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

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story by Gloria Nguyen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Navigating Scholarships

ACCENT reporters Nicholas Brown and Nathan Lu met with three ACC students to hear their experiences applying for scholarships.

Written by Nicholas Brown

Video by Nathan Lu

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Whether it’s paying for tuition, fees, books or other educational expenses, it is no secret that college is expensive. So, when means fall short, how can college students fill in the gaps? Scholarships are part of the answer.

Three students, each a member of Austin Community College’s Alpha Gamma Pi Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, shared how scholarships have contributed to their success as students.

Jennifer Ebert is an education major and attends ACC completely online.

Ebert is the recipient of five scholarships this year alone. These include one scholarship that she was awarded from ACC’s general scholarship application, and four others that she was able to access through PTK. Of the four scholarships from PTK includes the Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship, in which Ebert was one of only eight students internationally to be recognized.

“Having these scholarships…having the additional funds for anything that I need…has been able to alleviate that financial burden that I normally feel in a typical semester,” Ebert says. 

Paralegal major, Brandy Lewis, is a non-traditional student who has also received four scholarships from the ACC general application and two from PTK.

“Essentially I have paid for no school and it has actually allowed me to stop working my part-time job. I was working full-time and part-time,” Lewis says. “It relieved a lot of things for me…to be able to get these scholarships and just know that I could fully focus on my studies.”

However, ACC and PTK scholarships are not the only form of additional aid that students can receive. Communications major, Saliyah Parker, has earned non-ACC affiliated scholarships which helped cover multiple semesters worth of tuition.

Parker was awarded her first scholarship from her apartment complex, which offered residents to apply for a scholarship made for adult learners, Parker decided to apply “on a whim.” To her surprise, she was selected.

Parker has also been awarded a scholarship through ACC’s general application. 

“I remember just feeling wowed. You know…overwhelmed in a really good way,” Parker says. 

For some students, applying for scholarships may feel like quite a daunting task. Searching through available scholarship options and crafting the perfect essay can be a timely process. ACC’s general scholarship application can make this procedure feel a little less intimidating. All it takes is a single application and short essay to be considered for hundreds of scholarships. 

“Anyone who is intimidated by filling out an application…break it down into pieces. I didn’t fill any of this stuff out in one day,” Lewis says.

Scholarships can be beneficial in addition to being a form of financial aid. Parker shares how applying for scholarships can form a sense of ambition. 

 “It definitely calls to the forefront a drive to want to apply yourself once you’re selected for that first one,” Parker says.

Not only that, but scholarships also look great on resumes if you plan on applying to transfer or for future employers. 

With the many opportunities that scholarships offer, Ebert insists that students have nothing to lose by putting themselves out there.

“Never be afraid to apply. Don’t be afraid of getting told ‘no’,” Ebert says. “You won’t know unless you apply.”

For information on applying for scholarships for the Spring semester, visit https://www.austincc.edu/students/scholarships.

For students who are interested in joining Phi Theta Kappa, visit https://sites.austincc.edu/ptk/.

Financial Aid for Beginners

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Written by Duncan McIntyre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Graduating Virtually

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Story and Video By Pete Ramirez

In order to protect ourselves from COVID-19, much of our lives and work have been pushed into virtual settings. Austin Community College’s spring 2021 commencement was no different and was also forced to be held virtually. 

ACCENT wanted to check-in with students graduating during this unusual time, so we reached out to a pair of recent ACC graduates, Emily Pesina and Ashley Silva. ACCENT editor-in-chief, Pete Ramirez, spoke to both graduates to understand what their graduation experience was like and what they had planned for the near future.

A picture of a smiling young woman named Ashley Silva. And a small screen with a picture of a smiling young man named Pete Ramirez.
Ashley Silva, a recent Austin Community College graduate and recipient of the spring 2021 Chancellor’s Student Achievement Award, speaks to ACCENT editor-in-chief, Pete Ramirez, about the her graduation experience.

What Students Need To Know About the ACCelerators Reopening

ACCENT met with the Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Shasta Buchanan to get more insight on this transition for ACC. on reopening the ACCelerators for student use.

Written by Marissa Greene

Austin Community College reopened three locations for students to utilize the ACCelerator. As of Oct. 26, students can schedule an appointment to have a quiet place to study, technology, and internet access. All things necessary for student success during virtual learning.

Q: How have the operating hours changed at the ACCelerator? 

A:  The operating hours for the ACCelerator are now Monday through Friday from 9 am to 4 pm. We’re on three campuses [the ACCelerator} so the Highland, Round Rock, and the Hays campus library. We want to be mindful of the best use of our facilities as well as being safe. 

Q: Are services such as private study rooms open for student use? 

A: Not at this time. But that doesn’t mean we won’t start to transition and open those different opportunities. We wanted to start small. We heard from our students in our campaigns in May and one of the things that really was at the top lists for students was a quiet place to study, access to technology, and the internet. 

So they have a whole pod to themselves. Now there is a specific space that they have to sit in just to maintain social distancing. But there are no other people in the pods with them. We are also only in a certain zone of the ACCelerator. Again, we know students want this access but we also know that they still want to be safe in that space. So we wanted to be mindful of that before we slowly start to open up other spaces. 

Q: What does it look like to walk into the ACCelerator now? 

A:  Good question! One, it’s a little different because they can’t just walk into the ACCelerator they have the schedule an appointment for a pod space or a space in the Hays library. We also ask all of our students and employees to watch a video. It really walks them through what it is like and what it feels like to walk on campus. Every employee and student has to fill out the ACC health screener app. This allows us to make sure that they are not experiencing any symptoms and we constantly remind our students and staff that there is just a personal responsibility about this and I am just so proud of everyone.  And then to wear a face mask, wash your hands, we take your temperature at the door, and then everyone gets something that certifies them that they can be in that space. The student will have two hours of time allotted in their appointment. 

Q: How many times can a student use this facility? 

A: They can schedule as much as they want but again it is by appointment only. That allows us to maintain the percentage of people that should be in the building between students and employees. And again, it allows us to practice social distancing and follow those protocols that allow students the things we know they need to be successful. 

Q: Are tutoring, academic coaching, and other services open at the ACCelerator at this time?

A: The ACCelerator, as we transition to opening it is really what students told us what they needed most. That was a quiet place to study, access to technology, and the internet. So that is all that we are providing at the Highland, Round Rock, and Hays library right now. We will work across the college partners as we’re monitoring the virus and know what’s happening. We want to keep everyone safe, we want to be mindful in terms of what is happening with the virus before we say “okay what is the next thing we can bring into that space?” 

I hope that our students understand that we respect them. We want them to be safe. And so, while it may seem slow, slow means that we are being cautious. It doesn’t mean that we aren’t planning for the future; it just means that it is very important for us to be cautious. 

Q: How do students make sure their opinions are heard about ACC’s transition? 

A: We send surveys out, we cal students, and what I’ve learned is that our students become way more responsive and they’re looking at emails, newsletters, and whatever the different means we’ve been communicating with them. They are very responsive and paying attention because they are wanting to be in the know. So through all of those levels of learning, I hope our students know that we are not just asking questions to ask questions sake. We’re hearing them. And then our plan of action is to plan and prepare. And how do we meet the needs of our students 

Q: Any final comments or takeaways? 

A: The biggest thing is that if students see emails or other means of communication or they see that we’re calling them, please pick up or call us back. We understand that they are in the class too so sometimes when we call them it might now match when they’re in class. But please to return our call, please respond to our emails because their voice is what we are trying to gather and to know what do you need. And if there is any takeaway, it is that we are trying our best to meet their needs in the virtual and what would come back but we need to hear from them.   

Five Virtual Ways to Celebrate Halloween This Year

SL Netflix Halloween Movie Marathon
Would you consider yourself to be a film fanatic? If so, this event is right up your alley. On Friday, Oct. 30 Student Life will be hosting a seven and a half hour movie marathon that includes films such as

By Marissa Greene

  1.  SL Netflix Halloween Movie Marathon 
    • Would you consider yourself to be a film fanatic? If so, this event is right up your alley. On Friday, Oct. 30 Student Life will be hosting a seven and a half hour movie marathon that includes films such as Insidious, The Witches, Sleepy Hollow, and Anaconda. Starting at noon, students will be able to get into this spooky season in the comfort of their own home. In order to join students will need to download the Netflix Party Extension and attend the event via Google Meet. For more information and to RSVP visit the event page. 
  2.  Trick or Treat Delivered to You
    • If the inability to trick or treat this year has you down, this event will sure lift your spooky spirits. This year, the Ghisallo Cycling Initiative team and a group of volunteer couriers will be delivering candy to the doorsteps of any resident within the 78702 area. These contactless drop offs will occur on Halloween day from 4-6 p.m in the Holly, Oak Springs, Rosewood, and other surrounding neighborhoods. Availability will be limited based on supply and household demand. To sign-up for your party pack visit the event link. 
  3. 37th Annual Viva la Vida Fest Goes Virtual
    • Are you curious about learning more about  the history and culture of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)? If so,the Mexic-Arte Museum, The Official Mexican and Mexican American Fine Art Museum of Texas, will be hosting their 37th annual Viva la Vida Festival online this year. Attendees will have the ability to participate in artist led activities, listen to music by local bands in Austin and view the performances of Facebook Live, recreate sugar skulls or Pan De Muerto, and view the Day of the Dead exhibition virtually. More information is located on the Mexic-Arte Museum website.
  4. Powell & Tiller’s Trick Or Treat Benefit
    • Do you have a furry friend at home and just can’t wait to dress them up for Halloween? This year, Powell & Tiller’s Dental Care will be hosting a virtual Trick or Treat Benefit Event. From Oct. 29 to Nov. 2 participants can tag @PowellTiller and @AustinPetsAlive in a picture of their festive furry friend and in return Powell & Tiller will donate to Austin Pets Alive! 
  5. The Living Room Dance Party with DJ Mel — Halloween Edition
    • Are you ready to monster mash without feeling like a zombie a few days after? Or perhaps you hate to dance in public? Try breaking out those moves in your own living room with this free event. DJ Mel is a high-profiled DJs in Austin who has played in events such as Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits Music Festival, Bonnaroo, Voodoo Festival, and much more. Get ready to dance the night away on Oct. 31 from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

What Riverbats Need to Know About the 2020 Election

By Marissa Greene

During this time of year not only will you see Halloween decorations, pumpkin carvings, and perhaps the Sunday football game; but also lines of people outside of polling locations six feet apart, with a face mask, and a ballot card. This election year, registered voters across the country are picking candidates they wish to represent the United States and the citizens within it.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Austin-Travis County has already surpassed the 477,588 votes cast early and on election day for the 2016 election. Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvior said. 

As of Thursday 521,002, Austin voters have already cast their ballot. This is more than half of the percentage of registered voters in the county. That number is continuing to rise as we get closer to Election Day. 

“It gives citizens a voice to elect people who represent their values and their goals for their community,” Alicia Del Rio, Elections and Government Relations Manager of Austin Community College said.

In light of the recent presidential debates and the candidate’s websites, U.S. citizens have been able to view President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden’s stances on topics such as COVID-19, affordable healthcare, immigration, climate change, racial injustice, and much more.

With only a few days remaining for eligible voters to head to the polls or vote by mail, it is important for both new and returning voters to know how this election might be different to protect the health and safety of citizens. 

Those who are 65 years or older, sick or disabled, will be absent from the county during early voting and Election Day, are confined in jail, but otherwise eligible to vote can submit a mail-in ballot and avoid large crowds. For voters who don’t qualify for mail-in ballots, polling locations have gotten creative this year to follow social distancing protocols.

  “In Harris County, they are doing drive-in voting so you can vote in your vehicle and more people are taking advantage of curbside voting…the main thing is that we got to keep our people safe,” Del Rio said.

In addition to these preventative measures, both Williamson and Travis counties are utilizing a new voting system called an ExpressVote Ballot Marketing Device (BMD) that has touchscreen technology that allows voters to verify their selections before it prints out the paper ballot. People are also able to use websites that show how busy each polling station is and their wait times. 

Although the U.S Presidential election may be the most talked-about, citizens are also voting for the U.S. Senator, House of Representatives, Texas Supreme Court, State Senators, State Representatives, and other figures that affect our local government. 

Federal elections occur every two years and every member of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are up for reelection in any given election year, according to whitehouse.gov.

During local elections, Austin citizens are able to vote for propositions, city council members, and even representatives for their school districts. 

“To me, the local politicians, local elections, the council members, county officials, and independent school districts, touch our lives more than the federal [government],” Del Rio said. 

For those who have yet to vote, Del Rio mentions utilizing non-partisan sources to avoid misinformation and understand ones right before heading to the polling stations. 

“Look at it with a grain of salt. If it’s pretty far-fetched you might do further research,” Del Rio said. 

For more information about this year’s candidates, voters’ rights, and more, resources are listed below. 

What College Students Need to Know about Managing Credit Cards

By Alexa Smith

From getting an apartment to buying a car – credit is an important part of your financial history. Once students get to college, it could be the right time to start building your own credit history. But with so many different credit cards and options available – how do you know where to start? How do you know how to stay out of debt? How do you know how to get out of debt? 

ACCENT sat down with Ayeesha Green, a financial coach from the Student Money Management Office to get you started on your financial journey. 

Students might wonder why they should care about credit. They may have their parents helping them out right now or just feel no need to get a credit card.

“Students should care about their credit because it can be the difference between having an affordable lifestyle and a super expensive lifestyle,” said Green.

Without a credit history, you may find you have to put down a higher deposit on an apartment or have a higher monthly payment for your car. Your credit history will also affect your auto-insurance rates. One thing many students do not know, is that employers can pull your credit history as well.

Green noted that ⅓ of employers will pull a modified credit report meaning they cannot see your credit score but they will be looking to see if you have late payments and if you’re financially consistent.

Green said students should start to establish credit as soon as they are ready which is usually when they are in college. However, there is a specific way Green suggests going about building credit. You don’t want to jump in too fast and get a credit card with a ridiculous interest rate and yearly fee.

Instead, Green suggests getting a secured credit card from your bank or credit union. She suggests using it for a monthly payment you are already making, such as Netflix or Spotify. Then set up an automatic payment to that credit card in the exact amount of that subscription. Put the card away and don’t use it for anything else. This will set you up to build your credit score without running the risk of credit card debt.

However, many students have already fallen into the trap of credit card debt and have found themselves with the pressure of paying off loans before even graduating college. For this, Green recommends creating a budget and looking for a place where you can cut back. Whether that’s less Starbucks a month or pausing a Hulu subscription. Take that extra cash and put it towards your credit card debt every month to start paying it off. 

Green also recommends students set up an appointment with a financial coach at the Student Money Management office before opening a credit card. This can help students understand the different types of credit cards better and how to manage their budgets.


To schedule an appointment with the Student Money Management Office, head to their website and click “Schedule Your Appointment”. For more tips, follow them on Instagram @accmoney, on Twitter @ACCMoney512, and on Facebook

Essential Workers Share Their Experience Working During COVID-19

By Angela Murillo Martinez

Essential workers have been the backbone of our country during the pandemic. They have put themselves on the front lines to continue to work in order to provide for themselves and others in their community.

Unlike some of us, many of them have had to continue to go to a physical location to work instead of working remotely. Not only are they having to continue to go to work, but many of them are also having to be around people each day essentially putting themselves at risk. It’s important that we recognize these modern-day heroes that are continuing to work so that we can continue on with our lives.

Whether it is being able to buy groceries at a store that is constantly being cleaned for us, or going to the doctor’s office for a checkup where they are protecting each patient, or even attending class in person or online. There are many people behind the scenes working to allow you to remain healthy and safe during this time.

Many of these essential workers are our own classmates and even the teachers who are having to learn how to continue to teach online or even in person. This also includes custodians cleaning our schools in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19. They allow us to continue to live our lives safely, go to class in a clean school, and even continue to learn despite the pandemic that has changed the way we all live.

A fellow riverbat student, Manuel Murillo, who works at FedEx underground has not stopped working since the beginning of the pandemic. In a warehouse where they come in contact with boxes from all over the world, they haven’t experienced one single case amongst their staff. 

“We were told that once one case came up in our warehouse, we would close down, but so far, it hasn’t happened, and hopefully it doesn’t happen ever,” he said.

People who worked at companies such as these have seen an increase in packages that they are having to work with as many more people are spending time at home and ordering a lot more than usual. They have found themselves with an increased workload and are having to push through this in order to deliver packages in time.

For students like Murillo, more challenges arise as they continue to work in this environment. Murillo states that he finds himself having to take extra precautions as a result of his asthma. From constantly washing his hands and using hand sanitizer after touching packages, to wearing masks while working in a warehouse.

“Sometimes you just want to take it off, it’s so hot, and you’re having to carry all these packages, and so you’re all sweaty,” he continues, “but we can’t, it isn’t really an option,” said Murillo.


Many offices have remained closed and continue to work remotely, but that isn’t the case Arielle Alston, a legal assistant, and ACC alumni. Alston has had to return to the office during the summer, in a time where COVID-19 cases only continued to rise. Although in her office they only recently increased the in-office capacity to 50%, and in the beginning allowed them to work one week in the office, and the other two at home. She still had to learn how to stay safe in a small office since she had not only her health to worry about, but also her families who she would go home to.

Alston, along with her co-workers has had to follow the same guidelines as everyone else in order to remain healthy while at work.

“There are several precautions being taken in my office to protect everyone’s health. Everyone in the office is required to wear a mask if they leave their own office. If they are entering into another person’s office – they are required to wear their masks,” she said.

Each day, anyone going into Alston’s workplace has to get their temperature checked before going into the building, anyone who’s temperature is high isn’t allowed to go in.

Alston shares the challenges she has faced trying to learn a new job during these challenging times.

“At first it was difficult – being out of our usual environment required new procedures, and there was definitely a learning curve,” she said.

Now, Alston states that she has definitely become more familiar with working remotely and also working at the office every now and then. And now with more people in the office, she is having to remind herself, even more, to wear her mask when she is not in her office, and constantly wash her hands.

Students such as Joshua Solis, who works at Patient Care Technician (PCT) at Ascension Seton Hays in Kyle have also continued working since the start of pandemic. Solis states that he has found this stressful because they never know if someone around them has the virus and there still is little information about COVID-19 that we know of.

“Working during the pandemic has also been scary because you see your coworkers get the virus, then get nervous thinking that you might have it,” he said.

Solis’ workplace has adapted a universal masking policy that requires everyone to wear a mask if they are going to be within six feet of one another. But besides the masks, staff members are having to wear face shields to reduce the chances of spreading the virus and also have reduced the amount of time spent in the patient’s room for the same reason. Some precautions that he is following to protect himself and others are staying home as much as possible, checking his temperature daily, and wearing a mask wherever he goes.

“Because I am in the nursing program, we have to go to clinical’s, so I definitely do not want to get sick because I do not want to miss out on the learning experience,” he shared.

When Solis isn’t working or learning, he emphasizes the importance of taking care of his mental health by watching movies on Netflix and catch up on his sleep.

For faculty in ACC, it’s taken time to adjust to these new changes that even now continue to change as time goes on. John Lancaster, a full time faculty member and assistant DC for building construction, has had to learn how to adjust to teaching online classes.

“I’ve been an educator for 47 years in all the different levels. I must say that I have a lot of experience, but no experience in teaching an online class,” he said.

Having many students who are already in the workforce, he had to not only learn how to teach classes online, but also learn how to make online learning easy for his students who are used to having face to face classes. He found himself teaching students how to log into Blackboard to even teach them how to submit assignments. Many of his students who are in the workforce already, struggled with this switch since everything now relied heavily on writing and reading, a skill that may not be everyone’s strong suits.

Despite this, he continued to support his students as they adapted to these new changes that none of them had signed up for. Lancaster states that he has made it a point to reach out to his students before class to see how they were doing and even shared his phone number with them so that they could be in contact with him if they ever needed to talk.

Like many students all throughout the country, he found that his students had found themselves overwhelmed with everything going on and that many were struggling to adjust to online classes and were even struggling with depression. This only encouraged him more to reach out to and check in with them consistently.

Although he has tried his best to be flexible and adaptable, Lancaster said that he has found that many students have struggled with online classes. As much as he tries to reach out to many and provide support, many of them don’t reply and end up struggling in class and not performing well.

“Soon, maybe spring semester, that we can go to more hybrid classes and connect more students,” he said.

Lancaster shares how he has gone way to make sure his students are able to understand the content in the best way possible since they are having to learn content through online classes which have many limitations unlike face to face classes.

“We have to be aware of our audience at all times, we are teaching an audience that once again, didn’t bargain for this, so we have to be sensitive to their needs and make sure we are available to meet their needs,” he said.

He makes sure to provide them with necessary tools to make sure they understand the content and provide enough tools for them to study and review, and prepare for tests and quizzes.

Lancaster also shares that he has worked hard to check in not only on his students but other faculty members, and even is hoping to be able to celebrate upcoming graduates instead of just an online graduation that recognizes their hard work and accomplishments.

Mauri Winters, ACC’s HR Wellness Benefits Coordinator, talked to us about what is being done to protect the health of our faculty and staff during these times.

“It’s important that we focus on employee’s health in all aspects of their life,” she said.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, mental health has become a huge concern, as depression increase amongst people in our country. They’ve made sure that employees are taking time for themselves and their mental health. Employees are being offered different programs to help them during these weird and difficult times. For example, the employee’s assistance program, where full-time employees can get short term counseling for free. They have also offered free online exercise classes for all employees to work out from Monday to Saturday that is made to fit into their busy schedules.

It’s important that we continue to support and thank our essential workers in our community, especially those who work at ACC, or even students who attend classes with us. The saying, “not all heroes wear capes,” has never meant more than it does now. Essential workers throughout the country, and especially those in our ACC community, have worked hard and have even put themselves at risk to continue to work. We often forget to appreciate those around us who are working hard to allow us to go buy groceries, or get that new package delivered to us, or even go to class. But now, more than ever, it is important to thank essential workers for everything they have done and continue to do. It hasn’t been easy, but many of us have had the privilege of staying home for work and even school, while others have had to go to work despite the pandemic. It only takes a second to thank them, so next time you come across an essential worker, don’t forget to do so. These are difficult times and it takes a hero to be able to do what they do.

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.