ACC Alumni Making a Mark in West Texas

Sarah Vasquez (right) interviews an ACC student for ACCENT while on campus when she attended the school in 2009. Photo taken by Karissa Rodriguez

By: Pete Ramirez

It’s not uncommon for a portion of students to find their way back to school at Austin Community College. Sarah Vaszquez enrolled at Texas State University immediately after graduating high school. Eight years later, she enrolled at ACC.  Now, Vasquez is a freelance journalist and photographer whose work can be found in the New York Times, Texas Tribune, Texas Highways Magazine and others. 

It is common for students, of any age, to start here in order to get there. After graduating high school, Vasquez became a student at Texas State University. About two years into her higher education journey, she decided the best thing for herself was to take a break from school. During her time away from school Vasquez began writing her own blog called So Many Bands, which covered the independent music scene in Austin. 

“I was interviewing anybody and everybody who would let me,” Vasquez said. “I was so shy, my brother would sometimes ask band members if I could interview them.” 

After a few years, Vasquez decided to step back into the world of academia as an ACC student. In her first semester, she was recruited to work for ACCENT’s newspaper, which had its last publication in 2014.  

“[ACCENT] gave me the space to learn everything I wanted to learn,” Vasquez said. “I learned photography, how to edit audio and work on video.”

While working for ACCENT, Vaszquez picked up as many assignments as she could to become the Campus Editor and, eventually, Assistant Editor. Vasquez credits ACCENT for giving her low-stakes opportunities to grow as a journalist.

Sarah Vasquez Photo 2 - Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.
Vasquez (right), in 2011, works in the ACCENT newsroom to pull together the latest edition.

“I feel like ACC legitimized my career,” Vasquez said.  “It opened so many doors for me and gave me confidence to come out of my shell.”

After graduating from ACC with her associate’s degree in journalism, Vasquez was selected to take part in the Poynter Institute’s fellowship for a semester which is one of the most recognized schools of journalism.

After completing her fellowship, Vasquez returned to Texas State University. She quickly fell into the fold at the student-run radio station, KTSW 89.9, where she continued to develop her journalism skills in an audio format.

“I don’t think I would’ve been as prepared for the work at the university level if it wasn’t for ACC,” Vasquez said.

Vasquez received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas State in 2012 and decided to take a four-month internship with Marfa Public Radio. After growing up in the fast-paced Austin area, she found joy and calm in the slower-paced west Texas town. Half-way through the internship she began working at the Big Bend Sentinel part-time. After the internship ended, Vasquez was hired as a full-time staff member for the newspaper.

“I was the general assignments reporter [at the Sentinel], so I covered everything,” Vasquez said.

In 2016, after working for the Big Bend Sentinel for three years, Vasquez decided to go her own way and become a freelance journalist and photographer covering the west Texas area.

Vasquez’s photography and writing for the Texas Tribune during February’s winter storm was essential coverage for rural west Texas communities that are often overlooked.

Although her path to ACC was not straightforward, Vasquez’s story is a testament to the valuable opportunities and connections that can be made at ACC.

“[ACC] exceeded my expectations,” Vasquez said. “I had no idea I would go on this journey.”

Vasquez plans to continue her work as a freelance journalist and photographer in the west Texas region.

Taking Initiative: Why, and How Students Should Start Honoring Asian Heritage This Month

ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

By: Renata Salazar

How much do you know about Asian American heritage? 

This is the question students at Austin Community College should ask themselves when learning to embrace and honor different cultures and their traditions– a crucial factor to creating a welcoming and inclusive community at ACC. ACCENT spoke to Asian-American career counselor, Shun-Heng (Henry) Tsai, TV production major student Opal S. Framnes, and engineering student Alex Hsu who spoke on several aspects relevant to Asian American heritage month.

“Something I will never forget is where I come from, my background and origin is from Asia,” Tsai said.

Tsai honors his Taiwanese heritage in America by enjoying local Asian food as well as keeping up with films and books from his culture.. There are also official and local communities with events to celebrate diversity through Asian art, political issues, food, and other traditional rituals. Tsai is also able to help students with their career goals as an Asian American career counselor at the college like Hzu.  

Hzu, an engineering major at ACC, is a taiwanese student who moved to Texas four years ago. As a minority in the U.S. Hzu consistently absorbs and learns more about different cultures, while still honoring his own.

 “A big part of our Asian culture/heritage is having a very strong family bond,” Hzu shares, “we have a lot of festivals that are meant to be celebrated with family members, such as Lunar New Year, Moon Festival, and Qingming Festival.”

Student Opal Framnes, an Taiwanese student and mother working towards a major in TV production, believes being able to interpret and explain your own culture is an important factor when letting people hear your story.

“We have to do our own part first, and create opportunities that allow people to understand our culture”  

“Everybody has different stories no matter who you are, so we need to let people listen to us”

“Even though most of our cultures are not similar at all, I think ACC, or any other institutions should do the same to educate their students to be open-minded” states Hzu.

“Different departments officiate events organized by the college that allows students and staff to participate and learn more about or even just help promote social justice.” 

Implementing these events to get to know other people from various cultures sparks a conversation where students can mutually benefit from each other’s experiences.

To shed a light on the positive and interesting aspects of Asian heritage Framnes believes “It comes down to being a better person, we are living in a different country and we can contribute to a lot of things.” 

Educating students, and ourselves is pivotal. Whether through your own research online or participating and seeking to learn about different heritages, you are taking the initiative to honor a different culture unlike your own. It is common for ACC students to come from a homogenous background. Tsai believes it is “very important to promote awareness of the idea of multiculturalism, diversity, equity and inclusiveness coming from any curriculum design”  

ACC’s Dean  made a statement regarding recent hate crimes against Asian Americans, officially demonstrating their stance of support against anti-Asia hate crimes. “The college is working to establish a new Asian-American cultural center and it has been an ongoing project now becoming part of the 2022-2025 Academic Master Plan.” 

“It will be so nice for students to know that they have a student organization that belongs to them, and feel comfortable sharing their culture.” Tsai states.

With the following steps: hiring personnel and establishing other aspects, we should look forward to seeing ACC’s Asian American Cultural Center be installed in Spring 2021. 

Alongside the new cultural center, students like Hzu are also in search of ways to get more Asian American voices involved at ACC. One of Zhu’s goals is to become a person that advocates for Asian American voices like his own. 

“People only listen to the ones that are influential, so to let more people know our heritage, the way is to succeed and use your power and influence to change what people thought about you stereotypically.”

“This is all about educating oneself,” With relevant climates pertaining to Asian Hate crimes, it is important to know what you can do to support Asian Communities and prevent racially motivated crimes, and his response was–participate. 

“Everything comes down to being aware of the prejudices and stereotypes we might usually project on to other races,” Tsai says. 

Career Searching: Landing Your Dream Job

ACCENT multimedia reporter, Pete Ramirez, interviews Trish Welch, Career Services Director at ACC, Pam Fant-Saez, Digital Skills for Today’s Jobs Director at ACC, and Gloria Walls, an ACC student who just started an I.T. apprenticeship with the help of Career Services.

By: Pete Ramirez

As the 2021 spring semester comes to a close, Austin Community College is doing all it can to give its graduates the skills to snag the jobs they want. This often overlooked work is driven by the Career Services Department, who offer free tools and career coaching to any current or former student in  need of help navigating the current job market. 

“Job postings have increased,” said Trish Welch, Career Resources Director at ACC. “The number of employers who are interested in hiring ACC students has dramatically increased.”

Welch believes the challenges students are currently facing revolve around preparing for employment.Through career coaching and innovative technology, Career Services may be able to help relieve some of the stress that comes along with looking for a job, while improving the chances of an applicant landing an interview.

In the current hiring market, artificial intelligence is heavily relied upon by companies to filter through the thousands of applications they receive. These technologies are programmed to search for keywords within resumes to find solid candidates for the position. Career services’ solution to this problem is Jobscan. 

Jobscan is a way for students to optimize their resumes by comparing their resume against a specific job posting. The platform then awards a score to the resume which indicates if the applicant is a good match for the position.

“We don’t consider that resume complete until it has a score of 85%,” said Skills for Today’s Jobs Director, Pam Fant-Saez. “[With that score], we know that the chances of it getting through to see human eyes escalates way up.” 

Fant-Saez said that the platform can do the same with a student’s LinkedIn account to optimize their profile so that it doesn’t slip through the cracks either.

Career Services also offers assistance in preparing for interviews by utilizing another piece of technology: Big Interview. Big Interview allows a student to practice being interviewed by an avatar to alleviate some of the potential pressure of being put in the hot seat by another person.

With each recorded session, the student can continue practicing until they’re comfortable with what is being asked. The questions the avatar asks can also be changed depending on which industry the student is attempting to enter.

“Students don’t realize how amazingly powerful this is,” Fant-Saez said. “And then they get hired in 10 days as opposed to eight months.”

Students interested in improving their job seeking skills can access these tools by  applying to the free, monthly classes Career Services offers, Strategies for Today’s Jobs.

One student who completed these classes and credits them for her success is Gloria Walls. Walls recently started an Information Technologies (IT) apprenticeship at Saber Data, a local tech company in Austin.

These classes taught Walls the t-chart strategy, one used for writing a cover letter. To use the strategy, place the job description in a column on the left and on the right column describe how your qualifications match what the employer is looking for. 

Walls said, “I think it also helps to prepare you for your interview because it helps you think about what skills you have.”

Fant-Saez is also a fan of cover letters and encourages students who have something compelling to say to take the time to write a cover letter. She feels it can allow an application to shine brighter among the rest.

“When you don’t have a lot of experience, it might be good to express immense enthusiasm,” Fant-Saez said.

Walls said that any ACC student who is looking for a job should take advantage of this free career training course.

“I think it helps you organize your materials, think about what your skills are and helps you to really get that thing that is going to make you stand out from other candidates,” Walls said.

Self Defense 101

Learning self-defense extends far beyond just discovering how to protect yourself. It also boost your confidence and self esteem. ACCENT spoke with former Austin Community College students Kevin Walter, and Carla Crisostomo, who have gone through the self-defense program at Austin Community College, and Kaci Kai, the co-owner of Krav Maga Atx to get their input on tips to help you feel safer.

By: Kimberly Dalbert

I Tried Pomodoro Studying

By: Pete Ramirez

I’ll admit it, managing my time has never been easy for me. At times, I have felt as if my to-do list is a never-ending tower that enjoys piling onto my anxiety. Luckily, I received an assignment that has given me an effective tool to combat that pesky to-do list. I have a feeling it can help you too.

My task was to learn about the pomodoro technique. Then, adopt pomodoro into my studying methods for a couple of weeks. Finally, create a vlog along with a companion opinion piece. I had never heard of this technique but after speaking to Jordan Easley, an Austin Community College academic coach, I was ready to go. If you haven’t watched the vlog yet, here is a quick explainer:

  • The pomodoro technique is a time management strategy that uses intervals of time to focus the mind on one task at a time.
  • Begin by choosing a task to complete, limiting distractions, and setting a timer for 25 minutes.
  • After working for the allotted time, take a five-minute break.
  • After four rounds of this, take a longer break.

I had a few issues at first, but it did not take long for me to get used to using this technique. During the first few rounds, I would get frustrated when my timer would ring because I did not want to be pulled away from my work. But I soon learned to enjoy those precious five-minutes. Those breaks are great moments for you to assess how your work is going.  During one of those breaks, I realized that putting my phone on silent was not enough for me to overcome the hypnosis of my little black mirror. I learned that airplane mode is a much better solution.

Another realization I had is that I needed a notebook and a pen nearby so I can write down random ideas I have while working that threaten to pull me away from my task. From time to time, my dogs would also interrupt my studies but I was always happy to take a pet break for a minute or two before jumping back into work.

Easley, mentioned that you can make this technique as flexible as you like so I also tried various work-time to break-time ratios. Most things fit nicely into twenty-five minute increments but with some tasks, like writing, I get into a flow and refuse to stop working when the timer rings. The pomodoro technique helped me prioritize and hone-in on one task at a time instead of doing twenty tasks all at once.

Give it a try. Play around with the work-to-break ratios and find what works for you. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you break the rules (I broke plenty.) Sometimes the hardest part is getting started and this technique will help you take the first step.

Another realization I had is that I needed a notebook and a pen nearby so I can write down random ideas I have while working that threaten to pull me away from my task. From time to time, my dogs would also interrupt my studies but I was always happy to take a pet break for a minute or two before jumping back into work.

A Therapy Guide To Virtual Counseling

ACCENT spoke with Manuel Zamarripa, Associate Dean of Counseling, about ACC’s virtual mental health support services.

By: Angela Murillo-Martinez

As Austin Community College enters another semester of distance learning, the college’s mental health counseling services have adapted to support students at a virtual scope. ACCENT spoke with Manuel Zamarripa, Associate Dean of Counseling, about the support and resources ACC offers.

The balance between work, school, hobbies and education can seem like too much to handle at times–especially during a global pandemic.. And with campuses being closed to non-essential faculty, staff and students this too means that counseling sessions have moved as an online service. Students can continue to receive private counseling from their own home through virtual sessions. ACC offers free mental health counseling to currently enrolled students. 

You get a first session, where you get a lot of background information,”  Zamarripa said. ““Then you get six sessions after that, so you get a total of seven sessions with a counselor individually.

Some have trouble deciding when and if to visit with a counselor or therapist. Mental health isn’t a one size fits all situation, but ACC’s counselors are trained to work with anyone, no matter their situation. And if needed, the counselors can always provide referrals.

It can be anywhere from, ‘Hey, I need someone to support me,’ or ‘I have a couple of decisions coming up that I need to make,’ or ‘I’m feeling kind of stuck,”’” Zamarripa said.

Students can schedule appointments through the counseling page found on the ACC website. In these sessions students can talk to trained clinicians who can speak to you about various topics. All sessions are private and confidential unless the student provides written permission to share information with someone else. ACC not only provides individual counseling but also has group counseling.

“We do offer groups, which are another good way to get support,” Zamarripa said. ““We offer about two to three groups every semester, and the topics always change; some of them stay the same.”

The topics discussed in these group counseling meetings tend to change every semester, although they are a couple of topics that remain as students continue to request them.

“We get the most requests for anxiety and dealing with anxiety,”Zamarripa said.  ““So we tend to offer some groups in some way about anxiety to help students.””

Although the idea of group counseling can seem nerve-racking at first, being around students who have similar struggles as you can create a great support system. It can also help you realize that you are not alone and see that you have others rooting for you.

“It can be really supportive, but it can also be to the other end, like some people who are having severe anxiety or severe depression,”  Zamarripa said. ““They can come in, and we try to help them find strategies of coping.””

Although taking that first step towards therapy can seem scary, ACC’s counselors are here to help every step of the way, so you are not alone. As we continue to physically distance ourselves from others and take socialization to a virtual realm Zamarripa emphasizes the importance of checking in on one another, but more importantly, on yourself.

COVID-19: How a Pandemic Changed The Way We Live

Whether a student or a professor, or working at an office, or at a store, life has changed. As the number of cases in Travis and Williamson County continues to rise, life will continue to be different and will never be the same.

By: Angela Murillo Martinez

It is no surprise that nobody’s life is the same as it was before the pandemic occurred. Whether a student or a professor, or working at an office, or at a store, life has changed. As the number of cases in Travis and Williamson County continues to rise, life will continue to be different and will never be the same. Many have had to embrace change as they’ve had to continue working or even going to school, and as time continues it becomes more of a new reality. New routines are being built and embraced openly as there is no other option, but to continue in the midst of a pandemic. 

According to the CDC, as of July 25th, the total number of cases in the whole United States is 4,099,310. A major spike in cases occurred as many states allowed public spaces to re-open such as stores, amusement parks, churches, workplaces, and many more. In the state of Texas, it is reported that there are 369,826 cases. Although the number of cases continues to rise in the state, public spaces in the state continue to remain open. In Williamson County alone, so far 5,145 cases have been reported in one day, and in Travis County, 18,939 cases have been reported.

 It is important to remember to follow safety procedures to avoid furthering the spread of COVID-19 and to make sure that everyone remains healthy and safe. If one finds themselves going out, don’t forget to bring a face covering. As of the third of July, all Texans are required to wear face masks in public spaces. Failure to comply with such orders may result in a warning at first and in further violations, one can be fined up to $250. Additionally, it is important to respect the space of others and maintain a six feet distance when out in public. The Texas Health and Human Services also recommends washing one’s hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds and also mentions avoiding touching one’s face with unwashed hands. Amongst other actions shared on their website to prevent the spread of COVID-19, an important one is too often disinfected surfaces that are often touched by others. 

With this being said, people have to keep working, students have to continue going to school, and in general, life has to continue. The only difference now is exactly how life is being continued by people. For Stephanie Murillo, a student studying criminal justice and obtaining her paralegal certification, she has had to not only adjust to a new job but also adjust to working from home and taking online classes. It had been only two weeks at her new job as a court clerk when her office was closed and she had to start working remotely. Now it’s been five months and she’s had to learn everything through zoom calls and emails, while also managing her online classes. She admits that it has been hard having to manage to work at home and taking online classes, especially since her hours at work have extended. No longer being able to follow the usual seven to five schedule she had been following before the pandemic. “Before I was able to leave work at five and it would stay there, and I would be able to come home or go to school. 

But now I just feel like I work extra hours because my office is my room.” On top of that, she admits that taking her classes online has required more time and commitment. To her, it seems that her days have only gotten longer and the workload has become heavier. 

Furthermore, she has felt it was a difficult transition to have to learn everything she needed to know remotely and to also learn how to manage all the technology necessary to continue. “I was in the process of learning my new position but then when the pandemic started, I had to be trained in something that was new to my co-workers, which was working remotely from home.” Despite the difficulties and challenges she has had to face, she has grown to like working from home and admits that she will find it difficult to return to the office. Although she’s been told that they will return to the office since June, so far the official date is still uncertain and continues to change as the situation escalates. They have planned to return to the office on August 17th, though this isn’t a set date. So for now, she continues to work remotely and learn as much as she can while being physically apart from her co-workers. 

For other students such as Kylie Birchfield, a talented photographer studying photography, she’s had more time to focus on her passion. Though she did find the last couple of months left in the Spring semester difficult as a result of transitioning to online classes, she has found herself with more free time on her hands as a result of the pandemic. Not only has she been able to work more on her own personal photography projects, but she’s also been able to get an internship with Austin Woman Magazine. “I know not a lot of people have gotten good things out of this, but for me, I’ve had a lot of good things come out of it.” In her internship with the magazine, she has been able to do a feature with them on COVID-19 where she photographed three women who find themselves on the front lines of the fight against the pandemic. 

She has found that as more people spend more time on social media, the more people she has finding her page and lining up to work with her. Although now, there are certain safety procedures she follows to avoid furthering the spread of COVID-19 such as maintaining a distance and wearing a mask when working with others. As the previously mentioned guidelines are more implement into one’s new daily routine, she often has to remind herself of bringing her masks and maintaining a distance at photoshoots. 

“Sometimes I have to rethink what I’m doing in photoshoots. I can’t get up close, can’t move their hair, I have to ask them to move their hair around.”

 With this being said, she continues to find herself with more opportunities and considers this a “kickstart” for her career. Despite losing her job as a result of the pandemic, she finds herself blessed to have the free time she has now and has been using it to do what she loves. 

Others like Mary Monk, a student studying Government, no longer finds herself having to commute to her classes. Hence, saving her time that she would spend taking the bus and traveling from class to class. While she did find it hard to transition to online classes at the end of the Spring semester, she realized that in most of her classes they were easy to finish without meeting in person. As a result of the pandemic, she has found it hard to find an internship or a 

job. 

“Your Freshman summer is supposed to be the time where you get internships and jobs, and it’s so hard because I applied to so many internships and they’ve just been like ‘oh, we have to see because of COVID’… So it’s been really difficult in that regard,” said Monk

Although Monk was used to her friends going to different schools and living far, resulting in not being able to see each other often. She now finds herself talking more consistently with them through text and video calls. 

“With family, at first, I think we were all on the same page, but as time goes on, and people are in their homes for longer, our family gets a little divisive on what we should be doing, and what caution we should be taking,” said Monk 

 But as far as her immediate family, she finds herself at home with them safely and spending more time together as they are unable to go out. As she continues to take online classes, she sees this as an opportunity to further her studies. 

“I feel like I can take on more than I probably thought I could if I had to do them all in person because with actually going to school, physically, you have to take into account how long it’s going to take you to go from one building to another.”

 Now, Monk takes her classes online, her room becomes her classroom and she no longer has to leave it to attend class. She plans that if the pandemic continues on for longer, which she thinks it will, she will most definitely take more classes and hopes to find an internship that can begin to prepare her for her career. 

Despite being unable to meet on campus or be physical together, organizations are still continuing to meet through video calls. One of those organizations being the German club, which has met every three weeks during the summer. Although there are certain things that have changed and other things that they are no longer able to do since moving to video calls, the club hasn’t changed that much. “We do the same things, we just do them differently. We used to play board games, and we obviously don’t do that anymore, but we played hangman at a bunch of the meetings I remember going to, and we still play hangman online,” said the club president Lauren Sanders.

Though their group has gotten smaller since they transitioned to video calls, they have built a small, defined group who all meet together and converse in both German and English. They do admit that it has been harder to get people involved since they are no longer able to put posters around the Highland campus or have people show up after German class, but still, they continue to meet and encourage that all those interested in German no matter the level of expertise, to join them. 

Since the pandemic started, the club never planned on stopping and quickly continued moving forward.

 “I thought the club was going to end, seeing how things were going, only a few of us were left. But when they were saying, we have to decide who’s going to be the president, treasurer, and secretary, ‘I was like ok, we’re still doing this. I’m in’ and I mean it’s something to do when I’m at the house quarantining all day,” said Emiliano Antunano. 

 This same resilience has kept them going through the pandemic and continues to push them despite having to continue meeting online in the upcoming fall semester. The club which consists of German speakers of all levels has a supportive and welcoming community, where they are all helping each other improve their German, but also keep each other company in the midst of the pandemic. In the words of a club 

member, 

“I hope to go to the in-person meeting when all this ends since I haven’t been able to go to those since I joined after all this happened,” said Marshall Brown. 

While life had seemed to pause at the beginning of the pandemic, people were unable to continue like this forever, and life has had to continue. As people begin to return to work at their offices or at stores or begin to go out again or return to campus, it doesn’t mean that the pandemic has completely gone away. If anything, the number of cases continues to rise, and therefore, everyone should continue to be careful to protect not only their health but the health of others. Everyone is having to face a new reality and is experiencing new routines, so no one is alone in this situation. Although life continues with uncertainty, if everyone works together and follows the necessary precautions, soon we’ll be able to all be together again on campus.

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LGBTQIA+ Breaking Down the Acronym

In recent years, more and more letters have been added to the acronym. But what do they mean? ACCENT sat down with Matthew Campbell, the co-chair of LGBT Equities committee, to discuss what exactly goes into LGBTQIA+.

By: Alexa Smith

Almost everyone has heard the acronym LGBT at some point and understands what it means. In recent years, more and more letters have been added to the acronym. But what do they mean? ACCENT sat down with Matthew Campbell, the co-chair of LGBT Equities committee, to discuss what exactly goes into LGBTQIA+. 

“You have the standard LGBT; Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Transgender. Q is for queer or questioning. I for Intersex. A for Asexual. And then the plus goes on to add more. So we have nonbinary, nonconforming, pansexual.” Says Campbell, then went on to say how the acronym even includes more than that. He recommended a couple of resources that give an extensive view of all the different identities included under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Campbell shared this article from The New York Times as well as this article from Human Rights Campaign. With all the recent additions, it can be hard to understand what falls under the LGBT Acronym. Campbell described it this way, “Some things that normally hadn’t been under LGBT are now starting to fall under it more. This is my way of looking at it; if it doesn’t fit a heteronormative of a man and a woman then it is grouped under LGBT. That’s one of the things I love about  being so active in the LGBT community. It is so open and so giving and so caring that when these things don’t fall under standard man to woman we’re like ‘You know what, come on over here.’” 

Campbell was one of the original members of ACC’s LGBT Equity committee. He says, “being a gay male myself the committee was very close to my heart. Being a very active member of the community I felt it was a really good thing…Our students and our faculty and staff need something like this so they know they have someone at the college they can talk to.” The LGBT Equity committee came out of the Gay Straight Alliance, which was a student organization. Now that they are a committee they are able to offer more resources to more students. The LGBT Equity committee offers ally training for faculty and staff, hosts events, and provides resources to ACC Students. The LGBT Equity committee has tons of opportunities for students to get help or even connections. You can check out their website here to see what resources and online events they offer. 

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The Time I Realized I’m a Minority

According to the Austin Community College Fact Book, minority students make up over half the percentage of total students who were enrolled in the spring 2020 semester.

By: Emily Pesina and Angela Murillo Martinez

Over the years, we’ve more than often heard the word, minority, be brought up in discussion. Whether it’s heard on the news, read in an article, or tossed around in an interview, the term is no stranger. Although a minority is usually perceived as going hand-in-hand with race and ethnicity in the United States, definitions differ between the way they are used by people. Denotatively speaking, minority means “the smaller part or number,”. According to Merriam Webster minority in social terms is defined as “a part of a population differing from others in some characteristics and often subjected to differential treatment,”. 

According to the Austin Community College Fact Book, minority students make up over half the percentage of total students who were enrolled in the spring 2020 semester. ACCENT spoke with a few students to get their story of their journey. 

Nikko Vafaee, transferred riverbat with a keen eye for photography, current track in pre-law, and a snapshot in her mind of creating an impact, expressed feeling the minority when she joined an organization after transferring into college. 

“I joined this organization and I [felt] like “dang I do feel like the minority”… I [was] the only white/Persian here.” 

During her earlier years in public school, diversity was the norm as cliques and clubs were integrated, however changes came with college. 

“It was strange because I’ve never been in that situation… where it’s not diverse,” said Vafaee. 

The same contradictory knowledge between your comfort-zone and the real world was noted by Diana Gorostieta, a first generation student and ACC alumni. Gorostieta recognized her minority position upon entering college, describing it as “the whole pot”, which opposed her high school experience of previously making up the Latino majority. As a DACA student pursuing education with limited resources, Gorostieta tackled challenges through finding guidance and support through ACC’s Ascender program, which opened up doors for her. 

“Stay active within the community. That way you’ll build connections, friendships, and that leads to other comfort zones..it’s a home away from home,” said Gorostieta. 

With an overworked automotive tool in one hand, and a pencil for schoolwork in the other, Armando Sanchez is an individual paving his future as the next generation’s leader.

“The moment I realized when I really was a minority was when I was thirteen, and my grandparents were [filing paperwork] for me to be on DACA,” said Sanchez. 

 Upon the process of filing fingerprints, portraits, and sealing the contract with a signature, Sanchez understood the purpose of this years later when his ability to work, drive, and study in the United States was protected by a 6’ x 4’ identification card. Sanchez expressed how his future relies on the decisions of the supreme court in terms of possibly overturning DACA was further realization of the minority. However, through an internship, a never-before-seen snapshot formed in his mind as he found himself working alongside government representatives. 

“Two years ago I thought I’d just be working on cars. Now I want to make a difference, create an impact…[and] we were doing something, showing those who see us as not doing anything important later in life… anything you do, we can do too,” said Sanchez. 

With an associates degree under his belt and a current pursuit in a duo major/minor, Sanchez shares how he feels that he can relate to the apprehensive feelings new or incoming riverbats may have. 

 “When I first came to ACC, I felt like a nobody. [Everyone] seemed so educated, well-informed, and that made me feel like a nobody… for that reason, I understand their level. Students come across to me as if they’re afraid to speak up, or to do anything because no matter what they do, it won’t matter. If you feel like that, that’s okay. Learn to oppress that feeling… don’t be afraid of who you want to be,” said Sanchez. 

Sanchez stresses the importance to remember who you are. His optimism, eagerness, and overcome-challenges continue to be recognized by all that he meets. 

For Maudriel Goodlet, a liberal arts student, the word minority means “a group of people who don’t have the same privileges than the more powerful group in America.” 

“America is supposed to be for everyone that lives [here], and some people don’t have access to those privileges,” said Goodlet. 

 Her realization of being a minority started in kindergarten, where white children made up the majority of her peers. Goodlet noted that she didn’t look like everybody else, and while she initially didn’t care, others started to realize and comment on her exterior differences. 

Growing up in Minnesota, Goodlet recalls experiencing weird situations from getting stared at in public to being asked unusual questions such as, “Do you have a lot of money?”, or constantly hearing comments such as, “your dad is black.” A certain situation at the store still lingers in her mind, when a lady purposely pushed her basket away from Goodlet, where the woman had left her purse. 

“She was going to go into the bathroom, and I was going to go to the bathroom too, so I wasn’t worried about the purse she was leaving in the basket,” said Goodlet

Being able to move to Austin and receive higher education allowed Goodlet to learn not only about herself, but about the community around her.

 “They wanted to teach people in public school, where the government has a heavy hand in their education that everybody has a place here. Not true…It really matters what you look like,” said Goodlet. 

  Although she feels ACC is inclusive, Goodlet would like to see more diverse professors.

 “I really liked having a black teacher for my English class. That was really cool. She talked a lot about racial issues and tensions, and she was inclusive with everyone in the class,” said Goodlet.

ACCENT thanks the students that participated in sharing their voices, and the students that will lead the next generation as future leaders. 

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