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Posts published in “Day: February 20, 2007

Foster grandparent program fills needs

Coming across the border from Louisiana a couple of weeks ago we stopped at the Texas Welcome Center at Orange. I have been in a lot of states and many welcome centers but I believe this is the best and most elaborate Welcome Center I have ever visited.
But that is not the point of this column. While visiting the center I picked up a couple of Texas newspapers. I like to read newspapers, large and small, that I find in such places, as well as at newsstands and restaurants across the country. One of those was the Orange County News, a Hearst newspaper published in Beaumont.
The lead article in that newspaper concerned the Foster Grandparent Program, a national program that enlists retirees to work with young people needing attention.

The article featured one Donna Peterson, a senior from Orange County and the first one to complete training in that East Texas town for the Foster Grandparent Program.
I read it with interest.
I am not familiar with that program but the article states there are some 25,000 Foster Grandparents spread throughout the United States. It offers these seniors, and other future volunteers, opportunities to serve as mentors, tutors, and caregivers for children and youth with exceptional needs. These seniors volunteer in schools, hospitals, drug treatment facilities and correctional centers, Head Start and other day care centers.
It seems Peterson completed her training in October and has already been given a new nickname, Alarm Clock Granny. She is involved with a new truancy program there and “I will be calling children who have truancy problems in the past in the mornings to make sure that they are awake and getting ready for school.”
Working out of one of the county’s Justice of the Peace courts she will “try to keep these kids on track the best that I can,” she said. “So many of these kids have parents who leave for work well before they leave for school. So many of them might just sleep through the morning, start playing and forget about the time or just decide to stay home.” Peterson hopes to put a stop to all of that.
I have no idea how widespread this might be in Harris County or if the program even exists here. I hope it does exist as the cause sounds great to me. There are thousands of kids who need such help and maybe we seniors can make a difference. Foster Grandparents is one of the programs federally funded with National Senior Service Corps. If you are interested please call them and start the volunteer process.
Donna Peterson of Orange County did just that and is making a difference in her community. You might be able to do the same.
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my home!

Don Springer can be reached at touchlife@

Aldine ISD FFA students eclipse $120,000 mark at 48th Annual Livestock Show

For the second consecutive year, a new sales record was established at the 48th annual Livestock Show and Country Fair, held Feb. 9 at the M.O. Campbell Educational Center. Members of the Aldine community pledged $120,400 for various projects, eclipsing last year’s mark of $100,000.
“We want to thank the community and our own employees for their generous support of the Aldine ISD Livestock Show,” said Franklin Higgins, director of career and technology education. “We had another successful show because so many people and groups made a special effort to support our students as buyers.”

The money raised by the students is theirs to use for college scholarships or to fund future FFA projects during the 2007-08 school year.
Nimitz High School’s Amanda Ruscher raised the grand champion steer, which was purchased by the First Construction Group for a record-setting $18,000 (last year’s grand champion steer sold for $16,000). The reserve grand champion steer was raised by Ashlee Palermo of Nimitz High and was also purchased by the First Construction Group for $9,5000.
The grand champion pig was raised by Ebony Bouldin of Nimitz High and was purchased by the Retirement Benefit Group for $6,000. The reserve grand champion pig was raised by Derek Lloyd of Nimitz High and was purchased by the Aldine Buyers Group for $4,000.
The grand champion goat was raised Kristi Bielamowicz of Aldine High and was purchased by W.G. Burchfield & Bro. for $4,000. The reserve grand champion goat was raised by Jonathan Willis of Aldine High and was purchased by the Retirement Benefit Group for $3,250.
The grand champion lamb was also raised by Bielamowicz and was purchased by the Aldine Buyer’s Group for $4,000. The reserve grand champion lamb was raised by Blake Clement of Aldine High and was purchased by the Eisenhower Vertical Group for $3,000.
The grand champion Turkey Tom was raised by Jennifer Weikel of Nimitz High and was purchased by First Southwest for $2,500. The reserve grand champion Turkey Tom was raised by Stephon Tillis of Nimitz High and was purchased by the Nimitz Vertical Group for $2,250.
The grand champion turkey hen was raised by Blake Clement of Aldine High and was purchased by the Aldine Vertical Group for $2,250. The reserve grand champion turkey hen was raised by Ebony Bouldin of Nimitz High and was purchased by Beasley Tire Service, Inc. for $2,250.
The grand champion broilers were raised by Ashlee Palermo of Nimitz High and were purchased by Texas Southwest for $3,000. The reserve grand champion broilers were raised by Jennifer Weikel of Nimitz High and were purchased by Republic Central Realty, Inc. for $2,250.
The grand champion fryer rabbits were raised by Joel Hickman of Aldine High and were purchased by UBS Financial Services for $2,500. The reserve grand champion fryer rabbits were raised by Willis Tillis of Nimitz High and were purchased by the Superintendent’s Group for $2,250.
The grand champion horticulture project was produced by Kristi Bielamowicz of Aldine High and was purchased by the Nimitz Vertical Group for $2,000. The reserve grand champion horticulture project was produced by Katie Sullivan of MacArthur High School and was purchased by the MacArthur Area Group for $2,100.
The Aldine High scholarship cake was purchased by the Aldine Vertical Group for $1,000, while the Eisenhower High scholarship cake was purchased by North Houston Bank for $700.

Westfield meeting leaves residents disappointed

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– Residents of Westfield Estates, and surrounding neighborhoods attended a meeting last Tuesday night about the quality of water and waste water problems in their areas.
The meeting was hosted by Harris County Precinct 2, and the presentation of an environmental study was made by Dr. K. Sommer Ramsey of the Houston Galveston Area Council.

Over 100 persons attended the meeting, and showed great interest. However, after Dr. Ramsey made her remarks, she took questions that indicated the audience was expecting a different type of information.
Ramsey’s slide show had focused on the $400,000 study results, which showed that many ditches and Halls Bayou had evidence of e. coli bacteria contamination, a potential health threat to humans and their lives.
This was the second government study of the same problem, according to state sources contacted by the Northeast News. A $200,000 study in 2005 covered much more of the Aldine area, and concluded much the same results.
In 12 of 22 locations in ditches in the area, and 3 of 5 sample spots in Halls Bayou, e. coli exceeded state standards. Most of the areas showing contamination were in residential areas that had septic systems, Ramsey said. Those areas served by waste treatment from Sunbelt Fresh Water Supply District did not show contamination, and she said “they’re doing a great job.”
She explained that e. coli comes from humans, dogs, chickens, and other non humans. So-called “black water” in the ditches is a sure sign of a failing septic system. This might be from aging of the system, or inadequate maintenance, or a field that is too small for the load.
She said that the Environmental Study, conducted for HGAC by the engineering firm of CDM, is the first step in getting funding from various sources to solve the problem in a long term scenario.
However, she was pessimistic about any short term solutions or help for residents, and this met with a great deal of dissatisfaction from those attending the meeting.
During the public participation portion of the meeting, complaints were heard from many because there was no Spanish presentation, although many in the audience did not speak English. Community Center director Lisa May did some translation of questions and responses, but in general the main points of Ramsey’s information were in English only.
Comments from the audience included:
“We have a big problem, and we need a big solution.”
“It smells on our street, with standing water and mosquitos.”
Ramsey said that a short term solution will come from homeowners taking steps on their own, such as:
–Having enough land for the septic outflow field
–Maintain the existing septic system by pumping it out
–Replace the entire system, at a cost of $5000 to $10,000
–Pick up pet waste
She said that the CDM study showed a new waste treatment plant, sewer lines, and lateral connections were needed in the area. However, the budget for this was around $12 million dollars, which was not available for many years, perhaps as many at 10 in the future.
She urged residents to form a “shareholders group” to lobby for agencies to help achieve the waste water improvements.
However, residents complained, both in English and Spanish, that they expected and needed more help from the government agencies involved.
Simply cleaning the ditches would help, they said, but the County refuses to do this because of the contaminated water in them. Also, dead animals are left in the streets, with no one removing them, they said.
A petition was passed, for residents to protest and ask for more assistance.
An obvious need, if septic system improvements is the only answer, is for government money to help pay for this work, they said.
Dr. Ramsey suggested that the next step for government was to pursue grants and other funding from federal, state, county and other sources.
Gerald Overturf, a board member of the Aldine Water and Sewer Authority, expressed the group’s frustration when he said that we are here about septic systems, when we should be hearing about waste water systems.
The audience was also displeased that Commissioner Garcial was not present and expressed the desire she attend the next presentation, and that it be conducted partially in Spanish.

Northeast says goodbye to NHC president David Sam

Northeast Houston said goodbye this month to a major community leader. Dr. David Sam, president of North Harris College, moved to Illinois this month to accept a position at Elgin Community College in order to be closer to his wife’s family.

For the past seven years, Sam was an active member of many community organizations. He served on 14 advisory boards for organizations around the city. Locally, he was the president of the Humble Rotary Club, vice chairman of the North Houston Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce, and a board member of the Greater Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority, Leadership North Houston, Northwest Assistance Ministries, and the Aldine-Greenspoint YMCA.
Sam’s diverse educational background helped him become involved in a variety of community projects and bring a gentle style to resolving issues. Sam’s undergraduate degrees were in economics, political science, and history. He then earned an MBA of finance and marketing, and a master’s in law and diplomacy. He received a PhD in philosophy from Tufts University, and in 2001 he earned a law degree.
Sam is a firm believer in the importance of education and its ability to transform lives. He came to America from Ghana as a foreign exchange student in an Illinois’ high school and then returned to America for his college education.
Sam served as a role model to North Harris College students as far as the importance of a continuing education. Under his leadership, NHC increased retention and graduation rates; received several federal grants; and expanded the campus through new construction and renovations of more than $23 million.

HCC breaks ground on three projects for NE College including new Northline Campus

HOUSTON – Houston Community College’s Capital Improvement Plan takes a giant step forward toward the creation of full-fledged campuses for its six colleges, with two groundbreaking ceremonies set for its Northeast College on Wednesday, February 21, 2007.
The first groundbreaking at 10 a.m. at HCC’s Northeast (Codwell) Campus, located at 610 North and I-10 East, will be for two new facilities: the Energy Institute and Science and Technology Building and the Student Services Learning Hub.

It will be followed at 2 p.m. by the groundbreaking for the new Northline Academic Building, to be located near HCC’s current Northline Mall location at I-45 North and Crosstimbers.
Officiating at the ceremonies will be HCC Board of Trustees Chairman Christopher W. Oliver, HCC Interim Chancellor Dr. Norm Nielsen and HCC Northeast College President Dr. Margaret Ford.
“These new facilities will give Northeast Houston the high quality facilities it deserves to drive business and residential growth,” said Oliver. “HCC intends to be at the center of this community’s future economic prosperity; prosperity fueled by educational opportunities for its citizens.”
The 47,000-square-foot Science and Technology Building will house HCC’s state-of-the-art science labs, including specialized labs for biotechnology, process technology, instrumentation engineering technology and chemical laboratory technology. HCC’s Energy Institute, providing academic preparation, continuing education and contract training, also will be part of the building.
The 90,000-square-foot Learning Hub will contain classrooms, a 20,000-square-foot library,state-of-the art computer labs and the Student Life Center, where students will have easy access to all student services, including admissions, financial aid and counseling.
The 138-acre Northeast Campus already includes Codwell Hall, which currently houses classrooms and departmental offices, and the Roland Smith Commercial Truck Driving School.
Three new facilities for HCC’s Public Safety Institute, providing training space for law enforcement, fire and emergency medical personnel, will open on the campus this year.
At the new 24-acre Northline Campus, ground will be broken for the first facility on that site, a 118,000-square-foot, four-story building, which will serve as the academic center for the campus. 
The building will contain classrooms, laboratories, a library, an art gallery and space for community events.  It is designed to maintain a low profile in the adjacent residential community, while at the same time providing a new and refreshing development to enhance this urban setting.
Future site development at the Northline Campus will include green space and walkways to provide a college campus atmosphere.
HCC’s Northeast College, serves more than 13,000 students, providing a complete academic and workforce curriculum with specializations in public service/public safety and science technologies and is home to HCC’s adult and basic education programs.
HCC is an open-admission, public institution of higher learning offering associate degrees, certificates, academic preparation, workforce training and lifelong learning opportunities that prepare individuals in our diverse communities for living and working in an increasingly international and technological society. HCC is composed of six colleges serving Houston and surrounding areas.