Austin: Inside & (Especially) Outside the Capitol!

Morgan Robertson

My first month and a half in Austin has been filled with learning and trying new things-but not all of my new experiences have happened in the beautiful state Capitol. In an effort to take advantage of the great outdoor spaces that Austin has, I learned to paddle board on The Colorado River! With LEAP, and on my own, I have enjoyed kayaking and exploring different waterways, but new environments called for new experiences.

Located near the boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake, EpicSUP is known as Austin’s go-to paddle dock with what seems like a whole fleet of paddle boards and kayaks. Daniel, who has worked with EpicSup for several years, knew that the best way to introduce a novice was to encourage her to simply get on the board and paddle.

I would (and I’m sure many others would as well) classify myself as the least coordinated Ambassador–a thought that I couldn’t quite shake, with no help from the wobbling paddle board beneath me. After a few minutes of getting a feel for the new activity and observing other paddlers on the water I eventually fell into a rhythm and was off!

Even after my first venture on a paddle board, I would argue that it’s easier to balance than a kayak. As with any new activity, each time I’ve paddle boarded it has gotten easier, and I’ve been able to cover more distance. On just my second time out on the river, I paddled about 8 miles in three and a half hours–which included breaks to take photos of the city around me.

My starting (and ending) point is the circle on the bottom right corner of the map and I made it up to Mopac!

On my most recent voyage on the Colorado, I took a detour on Barton Creek which ended up being well worth it! Because of the shallowness of the creek, the clear water showcased flowing plants and even a turtle just beneath the surface.

The Creek seemed to be a great spot for all the local wildlife and Austinites to enjoy the weather. One lesson I have learned from LEAP is that wildlife photography is no easy feat. However, it is even more difficult trying to maneuver and maintain stealth on an 11ft paddle board toward skittish creek dwellers! I was lucky enough to have snapped a few shots of some basking turtles, hunting herons, and even ducks taking flight (despite being the reason for their immediate departure).

The wildlife, expanse of the river, and the beautiful views of the city all amplified my paddle boarding experience, which has, in turn, expanded my Austin experiences as well.

Mark Burns Presents The West

LEAP students, past and present, headed to the Pearl Fincher Museum of Fine Arts to see “American Landscapes” by Mark Burns. Featuring more than 50 photographs by a photographer deemed a “modern-day Ansel Adams,” the exhibit captured the beauty and the mystery of The West.

More than 100 people showed up for the opening reception, and Burns was also on hand to greet people and discuss his work. With Burns, that is always a treat, with stories of each shot reflecting more of the West and its mystique.

For Victoria, the best in show was from The Grand Canyon, a shot taken on the Winter Solstice (and LEAP was there!).

Olivia’s favorite was from Yellowstone, a shot of Old Faithful.

All were interesting.

Of course, one of the special aspects of the show is that LEAP students have been to several of the locations photographed by Burns, and, in fact, LEAP students were with Burns on locations for some of the photographs in the show.

So, it was a reunion of sorts, and a great chance for three generations of LEAP students to get to one another and continue their lifelong learning.

A Summer Escape to the Island of Enchantment: Puerto Rico

August 10, 2022

Yvette Mendoza

This summer was a bit busier than usual, with my job, LEAP activities and volunteerism, and an LSAT Prep Course occupying my time. But I still found time to spend time with family, and I still managed to explore and learn in the process!

Let me take you along the journey of my summer trip right as we wrap up our summer. My family and I went to the beautiful island of Puerto Rico, where my mother’s side of the family is from.

I had the opportunity to not only visit my family, but immerse myself in nature, learn more about my culture, eat fantastic food, and, most importantly, relax.

Here are some of my favorite things I was able to do in Puerto Rico that I recommend for anyone interested in interesting adventures.

First, hike through the beautiful El Yunque National Forest. You will fall in love with vibrant green palm trees and the touches of pink from our native flower, the hibiscus. Here, some trails will take you to the highest peak with breathtaking views. As I climbed to the top, I stumbled upon iguanas left and right. It was an excellent way to experience the island’s nature, but make sure you bring a rain jacket!

While getting a good exercise and learning more about the history of Puerto Rico, I walked through Castillo de San Felipe del Morro, a fort located at the Northwestern point of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Its construction began in 1539 when the Spaniards governed Puerto Rico, and this fort was used to defend against naval attack.

You can’t forget Puerto Rico’s excellent food, such as tostones (fried plantains), pernil (pork), rice and beans, and various desserts! My favorite restaurant in Puerto Rico has to be the Zimple Restaurant and Bar. They had a variety of seafood. I fell in love with Paella Marinera, which has octopus and shrimp on top of perfectly seasoned rice.

Lastly, you can’t miss the beautiful palm trees stretching across the ocean shore! Puerto Rico is a lovely island that I’d recommend adding to your destinations list.