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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Austin Support Black Live Matter in Austin

Listicle on How to support Black Lives Matter

By: Alexa Smith

400 + 1 Bail Fund

This specific fund was created to help one man but is now being expanded to support those arrested at protests. You can also follow them on

Instagram @400and1 to stay updated on their work. 

Mutual Aid ATX

This organization is run by marginalized students at UT and collects funds to provide collective care. You can also follow them on

Instagram @mutualaidatx for more information on how to support them and donate. 

Austin Justice Coalition

“The Austin Justice Coalition is a Racial Justice Group that educates and builds community power for people of color who live in Austin, Texas that need support, community, and liberation during a time of systemic injustice in America.” -AJC website

They are accepting donations to support their mission and they also currently have a petition going to tell Austin City Council to defund the police. Sign here. 

You can follow them on social media to find educational material and stay updated on their work. 

Instagram: @austinjusticecoalition

Twitter: @atxjustice

Allgo

Allgo is a statewide queer people of color organization that supports those communities, “through cultural arts, wellness, and social justice programming”. 

Instagram: @allgoqpoc

Twitter: @allgoqpoc

Six Square

Six Square is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that celebrates and preserves the great arts, culture and history of Central East Austin.

You can donate to support their organization and follow on socials to stay updated.

Instagram: @sixsquareatx

Twitter: @sixsquareatx 

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The LGBTQIA2+ Community: Our Pronouns, When and How To Use Them

The primary reason why the LGBTQIA2+ communtiy and pronouns matter is because it creates a positive impact on mental health, emotional well-being and quality of life for those a part or allied with the group.

By: Grant E. Loveless

What Does LGBTQIA2+ Mean & Its Importance?

The LGBTQIA2+ community, also known as the Rainbow community, are people who are allied with the LGBTQIA2+ movement or identify as an lesbian, gay, transgender, etc. People from the LGBTQIA2+ community come in from all walks of life and include people of all races and ethnicities, all ages, all socioeconomic statuses, and from all parts of the country. To break it down some more, LGBTQIA2+ is an abbreviation that stands for: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or sometimes questioning), intersexual, asexual and two-spirited. The plus-sign signifies a number of other identities, and is included to keep the abbreviation brief when written out; the full abbreviation is LGBTTTQQIAA. The primary reason why the LGBTQIA2+ communtiy and pronouns matter is because it creates a positive impact on mental health, emotional well-being and quality of life for those a part or allied with the group. 

LGBTQIA2+ Pronouns: When & How To Use Them

Every day we use pronouns in our speech and writing to address certain individuals or groups. With the use of pronouns, we all can agree that we use them unconsciously and sometimes aren’t mindful of others’ comfort or identities when doing so. Too often, when speaking of someone in the third person, these pronouns have a gender implied. These associations are not always accurate or helpful. Note to self, mistaking or assuming peoples’ pronouns without asking first, misrepresents them, their identity and sends a damaging message. Using someone’s correct gender pronouns is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their identity and show support to the LGBTQIA2+ community.

Now-a-days people aren’t necessarily identifying with the sex they were given at birth. Examples of this are how people who identify as transgender (meaning they identify as a different gender than the sex they were assigned) or those who identify as non-binary (meaning they don’t identify as exclusively male nor exclusively female). While most of us try our best to respect these gender non-conforming individuals, sometimes language—and a simple lack of information—can make that complicated and lead to a lot of confusion, anxiety or create animosity in some spaces.

That said, it’s imperative to take a mental note when someone tells you which pronouns they prefer. In this regard LGBTQIA2+ people have said themselves that when someone says their pronouns are ‘too difficult’ for them to remember, what they hear is that you don’t value your friendship, the work that their doing in the world, or me them a person.

While cisgendered people tend to use the pronouns we’re all familiar with to describe themselves—he/him and she/her—some non-binary individuals choose different pronouns that you may not have heard of before.

What Are Gender Pronouns?

A gender pronoun is “the pronoun that a person chooses to use for themselves” to describe their gender. What this means is that, even if a person was born with male genitalia, they may still choose to use feminine pronouns to describe themselves, depending on what suits their gender expression. To bounce off of the example earlier, some transgender people change their pronouns to help identify more closely with the gender they are inside.

Also, more and more people have begun adopting gender-neutral pronouns—those that neither connote male nor female gender. These people feel as though the typical male and female pronouns do not accurately represent their gender identities and expressions. Those who identify as non-binary or gender non-conforming opt to use gender-neutral pronouns like “ze/zir/zirself” and “ve/ver/verself.”

Though it can be confusing, some non-binary people choose the pronouns “they” and “them” in place of “he/him” or “she/her,” since there is no gender associated with “they/them.” To view pronouns and some examples, view the chart created by BestLife Magazine below:

How Do You Use Gender Pronouns?

As said before, it is ALWAYS important to be mindful and ask someone which pronouns they use to identify themselves. You can’t—and shouldn’t—judge a book by its cover. Simply asking, “What are your gender pronouns?” can be one of the easiest ways to show support for the LGBTQIA2+ community, as it signals to them that you both care about and respect them. We all should be able to use pronouns that accurately describe our gender identity and expression.

So, for those of you who want to be allies to the LGBTQIA+ community, start familiarizing yourself with the pronouns of friends, family members, and strangers. The small act of using a person’s proper pronoun can make all the difference in their day. To learn more about pronouns or even on how to get familiar with LGBTQIA2+ community visit ACC’s LGBT eQuity website and see how we, Riverbats, take pride in our students, faculty and staff.

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Alumni Highlight

Austin Community College produces some of the hardest-working, talented alumni in the world. ACCENT met with ACC alumni, Antonio Cueto, to learn more about their experience with the college.

By: Pete Ramirez

Meet Antonio Cueto

Cueto graduated with their degree in Psychology and Journalism in May 2020. They now work as a freelance journalist for NPR affiliates. Cueto has melded what they learned at ACC, such as photojournalism, into multidisciplinary art for galleries in Texas and in a new Austin-based streetwear brand named Civil Unrest

Watch our Q&A segment with Cueto

The ACC Experience From An Alumni Perspective


Q: What is your experience with ACC?

A: I went to ACC a semester after graduating high school. I had started to go to UTSA but it wasn’t working out.

I went to ACC because it was the best vehicle to explore different career paths and it was good school to feel comfortable in a smaller classroom setting.” 

“At the same time, it’s a really good vehicle to explore different interests and get support from professors and all the resources ACC provides.

My experience with ACC was fruitful. I started out as a psychology major but during my last semester I took a journalism class with Professor Paul Brown and it honestly changed me.

I took News Reporting I and the first assignment was to go to an event and write an article about it. Being in the field, interviewing different people, and structuring a story by what you get, felt like a rush and a calling.

I fell in love with it.

Q: Did ACC meet your expectations?

A: Yeah, definitely. I went to ACC because I knew it was the best option to learn about myself and in the end, I really found out what “my purpose” was.

Q: What was the best part about your time at ACC?

A: I think making all those connections that led me to bigger things. Especially working with Professor Paul Brown in general. He changed my life.

He’s a very passionate professor and he has so much experience. The way that he teaches about his profession is so contagious. It really makes you fall in love with journalism.

I started the ACC Star with him, which is the newspaper for the journalism department. I was the founding editor and that was super cool.

I think those are the best parts of ACC because it put me on a path toward the career that I wanted,.

Q: Were you involved with any other student organizations during your time at ACC?

A: Yeah, I was the Hispanic student senator for a year with student government. I was also the campus vice president for Riverside in Phi Theta Kappa for a semester and a member throughout my time at ACC.

Both organizations are pretty influential at ACC. Especially student government. Student government exists at ACC but not a lot of students know about it so it was interesting to be in an organization that has some power. I think it’s the most power that students can hold at ACC to change things and make policy.

Phi Theta Kappa was great too. They also helped me a lot with becoming a more responsible, motivated student.

They emphasize leadership a lot and that really gave me a lot of experience for leadership roles and confidence that I need in journalism.

Q: What would you say to someone who might be unsure about attending ACC?

A: If they have a clear path toward what they want to do, then go for it. ACC is great for students that aren’t sure of what they want to do.

It really opens up so many opportunities and helps you find whatever you’re missing to make that leap forward in your life or career.

Q: How has ACC changed your life?

A: It made me realize that life isn’t so linear. There is no structure or handbook that tells you, “this is what you’re supposed to do”. 

ACC taught me that life isn’t like that at all. Sometimes you’re in classes with people who are way into their careers and want to switch things up.

You don’t have to commit to one interest only, you can intertwine interests. You make up your own handbook.

Empowering Black Communities Beyond One Month

ACC will be celebrating Black History Month and the importance of what it means to the College and Austin.

By: Kimberly Dalbert

“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions.”

Carter G. Woodson, the Father of Black History

African American or Black, do you worry which one is correct? Do you speak up or stay silent when talking about racial injustice and inequality with another race? If so, you’re not alone. With so much racial injustice and inequality, it can feel like a very uncomfortable subject.
Austin Community College will be celebrating Black History Month and the importance of what it means to the ACC and Austin community.

ACCENT met with Dr. Khayree Williams, Director at Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Center (TRHT), and Jason Brown, Manager at Black Representation of Achievement Through Student Support (BRASS), to discuss Black History Month, events, places to reach out for help or questions, and what Black History Month means to them.

View Our Segment on What Black History Month means to the ACC Community


Q. When thinking of Black History Month what is the first thing that comes to mind? 

“Pride, proud to be a black man every day, proud of ancestors’ accomplishments,” Brown said.

Q. Do you feel we need to change the narrative of Black History Month this year focusing more on people like Carter G. Woodson and his creation of Negro History week in 1926, and its origin to help understand inequality today instead of commonly known figures like Dr. Martin Luther King jr., Rosa parks and Harriet Tubman?

“We shouldn’t change the narrative or downplay sacrifices of our civil rights heroes. Black History should be more year-round not just the shortest month of the year,” Brown said. 

Williams shared a mutual feeling with Brown’s statement that Black History should be discussed all the time and not just during Black History Month. 


Q. How do you feel about discussions of psychological distress and mental health being addressed during Black History Month?

“I love that we as people discuss mental health openly. Growing up mental health seemed tabooer, especially in my family, along with a lot of other black households. Acknowledging and discussing mental health helps us heal as a whole,” Brown said. 

Williams admits that it is something that has for far too long not wanted to be addressed in the black community. 

“Speak up and be honest when we are struggling, this is something that should be discussed all the time not just during Black History Month,” Williams said.

Q. What would you say to ACC students experiencing uncertainty about how they feel regarding recent events of racial injustice and inequality, and also might be afraid to talk about it.

“You should have support in safe places, allies, and clinical counselors,” Brown stresses. 

“All of us are afraid because it is not an easy conversation to have. We do not want to say the wrong thing or come off as awkward, or offend someone, so it is easy to shy away. That is what TRHT is there for, ACC campuses and the community,” Williams said.


Q. Black History Month was created to honor the accomplishments of Black Americans. Do you think too much time is spent on the struggle and not the accomplishments?

“It has to be a balanced conversation, if you do not understand the progress you have made, then you will make some of those same mistakes again,” Williams said. 


Q. What does it mean to have a diverse environment, and do you think Austin Community College has this?

“Diverse people have their own characteristics and they are unique from each other. Austin Community College is a champion at diversity and makes sure everyone has a seat at the table,” Brown said. 

“Diversity is not just on paper and in numbers, it goes beyond that regardless of make-up everyone has an equal say, and wants everyone to feel cared for and loved in the Austin Community College community,” Williams said. 

To learn more about BRASS or TRHT visit the sources below: 

BRASS 

Black Representation of Achievement Through Student Support (BRASS) is a community dedicated to support interests and needs of Black students through higher education. BRASS strives to “produce a pipeline of successful future professionals who are Black representations of achievement prepared to be the next generation of corporate and community leaders.”

TRHT

The Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center (TRHT) at ACC is a partnership with our community to build cross-racial relationships that lead to racial healing and an exploration of ways to transform the college and community for greater inclusion and equity.

Dr.Khayree Williams "Diversity is not just on paper and in numbers, it goes beyond that regardless of make-up everyone has an equal say, and wants everyone to feel cared for and loved in the Austin Community College community."

Leadership Conference Aims to Build Students’ Confidence

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

By: Adam Cherian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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