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!

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.

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.

Top of the World in Nashville: Day 5

July 11, 2021

Morgan Robertson

Once again, waking up to a rainy morning, the LEAP Ambassadors made their way to join the next bus of SLC attendees headed towards the TN State Museum and the local Farmers market. 

The Nashville farmers market brings aspects of a traditional market setting and scenes of trendy modern aspects. Greeted by the “I heart NASH” sign, we took advantage of the photo-op and posed with our first Nashville sign.

The first room we entered resembled a food court type area full of enticing smells.

Almost magnetically drawn to the nearest coffee vendor, we begin to look over the menu of Farm City Coffee. As opposed to a traditional coffee house, the coffees and blends seemed to represent local and floral flavors. Yvette got some bubble tea.

The coffee and tea were nice additions to the afternoon as we continued to explore around the rest of the market. 

The Exterior market resembled a more traditional look, with a pitched tent covering the different tables adorned with homegrown and homemade goods, it was difficult to not stop and smell or gaze at everything. Booths ranging from veggies, to handcrafted jewelry, candles, soaps, and pottery; there were choices for everyone. 

Rounding out of adventure, we stopped at a local ice cream joint, Jeni’s, for a sweet treat. Again the flavors seemed to represent the local feel and personality of Nashville. The homemade waffle cones became a favorite at the table, which surprised members who usually prefer cups to cones. Our flavor choices ranged from brambleberry, rocketpop (blueberry and pineapple), wild lavender, salted caramel, and peanut butter. 

Pressed for time, we absorbed all that we could and made our way back, leaving the farmers market with light and fresh spirits. 

Of course, we also spent some time at the state historical museum, which was nice because we had all visited the Bullock Museum in Texas, giving us a limited chance to compare the venues.

TN has a rich history, much like Texas. In fact, many of those histories overlap. We were provided an overview of TN history….

…that ranged from the first people in TN…

…to the modern day. Along the way, of course, we learned about pioneers…

…Andy Jackson (building on our trip to the Hermitage)…

…President James Polk (under whose Presidency Texas was admitted to the Union)….

…state heroes such as Alvin York; the unfortunate Jim Crow era, which afflicted much or all of the south…

…and even more about the great Sam Houston!

It was a nice museum, with the opportunity for much learning!

Pucketts BBQ

Yvette Mendoza

Coming from Texas we sure know BBQ is a phenomenon so of course we decided to give another southern state a try. At Nashville’s local Puckett’s the busy downtown scene seemed to filter over into the restaurant itself. Morgan and Ms. Stephanie went to pick up the food, to eat back at the hotel for a quieter lunch. With high expectations we opened the to-go boxes and gave Tennessee BBQ a try.  Eating southern classics gave us an opportunity to try pulled pork, philly cheese steak, and chicken salad on a sourdough bun.

As for our sides, everyone went with boring french fries, but I decided to try the coleslaw and the skillet mac and cheese, which were both creamy and filling by itself.

With each menu item being appetizing, we found the Nashville HOT BBQ sauce gave us the true taste of Tennessee. The BBQ at Puckett’s can definitely hold its own compared to Texas BBQ, but as for the 3 Texans we sure do love our BBQ.  

Family Night at TopGolf

Jessica Cuevas

All LEAP Ambassadors have had different experiences at playing golf, with me having the skills of a novice: this would be my first time, not only at a Top Golf, but also playing golf in general. Yvette, whose skills were more advanced than mine, taught me the “proper” way to hold a golf club, how far back to swing and stand from the tee, and even about the different types of clubs.

They have clubs for right and left-handed people and ones specifically for men or women. The golf clubs range from irons, which are better for short distances, to woods, which are recommended for longer distances.

Our first round was for us to practice hitting the balls and for me to get an idea of how to play before participating in a competitive manner. I used the 8-iron golf club, 3 hybrid, and the 3 wood to get a feel of different clubs but found the hybrid and wood more efficient.

Once everyone got in a few practice shots, the real game began. Yvette, Morgan, and I to just play for fun, but we all knew we were “secretly” playing to outdo the others.

We cheered each other on for hitting the ball, which as a novice was an accomplishment in itself, and when we hit the red, yellow, and green nets. My first round was the best out of the two, call it beginner’s luck, since I placed second with 31 points, 18 points more than my score on the second round. Morgan’s best round was also the first, with 50 points, and Yvette’s best round was the second where she scored about 40 points. Ms. Stephanie scored the highest of us all, leaving us impressed with her golfing skills.

Before we had our own bay to play at, we had delightful Tex-Mex cuisine with chicken or steak fajitas, white cilantro rice, and black beans, with a variety of sides to add on ranging from shredded cheese, red garden salsa, creamy queso, guacamole, sour cream and much more.

There were even donut holes that you could inject different fillings such as raspberry syrup and chocolate chip cookies for dessert–all of which satisfied our sweet tooth.

Family night at TopGolf was much more fun than I would have anticipated, and we all had a good time. We met two couples, one of whom played golf with us. Their jobs ranged from elected official (state representative) to business owners, and they were all nice and companionable. This, along with the fun and food, made for a very successful night.