ACC Students Take on Virtual Events

Three students of Austin Community College share their perspectives on how virtual events have impacted their life, and what they believe could be done better; a guide for officials to consider, and implement into the academic format we now consider our new normal.

By: Renata Salazar

Austin Community College has continued virtual learning during the global pandemic for over an academic year, as of now. As we approach another semester of online education, it is easy to become overwhelmed during the school year when navigating online classes and might often feel discouraged from the lack of every day interaction  with classmates and staff. ACC provides more than education, as students continue to develop relationships and interact with each other through student organizations and events. From Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, to online advising, ACC continues to provide several virtual events and resources that allow students to unwind between classwork, and tips to stay on track with  online courses. 

ACCENT spoke with student Katheryn Pharr, an active member in the Student Life community, Vice President of ACCess Autism Iva Millsap, and Todd Snow, a student pursuing studies to qualify for a bachelor’s in software development at ACC to learn how student organization can be another resource for peer support. Three students with varying perspectives share their take on the perks and disadvantages of ACC’s online presence and what the school and student organizations can do to improve them.

Pharr feels that in-person events are more casual and provide a sense of community that virtual events lack. 

“Student life is doing a great job making sure we can still connect with each other even though we’re all isolated and spread out” Pharr says. 

Pharr attended Arts and Crafts with April Seabourn, a recurring event within Student Life. One thing Pharr appreciates from virtual events is the ability to go back and review the event with recordings. Pharr is open to the potential virtual events possess with the fact that abilities such as recordings and screen grabs, allow students to utilize the information from events at any given time.  Regarding school resources, Pharr primarily takes advantage of online advising and the ASL IT Lab online. 

“I appreciate that even though we are not able to be in-person on our respective campuses, that these services are still available. Although helpful, there is something lost by not physically occupying the same space,” Pharr says. 

She added that it is easy to become distracted during online advising, whereas “in-person the advisor can probably tell when the student loses focus.”

The increase of virtual events in student life has made some student organizations get creative and implement new perspectives into their events.  Vice president of student organization ACCess Autism, Iva Millsap believes the new virtual platform has driven them to find new ways to make events more interactive by implementing new concepts. 

“We had an event where our members would create artwork on how their autism affected them in sensory ways.,” Millsap says.

Though Millsap feels she has been equally involved during the pandemic similarly to in-person events. She still prefers attending events in person due to the sense of community that in-person events can bring to some students. 

Virtual events may seem more complicated than a casual in-person event, but ACC’s online platform has encouraged some students to give Student Life a try. Snow shared that his involvement with Student Life became more frequent once Student Life events began going virtual. What kept Snow from getting involved with in-person events prior were factors such as commutes and personal obligations, which can be the case for many other students.  

“Virtual events have been great for me. These events have allowed me to explore aspects of SL and ACC that wouldn’t normally pique my interest or just would not have been a priority,” Snow says. 

Proving virtual events do present advantages towards students thanks to their accessibility. Snow aforementioned the knowledge they have provided him and how much more understanding he is of what ACC offers to students. Adding he believes the benefits are definitely there when contrasting to in-person events, hoping that “any events in the future conducted in-person maintain a virtual component.

Virtual events and resources prove to have both pros and cons. Though students seem to prefer in-person events as they present a sense of community that can’t be rendered through a screen,  they have managed to adapt and make amends with the pandemic and restrictions we abide by during this era. 

Some students are even benefiting from this  virtual environment and are becoming more  involved with Student Life at ACC for the first time, just like Snow.  

“I have a much broader understanding of campus operations and the ACC mission.  Virtual events have shown me great opportunities for apprenticeships, internships, and have fundamentally altered how I look at my career and academic choices.”

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.

For this and more stories like this

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. 

For this and more stories like this

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. 

For this and more stories like this