LEAP LEADs Blog, Week 3

October 4, 2021

Yvette Mendoza

LEAP LEADs members enjoyed another eventful and informative evening at their third meeting of the fall semester. Discussion and presentations covered a variety of topics, from local government to professional strategic thinking (e.g., resumes, thank-you cards) and more. 

We kicked off the evening with a discussion on personal-professional growth, expanding on our previous discussions on having a growth mindset, by examining a self-improvement method of sorts: becoming a more “T-shaped” person, with respect to knowledge base, developing not only breadth of knowledge and awareness on some topics, but also deeper depth of knowledge on specific areas most interesting to us.

We then went over the importance of a resume and how to properly write one. This helped us prepare for future jobs.

As part of our continued community exploration, we enjoyed local fare from El Gordo Taqueria for dinner. Dishes ranged from the very simple Nachos with Chicken Fajita meat to the more traditional plates such as Mexican Enchiladas, Carne Asada, and Mole Chicken.  The portions were generous, and we all enjoyed getting to try out another “new” restaurant. (A special shout-out to the staff for the fast, friendly, and professional service – it can be tough to get 15 separate take-out dinners correct, but we had no problems!

After dinner, we dove into a different sector from our two previous meetings, broadening our ‘micro’ discussions on law enforcement into a more ‘macro’ conversation on local (‘city’) government. Our two special guests, Mayor Andy Brauninger and City Councilmember Joe Rodriquez, provided their insight on how Huntsville works, and how a city should work, from the governance perspective.

Prior to our guests’ arrival, we had spent some time reviewing basic facts about city government structure, using the City of San Antonio’s organizational chart to compare and contrast types of departments and offices with the City of Huntsville. (Is it a coincidence that the author of this blog is from San Antonio…? Maybe – maybe not!)  It was interesting to discover that, in spite of the size difference (San Antonio =1.4M+; Huntsville = 42000+), Texas cities are structured very similarly – we noted the cohesion of department types and office names. 

Mayor Brauninger shared how his career in business was a very different animal than local government, and how he overcame the steep learning curve between the speed of private business and the care needed in the governance of a city. 

Councilmember Joe Rodriquez’s telling of his journey resounded a little more closely with a few of our Hispanic members, who were intrigued by his long history of public service.

Thank you to both Mayor Brauninger and Councilmember Rodriquez, for not only sharing your stories and insight into local governance, but also both for demonstrating such care for community now, and for your military service to our country. More than a few of our group felt inspired, which showed when multiple hands were raised to volunteer to write thank-you cards, the topic on which we closed our evening.

Main Street Sponsors “Touch-A-Truck”

By Jessica Cuevas

After my shift for the Smith-Hutson Scholarship table at Saturday at Sam, I ventured to Huntsville’s downtown square to the Touch-a-Truck event, a community event for “the young at heart” to learn and interact with various commercial drivers and their vehicles, such as a S.W.A.T. truck, police car, fire truck, EMT, commercial trash pick-up, construction trucks and more.

My first stop was the S.W.A.T. truck, the driving factor that brought me out to this event. We had seen the exterior of the truck at our recent tour of the HPD, but I had never seen the interior, where all the gadgets exist.

There was a bit of a line to see the front of the vehicle since that’s where all the children were drawn for the opportunity to press on the two siren buttons. So I saw the inside of the back portion of the vehicle…

…took a seat and took a few photographs from the inside. The inside consisted of two benches for the S.W.A.T. team to sit on when being transported to a scene with just enough space for their equipment and it had two hatches on the roof, that were open for exhibiting purposes.

It was not until I was making line for the front of the vehicle that I discovered Professor Yawn was a few people behind me. I lost my place in line and formed line with him as we talked about what we had both already seen. When it was our turn, I got to sit in the passenger seat and release my inner child as I too pressed on the buttons for the sirens to go off multiple times.

I found that the longer I pressed the button the longer the sirens sounded. They had two different sirens that were extremely loud and obnoxious, especially up close. That fact did not diminish my fascination with them, nor prevent me from pressing the buttons repeatedly.

The buttons, plus the chance to visit again with Corporal Warner, made this a fun part of the visit.

Having had previously seen a firetruck, it was interesting to be able to draw the similarities and differences of a Harris County Firetruck to one of Walker County.

Although I did not see the ladder on the Harris County one, I was amazed to see the 100-foot-tall ladder on the WC firetruck extended on the square where children and adults were posing for photographs.

Next up was the Commercial trash pick-up truck, which at first I did not think would be that interesting, but I was quickly proven wrong when I spoke to Mario. Unlike older trash trucks that needed two individuals to throw the trash in, this one was automatic and picks up the bins with its equipped arm from the local businesses.

Another interesting fact that I found out was that they come equipped with a GPS screen that organizes all their stops into the best and more efficient route for them, and if another stop gets added it will create a new route for them. They even have cameras that will take pictures at each of their stops to track where they have been.

All in all I had a good time and was able to see and interact with community members such as Tammy Gann the city’s Economic Development Director…

…and Corporal Warner from the Huntsville Police Department.

As the event came to an end, I helped the Mainstreet Manager Annel Guadalupe and Molli Thompson-the Mainstreet Intern, clean up, bring down their tent, and carry items up to their office.

If you were unable to make it out this year, I encourage you to participate at the next Touch-a-Truck!

A Tour of Economic Systems

Jessica Cuevas

On the evening of September 23rd, the LEAP Center took four students to see the authors of Socialism Sucks: Two Economists Drink Their Way Through the Unfree World, Benjamin Powell and Robert Lawson, in College Station. This event, sponsored by the Texas A&M’s Private Enterprise Research Center, was held in the Annenberg Auditorium.

Powell and Lawson gave a presentation of the impact socialism has on our everyday lives. They started by defining socialism as a “collective ownership of means of production” and then proceeded to discuss why the countries they visited are or are not socialist.

To our amusement, their reoccurring theme was about the quality of beer or lack of beer in each of the countries. Sweden had good beer, Venezuela had run out of beer, Cuba had beer but only two types of which they did not like the flavor, Korean beer was toxic, Chinese beer was good, and Georgia (the country) has better wine.

The first of the countries was Sweden, which they deemed not socialist since they had private property and a free market.

Next up, was Venezuela which they titled as “starving socialism” ever since Hugo Chavez came into power. Where we also learned that all Venezuelans must travel to Columbia to purchase just about anything.  However, Venezuelans are not allowed to travel by car but must walk on foot across the border.

Cuba was deemed subsistence socialism since all state-owned buildings, such as hotels, stores, and restaurants (even the private ones) operated at the minimum and lacked options due to their limited chain of supply.

We even learned that their 1950s cars sell for 15K, which is absurd and unreal since those cars no longer exist in the United States. It is hard to imagine that an 80-year-old car could be worth much of anything if it isn’t an antique in prestige condition, but for Cubans, a car like that is their most valuable asset.

Korea was categorized as dark socialism, China as fake socialism-trying to be totalitarian while having economic freedom, Russia and Ukraine as hung-over socialism–by which they mean that private property was reestablished and operates without a central plan but still suffering the effects from socialism, and the former Soviet Republic of Georgia is capitalist.

Their presentation was followed up with a short Q&A session…

…and as they wrapped it up, we walked up to them and thanked them for this amusing but informational presentation. They were even kind enough to allow us to take a picture with them.

We then continued our night by strolling the beautiful grounds of the Bush Center where we saw President George H.W. Bush’s Presidential Library…

… a sculpture dedicated in his honor, the rose garden and presidential pond, the Bush Family’s Gravesite…

…and the inspirational quote on one of the exterior walls of the Presidential Library.

With the night still being young, we ventured on to a nearby local restaurant, Tanaka Ramen. Our dinner consisted of their chicken and beef bun…

…Tempura Brussel Sprouts…


…Tanaka Chicken, Tanaka Classic, and the Tanaka Spicy Miso.

It blew the mind of at least one LEAP Ambassador…

While we all enjoyed our bowls of ramen, we could not leave without having some of their delicious mochi treats.

The most popular flavor was mango out of our other two options, chocolate, and red bean.

It was a great treat on a night that was also a treat, for reasons of fellowship, food, and education.

JCPenney Suit Up

September 12, 2021

Yvette Mendoza

LEAP Ambassadors get suited up at the JCPenney sale event hosted by Sam Houston State University’s Career Success Center. Jessica and I were ready to buy an array of clothes and shoes for business attire at a 30% off discounted price, only for students! We came in hoping we would get good deals on the clothes we wanted, and we both can agree we came out satisfied. The suit-up event was well organized and had a great selection to choose from.

As we walked in, we signed in at a table that had an array of prizes for giveaways and goodie bags.

Our baggies contained a 30% and a 20% off coupon as well as some snacks and water. We were extremely eager to begin shopping and to see who would win the prizes during our time there.

As we walked through the store, we searched for what was only under the racks that had a “suit up event” sign. The first section we stopped at we absolutely loved since it offered a variety of slacks and blouses.  Jessica and I even got matching blouses and found the perfectly fitted slacks for each other.

Continuing our shopping adventure, we saw nicely fitted blazers where Jessica found the perfect one for her.

Our final stop was at the shoe section, and it was so hard to choose without buying more than one pair, but Jessica and I found the right pair of heels for us that fit each of our styles.

At last, we couldn’t leave without trying on our amazing finds in the fitting room. Where we began to select the perfect buy for us, despite us knowing that we loved almost every outfit we chose. As we checked out, we had huge smiles on our faces knowing we added nice pieces to our LEAP-business attire wardrobe. Although we didn’t win any giveaway prizes it was more of a prize to be able to know we got suited up at such a great price!

Leap Leads: Week Two

Morgan Robertson

September 20, 2021

The LEAP LEADs members met for the second time this past Monday, to learn more about the Texas Tribune Festival, the counties structure, professional development, and organization.

We began our night with some icebreakers lead by LEAP Ambassador, Yvette Mendoza, to learn more about our fellow members in LEAP LEADs. Some of the answers surprised us but were very intriguing!

Secondly, members were presented a puzzle by Professor Yawn, which we were unable to figure out without assistance. Many of our guesses (embarrassingly) looked something like this.

With all members having passes to the Texas Tribune Festival, it made sense to watch the opening remarks (Here Come the Judges) and learn how to navigate the website. Professor Yawn briefly explained how counties operate, and what a County Judge does. We were then able to hear from the County Judges from the five largest counties in Texas, who discussed current events and issues. Students were then instructed to select other programs and be prepared to comment and discuss at our next meeting.

On a more organizational side, Students learned how to create an alias, add an email signature (and more importantly, remove a generated email signature).

Ms. Stephanie Fors also instructed us on email etiquette, and how to best present oneself via email. Students asked situational based questions to gain a better understanding of how to become or stay organized.

We had an informational evening packed with a lot of fun!

LEAP Leads: Day One

September 7, 2021

Jessica Cuevas

The newly selected LEAP LEADs group had their first meeting of the semester at the Sam Houston Walker Education Center. LEAP LEADs is a program designed to help connect students with the community and to assist in developing our professional and social skills through engagement in diverse opportunities.

In this meeting, we had the pleasure of hosting Officer Butterworth from the Sam Houston University Police Department

…who gave us advice on how to interact with an officer through a couple of different simulations, where students volunteered.

Before Officer Butterworth arrived, each one of us introduced ourselves to the group and shared what we hope to get out of this program. In LEAP, we are always open to new experiences, whether it may be trying new foods or restaurants, and cultures through art, music, etc.–which ties in perfectly with dinner that evening since we had a Salvadorian Cuisine from El Carbonero. The plates varied from chicken, beef tacos, plantains, rice, charro beans, Cajun pasta, pupusas, and cheese enchiladas. It was a delightful cuisine and potentially a first timer for many of us.

Upon Officer Butterworth’s arrival, Professor Yawn…

…passed the baton to him to help us answer and inform us more about the law enforcement agencies in Huntsville. As a collective group, we were able to name a few such as UPD, HPD, Parks & Wildlife (state & federal in Huntsville), Sheriff and Deputies, Constables, and TDCJ – Prison Patrol. Office Butterworth then filled in the rest of the existing law enforcement agencies in Huntsville which include the Walker County Environmental cop (in charge of sewage, littering, etc.), the District Attorney and investigators, Texas Ranger (one left in Huntsville), Child Protection Services, and Fire Marshalls. Officer Butterworth, an alumni from Sam Houston State University, has been a cop in Huntsville since 2012 and has been involved with LEAP for over five to six years now.  

The main topics that Officer Butterworth discussed with us were public intoxication, driving under the influence, minor possession-contribution, and noise complaints.

These happen to be the most common issues that the UPD deals with when it comes to college students. When educating us about what it means to be a minor in possession, such a charge may involve a student simply guarding or holding a cup for a friend while they go to the restroom. For the other topics he had students volunteer in a scenario where a student has been pulled over.

For this scenario, Mario Ocampo volunteered and answered questions such as what you would do if a police officer turned on their lights? Where would you pull over? What to do while you wait for the officer to approach you? And such.

Another scenario that he presented to us were different types of field sobriety tests, such as the heel to toe walk and keeping one leg above the ground. Two of the LEAP Leads members, Madison Brashear, and Yvette Mendoza, volunteered to do a mock field sobriety test. Now, you would think that it was to be easily done except they did all of this with a twist, they had “beer goggles” on!

Meanwhile they volunteered to do the field sobriety tests, the rest of us watched and got to witness what Officers see when they pull over someone who is intoxicated, and it was amusing to see!

On behalf of LEAP LEADs I would like to thank Officer Butterworth for coming to speak to us and doing so in an interactive way through Q&As and “simulations.” We learned a lot about police interactions and their way of thinking as they approach a situation as I am sure Officer Butterworth learned from us about the student’s point of view. Thank you to Officer Butterworth for keeping our campus and community safe!

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!