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Posts published in April 2010

Two ways to celebrate April 22nd

Children at work

By Kristan Hoffman

Shortly before I was born, my parents became small business owners. For some kids that wouldn’t change life too much, but I have always been involved in my parents’ work. Every day after elementary school, I went to the office and sat next to my mom while she finished her day’s assignments. As I grew older, I started to help by answering phones, collating copies, typing up articles, whatever. Over time, my parents’ employees became like extended family to me. We even celebrated birthdays and holidays together.

So when schools started to promote Take Your Child to Work Day, I just rolled my eyes. I already went to my parents’ work every day. What was so special about that?

Now that I’m an adult in the workforce, I can see what a positive impact going to my parents’ office had on me. I got a lot of experience that people don’t get until their late teens or twenties. I saw firsthand what it takes to manage people and operate a business. I even helped manage people and operate the business sometimes.

Exposure to a work environment definitely gave me an advantage as an employee. Of course not everyone is going to get the same degree of exposure, but I do think every little bit counts. Through Take Your Child to Work Day, children can witness the value of individual competence and work ethic, as well as team effort and collaborative spirit. Kids can learn that every job is important, regardless of title, because each job affects the others in the company. And most of all, they can see what their parents do, how to balance work and home life, and the value of education. They can begin to form their own professional dreams and goals.

These are important lessons for a person’s career – and for a person’s life in general.

So come April 22, 2010, I hope all parents who are able will take their sons and daughters to work. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it someday.

(Thanks, Mom and Dad!)

Nothing wrong with loving dirt

By Angie Liang

It started with dirt and some daffodil bulbs. My dad took my sister and I out to plant daffodils in the backyard, and ever since then I’ve been fascinated by the earth. My dad continued to foster this interest by taking the family to national parks—I’ve visited over 35 states because of this. When I see the red-orange glow of the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon or the bubbling mudpots in Yellowstone, a sense of awe engulfs me.

I continued to develop this interest throughout high school and college. In addition to double-majoring in geography – for fun – I also became active in the Campus Environmental Center (CEC). Through the CEC, I planted trees, worked on sustainability policies that the University of Texas eventually adopted, and volunteered at our campus-wide garage sale that practices the idea of re-use, which has saved tons of items from going into the landfills.

Now that I’ve begun my career in advertising, people often wonder why I bothered with the geography degree. But I use it everyday! While I am not active in influencing environmental policy, I do what I can to live an environmental lifestyle. I continue to recycle, I use my own eating utensils at work, I eat less meat, and I find ways to reduce my waste. They are small adjustments, but every step matters. I do all this because I learned to appreciate our earth.

Which is why, come April 22, Earth Day’s 40th Anniversary, I hope you will join me in celebrating. Whether you plant a tree, advocate for industry regulation, or just make a small adjustment to your life – like buying one less bottle of water – you can impact change. Let’s make that change together!

YES student named Dell Scholar


Fernando Luna, a senior at the YES Prep North Central Campus on Aldine-Westfield Rd., was awarded the 2010 Dell Scholarship! This is an incredible achievement for Luna and all of the people who have helped him get to where he is today.

Over 5,300 applications were submitted and from there 924 semifinalists were named.

Of the 924 selected semifinalists, 810 submitted required follow-up materials to be eligible for scoring by the committee.

From the 810 revied (14 of which were from YES Prep), 300 were selected (2 from the Southeast Campus and 1 from the North Central Campus).

Overall, 5.7% of applicants received the Dell Scholarship.

Luna’s award includes $20,000 for educational expenses that he can use at his own discretion over the course of the next 6 years.

Can it cover undergraduate tuition and fees? Of course. A summer study-abroad program in Italy. Definitely. Can he use the money to pursue a Master’s in mechanical engineering? Yes! The coolest thing about this scholarship is the freedom Luna will have to spend it how and when he wants to, which is extremely unusual for a college scholarship.

The scholarship also includes a brand new Dell laptop for Luna to take to college.

During the month of April, YES Prep North Central seniors will be visiting several of the colleges they were admitted to for next fall.

Here is a current list of the colleges the students will be visiting (or have already visited): Claremont McKenna College, Barnard College, Providence College, Dartmouth College, University of Notre Dame, Oberlin College, Santa Clara University, Connecticut College, Boston University, Manhattanville College, Rice University, and Washington & Jefferson College.

‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ author to speak at Aldine Teen Lit Festival

AISD librarians will present a district-wide festival to be held on Saturday, May 15 at Nimitz High School, from 10 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Students will be able to meet popular authors at Celebrate Teen Lit ’10. The purpose is to promote literature that appeals to young adults, encouraging them to read for pleasure and develop a lifelong love of reading. it is intended for students in middle school, ninth grade and high schools.

These are the featured authors and their work:

Jay Asher is the keynote speaker. He just published his first novel, Thirteen Reasons Why, which has been described as a “mystery, eulogy, and ceremony.” It has received many awards including being selected as a Best Book for Young Adults (YALSA) and has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list.

Jennifer Ziegler, a Texas author, has written several novels that are very popular among teens. How Not to be Popular tells the story of Maggie Dempsey.

Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni is an award-winning author and poet. Her themes include women, immigration, the South Asian experience, history, mythology, magic and celebrating diversity. She writes both for adults and children. Two novels, The Mistress of Spices and Sisters of My Heart, have been made into films. Her short stories, Arranged Marriage, won an American Book Award.

In her young adult novel, Conch Bearer, action, adventure and magic combine in this compelling quest fantasy that races across contemporary India to a dramatic climax in the Himalayas. She teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.

Joe Hayes is one of America’s premier bilingual storytellers and the author of many well-loved books. His book, Ghost Fever, won the Texas Bluebonnet Award in 2007. His book, The Day It Snowed Tortillas, was chosen by the editors of the Bloomsbury Review as one of their 15 favorite children’s books published in the last 15 years. La Llorona: The Weeping Woman, is a favorite among young adults and a bestseller.

De Cee Cornish is a popular storyteller who grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward. Cornish enjoys working with at-risk teenagers using stories to teach and motivate. He uses storytelling to teach about anger, violence, and conflict resolution.

HCC Northeast implements service to the North Forest community

Recently, North Forest residents voted to bring North Forest ISD into the Houston Community College’s District.

Since this approval, HCC Northeast continues to work with the community to implement the HCC North Forest Service Plan. The benefits listed in the service plan include a 50% reduction in tuition for North Forest residents, degrees and certificates offered at a facility in the community, and expanded dual credit academic and vocational/technical courses for high school students.

In partnership with North Forest ISD, HCC Northeast immediately opened the North Forest Vocational Technical Campus as a temporary location at Forest Brook Middle for spring 2010 classes.

The college also offered a full schedule of academic, career and technical education courses for residents of the community and currently has over 200 students enrolled. On weekday evenings and Saturday mornings, residents can take advantage of college courses offered in their community. Summer classes will be offered at the North Forest Vocational Technical Campus, with registration starting April 5 and classes beginning June 7.

Plans for a permanent full-service day and evening facility that will allow the college to expand its offerings and services, implement new programs, and open the proposed small business incubator is in progress. Once all relevant information is assessed regarding a permanent location a decision will be made by the HCC Board of Trustees.

The President of HCC Northeast organized a Blue Ribbon advisory committee comprised of North Forest community leaders and residents to provide feedback from the community and to advise the college on recruitment initiatives that will encourage residents to enroll in courses that will prepare them for employment, entrepreneur opportunities, and transfer to a four-year university.

HCC Northeast is continuing to reach out and provide updates to NFISD Administration, area residents and community leaders at civic association meetings, chamber luncheons, community centers and businesses. For more information on the North Forest Vocational Technical Campus and upcoming summer courses, please call 713-635-0427.

North Forest’s Meat Processing class gives students skills for the future

For more than a half-century, North Forest ISD has offered its students an opportunity to learn a skill-set that many feel is becoming a lost art.

With more than 1,000 FFA programs in the state of Texas, North Forest ISD is just one of 28 to offer a meat processing class.

FFA Advisor Bill Dodd said that they have taught students how to process and pack meat for 58 years.

Dodd said that the class, which is only offered to juniors and seniors, teaches students how to process beef, chicken, rabbits, hogs and turkeys — the animals they would most likely come in contact with in a butcher shop or grocery store.

“They learn not only how to cut and wrap the meat,” Dodd said, “but also animal structure, where the cuts are located and how they are processed in the industry.”

And the lessons are not all academic. The students also get hands-on experience.

In an area known as the “Meat Slab” 14 students dressed in white coats use the same knives, saws and wrapping equipment that is found in meat markets.

“We teach our students what is used in the industry so that when they leave [North Forest] they would have the skills to walk into any meat market or grocery store to be able to work,” Dodd said.

The class also teaches students how to cut meat safely. Dodd was proud to note that in all of his years at North Forest, he has never had a student have a serious accident.

Marquez Ivory and Jahmar Sampson are taking the class this year. Ivory said that his family likes to hunt and he thought i would be good to learn how to process the meat. Sampson said that since he has taken the class he has considered going into the field after high school. Even if he does not, he said the skills give him a good backup plan.

Since the facility is not licensed for retail they are unable to sell their products. They do, however, charge a nominal fee to cover expenses.

“Our customers keep it [the meat] for home use, some donate it back to the FFA, and others donate it to food charities such as HAM [Humble-Area Ministries],” he said.

The processing class will soon be busy. On April 14 and 15 the North Forest FFA will hold their annual livestock show and auction. Dodd said that anyone who purchases an animal can have it processed by the students.


By Angie Liang

When you’re a kid, you dream of growing up. Turning 16 means you have control of your life, as long as you get access to four-wheels and a motor. Turning 18 means you no longer have to listen to anyone but yourself, although if you’re smart you’ll still listen to your parents sometimes. Turning 21 means, for most people, a real party. Personally I don’t drink, but it’s definitely rite of passage for others.

But somehow, when you graduate from college and start working, birthdays lose some of their meaning. Really, what happens at, say, 23?

As soon as we leave the school bubble, we really do have to grow up. So here I am, employed in my first job and facing the first dreaded milestone in my life: 25th birthday and the quarter-life crisis.

My generation grew up believing in ideals: Chase your dreams, follow your passions. These beliefs permeated our actions as we strove to be not only the genius, but also the dedicated athlete, volunteer, musician, etc. A well-rounded generation of dreamers and achievers.

Throughout my education I was well-versed in balancing homework, extracurricular activities, and a social life. I could work on a paper, study for a test, and still go out with friends. When it came time to leave college, I cheated the system and went to grad school. Two more years of the school bubble. Two more years to avoid reality.

Of course I did eventually make a decision. I’ve lived in New York for almost 6 months now, and my whole lifestyle has changed from the laidback Austinite to the fast-paced New Yorker. I’m working at a large public relations firm, and I like my job and my team. I like the city for all its sights and adventures, and I’ve made new friends.

Yet I still feel lost.

The quarter-life crisis exists because of this big transition in life. Every idealistic notion I had for the past 24 years was demolished with a diploma and a decision about my career. Many of us face the problem of balancing reality with passion. When we leave school, we have to start thinking about the future, which means we can’t spend all our money traveling the world, or else how will we ever afford our 2.2 kids and that house with the white picket fence?

Somehow the achiever is still achieving, but the dreamer is dwindling.

There is only one thing we can do: recalibrate. I am balancing new factors while slowly building new routines with my passions. Yes, a lot of it revolves around work, but it’s also some of what I enjoy, like exploring the culinary delights of the city, and becoming a mentor to teens.

What I’ve learned is that it’s okay not to know what you want or exactly where you’re going. Just try to have a vague idea of where you want to be, and slowly make your way to that general vicinity while trying everything along the way. You’ll figure out what you do and don’t like, and you’ll start dreaming again.

What I think I want changes constantly, but every day that passes I am learning more about where I want to be. 25 is here, and it’s not so bad. I’m looking forward to everything I will learn and experience as the years pass.

I’ll just have to keep that in mind when I approach the infamous 40.

Astros open Urban Youth Baseball Academy in Turner Park

Members of the Houson Astros, both past and present, and elected officials gathered with the community April 10 in Northeast Houston to officially open the Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy. The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy, located at Sylvester Turner Park, 2800 W. Little York, in north Houston, opened with a special Grand Opening ceremony at 11 a.m.

The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy is the second MLB Urban Youth Academy created and is modeled after the original facility established in Compton, CA.

The Astros Urban Youth Academy, which will provide baseball and softball instruction for boys and girls, features a show field with seating for 500 fans and dugouts and lights; one auxiliary field; two youth baseball/softball fields; 1,500 square feet of office space and other facilities. The Astros and MLB contributed a combined $600,000 toward the construction of the Academy.

Current Astros players attending were: Michael Bourn, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Keppinger, Tommy Manzella, J.R. Towles, Sammy Gervacio and Chris Johnson. They were joined by Astros alumni Enos Cabell, Jimmy Wynn, Larry Dierker, Ron Brand, Bob Bruce, Danny Coombs, Claude Raymond and Mike White.

Representing the Astros front office were Chairman and CEO Drayton McLane, President of Business Operations Pam Gardner, President of Baseball Operation Tal Smith, General Manager Ed Wade and Manager Brad Mills.

Elected officials attending were Houston Mayor Annise Parker, State Representative Sylvester Turner, U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee State Senator John Whitmire, State Representative Armando Walle.

McLane said the park was part of the organizations commitment to the communty. “We have two missions: to be a champion, and to make a positive difference in the community,” he said.

The Houston Astros MLB Urban Youth Academy at Sylvester Turner Park will staff local high school, collegiate, current and former professional ballplayers to help run the different Major League-caliber training camps and clinics throughout the year. It will offer the free programs to a minimum of 2500 youths. Additional instructors, collegiate coaches, scouts, and certified athletic trainers will also work with young athletes at the Academy. The Academy will open its doors to all who want to participate from the houston area with enrollment open year-round.

New Ranchero King Buffet offers Texas home cooking

NORTHEAST HOUSTON – A complete buffet line of Mexican and American specialties is offered at the new Ranchero King Buffet on the North Freeway. The large restaurant is located on the feeder road at 5900 I-45 #135, North Freeway, between Tidwell and Parker, not far from the Gallery Furniture Store.

Owner Elias Duran runs the restaurant, with the help of a trained staff including his nephew David Santana, operations manager, Laura Pena, Marketing Director, and Chef Francisco.

Duran is a long time professional in the food service industry, with many years spent with Steak Country prior to this endeavor. His resume also includes experience with the Doneraki and Ninfa’s restaurants. Duran originally was raised in South Texas, in the Harlingen area, so he is quite familiar with that type of food.

The buffet tables at Ranchero King include all types of Texan and Mexican dishes, including steaks, ribs, and even some Southern and Italian favorites.

This story has been truncated for the web. For the full story, please see our print edition.

Former Smiley grad overcomes obstacles to become Truman Scholar

A young man from Northeast Houston, who knows the struggles of children who have both parents incarcerated, has been named a recipient of a prestigious award presented nationally.

Smiley High alumnus Devon Wade, is one of 60 winners of the nationally competitive Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Wade is also the first African-American student to win the award.

The Truman Scholarship seeks to identify future leaders in public service, and provides funding for three years of graduate study in a field of the recipients’ choosing. In return, Truman Scholars must agree to work in a public service field for 3 of 7 years following completion of their degree.

Only two other LSU were among the finalists.

The other finalists are Reggie Galjour, Joel Raborn Wade majors in Sociology, with concentrations in Criminology and African & African-American Studies. He serves as a veteran representative and mentor for the organization No More Victims, Inc. (NMVI), which aids children of incarcerated parents.

Wade hopes to use his personal and academic experiences to expand public awareness of the struggles of these children, and further sociological understanding of the cycle that often leads these children to follow their parents into incarceration.

This year, 176 finalists from 122 colleges and universities were chosen from a pool of 576 applicants. Wade, Galjour, and Raborn are the only finalists selected from the state of Louisiana.

Wade continues what has become a remarkable tradition – the LSU Honors College has produced a Truman Scholar for five of the past seven years. The Honors College Office of Fellowship Advising was created to assist students in applying for prestigious post-graduate scholarships and fellowships, such as the Truman, Rhodes, Marshall, Gates, Mitchell, Soros and Goldwater awards.