Oldies at the Old Town Theatre: Marty Haggard Performs

Jessica Cuevas 

On the evening of 9/11, the LEAP Ambassadors and Jocelyn Vazquez volunteered at the Old Town Theatre, where Marty Haggard–son of Merle Haggard– where an appreciative crowd enjoyed the show.  

To our delightful surprise, there was an opening act by rising country singer Stephen Sweeten. While he sang and his guitarist strummed, his wife and son were selling his merchandise and recording his performance. Unfortunately, since we were either ushering guests to their seats, selling raffle tickets, or taking photographs, we were unable to sit in for the show but given that the theatre has excellent acoustics, we were able to hear him. We even had a chance to work with his son to take a few photos of Sweeten.

The audience enjoyed the music, as did we, as Sweeten played a mix of covers and originals.

When Sweeten’s set ended, we announced the winners of the raffle…

…which made a few audience members happy. They have tickets to see Moe Bandy on December 3 (buy tickets here!) 

If ever there was a down-to-earth performer, Marty Haggard is that performer. He remained seated throughout the show, after telling he was a singer, not an “actor.”

Sitting or standing, however, he was a hit, performing the hits of his father, whom he described as “the greatest country music singer-songwriter in history.”

He did the songs justice, and he resembles a thinner version of his father.

 As the event was wrapping up and the Old Town Theatre was getting ready to close, we stood by the doors and thanked the guests for coming while providing them with a calendar of upcoming events.

The crowd, however, was more interested in spending time with Mr. Haggard.

And that included us:

It was a good night, with strong performances all around.

By the way, the Old Town Theatre’s next event is on September 25th at 7:00pm, featuring a Frank Sinatra tribute. Purchase your tickets today and do not miss the Sinatra experience! 

On behalf of the LEAP Center, I would like to thank the friends of the Old Town Theatre for giving us the opportunity to help in our community! 

Although our volunteerism was complete, our night wasn’t. We moved on over to the wonderful Sam’s Table, where we had dinner and desert. We had eaten here previously, and it has great ambience and food, so we were eager to return.

The event was close to Yvette’s 19th Birthday, so we celebrated that, too, with pie…

…and cake.

After a nice night of volunteerism and eating, we left as happy as Yvette looked!

Around Town with KSAM

Students from various LEAP programs got together with KSAM’s News Director, Larry Crippen, to discuss their fall activities. In this manner, Candace Simpson (LEAP LEADs), Hayley Matthews (City Fellows), and Yvette Mendoza (LEAP Ambassadors, LEAP LEADs) came together to discuss classes, internships, programs, speakers, and volunteerism.

Students, of course, are best situated to discuss LEAP’s activities, but this process is also great practice for communicated clearly and concisely–necessary approaches for a radio interview. And, in this regard, each student got their turn, although at least one was outright suspicious.

But they got over their jitters and did a fine job. Hayley Matthews discussed her internship at the Huntsville Public Library–as well as some of the other internship opportunities.

Yvette Mendoza discussed the LEAP Ambassador’s trip to Nashville, TN this summer…

…as well as some of our fall plans, particularly those involving volunteerism at the OTT, Wynne Home Arts Center, Huntsville Main Street, and, in fact, KSAM.

And the ever-suspicious Candace Simpson discussed…

…our first LEAP LEADs program, as well as upcoming events (HPD tour, anyone?).

It was a great way to get the word out about fall activities, bring together multiple programs with a common cause, and teach students the world of ratio communication.

You can listen to the entire interview below.

Pre-Law Society: Kicking off the Fall

We started our day off with an amazing ice cream social. We had a great turnout filled with lots of smiles and fun!

The group talked over ice cream and delicious treats about the organization and the plans we have for the upcoming school year.

The veteran officers interacted with the potential members, and it was highly informative.

Shortly after, we had the first meeting of the semester, and it was a great one to say the least. We had the opportunity to see some new and familiar faces. Professor Yawn updated the group on all that the Pre-Law Society has to offer. He spoke briefly about the events that are yet to come and the opportunities the organization will present such as, mock LSATS, guest speakers, forums, and community service, just to name a few.

Professor Yawn spoke on the upcoming dates/ activities including the LSAT registration deadline on August 25th, the digital law school forum on September 9th, registration for the mock LSAT, and some suggested dates for the Old Town Theatre Cleanup, Pizza Party and showing of “My Cousin Vinnie”.

The floor was opened for questions from Professor Yawn as well as Ms. Jean Loveall and VP Leslie Canchola-Rangel, and many of the potential members had a lot of questions about the LSAT, prep courses, events, membership, colleges and more.

Lastly, we ended the meeting off with an introduction of the new leadership board. The officers include incoming secretary Jase Brazzil, historian Jordan Long, VP (membership) Cesar Amaya and VP (finance) Leslie Canchola-Rangel. The election for president was a close run between Kianna McKinney…

…and Heather Barodi…

Following voting…

…Heather was victorious in the end.

Discover Local With the Chamber of Commerce!

August 31, 2021

Morgan Roberston

This past Tuesday the LEAP Ambassadors and SHSU student Jocelyn Vazquez attended the Discover Local Community, Commerce, and Cuisine at the Walker County Fairgrounds.

Upon entering the grounds, we were greeted by many smiling faces, who directed us to the ballot box for the prize entry giveaway of $500 dollars!

We entered to win by obtaining stamps on a bingo sheet from the different booths which we would then enter in the drawing at the end of the night. We took our bingo sheets and began maneuvering around the Expo.

As we began to make our way around to different venues of businesses, restaurants, and organizations, with full hands we quickly realized we would need a place to store all the informational handouts, goodies, and business cards. Once we had a bag in hand, we began to accumulate different stamps, and more importantly, learn more about Huntsville.

With booths ranging from bakeries,

non-profit organizations,

campus departments

…clothing stores, car dealerships, medical institutions, many local businesses, and, of course, our Huntsville City government.

The event was an amazing way to learn more about our community. In addition to learning about businesses, we were able to meet several people who positively impact Huntsville through the Chamber of Commerce.

Continuing our way through, collecting all the stamps from each venue to enter in the bingo contest, we wishfully turned our sheets into the raffle drum and found a table to watch the giveaways. When it came time for the grand prize of $500 dollars, Chamber President Ray Hernandez and Wiesner GM Clint McLaren (Wiesner, generously, was the Presenting Sponsor) stepped up to draw and announce the winner… “Morgan Robertson.”

Without even realizing that my name was announced, Jocelyn, Yvette, and Jessica turned towards me to express their surprise that I had just won the grand prize, sponsored by Texas Grand Ranch! I stepped up to the stage and posed for a few pictures, while being congratulated from every which direction.

This was an amazing celebratory finish to a wonderful night getting to learn more about Huntsville.

Smith-Hutson Gala: 2021

One of the happy aspects of SHSU more or less fully reopening is the return to get-togethers that help build camaraderie and provide great information to faculty, staff, and students alike. And this perfectly reflects the spirit of the annual Smith Hutson gala.

In addition to the great food offered by Smith-Hutson…

…students (and faculty and staff) learn much about the Smith-Hutson Scholarship program. Endowed by an anonymous donor, facilitated by the Hutson family, and administered at SHSU by Chris Garcia, the Smith Hutson scholarship program serves more than 100 SHSU students.

Garcia kicked off the evening, but was soon joined by President White at the podium, who shared her gratitude for the donors, while also encouraging the Smith-Hutson scholars to continue to excel.

Balancing empathy and inspiration, President White spoke skillfully, highlighting her background in communications.

Following a fine meal, Mr. Hutson spoke, going into detail about the program. I learned, for example, that the Smith-Hutson scholarship was no distributed to Lamar University, Lamar Tech, Stephen F. Austin, and Angelina College–although Mr. Hutson stressed that SHSU remains the “home of the program.” Moreover, Mr. Hutson also mentioned that while the state averages a four-year graduation rate of 38 percent, Smith-Hutson scholars average 78 percent!

A representative from Capital Bank then provided students with useful information about careers in banking–careers that not only involve finance, but also marketing, legal, and human resources.

Mr. Garcia opened the floor to Monica Rodriguez, who attended SHSU in the early 2000s. She described, at times in depth, her time at SHSU and her subsequent career.

The President of the Smith-Hutson Scholars’ executive council, Amanda Rincon-Morales, also spoke, expressing her gratitude for the scholarship and encouraging her peers in the program to give back to the program that provides so much to them.

Following the program–which was attended by a majority of the Deans, as well as the President Provost–Smith-Hutson scholars gathered for some photographs.

And with that, a pleasant and informative night was over, as more than 100 Smith-Hutson scholars resumed their path to excellence at SHSU.

One Smith-Hutson scholar serves as a LEAP Ambassador; one Smith-Hutson scholar serves as a member of LEAP LEADs; and one of the LEAP Staff members serves on the Smith-Hutson faculty-staff council.

Revisiting the Victorian Era at the SHMM

Morgan Robertson

This past Tuesday the Sam Houston Memorial Museum (SHMM) opened their first art exhibit of the school year, so, of course, we were there! The Museum exhibit featured the works of 19th Century artist John Rogers, whose collection of Victorian Sculptures, which the SHMM owns. The Museum did a great job of providing informational placards and other designs of the Victorian period, transporting us back to another time.

One of the most interesting pieces (as well as Jessica’s favorite) is entitled “School Days,” which depicted an immigrant with a rented organ grinder and a monkey playing a lively tune and dancing blissfully. While speaking with Jude Routh, the Museum’s Exhibitions Curator, she explained to us that around the time of the sculpture’s creation, poor immigrants would rent these instruments and monkeys in attempts to make money. My favorite sculpture entitled “Parting Promise” showed a couple gazing longingly into each other’s eyes with a ring as the focal point.

One of the more interesting facts regarding Rogers’ sculptures are the prices. For example, “Parting Promise” was priced at $12.00 in 1870. Although $12.00 was a lot more costly 150 years ago, it was still much less expensive than the typical sculpture, allowing middle-class families to own art.

 This exhibit had features from both the past and the present, and to our amazement Ms. Routh made all the column toppers by hand to match each sculpture, and even printed the Victorian style wallpaper.

The attention to detail gave a 3D point of view making each sculpture come to life.

Of course, we were also happy to mingle. We met Derrick Birdsall (Curator of Education), Ms. Routh, and the Woodwards, all of whom provided us insight into the artifacts and the world of Museums.

Main Street Music Festival

Sam’s Table

Jessica Cuevas

On a Thursday evening, Yvette, Professor Yawn, Ms. Stephanie, and I leaped into a new experience by having dinner at a local restaurant, Sam’s Table. The ambience is intimate but uncrowded, with a bit of retro, downtown feel–the perfect dinning spot!

The menu has many options: salads, pasta, steaks, burgers, and much more. Thus, we had to take a closer look to see what appealed most to us. For starters, we got the Bruschetta Neapolitan, Garlic Crostini (toasted bread) topped with flame seared tomato, basil, and with a balsamic vinegar drizzle and parmesan cheese, and Patatas a la Brava, red potato cubed fries with an aioli sauce. 

Ultimately, Yvette and I ordered the Sam’s Secret Burger, Professor Yawn the Fettuccine Alfredo, and Ms. Stephanie got a seafood platter.

 The burgers were gourmet and delicious.

For dessert, Yvette had a slice of cheesecake and Professor Yawn a Copa Alexandra, both of which were excellent. It was pleasant experience making it a good way to start off our evening before heading to see the Main Street Music Festival hosting the Double Vision band.  

Main Street Music Festival 

Yvette Mendoza 

As the LEAP Ambassadors finished a savory meal at Sam’s table we then rocked out at Main Street’s live concert featuring Double Vision, the Ultimate Foreigner Experience.

This wonderful event was hosted by the Main Street Manager Annel Guadalupe, a former LEAP president, along with other hardworking city officials that we had the opportunity to meet: Tammy Gann, Director of Economic Development; Aron Kulhavy, City Manager; and Sarah Faulkner, the Cultural Services Manager. 

From the city officials to the families who attended you could see the smiles on everyone’s faces when their favorite throwback rock songs, “I Want to Know What Love Is” and “Hot Blooded,” were being played. Some were even bobbing their heads back and forth, while others were playing the air guitar. Everyone seemed to enjoy every second of what the band, Double Vision, did as they played their songs so all downtown Huntsville could hear.  

Although we all wished they would play all night, they wrapped it up with one final song before opening the stage for pictures with the band.

Afterwards, the LEAP Ambassadors stayed to volunteer, taking down the lights and carrying everything back into the Main Street’s Coordinators office. 

Concluding our night, we enjoyed every bit of the concert’s songs and the atmosphere. We not only were able to learn cultural music and meet city officials, but we were able to help our beloved Huntsville Community. 

Nashville: It’s a Wrap!

Belmont Law School Tour 

Morgan Robertson

On the early morning of our final day of the SLC trip and my birthday, we got up, and we dressed in our best suits to head to our first law school tour at Belmont University College of Law. Belmont University is found in the heart of Nashville, making it an ideal location to be connected on and off campus. Having never been on a law-school tour, we walked in not knowing what to expect. 

We had previously learned of Belmont College of Law from Judge Alberto Gonzales, who serves as Dean of the law school. He regularly visits SHSU, and we were fortunate to learn about Belmont, the law in general, and much about politics from his visits to our campus, so we were excited to visit his!

Ms. Courtney Wilson allowed us to pop our heads into his office to say a quick “hello,” but Judge Gonzales had other plans. He greeted us warmly, invited us to sit down, and asked us many questions about our school, families, and ambitions. And we, in turn, asked him questions: about Belmont, going to law school, and the study and practice of law. We also had a chance to see some of the awards that Judge Gonzales and Belmont College of Law have received.

The beauty of the campus expresses itself onto and into the structure of the Randell and Sadie Baskin Center, the law school building. Interestingly, the law school is found all in one building, the Baskin Center, which makes it extremely convenient for classes, studying, and access to the two-story law library. Our tour guide, Ms. Wilson, amazed us with the facilities, including the trial courtroom, an appellate court, and a state-of-the-art classroom in which competitions are held every year and even judged by Judge Gonzales and fellow friends.

Belmont University is on the rise, not only with an incredibly successful law school, but also with the addition of a new medical school. 

Belmont University is the prime example of a new and young law school with a dedication to education and success. The 96% passage rate and the 100% ultimate passage rate for the BAR Exam allows them to be selective and efficient at turning out new attorneys. Belmont university was a great first experience in viewing what a successful law career can look like. And while the entire tour was exceptional, getting to meet with Judge Gonzales again was the highlight of our first law school tour. 

Lunch: Shake Shack and Jeni’s ice cream

Yvette Mendoza

Celebrating a birthday lunch for fellow LEAP Ambassador, Morgan, we headed off to Shake Shack, where they serve fast food (editors note: we don’t typically allow fast food, but since it was the student’s birthday and her idea of food….), following our tour of the Belmont College of Law. We all decided we’d all order the Smoke Shack which comes with niman ranch, applewood-smoked bacon, chopped cherry peppers, and the special Shack Sauce, all of which we washed down with a fresh lemonade.

As a birthday treat, we walked into Jeni’s ice cream shop. With an assortment of unique flavors from Brambleberry to Rocket Pop, a mix of pineapple and blueberry ice cream, they were all favored, making it the best dessert to get in the city of Nashville.

STAR Awards

The Southern Legislative Conference meets annually, giving legislators and their staff the opportunity to solve problems collaboratively, while also learning about the latest innovations and “best practices.” During this process, SLC staff also puts together nominations for the “State Transformation in Action Recognition.”

A committee then picks the top programs. Our advisor, Professor Mike Yawn, is on this committee, and the committee is chaired by Jay Hartz, Director of the Legislative Research Commission in Kentucky.

The committee considered and evaluated five excellent programs this year…

…before ultimately deciding on the top two. They were both developed in Virginia: one, Military Medics and Corpsman Program (MMAC), helped veterans transition to the civilian job market, especially those with medical backgrounds–a particularly important service in the time of COVID. The other, Restrictive Housing Reform for Inmates with Serious Mental Illnesses Secure Diversionary Treatment Program (STDP), focused on effective housing for inmates with special needs. Such an effort is not only humane, but also reduces costs, incidents, and, ultimately, helps with reintegration.

Tennessee State Capitol

Jessica Cuevas

On our last day in the beautiful city of Nashville, we visited the Tennessee State Capitol Building. This sophisticated structure was constructed in 1859 and designed by architect William Strickland.

In comparison to the other capitol buildings I have toured, it is smaller and more intimate.  Resembling Greek Revival structures, the capitol also has multiple Corinthian columns and, unlike other capitol buildings we have visited, this one is not domed at the top; instead it has a cupola.

Despite only having access to the first and second floors, we were given a guided tour by one of the staff members…

…and were able to go up into the House of Representatives chambers.

The room was elegant, but not as large as the chamber in the Texas Capitol.

On the first floor there is a portrait of none other than Sam Houston, who was governor of Tennessee before moving to Texas. He is the only man in US history to be governor of two states.

Although we were not able to step into the senate chambers, we were able to pop our heads in and noticed how much more intimate the room is compared to other states with the desks being significantly closer to the bench, it was also the only place where we saw the state seal displayed.

We also had a chance to see the old Supreme Court chambers.

Interestingly, we also found out that on the grounds there are four bodies buried, including those of President Polk and Mrs. Polk.

At the end of the tour, we were shown to the balcony where one can see the Tennessee State Museum.

Eager for the State Dinner later that evening, we left the capitol with enough time to allow us to get properly dressed. We were also content that we were able to visit another capitol building out of the 44!

State Dinner

Yvette Mendoza

Our last evening of the Southern Legislative Conference was a night to remember. Walking into the state dinner, we were greeted with two beautiful, ginormous guitars, decorated with a fresh and large floral arrangement. We took a ton of pictures to preserve this moment.

Each LEAP Ambassador was dressed in their elegant attire and were eager to meet legislature members as well as to expand their knowledge of politics. We took our seats with two members of the House of Representatives from the great state of Arkansas. Both representatives conversed with us, educating us on how each session works, noting that their sessions are 60 days (if not extended), and that they have 100 representatives and 35 senators.

As we continued in conversation, we turned our attention to the very loud cheering coming from the audience members as the presentation of their state flag was being given along with one interesting fact about the state. The beautiful presentation of the southern states’ flags was presented that night in the order in which they were annexed to the United States.

The legislators also announced the STAR awards and presented additional recognitions, educating us on their annual business.

Continuing through the dinner we were served our delicious meal which began with a salad topped with nuts, as for the entree was a delectable grilled steak with a side of pomme puree and asparagus.

To top it all off was a delicious tart dessert served with a marshmallow top and chocolate mousse.

While we were eating there was a live Jazz Band, Memphis All-Stars, playing relaxing music in the background.

Following the presentation of the awards to the dedicated members and to the state with the best plan, we then topped our night off with dancing to music from the 80s! 

Everything tied together wonderfully, and it made for an exquisite dinner and a delightful event.