well as socially distanced seating inside and outside. Although there is limited seating outside the indoor area is spacious and makes for a great study spot while keeping your distance.

If you’re not sure what to order, I recommend the cold brew and an almond croissant. Steve has been perfecting the cold brew for years and it’s brewed for over 16 hours with organic South American beans.  

Bennu’s other locations are also open from 6 am to 7pm. To connect with the business virtually, visit their instagram page @bennucoffee.