Q & A with State Representative Gina Hinojosa

By Pete Ramirez

Edited by Angelica Ruzanova and Ky Duffey

The Texas State Legislature is not currently in session but that doesn’t mean State Representatives are not working. ACCENT’s Editor-in-Chief, Pete Ramirez, recently had the opportunity to chat with Texas State Representative Gina Hinojosa of District 49 which covers a large portion of central Austin.

In their conversation, they discussed a wide range of topics affecting Texans such as how families of transgender people are dealing with the increased scrutiny from the governor, climate change, abortion restriction and why young people shouldn’t lose hope in democracy. 

Read the entire conversation below.

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Pete Ramirez (PR): Can you tell us about yourself?

Rep. Gina Hinojosa (RGH): I’m in my third term at the Texas House so I’m in my sixth year. I’m running for reelection. I have a Republican opponent in the November election. 

I was on the school board for one term before I ran for the House. I was president of the Austin ISD school board.

I ran for the school board because my son’s school was going to be closed along with a bunch of other inner-city schools and I got angry and decided to run. 

I’m a lawyer and I represented employees in discrimination cases.

I’m originally from South Texas. From the valley- Brownsville. I went to public school down there and then I came to UT in Austin and I’ve been here ever since except when I went to D.C. to attend law school at George Washington National Law Center.

I’m also married with two boys.

PR: Can you give us a quick rundown on the Texas Legislature and your duties as a State Representative?

RGH: We meet every two years here in the Capitol.

We get paid $600 per month so it is not a salary that many people can live off of and most legislatures have other jobs to support themselves and their families. As a result, it limits who can run because most people can’t take six months off every two years to come to Austin and work. I’m able to because I live here.

We are required to pass a budget for the state every session. Other than that, it’s just whatever is the agenda that the Speaker and Governor set. 

We file our own bills. I’ve focused a lot on public education, environmental issues, renewable energy issues and efforts to combat climate change as well as reproductive health and corporate reform issues.

The thing about being in the House, is you’ve got to know about everything. Every issue you can think of comes before us. I only have a staff of three and we often feel like we are just inundated with policy issues to work on. Also, a lot of the policy issues we have to work on are unfortunately made up by politicians. 

Right now we’ve spent a lot of time trying to protect the kids and families of kids who are transgender because the Governor has decided that Child Protective Services is going to investigate them and threaten to take them away from their families. I have constituents who are scared so they reach out to me.

But there are always these emergencies that are created by our statewide politicians for political reasons and the result is that we don’t get to focus on the things that really matter to Texans.

PR: What is the job like in between sessions and how do you help constituents during this time?

RGH: A lot of it is informal so really every legislature’s job is going to look different. 

For me, with the example of the transgender kids, we’ve reached out to lawyers and advocates to get resources to families, educate families about what to do if CPS shows up at their door and expose the problems that are not being dealt with.

One of the hardest things about this issue is people are terrified to speak up and be public because they don’t want to lose their kids. They are afraid.

We have a responsibility to tell their story. To fight on their behalf against this.

PG: It’s a midterm year. You are up for reelection along with all other State Representatives.  How important is voting to you?

RGH: It really is the foundation of all of our rights, to vote, right? I mean that’s how we hold the government accountable. Government has enormous influence and say over every individual’s life and if we’re not a government by the people then we are living in something that is not a democracy but something that is closer to having a king or a dictator.

Voting is everything and because when more people don’t vote, the government doesn’t work as well as it should. Because more people don’t vote we have politicians who get elected by what is just a small fraction of the population and it’s typically more far-right and far-left because a lot of these races are determined in primaries that happen in March.  While we need more people voting in November, the turnout in these March primary elections is so abysmally low that it’s just a small sliver of the population that is deciding who will represent us.

We’re so gerrymandered where Democrats are packed into these districts, Republicans are packed into these districts that even though most people pay attention to the November races, most of it is baked in March.

Now, in the race for governor, that’s not the case. That’s a state-wide race. Attorney General, U.S. Senators and all other statewide races are open to the entire state to vote on those.

[Voting] is everything and we saw in the last election that lots of people who voted by mail had their ballots rejected.

 And I mean, an unprecedented amount of ballots were rejected because of the new voter suppression law/anti-voter law that was passed during the special session. The one we broke quorum to try to fight against and get Congress to pass some comprehensive voting rights protections. They didn’t do it and we ended up with a bad anti-voter bill and we saw that lots of people were disenfranchised this last election as a result.

PR: Why is it important for young voters to participate in elections?

RGH: Well, let’s talk about climate change. 

Young voters are going to deal with the impacts of a warming planet far more than older people are, right? Young people are likely to be around a lot longer.

The policies that we enact today are a result of who you vote for and what you tell politicians you expect from them in order to earn your vote. That’s going to be affecting you for the rest of your life.

Also, data shows young people are not voting their numbers and so the concerns of young people are not front and center for many politicians.

I’ll give you an example: I had a bill that would’ve required a polling place to be on the campus of every large university.

I couldn’t even get a hearing on that bill because the committee chair didn’t care. She wasn’t afraid of the young people in her district.

Votes move politicians. You’re supposed to be responsive to your people. If people don’t vote, politicians aren’t going to care what they think.

You can have all the data in the world and it doesn’t hurt but if you don’t have the votes to back that up, you’re not going to move policy because politicians don’t do something just because it’s the right thing to do. I know that’s shocking but that’s not what moves politicians.

PR: What is your view on the abysmal voter turnout during midterm elections and primaries and what are you and the Democratic party doing to turn that around?

RGH: Right now we have to find a way to tap back into people’s hope for a better tomorrow. We’ve all been so beat down by the pandemic by the ugliness of politics, with the insurrection and Donald Trump as president. Just the nastiness of politics. 

I do worry that people won’t feel the hope that we need to inspire us to go out and vote and think that we can change things. We need to figure out how to talk about policy in a way that gets people excited about what we do so that people want to engage.

If you think about climate change, for instance. There’s a depressing issue for most people. It feels overwhelming and hopeless, right?

What gives me hope about that is that we spent a year doing research on climate change. What we found is that Texas really is the problem and solution when we are looking at things at a national level. We create more methane emissions and more CO2 emissions than any other state by far but we have the largest wind energy sector and we have the fastest-growing solar energy sector.

So there is all this innovation happening in Texas but we are also a big contributor to the problem. We here as Texans hold a lot of the cards to fix this problem and it is fixable. It’s fixable in ways that are not so extreme.

There are things we can do that wouldn’t impact our daily lives at all that would have a significant impact on global warming. 

We try to educate people. I think if we can get the information that we have out to the public they may feel like maybe it’s not as hopeless as they feel it is.

PR: What are your thoughts on SB-1 (Texas’ new restrictive voting rights law) and do you think it has made it more challenging for Texans to vote?

RGH: Yes, it has. It’s also scared a lot of Texans. We talked about the vote-by-mail problem where ballots were rejected.

We also have a problem that we have lost constituents to work our polling places to be what’s called election judges because we now have criminal penalties that penalize honest mistakes and people are afraid. As a result, you might’ve seen on social media places that said “only Democrats can vote here” or “only Republicans can vote here” because we didn’t have enough precinct judges. They’re the people who sit at the table, check your voter card and send you to the next volunteer. 

Citizens make our elections work and when they are afraid to participate our elections don’t work.

We saw very troubling problems and barriers during the primary elections and when you have, in November, more than twice as many people voting, it’s going to be that much more impacted. We need to get everyone educated and comfortable with our new system. We’re working in my office to try to explain what are the changes and what people need to know in order to feel confident about participating.

Another example is people are afraid to register voters because they’re afraid they are going to do something wrong and will be charged with doing something illegal.

We need people to understand you can still register voters. Those penalties aren’t on the people, they are on the government.

It’s going to take community partners to get out the word and educate people about what the law is so they can feel comfortable about participating.

There is so much opportunity to get students at ACC engaged in policy and voting and politics. I think it’s an exciting prospect.

PR: There’s been an obvious recent surge of right-wing policies being implemented in Texas such as the near-total abortion ban. How do you feel about this and what gives you hope about the future of Texas and the Democratic party? 

RGH: Well, you all.

The young people give me hope. We need you all.

Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

My whole life abortion has been legal. Y’alls whole life abortion has been legal. What’s it going to be like when it’s not? Are y’all going to allow for this to happen? 

Where you can’t make these basic decisions about your body or about your family. There are no exceptions for rape or incest. There’s not an exception for when a woman is pregnant with a fetus that is not viable.

Are we really now going to tell women, ‘no, we’re going to force you to go through nine months of pregnancy for a baby that will not live’? That’s what our law says now.

Are we really just going to take that? I think it’s an extreme attack on our human rights and I can’t believe that in this country, given our experience with freedom, we’re going to tolerate it.

My hope is that y’all rise up and organize and say absolutely not. Change who is in power to change the laws.

All it takes is for young people to vote. 

PR: If ACC students want to get more involved with local government or activism, what advice would you give them?

RGH: Whatever is your passion, there is a group for you to get engaged with on policy issues. Google it or call my office and we’ll connect you to some group.

It’s about showing up. 

If you care about something, show up to those meetings. You get to know people who are making things happen and you become one of those people making things happen. At first, you may feel uncomfortable and you may not know what’s going on but eventually, you’ll catch on and you can be part of the change.

PR: Anything you would like to say before we wrap this up?

RGH: I think it would be super cool if ACC did a town hall on voting or engaging students. Even to have members of the Texas House Delegation hear what are the issues y’all care about.

It’s so important that we hear from you and know what are your hopes, dreams and struggles and how can we help with them.

ACC’s Radio-Television-Film Department Has Brand New Digs

The radio-television-film (RTF) department’s new home at Austin Community College is located at the school’s Highland campus in north Austin.

A screen shows the words "A production of Austin Community College's Radio-Television-Film" in a TV control room.
An image of the control room within ACC’s new facilities the radio-television-film department gets to utilize. Photo by Pete Ramirez.

Story by Georgina Barahona

Edited by Pete Ramirez

As part of the college’s second phase of renovations to what was once the Highland Mall, the department now boasts a state-of-art facility where students can gain real-world experience.

The department, which has been a feature at ACC for more than 40 years, was previously housed at the college’s Northridge campus and made its move to Highland in the midst of the pandemic during the spring of 2021. 

Through RTF’s new facility and the expert professors leading the program, ACC provides students with a wealth of opportunities to expose young creatives to various challenging and in-demand fields such as videography, podcasting and directing. 

“The professors are really good at helping beginners and making sure you are being led properly and that you are trying your best,” current RTF student Brailand Rangel said. “We usually come out with some great products in the end.”

“Digital storytelling is everywhere,” RTF Department Chair Christian Raymond said. “Never in the history of civilization – I don’t exaggerate when I say this – have there been more kinds of digital stories being created: from games to podcasts, mixed realities, and virtual reality.”

A young woman sits in a directors chair smiling while holding a slate.
A potential ACC student sits in a chair while holding a film slate during a tour of the Radio-Television-Film department at the recent ACC Highland Open House event held on April 23, 2022. Photo by Pete Ramirez.

ACC’s RTF department has a wide variety of courses to take and high-level equipment students can gain experience with. This experience is necessary for students looking to take the next step in their careers. 

“At Highland, there is what we call the creative digital media center which is all these different departments coming together,” Raymond said.

The department offers more than technology-related courses such as some focused on streaming TV and production management. If you’d like to see the entire catalog of in-depth courses RTF has to offer, click here.

Details On The Creative Digital Media Center

One of the many features of the RTF’s new space at Highland is a multi-cam broadcast studio which includes three cameras and a control room.

Another feature is the film production soundstage which includes a 10,159 square foot green screen studio.

The news desk within the RTF department’s multi-cam studio. Photo by Georgina Barahona.

The new facility also includes collaborative learning environments such as flex media labs that are equipped with new technology to support any project. There are also digital media labs with access to the entire Adobe Creative Cloud Suite that students can use for post-production editing.

Once projects are ready to view on the big screen, students can now utilize a brand new 49-seat screening room that comes complete with surround sound.

For those interested in the audio side of things, there are podcasting and foley studios in the new space at the Highland campus as well.

And for those who like to stay behind the scenes, the new facility hosts a large equipment room where students can check out gear such as state-of-the-art cinema cameras and boom kits.

A man stands in front of a green screen while he talks about the weather.
ACCENT contributor Morris Haywood stands in front of a green screen within the RTF’s new facility. Photo by Pete Ramirez.

Partnerships and Collaboration

ACC’s RTF department is growing now more than ever not only through improvements but through partnerships as well.

The college and the RTF department have established a partnership with local non-profit organization Austin PBS which now shares space with ACC at the Highland campus.

“It made sense to welcome PBS as part of ACC,” Raymond said. “We have programs with Austin PBS that include paid internships and co-creation opportunities so literally classes collaborating with PBS on projects.”

No matter what your current major is at ACC, there’s a way to participate in a project being developed in the RTF department. From game designers to drama actors or music composers, there are multiple opportunities to get involved.

This board controls the sound system for the new studio at ACC’s Highland facility. Photo by Georgina Barahona.

“There are plenty of different media forms being shaped now,” Raymond said. “Media is constantly evolving which is part of what makes it such an exciting space to be in.”

The department also offers open spaces that are referred to as “Creative Collaborator Labs”. In these labs, RTF students can post current projects under development onto the department website so students from other majors can search and match themselves with a project that they’re interested in.

This process is very interactive and allows students the chance to meet other creatives that have similar interests and goals within the industry.

If you would like to check out the currently available projects and connect with like-minded students head over to this link.

Setting Up Students For Success

With Rangel’s experience in the RTF department, jobs are now recruiting her for opportunities to work outside of the school where she can expand on the skills learned at ACC.

Even in the first few courses that are needed to start out in the RTF department, there are plenty of hands-on activities students can look forward to.

“Even with the first two classes at ACC I learned a lot,” Rangel said.

A woman sits in a news set while a camer moves in front of her.
Another potential ACC student sits at the news desk within RTF’s multi-cam studio. The department was giving tours to anyone who was interested during the recent Highland Open House event. Photo by Pete Ramirez.

Choosing to become a part of the RTF department can potentially lead you to opportunities equal to what Rangel has found. The department prides itself on creating an enveloping environment that prepares students for anything their prospective field of study might throw their way.

Professors, mentors and staff at ACC’s RTF department are ready to help students align themselves in the right direction in order to set them up for success in their future careers. 

From courses such as streaming television and broadcast production, to film and emerging media production, game design, and animation and motion graphics, there is an endless list of courses students can explore until they are on the right path. 

Come join the RTF Department at ACC!

If you have any questions about the RTF department, please direct them to Department Chair Christian Raymond or Instructional Associate Laura DiMeo.

Get Ahead On Your Degree Plan By Taking ACC’s Summer Classes

Registration for the 2022 summer semester began on April 4 for all current or returning Austin Community College students. As of April 18, new students can register as well.

Written by Morris Haywood

Edited by Pete Ramirez

ACC will be providing over 2,400 open sections across eleven campuses this summer so students can continue their education and pursue their academic goals. 

Summer semester classes will begin on May 31 and end on August 8.  Depending on the student’s major and schedule, ACC offers 10- week, 9-week, or 5-week courses with varying start times. 

In-person classes will be offered on campuses across the Central Texas area and virtually as well. While class times are still available, students should consider what days fit into their schedule. The time length of each class is necessary to review also. 

“Timing can be a bit longer,” ACC’s Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Engagement and Academic Success, Guillermo Martinez said. Martinez, who has been working in education for eleven years and with his current department for 6 years, said class times vary but there is a need for students to continue their education. 

“Depending on the days chosen, classes can be only an hour but be every single day, which is different from the normal 16-week session. So there are different options for students,” said Martinez. “Evening and weekend classes are popular, but you have people that come in from work and the day may be a little bit longer for them”.

Due to the pandemic, there are many more virtual options this summer compared to years past. 

Online classes for students range from regular online instruction, synchronous virtual class meetings, hybrid distance, hybrid classroom, and hyflex – a face-to-face (F2F) synchronous course section that allows students to attend virtually on any given class day. 

With all these options students can continue to learn without much interruption to their summer plans.

“More and more we are trying to do the regional approach,” Martinez said. He explained that ACC is trying to institute ‘destination campuses’ based on the size of the class and specific courses. For example, the destination campus for the North is Round Rock, the central destination is Highland, and the South Campus destination is Riverside.  

“But we try our hardest to spread out and that is also the positive with the growing distance learning courses and that is more opportunity to take classes from anywhere,” Martinez said.

As always, support for students is available during the summer as well. 

From financial aid, student support service, and free tutoring the usual opportunities will still be present for students looking to continue their academic goals during the summertime. 

This also includes students attending or enrolled at a university.  

“How can we provide the support that is needed?” Martinez said. “Let’s figure it out and talk that through.”

Martinez emphasized the many ways students can find support without added stress, by noting that counselors and staff are still present during the summer months. 

Martinez believes that students’ time and mental health need to be prioritized and education should not be another stressor in their lives. 

Students enrolling for summer classes can get ahead on their degree plan and even graduate earlier than expected. 

“With summer registration it’s a great opportunity to keep going. It takes time to grow a habit,” Martinez said. “Students tend to get in the flow in the fall and spring and then if you take two months off, you can forget things.” 

Martinez mentioned that many students disappear after the spring sessions, but by just taking at least one class the academic momentum can build.  

“If you enroll in one course in the summer, it can go a long way to keeping the habit going,” Martinez said. “I think it’s helpful going to school so the student can finish.” 

“[Summer courses are] slightly different, but don’t forget to ask for help,” Martinez said. 

Students can still register for classes until May 16.

Schedules for the summer semester as well as financial aid, admission help, and contact information can be found at https://start.austincc.edu.

How To Write A Successful Scholarship Essay

Scholarships are the easiest way to receive financial help when it comes to college. Austin Community College’s fall 2022 semester deadline for their general scholarship application is May 1.

Written by Jonathan D. Gonzales

Edited by Pete Ramirez

With ACC’s general scholarship, students can be considered for more than one hundred different scholarships by submitting one application. 

All of these scholarships are funded by the ACC Foundation which raises money throughout the year to ensure that all members of the community get an opportunity to pursue their dreams. In the past year, the foundation has handed out over $2.1 million in scholarships to ACC students.

Being awarded a scholarship can usually cover the majority of expenses a student would need for classes and can also be used to improve a resume. 

ACC’s general scholarship and most others require applicants to write an essay about themselves and why they deserve to be selected for the award. 

According to one of Austin Community College’s Strategic Programs Specialists Ann Schuber, there are a few things to keep in mind when writing your scholarship essay. 

  1. Answer every question thoroughly. This helps the reader understand what you’re saying in detail. 
  1. Make it a point to mention your major, classes and personal experience to make it unique and personal.  
  1. Don’t be afraid to tell your story and boast about your accomplishments. Other awards you may have received can increase your chances of receiving a scholarship. 

“The main thing that students struggle with in creating these essays is starting it,” Schuber said.

Starting an essay can be quite difficult for many students. One way to approach it is to break down the essay into parts and try to complete one part every day. Before you know it, you’ll have a solid piece of writing that you can work with and improve upon. 

Students who need assistance with any part of their scholarship essay should contact an ACC strategic specialist to guide them through the process. Email them at StrategicProgramsSpecialists@austincc.edu or schedule an appointment with them here

For more information, please visit this 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 Green@austincc.edu

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.” 

Explore Inside Austin Community College’s Dental Hygiene Program

Video and story by Gloria Nguyen
Edited by Pete Ramirez

Dental hygiene is a growing field and in high demand in Austin.

With the goal of producing competent entry-level dental hygiene professionals to meet the market requirements, Austin Community College’s Dental Hygiene program strives to provide future dental hygienists with the best education and training program in town.

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program is proud to be accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation – the national programmatic accrediting agency for dental and dental-related education programs at the post-secondary level.

Students accepted into this program work with faculty who hold an average of 26 years of experience working in the field.

One of the main reasons for the recent growth of dental hygiene is the high pay grade. According to Indeed, the average base salary for dental hygienists in Austin is $39.22 per hour. 

“A lot of our students can be independent financially just by working part-time,” Professor Sima Sohrabi, the clinic coordinator of the program, said. 

“The pay is very compatible with engineers, but it takes only two years for our students to be able to work,” Sohrabi said.

Sima Sohrabi, the clinic coordinator of the program, poses in front of the administration desk.

Sohrabi also mentioned that usually her students start looking for jobs before they graduate. By the time they graduate, they already have job offers lined up. One of the biggest hurdles for the students in the process is obtaining their license. 

The license pass rate for students in the program so far is 100%.

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program is highly selective. “There are about 80-100 applicants per year, but we only take 18,” Sohrabi said. “Lots of students couldn’t get in on their first try.”

To be qualified for admission, applicants are required to get a minimum Test of Essential Academic Skills score of 58.7 on both the Reading and English sections of the exam. 

“On a scale of ten, I’ll give the hard level of that exam a six,” Christina Marie Kumar, a first-year student in ACC’s Dental Hygiene program, said. 

First-year student Christina Marie Kumar prepares to see her patients.

Kumar was accepted into this program on her first attempt. Sharing about her experience, she underlines the importance of studying actively. 

“It’s important to fully understand the subject matter of the exam and your testing style,” Kumar said. “Then, I’ll do a self-assessment. How confident do I feel with the Reading and English sections?”

Because the program is compressed into two years instead of four, the course schedule is tight. 

“This semester in particular, my schedule is Monday through Thursday,” Kumar said. “Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday are clinic days. Those are days I’ll be seeing patients in the clinic. And the rest are lecture days.”

“When you hear about dental hygienists, you automatically think of teeth, but we’re so much more than that,” Kumar said. “There are so many people who come to the dentist when they’re in pain. I get to see these people and assess things like blood pressure and cancer screening.”

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program also offers good-quality dental services to patients. “When patients come here, they get a head and neck cancer screening, extraoral and intraoral screening, dental X-ray and a very thorough teeth cleaning,” Sohrabi said.

Sohrabi explained that after coming through the screening process, patients will be assigned to students based on their scale level.

Patients can get complete cleaning with everything included for as low as $20. More deep and complex cleaning, if needed, is $40. 

Patients are required to have a flexible schedule. They should have time in their schedule for three to five appointments that are three hours in length.

“We need time to do faculty checks, paper work, and they’re still students,” Sohrabi said. “But consider the fee, it’s worth spending time.”

ACC’s Dental Hygiene program is currently accepting patients. The department is located at Eastview Campus, 3101 Webberville Road, building 8000. Call (512) 223 – 5710 to find out more and schedule your first appointment. 

Keep You and Yours Cyber Secure

Video by Nathan Lu

Story by Pete Ramirez


The prominent role the internet plays in our world has highlighted an issue we’ve been dealing with since the creation of the internet: cybersecurity.

Every few months there is a new headline in the news about a prominent company or government organization that has been hacked such as the large-scale Solarwinds breach or the massive Twitch data dump.

Understanding that our ever-connected lives won’t be unplugging from the internet anytime soon, a few Austin Community College students and faculty are doing what they can to educate those around them about the many threats that are lurking online.

“More of our learning has moved onto the internet,” Austin Community College student and Phi Theta Kappa honors society officer, Arden Silva said. “Children are being exposed to the internet at a much younger age.”

Alya Mansoor, another ACC student and PTK officer, said that she works with young kids and has often witnessed them unknowingly download malware and ruin whatever technology they are using.

“A lot of what I see is kids being impacted and easily influenced by the technology, entertainment, and media out there,” Mansoor said. 

In order to educate people about the dangers of the web and promote healthy cybersecurity habits, PTK’s Honors in Action committee created a convenient, accessible website that contains eye-catching PDFs filled with tips and guides to keep you safe online.

“I hope that we can at least bring some awareness to these kids and help them in navigating their own lives through the technology that is available to them.”

Alya Mansoor, Austin Community College student and Phi Theta Kappa officer

“We researched in the spring and we found out that kids are being taught cyber security in school but that is not really being enforced at home,” ACC student and PTK officer Isabella Santos said.

The PTK members believe their new website will be a reinforcement tool that parents can utilize to help their families stay protected in the ever-expanding digital world.

“I hope that we can at least bring some awareness to these kids and help them in navigating their own lives through the technology that is available to them,” Mansoor said.

All of the recommendations that are found on PTK’s cybersecurity website are not only for children. Adolescents and adults can benefit from adopting the practices as well.

An ACC faculty member that is doing his part to spread the gospel of safe online practices to all ages is Dr. Michael MacLeod.

MacLeod is a professor working in the computer science department who has a background in cybersecurity.

“I was in information technology for 35 years,” MacLeod said. “I built the fourth-largest state-owned network in the state of Texas.”

Having seen how digital threats have evolved and increased frequency over the years, MacLeod said that most people don’t understand that we’ve been in serious cyber warfare since the early 2000s.

“Every day [hackers] get better,” MacLeod said. “So every day, our people have to get better.”

For those that are interested in entering the world of cybersecurity, MacLeod encourages learning as much as you can and exposing yourself to groups that work in this field.

When it comes to the average internet user who may not know the ins and outs of cyber security, MacLeod recommends purchasing a full suite internet security tool like Kaspersky, Norton, or Bitdefender to protect your devices.

“You’ve got to have something in place to protect yourself,” MacLeod said. 

The ACC professor also said that everyone should use caution with the apps that are downloaded onto their devices.

“Every one of those free software apps tracks every single thing you do,” MacLeod said.

Improving cybersecurity habits may seem overwhelming but there are many trusted tools and resources available to the average consumer to use to defend themselves from threats on the web.

“It’s so easy to get caught up in the quickness of the internet but investing in cybersecurity knowledge and skills is beneficial not only to you but others around you,” Mansoor said.


Mindfulness for Beginners

Story by Pete Ramirez

Graphic by Kate Korepova

Let’s face it, life is crazy right now and there is no sugar-coating it. In our fast-paced world, it’s easy to jump from one activity to the next, like a busy bumblebee flying from flower to flower collecting pollen. 

Don’t you just want to take a break to catch your breath sometimes? 

You can! 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a moment to try one of these three simple mindfulness exercises:

1.

  • Find a comfortable, quiet space.
  •  Sit, stand, or lay down.
  • Take 10 deep breaths into your belly.
  • Don’t force it.

2.

  • Find a comfortable place to sit.
  • Set a timer for five minutes
  • Close your eyes if it’s safe to do so or leave them open.
  • Listen to the sounds around you.
  • Hear the layers of sound that surround us throughout the day. 
  • Let the sounds come and go.

3.

  • Take a ten-minute walk.
  •  Focus on the world around you. 
  • Try to take in the minor details that usually get overlooked. 
  • Feel the sunshine on your skin.
  • The wind through your hair.
  • The ground beneath your feet.

If you did any of the exercises listed above, guess what? 

You just practiced meditation! 

Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness meditations can have many beneficial effects on the body and mind such as decreased stress, improved sleep and improved attention span.

Here are a few additional tips:

  • Don’t expect your thoughts to stop. Even master yogis deal with a never-ending stream of thoughts. A different way to think about it is telling each thought, “Hey! Welcome to the party.”

  • Be kind to yourself. However you show up to the exercise is the right way.

  • Allow yourself a few minutes to take a break everyday. Things will be ok.

Now, all together. Let’s take a deep breath in…

And release.

You got this.

Your Preparation Guide for Winter Storm Landon

Austinites carry groceries from a local store on February 15, 2021. Winter storm Uri brought historic cold weather to Texas, causing traffic delays and power outages. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)

Forecasters across the nation agree that winter storm Landon will blanket much of the state of Texas in freezing temperatures, sleet and possibly snow beginning Wednesday night. Here is your prep guide to keep you and your family safe.

Story by Pete Ramirez

Due to the incoming freezing conditions, Austin Community College has announced that all campuses will be closed Thursday and Friday and has canceled all in-person and online classes for those days as well.

Nearly a year ago Texas struggled to endure winter storm Uri, which caused the state’s electric grid to fail, left millions without power and led to the death of hundreds of Texans. 

Although the Texas legislature passed a law requiring power companies to weatherize their plants, Governor Abbott admitted that the possibility of blackouts still exist.

Forecasts for the next five days predict life-threatening, below-freezing temperatures across most of the state. 

Now is the time to prepare.

We’ve compiled a guide to get you and your loved ones ready to deal with potentially dangerous, cold weather without the aid of electricity.

Stay Connected to Reliable Information

If your electronics still have power, use social media to receive the latest updates on the weather, warming center locations and free food opportunities in your area. 

Use social media to search for mutual aids in your area who can provide additional support and resources.

The Texas Division of Emergency Management’s website will also have a list of warming centers.

Conserve Your Power

If your power remains on, reduce your home’s strain on the electric grid by keeping your thermostat below 68 degrees, unplugging devices that are not in use and avoiding the use of large appliances such as washing machines.

Try to Keep the Cold Air Out

If you have a garage, avoid opening it.

Find drafty edges of windows and doors and plug them with towels. Close all blinds and curtains. If possible, designate a “warm room” to reside in to concentrate body heat.

Protect Your Pipes from Freezing

Open cabinets beneath sinks to allow warmer air to circulate through.

Allow faucets to drip.

Disconnect and store garden hoses.

Locate your water shutoff valve and keep it accessible. If pipes burst, immediately use this valve to shut off the water to your home.

Avoid Carbon Monoxide Poisoning/Death

During the week of winter storm Uri, eleven Texans died due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do not “warm up the car” with the garage door closed.

Do not use a generator indoors.

Do not burn charcoal or wood indoors.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, headache, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

If you suspect carbon monoxide poisoning, call 911 immediately.

Snow Can be Used as Drinking Water

Forecasts don’t indicate much snow for Central Texas but if you’re in a northern part of the state, this could be useful.

Find the cleanest appearing snow and gather what is needed.

Place a small amount of snow in a pot over a safe heat source.

Do not place a large amount of snow in the pot to begin. Snow is a good insulator and you will burn out the bottom of your pot.

Once the small amount of snow is melted into water, slowly place more snow.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends bringing the water to a rolling boil for at least a minute to “kill most germs.”

Items to Consider Purchasing/Locating, If Possible

  • A three-day supply of water, non-perishable food, fomula and baby purees.
  • A cooler full of ice to keep refrigerated items cold.
  • Pet food.
  • A generator and extension cords.
  • Flashlights and batteries.
  • A first-aid kit and necessary medications.
  • Blankets.
  • Matches.
  • Gas for your vehicle.

If you feel like this guide is helpful, please share it with your family and friends.

Stay safe!

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.