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.   

COVID Safety

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

Marissa Greene

mask on the ground

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

caution tape on a pole in front of a playground

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

gloved hands with a pumpkin on the floor

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

hands sanitizing

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

white, red, grey, and green masks lined up

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

hands washing with soap

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

person at computer on desk

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

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.

ACC Fashion Design makes COVID-19 Masks for Essential Staff

Written By Emily Pesina

Aspiring, stylish, and essential一the fashion departments at Austin Community College have cultivated Austin once again. From bringing awareness to heart health with the Red Dress campaign, to an expected Corset-making for Breast Cancer Awareness, this year’s big project: to create COVID masks for essential employees who continue to work on campus. ACCENT sat down with the working riverbats who were there that day to reminisce over their experience with the face cloth that was to be produced, times a thousand. 

When the ACC district closed its doors due to the pandemic, Victoria Taylor, professor and head chairperson for the fashion and design department at ACC, immediately reached out to campus operations. “When this pandemic started, I was reaching out right away to my dean and my vice president saying ‘we have fabric, I have stitchers [and] students who can make masks. How can we help?”” said Taylor. It turned out that the head of campus operations, Sharrion Jenkins, had the same idea. Both women, having worked together before with their knowledge in the fashion lab and its equipment, were connected in thought when this idea was emerging. Taylor and Jenkins put their resources together. The space and equipment was already there, now all that was needed were working hands for the project. 

Victoria Taylor, one of the working riverbats for the thousand-mask creation.
Victoria Taylor, one of the working riverbats for the thousand-mask creation.

“The way the project came along was, it had to do with the need. We could not find masks when it became apparent that COVID had hit the U.S… being in operations, we were responsible for the COVID response”, said Jenkins. At the start of the project, Taylor juggled the needles of meeting her students’ needs and being available for the mask-making project, and Jenkins faced a shortage of thread. However, supply of thread was found in the most unlikely places, which was necessary in order to produce quality masks. With the fabrics already there, which were provided by donations from the fashion and design department, the mannequins were set aside and social distancing guidelines were put in place to create a safe and working environment. Once the facility support, under Jenkin’s wing, clashed in the working space, then it was time to get started. 

With challenges overcome, the project was on the road in no time.
With challenges overcome, the project was on the road in no time.

“Even though it was stressful because we didn’t really know what was going on with this virus, we felt like we were doing our part”, says Jenkins. Sitting a machine apart and working one person at a table, she noted that her workers kept a positive attitude in this. Jenkins explains that many of the workers knew how to legitimately sew, and everyone was excited about this project because they got to do different things rather than the same procedures everyday, which made the experience not monotonous at all. 

All kinds of fabric flooded the tables. The working riverbats were the hardworking wheels for this project.
All kinds of fabric flooded the tables. The working riverbats were the hardworking wheels for this project.

With the working women sewing inside, other employees, notably the campus managers across the district, wanted to help. Packs to make ten masks were placed inside a plastic bag with all the pieces included, and were safely distributed to helpers who would come pick it up. They would then take it home to sew all the pieces together, and bring it back to campus once all the pieces were joined together. “Everybody was amazed at the end… there was never a time when we said we couldn’t do it”, mentioned Jenkins. Summing up the experience as “fun” and “togetherness”, she mentions that even though nobody knew how the project would end up, the initial goal of one-hundred masks, which then turned into five hundred masks, became a long and hardworking thousand for essential employees who continue to work on campus today. 

An ACC helper picks up a packet of masks to sew at home.
An ACC helper picks up a packet of masks to sew at home.

For Victoria Taylor, she sums up her experience assisting with the masks as “proud”. Taylor pushes her students to not only keep your focus on what’s on your desk, but extend your vision 

into the world to be aware of what’s going on, and how you can give back to the community. That is the oath that student Isabella Collins went through. Collins, a second-year Fashion Design student and employed by the Fashion Incubator, has aspiring ambitions to start her own brand. After being left jobless for several months since she had quit her salesperson job to fulfill an internship that would be interrupted by COVID, Collins was called in for a project that involved lots and lots of facemasks. Having prior experience in crafting and selling masks on the side as a means to make some cash, becoming part of the Fashion Incubator’s thousand-mask creation一a separate project than the Fashion & Design’s department一threw Collins into a cycle of sewing, mistakes, frustration, ripping seams, starting over, sticky needles, and surprises that put her skills, equipment, and patience to the test. Fortunately, her understanding boss allowed her to produce masks on site at the Fashion Incubator, which was a real improvement as far as her progress. 

 Victoria Taylor and Isabella Collins, a second year Fashion Design student.
Victoria Taylor and Isabella Collins, a second year Fashion Design student.

“I’m a very determined person,” says Collins, “but I do get frustrated doing the same thing every day, so it definitely taught me to stick with it and to have self-control… even when you’re good at something, mistakes still happen.” After being able to transition from working at home to on site, her new durable equipment that could produce masks much faster still posed challenges to her and her team. Her mental and physical health, as well as her schedule, were put to the test. Yet she was able to stick to a schedule that allowed her to balance her schoolwork and her job. Keeping herself motivated through exercise and her teammates, the stress that the team felt was worked through to meet their daily goals, which in turn became a three month project with a thousand and one masks produced. 

Collins’ workspace before she transitioned on site. The dresses hanging on the window are her original designs.
Collins’ workspace before she transitioned on site. The dresses hanging on the window are her original designs.

With unique materials to create this two-color sided mask, Collins says that even though it was mentally challenging, the experience in working with the Fashion Incubator to create its own thousand-mask creation definitely toughened her up, which is why she sums up her experience working in the fashion incubator as “perseverance.” After months spent producing the same mask, Collins is grateful to have been part of this project and challenge, as she calls on others to take similar steps. “Take opportunities that may not be what they seem. You can learn so much from jobs that you don’t expect will help you… me getting a window sales job, that does not seem like a job that a designer would want, but I learned so much about the process…” Collins believes that every opportunity and job that you go through can benefit you in some way. “Don’t look down on yourself because you can’t get that high end job, because everything you go through will help you later on.” Life is a teacher and we are its students embarking on our own journey. 

The masks produced at the Fashion Incubator by Isabella Collins and her team.
The masks produced at the Fashion Incubator by Isabella Collins and her team.

Visit the ACC Fashion Design Website for more details about the area of study.