Although we started the day in Huntsville, Texas, after arriving at the Wynne Home we were transported to tropical Hawaii in a matter of seconds. We grabbed a lei and prepared for a fun-filled event.
The occasion was the Wynne Home’s annual Hawaiian Luau and, as with all things Wynne Home, we try to be there to help.
We began by assisting with set up. This involved insuring that there were selfie-stations…
…craft table and side walk chalk….which soon filled up with children.
One of the favorite activities each year is the Limbo contest, and that proved true this year. And, as with previous years, we had to explain and re-explain the rules…
A hula hoop contest featured numerous talented people…
…and some LEAP Ambassadors.
The kids then teamed up and competed in a beach relay where they took turns scooping sand from one bucket and running and placing it into another. Running and dropping sand made the game fun for the kiddos who competed for tickets and toys.
These events provided children the opportunity to not only have fun, but win a lot of prizes in the contest. Following an enjoyable coda featuring Ballet Folklorico, the crowd wrapped up with some more food, a bit more hula hooping, and some final selfies.
It was such a fun day and we hope to see you at next year’s luau!
For the 11th consecutive year, the LEAP Ambassadors partnered with the Huntsville Public Library to offer a citizenship preparatory class to local immigrants. Led by Huntsville Public Library intern (and LEAP Ambassador) Bianca Saldierna, the class proved a success.
As with previous years, Councilmember Joe Rodriquez was generous and spared time to speak with immigrants about his story.
His discussion was inspirational: he’s able to approach the class from the perspective of being the children of immigrants, as a person who worked in the US Government (he was employed by the FBI), and as a person who currently serves his local government (as a councilmember, among other volunteer endeavors).
Once again, the LEAP Ambassadors assisted immigrants, sitting each week as volunteers.
The volunteers included past interns Christina Perez and Karla Rosales.
This year, more than 30 immigrants signed up, but as with previous years, the number of regular class-goers stabilized at just under 20. They were a diverse lot, who soon gelled and found ways to help each other.
Also helping was Audrey Biggar, who joins us for week five and provides an overview of the legal aspects of immigrating.
Ms. Biggar has been a huge friend to our program over the years, and she serves the community in many ways. We are grateful for her ongoing support.
Other than Ms. Biggar’s appearance, the highlight of week five is our “Thanksgiving.” The immigrants are expected to our major holidays to pass the Citizenship Test, and to reinforce these dates, we host our own Thanksgiving, with each immigrant (and volunteer) bringing food indigenous to their home country.
This is one of our favorite weeks and, in fact, one of our favorite events of the year.
With food from Africa, South America, Mexico, Europe, and the USA…
…we all leave stuffed.
But not so stuffed that we can’t pose for photographs, with Bianca posing with her “students” and certificates she created for them.
And, of course, a group photo.
But this year had a bonus. Councilmember Rodriquez put the citizenship class on the Huntsville City Council agenda, and the group was recognized by the Mayor…
…and other council members.
For a group who had never been to a council meeting and may have thought of the local government as a mysterious entity, it was a great night of learning.
Many thanks to the Huntsville City Council, the Huntsville Public Library, Bianca Saldierna and the LEAP Ambassadors, and most of all to the local immigrants who are taking an important step!
Saturday mornings tend to be a time to relax and sleep in. However, on this Saturday morning, for thirty- three future lawyers that would not be the case. Every semester, for the past 8 years or so, the LEAP Center provides a free Mock LSAT for SHSU students who are considering law school.
The LSAT, an acronym for Law School Admissions Test, is a challenging exam that assesses student’s reading comprehension, logical thinking, and critical thinking skills. The offered Mock LSAT, is a full-length exam taken under timed conditions to mimic those of the real LSAT. Princeton Review, who is one of the main companies that offer LSAT Prep Courses, also provides mock exams like these to get the appropriate training for the real LSAT.
Such an intense exam should not be taken likely and may seem quite foreboding….
But it’s actually quite user friendly. More than anything the LEAP Center encourages students to attempt the Mock LSAT so that they can get their footing on what they need to work on and get an idea about how they would do in the real thing. The LSAT is scored from a 120-180. Most law schools need an average of a 151 and above to get in. It takes a lot of hard work on behalf of the student, which is why the Mock LSAT is so imperative to future law school students.
All of this was mentioned by Ambassador Bianca, who was briefly interviewed before the exam by a Mass Communication student, Raven Cheek, for a class project.
We hope this Mock LSAT helped students find their strengths and weaknesses before taking the actual LSAT and plan accordingly. The LEAP Center would also like to thank Michelle Bell, the proctor for the Princeton Review, for making the trip to Sam Houston.
Birds were chirping, and the sun was shining. You could practically hear laughter in the air. It is the time of the year when children all over the US look for a massive scavenger hunt. And what are they searching for? Well, eggs of course!
Easter, along with Christmas and Halloween, is one of the most egg-citing holidays that people of all ages can enjoy. What’s not fun about the opportunity to find candy, toys, and possibly a good egg to crack on someone else’s head? And in our little town of Huntsville we don’t disappoint.
One of the most anticipated events during the spring semester is the annual Wynne Home Arts Center Easter Egg Hunt. Alina Ward, an SHSU junior and the Wynne Home intern, organized this event, adding a fun little twist to it that cracked everyone up.
Alina prepared for months in advance, and the night before the big event, we gathered together for final preparation.
The next day, we arrived at the Wynne Home anxious to see what the day had in store for us. We set up our tables, put up signs, and began to hide the eggs around the Wynne home.
Before we began to welcome families, we decided to imitate the Easter Bunny and take some eggstravagant leaping photos.
As families began to arrive, we opened up our arts and crafts area, which was a popular destination for them; we had kids decorating plastic eggs and some made cascarones, or confetti eggs, to use later on. The children had many different ideas for decorating their eggs. One child made his egg into an Easter Bunny, while others painted their egg with their favorite colors..
We had about 75 children–and another 100-plus parents–attend this year’s egg hunt, all eager to hunt and play games. One of our more popular games was the donut game: the object of which was to eat a donut off of a string without using hands.
The game was a lot of fun but created a sticky situation.
Less sticky, but no less intense, were our sack races, which were also a big hit with the kids rushing and jumping to win!
All winners received a ticket that earned them a prize from the prize table that was managed by Victoria and Chase.
Before the hunt the Easter Bunny came out to say hello to all of the children. Some kids were excited to see her while others hid behind their parents or cried when she walked by.
The clock showed 11:30 and Alina Ward made the big announcement. The Easter egg hunt was about to begin. We split the kids up by age groups: 0-5, 6-10, and 11 and over. The LEAP Ambassadors helped things and hide about 2,000 eggs for the children to find. Each of the age groups had different locations around the house to search for their eggs; Alina yelled “Start” and all of the kids stormed onto the lawn to find colorfully shiny eggs. The kids were cheerful as they raced to gather as many as possible.
After the hunt, everyone lined up for hot dogs, grilled by Stephanie Fors, our team mom and a continuous supporter of the LEAP Center. Makayla and Ryan also helped to distribute chips, cookies, and drinks.
Our final event for the afternoon was the breaking of the piñatas.
We gave each child a chance to hit the piñata three times, and then give others a turn. It wasn’t long before the candy was falling like rain.
After cleaning up, some of the LEAP girls decided to have a mini photo shoot in the beautiful back lawn of the Wynne Home. This reminded some of us that we have four weeks until graduation and that we would miss being a part of community events like this.
We would like to thank the Friends of the Wynne and the LEAP Center for their donations, as well as the hard-working volunteers for coming out to help make all of this possible.
This event is a fun tradition that we hope to see everyone at next year!
The LEAP Ambassadors have a close connection with the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Most of the Ambassadors are in the CHSS (with others in COBA, CRIJ, and COS), the Ambassadors have attended six of the eight Wall of Honor ceremonies…
…and the LEAP Center’s longest-serving President, Megan O’Flaherty (Bryant) served on the Board for two years. So it was a special pleasure for us to attend the 2018 version of the Wall of Honor, which was organized by Dean Abbey Zink (and her Community Relations Coordinator, Deanna Briones).
This year, the college honored four excellent alumni and faculty: Robert Mann (alumnus), George Miles (alumnus), Dr. Mary Alice Conroy (faculty), and Dr. Ralph Pease (faculty).
Dick Eglsaer introduced a packed house to the evening’s planned events…
…offering humorous anecdotes and a deep appreciation of what it means to be on the Wall of Honor. Dean Zink also spoke, touching on her appreciation for the CHSS Alumni Advisory Board, her staff, and of course, the four newest members of the Wall of Honor.
All four were excellent nominees. Dr. Mary Alice Conroy has written amicus briefs for the US Supreme Court, and she brought prestige, organizational skill, and a deep affection for students to SHSU.
Her speech was touching, with her voice audibly cracking, as she acknowledged the important role that her students have played in her desire to continue teaching.
Robert Mann worked for numerous elected officials (including Garry Mauro and Ted Kennedy) and even worked in the White House. He is one of the highest-ranking public figures that SHSU has ever produced.
His fiery speech began with a moment of silence for those who were killed and hurt in the recent Florida shooting, a sad and senseless tragedy. And he alternated between the serious and the humorous in his speech, which also moved between current events and career reminisces.
With many political scientists among us, the Ambassadors found the speech inspirational and poignant.
The Ambassadors had a more immediate connection to inductee George Miles.
Miles has worked closely with the Ambassadors over the years, particularly Megan Bryant, Laken Jenkins, and Brandon Reese, all of whom served on University and community boards with Mr. Miles. His wife, Beth, was also an employee of SHSU, and she did much volunteer work with the Wynne Home Arts Center, where the Ambassadors also spend much time volunteering. So it was a great treat to see Mr. Miles recognized on the Wall of Honor.
In his moving speech, he thanked his family, thanked the community and SHSU…
…First National Bank–where he worked for decades–and the community of Huntsville. Mr. Miles was the first Chair of the CHSS Alumni Advisory Board, and his recognition was especially appropriate.
Of all the nominees, Dr. Ralph Pease has had the longest and greatest influence on the LEAP Ambassadors. For the 12 years that the Ambassadors have been in existence, Pease has befriended, taught, mentored, and volunteered alongside the LEAPsters. More than ten LEAP Ambassadors have interned at the Wynne Home Arts Center, where his wife works as the Cultural Services Coordinator, and Pease is a frequent guest at LEAP Center special events.
He taught for 45 years at SHSU, and he won the Piper Award for Excellence in Teaching (a statewide honor), while also engaging in numerous other civic enterprises.
He’s funny, warm, and generous…
…and we were thrilled to see him be honored for his many contributions to SHSU, the community, and to students.
While the LEAP Ambassadors had a personal connection to the events, that was true of almost everyone there. The nominees had all affected so many people for the better, it’s no surprise that the event was well attended.
Many formal events carry an obligation of attendance, but this event was truly enjoyable, with people mingling, catching up, and recalling favorite memories of the nominees.
Indeed, it was so well attended that Dr. Pease had to actually hide from the paparazzi…
But most of the time, people sought each other out:
…and enjoyed the company of colleagues, friends, and new acquaintances.
It was a fun event, and many, many thanks go to Dean Abbey Zink and her staff–Deanna Briones, Brenda McNeely, Jennifer Knapp, and Brittany Johnson for organizing the event.
The LEAP Ambassadors would also like to thank Dr. Tamara Waggener and the POLS Department, Chris Tritico, Mac and Leanne Woodward, and Ralph and Linda Pease for sponsoring student tickets. It was a fun event, but it was especially fun because we had the opportunity to spend time with people we respect and like.
A day after Jeremi Suri’s talk on getting involved with your local government, the LEAP Ambassadors had the chance to volunteer for the Walker County Republican Party during their Candidate Forum, hosted in Huntsville’s Walker Education Center. With primary elections fast approaching on March 6th, the forum provided the community an opportunity to meet candidates on the Republican ballot. Candidates ranging from state representative to county clerk, and everything in between, were invited to participate in the forum.
Some of the most vied for positions in the ballot included State Representative HD 18…
…Justice of the Peace Pct. 1 and Pct. 2, and County Commissioner Pct. 4. Elected officials from other offices will run unopposed.
Not to be confused with a debate, the forum had a moderator present the candidates with questions concerning their background, positions on policy, and experience.
These questions were posed not to incite animosity between candidates, but to allow voters to familiarize themselves with these officials. Additionally, attendants to the forum had a chance to have more personal interactions with the candidates during the Meet and Greet preceding the forum.
During the forum, interactions between these aspiring public officials were professional and informative. The event, therefore, granted voters, LEAP Ambassadors included, an opportunity to cast an informed vote this upcoming election. With early voting starting on the 20th of this month, what we learned during the forum will serve us well very soon.
Thanks to the Walker County Republican Party for sponsoring the forum. Thanks to the Walker County Republican Women for sponsoring the “meet and greet” before hand. And thanks to all the candidates who appeared.
An excited buzz could be heard within the Gaertner Performing Arts Center. People dressed in a multitude of colors filed in one by one and the murmur of a pleasant chatter could be heard in the background of the well-decorated lobby.
The time had come for SHSU’s thriving art community to gather for their premier annual event: the SHSU Art Gala.
A LEAP favorite, the Art Gala not only serves as a means to meet and greet people, but it also raises money for SHSU Art Scholarships while honoring outstanding alumni and community members that contribute to the success of the Art Department.
The evening began with a reception where we visited with faculty members, community members, and the evening’s award winners. We were pleasantly surprised to find many of the former heART of Huntsville participants including Ms. Una Grace Nash, Dr. and Mrs. Pease, Dr. and Mrs. Gaertner, Dr. Mitzi Mahoney, and Roberta Plant, as well as other members of the community such as former mayor Mac Woodward.
Dr. Michael Henderson, the Chair of the Art Department, greeted attendees and began the program with remarks before serving dinner.
The three- course meal was marked with conversation about art, SHSU’s art program, and the impact the alumni had made. Dr. Henderson then presented two awards honoring two very special people.
First, he presented Daryl Howard with the Outstanding Alumna Award.
Graduating from SHSU in 1969, Daryl Howard moved to Tokyo to teach at an overseas art school where she was introduced to Ukiyo-e woodcuts from the 18th and 19th Century. These woodcuts peaked her interest and she began an apprenticeship with master printmaker, Hodaka Yoshida.
However, this was only the beginning of Howard’s career as we had the privilege of learning. There were many professors that Ms. Howard learned from who were skilled artists. People such as Charles Pebworth, Gaddis Geeslin, Stanley Lea, among others. Her speech was one of gratitude for the opportunities presented to her at Sam Houston and the lessons learned from her many mentors.
The second award winner, Mrs. Nancy Gaertner, was honored for Outstanding Supporter of the Arts.
As former First Lady of Sam Houston, she worked tirelessly on the development and creation of our performing arts center for the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication. Although she is no longer the First Lady of Sam Houston, she is the current President of the Friends of the Wynne Board and stays active in Huntsville’s art community.
Having worked closely with her, the LEAP Ambassadors were excited to see Mrs. Gaertner honored for her commitment and support of the arts.
Following the awards presentation, we posed for a few photographs with the honorees…
…and said our thanks to the many wonderful people who support our Art Department. It was a fun night and a great way to support the local art community!
As finals approach, and before the anxiety kicks in, we paused from our diligent studying and happily assisted Ms. Debbie Charbonneau, Huntsville’s Main Street Director, and Yvana Kepnga, Main Street’s Intern, at the 7th annual Winter in the Park and Downtown Christmas Fair!
Holiday décor embellished Huntsville’s Historic Downtown for the fun-filled family event which annually attracts more than 2,000 locals and tourists. Without exception, this year’s mix of activities promised and delivered great entertainment for both adults and children. Activities which included: bounce houses, train rides…
…cookie and stocking decorations…
…Christmas karaoke, candle making….
…and even fun in the snow, all 45,000 pounds of it!
But of course, one of the favorite traditions is to take the annual picture with Santa.
However, sometimes the adults were much more excited than the kids, even at the selfie station!
Alongside Santa were dozens of local businesses and vendors selling a variety of goods enlivened the streets as visitors stocked up on holiday gifts and also enjoyed various contests.
The LEAP Ambassadors and Julia Norwood, a high school student at Huntsville High School who was also volunteering, enjoyed this community event while monitoring the snow area and handling the tickets.
Before concluding the event, Ms. Charbonneau announced the winners of the Lamp Post Decoration competition. Patio on the Square Café won first place and Buttercup Cottage won second place. Congratulations to the winners and everyone else for beautifying downtown with their creative lampposts!
In the midst of the holidays, assisting at this festivity definitely helped to put us in the Christmas spirit. Although Ryan Knesek didn’t seem to need too much more. Had there been an ugly Christmas sweater contest, he would have won!
And, of course, the Ambassador’s fun-filled Saturday could not have been complete without taking even more pictures with Santa Claus!