Ahead of the Curve: Student Mobility in the ACC District

Students discuss the benefits of the ACC Green Pass and public transportation.

Story by Jacob Tacdol

Graphics by Marisela Perez-Maita

For students living in the Austin area, commuting to and from school can be a stressful and time consuming task. This year, the Austin Community College District is once again offering the Capital Metro Green Pass to its students, faculty and staff. 

Green Pass holders are allowed an unlimited amount of free rides to anywhere using the CapMetro transit system, including buses and the rail line, for one semester. 

“The Green Pass has helped me a lot,” ACC student Elijah Williams said. “It allows me to manage my time more effectively and stay productive throughout my day. I’m able to get to point A, B, C and wherever else I want to go and save money.”

CapMetro services 542 square miles and offers nine modes of transportation to the general public, which includes 83 bus routes and nine train stations along a 32 mile track from downtown Austin to the northwest suburb of Leander. 

Photo by Jacob Tacdol featuring a CapMetro railway station.

“Being able to utilize the bus and the train is a great skillset to have,” Williams said. “It changes a lot of people’s foundations. I don’t have to wait in traffic. That’s why I’m able to go to the Domain in less than 15 minutes from [Highland]. For most people, it takes 30 or 45 minutes on a good day.”

Without a Green Pass, CapMetro fare costs range from 60 cents to $96.25 depending on which service and length of time riders choose. ACC funds the Green Pass program using the ACC sustainability fund and revenue from parking permit fees. 

“The pass is useful no matter which type of public transportation you choose,” ACC student Dierdre Gormley said. “I don’t have to worry about paying for it, because I’ve already put my money into the school. I might as well take advantage of it.”

Students enrolled in ACC credit classes, Adult Education students and ACC faculty and staff can apply for a Green Pass through ACC’s Green Pass webpage. CapMetro offers both a digital and physical option. 

“I ordered the physical pass and I received it in about five to seven days,” ACC student Aster Fohl said. “They made it easy to navigate the website. It really is a doable option and you just have to look up how the system works. It’s a legitimate form of transportation for so many people.”

Of the many reasons why students and other members of the ACC community may opt for public transportation, the costs and anxiety associated with driving a car in Austin is a large contributor. 

“I am 30 minutes out from the Highland Campus and I don’t want to spend a lot of money on gas to get to school four days a week,” Fohl said. “It’s made me a lot less anxious coming to school, because driving, especially with the growth of the greater Austin area and the city itself, has made things very difficult.”

One of the main arguments for increasing the usage of public transportation in cities is the lighter impact that mass transit has on the environment compared to personal vehicles. 

“I’m someone who is very big on trying to eliminate my personal carbon footprint,” Fohl said. “There’s so many organizations and corporations who need to cut down on their emissions and I personally do it by giving more attention to public services. It’s a personal choice that I’m glad I’ve made.”

In their Sustainability Vision Plan, CapMetro outlines their initiatives to reach a carbon neutral state by 2040. Methods including reducing carbon emissions and using renewable energy will go into their efforts. 

A MetroRail shuttle at a standstill during a station layover. Photo by Jacob Tacdol.

“ACC is ahead of the curve,” Williams said. “This is what it’s shifting towards: cleaner, more efficient and faster travel. If you get this going now and start using public transportation, you’re getting ready for the future.”

Revealing Different Layers of Pedro “Pete” Ramirez, Editor-in-Chief of ACCENT Student Media

The writer’s ever-changing journey to his current position has been a chart of restlessness and recklessness. 

Story by Angelica Ruzanova

Edited by Pete Ramirez

Growing up in the border town of Edinburg, Texas in the Lower Rio Grande Valley known for its multicultural populace and immigration controversies, Pedro “Pete” Ramirez’s curiosity about his community and people prospered at an early age. 

From orchestrating theatrical productions on stage at Texas State University to weaving his developed interest for photojournalism and writing on his personal email newsletter, Frontera Free Press, Ramirez embarked on an intuitive path to finding his “beat.”

“I would like to develop a beat which I can really focus on and potentially turn into an expertise,” he said. “I have a lot of different interests, and that’s really what fascinated me about journalism from the start. I love learning, and journalism allows me to learn a little about all the things I want.”

The mindset of the lifelong learner was cultivated after he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theater from Texas State University, and began yearning for something greater than the resemblance between what he sees of himself and what his sharpened awareness told him others expected him to be. From being a brand ambassador for an energy drink beverage company to going into third-party logistics in the freight industry and later working as an assistant manager at one of the properties owned by Austin’s Housing Authority, it was new and different each time. 

“I didn’t know what I wanted out of life,” Ramirez said. “And especially by this time, I have come to accept it. Everybody’s path is different and I am just going to enjoy the ride, learn as much as I can, and take care of people that are around me.”

Frontera Free Press, although overshadowed in the midst of his current positions, played a crucial role in developing his career in journalism after his involvement in an opportunity with the Google News Initiative which he stumbled upon while listening to a tech podcast. 

“[Frontera Free Press] was geared towards community-oriented news about people, events, and different kinds of situations people went through which were diluted by these big scandals on immigration on the news in that area of the state,” Ramirez said.

The door of the unwelcomed pandemic opened a glimpse of new turbulence. Ramirez, having once again redirected his career towards property tax law working as a paralegal, found himself at a standstill. 

In early 2020, as Ramirez made an impulsive decision to quit his law firm job to pursue a newfound job in culinary arts, Ramirez was thrown into the abyss of unemployment and became distraught as he watched the COVID-19 pandemic embed into daily life. “Here we are, in 2020. I was about to start a new career, and it all got whacked away,” Ramirez said.

At this point in life, Ramirez started taking journalism classes at Austin Community College, where he was referred to ACCENT, a student-led media organization. He began as a volunteer writer – taking any assignment that was thrown his way. The following semester, it seemed his superiors noticed the rushing enthusiasm to take on greater responsibilities. Ramirez was appointed as the editor-in-chief in the summer of 2021. 

“Pete became ACCENT’s editor-in-chief at the most confusing and rough times,” said Kate Korepova, the Art Director of ACCENT Student Media. “He never thought of leaving the organization, but rather did everything possible to keep the staff happy and positive, only hoping for the best. He sympathizes with every member and is always willing to help.”

Ramirez’s future goals are pragmatic, as he strives to build a steady portfolio and carries hopes to one day move onto his dream job working as a reporter for the Texas Tribune. “I would like to be a better journalist, applying the AP style and distinguishing between ethical and unethical scenarios as there are a lot of gray areas.”

Ramirez’s journey, though rugged and unpredictable, echoed a portentous road of new beginnings. 

“I approach it as never being able to stop growing and developing. Really, nobody ever does,” Ramirez said. “We are always changing. That’s the only constant in life – change, within everybody and everywhere in the world around us.”


This story was produced in Professor Paul Brown’s spring 2022 News Reporting class and a nearly exact version can be found on their class website, ACC Star. In collaboration with Professor Brown and with his express permission, we published the story here on ACCENT’s website.

Learn How to Go Green with ACC’s Green Team

Story by Georgina Barahona

Edited by Pete Ramirez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But wait, what is climate neutrality? 

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

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

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

Astroworld’s Utopia Turns into Catastrophe

Rager mentality of Travis Scott’s fans fueled the deadly crowd surge incident at Astroworld Festival, placing Houston on headlines across the globe

Angelica Ruzanova runs towards the Astroworld Festival entrance marked by a giant inflatable object depicted as Travis Scott’s head, a landmark that has made an appearance throughout all his previous festivals. Photo by Camille Nul

By Angelica Ruzanova

Edited by Pete Ramirez

There is nothing quite like the anticipation and thrill you experience before attending a concert. Months worth of built-up energy, relentless preparation, and memorizing music culminate in a grand euphoric experience shared with other fans. 

But when the audience’s temporary bliss of a live performance becomes an out-of-control mob, you have no choice but to give in to the uncontrollable forces of the crowd. 

Multiple investigations are trying to figure out how harmless enjoyment turned the third-annual Astroworld Festival into a catastrophic event, leaving 10 attendees dead and hundreds more injured. The festival, founded and headlined by superstar rapper and Houston native, Travis Scott, has sparked a living hell for the survivors and the families of the lost concert-goers. 

After my friends and I attended the 2019 Astroworld Festival, we expected a similar experience extended into two days rather than one. The festival felt like its own Travis Scott mini-world, with everything from a Cactus Jack pop-up store to amusement park rides. 

Many people in a crowd in front of a massive outdoor stage at the Astroworld Festival. Screens display the schedule for day-one with Travis Scott headlining.
The “Thrills” stage scene with the festival schedule for day one flashing on all screens.
Photo by Angelica Ruzanova

It soon became painfully obvious to us that the number of concert-goers had more than doubled, and the Astroworld “utopia” seemed beyond the maximum capacity offered at the venue. As we noticed the lines of fans growing larger and the crowd becoming extremely packed, things did not feel quite right. 

I witnessed people who were missing shoes and wristbands required for entry after running through unprotected security fences. I also observed inattentive staff skipping the mandated COVID-19 tests once the lines of attendees grew longer and more impatient. 

With only one single water dispenser area in the arena, people grew dehydrated and ill. Those who fainted as a result of these circumstances were crowd-surfed out of moshing pits. A vast landscape of haze covered the area near the stage as groups of people smoked in the midst of the crowd.

The countdown before Travis Scott’s grand-finale performance felt like the calm before a storm. As minutes turned into seconds, the spaces in between each person morphed us all into a collective clump of bodies. 

My friends and I were standing near the front of the crowd on the stage-right side and we were quickly swept up in the shifting waves of people around us, who unintentionally stomped on our feet and continuously hit us with their shoulders. At one point in the madness, I was able to lift up my feet and be held up in the air due to the intense pressure of those surrounding me.

As the crowd’s mixture of excitement and impatience grew more ravenous, people began forcing their way toward a better view of the famous rapper. This came at a cost to those who were in a more vulnerable, unprotected area where they struggled for relief and gasped for fresh air. 

I was fortunate enough to grasp onto someone’s backpack which allowed me to make my way through the crowd, but many others were stuck towards the center with no chance to get out. 

A lot of people in a crowd in front of a stage where Yves Tumor is performing. One concert-goers holds up a poster that states "Stampede of Lost Souls".
Musician Yves Tumor and his band perform at the “Thrills” stage, with a poster titled “Stampede of Lost Souls” raised in the air from the crowd upfront.
Photo by Angelica Ruzanova

To be honest, most attendees did not realize what was happening at the time, but when the tragic news came out, it was a mind-boggling thought. 

“I remember at first it took a while for the news to settle for me, to comprehend how big of a deal it all actually was,” said Isabella Conti, a fellow Austin Community College student who attended the festival with her friends.

“I thought to myself, this could’ve been my friends. It could’ve been anyone”, Conti said. “And the ages of those young kids reminded me of my younger brother. They were kids who went to the concert expecting to have fun and enjoy music.”

The night at NRG Park on the 5th of November ended with 10 confirmed deaths, hundreds of injured attendees and a  crowd of over 50,000 people. The Houston Police Department is currently investigating exactly how this tragedy unfolded. 

Rumors have run rampant after the event. Stories have spread throughout social media of involuntarily injected security guards, drugs laced with fentanyl sold to some of the attendees and even a conspiracy theory of a satanic ritual. 

One of the deadliest concerts in United States history has resulted in more than 100 lawsuits being filed against festival organizers and performers, including Live Nation and Travis Scott himself.

“After trying to stay optimistic about the situation, I got angrier with what I heard. The more I learned about the circumstances, the more aware I grew,” Conti said. “I hope this horrible tragedy will change safety measures which go ignored by many festival organizers, and the ‘rager’ mentality gets the awareness it deserves. The tragedy trickles down to poor organization and people’s lack of decency when it comes to helping those around them.”

Our generation chases ceaseless sprees of carpe diem within the pressures of our social media presence. Carpe diem, a Latin phrase for making the most of the present time with little thought for the future, holds a dangerous explanation to why some concert-goers danced on ambulances that carried unconscious fans rather than at least standing back. 

The cost of this failure by numerous parties is personal and painful. We must remember and honor these 10 young people who died:

  • Brianna Rodriguez – 16 years old
  • Axel Acosta Avila – 21 years old
  • Madison Dubiski – 23 years old
  • Danish Baig – 27 years old
  • Rudy Peña – 23 years old
  • Jacob Jurinek – 20 years old
  • Franco Patino – 21 years old
  • John Hilgert – 14 years old
  • Bharti Shahani – 22 years old
  • Ezra Blount – 9 years old