Month: September 2018

Culinary arts program adds new flavor to educational options

The new Culinary Arts program recently opened its classroom doors and welcomed its first batch of students at the Lubbock Center campus.

The Culinary Arts program offers two types of certificates, the associate certificate and the certificate program.

“The certificate program helps people who want to get in and move forward,” says Chef Patrick Ramsey, Culinary Arts executive chef and program specialist at SPC. “Once you graduate, you will get five certificates, you’ll get the basic certificate, advanced certificate, baking and cooking certificate, bar manager certificate, and a purchasing certificate. So, whether you pick the certificate program or the associate program, when you walk out of here you have a lot of knowledge and credentials.”

The Culinary Arts program at the Lubbock Center campus has four labs which mirror each other, each one having their own cooking lines, and two specialty labs, baking, and meat cutting.

IMG_8290“We built this culinary lab to help people pursue their culinary dreams, or even for the people who are just wanting to try it,” Chef Ramsey said. “They get a lot of hands-on time, more table time, more cook time. Because as much as cooking has academics involved in it, cooking is a hands-on skill. You have to know what a proper steak feels like when it’s done. It’s very tactile.”

 Since the program welcomed its first 54 students on Aug. 27, it has been “fast and furious,” according to Chef Natalie Osuna, Culinary Arts program developer.

“We hit the ground running,” said Chef Osuna, “both the students and the staff.”  

A third instructor was added recently, as Austin McManus joined the program two days into the semester.

“That was a difficult week for an instructor to join,” said Chef Osuna. “But he did a fantastic job, and continues to do a fantastic job for us.”

“As far as the first two weeks in, I did anticipate for students to be excited and eager, and that’s really encouraging for us,” added Chef Osuna. “We are still working on students doing their Pearson software homework, but we are building on that and trying to give every student every resource possible for their success.”

Guadalupe Macias, a student at South Plains College who is in the new program, said, “The program is great, and I will get to do a lot of hands-on. Chef Osuna, Chef Ramsey, and Chef Austin are all very skilled and wonderful chefs that I think are going to make this a wonderful experience.”

“I believe the class will certainly help students get jobs,” he added, “because they offer internships, and if they do really good in their time there, you might be employed once you finish your career.”

Chef Ramsey explained that there are people on the program’s advisory committee who are wanting to hire their students right now. He also explained that, after the students graduate, if they want to work at Costco, they would get paid $16 to $17 an hour because of the number of certificates the students will have.

“People think that we just cook all the time and that it’s an easy class,” Macias said. “But let me tell you, it’s not. We go in depth about various things like the sanitation, hospitality, and management of the culinary industry.” IMG_8335

Chef Ramsey explained about the Culinary Arts program, “We are teaching academics, and there is a lot of knowledge that comes with being a qualified chef and an entry-level chef, such as knife safety skills, knife cuts, terminology, all the different things that go into it. Students don’t just come in and eat banana pudding all day long. We’re teaching the cooking language, we’re teaching an art form. We’re teaching a passion.”

That is what anyone who is passionate about cooking wants to hear. Macias said he is in the program because of his passion for cooking.

Chef Osuna said students in the program will also learn the discipline it takes to succeed in college, as well as in the industry.  

“I think students coming in from secondary education, high school, coming in to post-secondary, it’s a whole new world for them,” explained Chef Osuna, “and I understand that, we understand that, and there’s a lot to learn versus high school. Coming into college-level courses and college level expectations from instructors, discipline is a big part of it.”

“The students coming out are going to have the culinary skills and the baking skills, along with purchasing and restaurant skills, that is going to set them apart in the real world in Lubbock and surrounding area,” she added.

 There also are plans to offer culinary classes for community members in the future.

 “We are planning on starting those up in the summer months for people in the community of Lubbock that are interested in brushing up on their culinary skills, baking skills, or just learning a specific herbs and sauces class,” Chef Osuna said. “I mean the sky’s the limit. We have the facilities to do anything under the culinary and baking umbrella, and so we anticipate that being a lot of fun for the community and also a lot of fun for us. So I’m looking forward to that.”

Fitzgerald named dean of dual enrollment, distance education

Ryan Fitzgerald is helping thousands of high school students in his new role.

Fitzgerald recently was announced as the new Dean of Dual Enrollment and Distance Education, adding to his previous responsibilities.

Fitzgerald got his bachelor’s degree in Government from Stephen F. Austin University, while double minoring in International Studies and Anthropology, in 2011. In the fall of 2012, he continued his education at Texas Tech University by entering into the PhD program in Political Science, then received his master’s degree in 2015.

“I got my master’s degree,” Fitzgerald explained, “then I decided that I wanted to move on and do something else. I didn’t want to spend anymore time dissertating and researching. Then I was hired on here at South Plains College.”

Fitzgerald has work for SPC since July 2014. He started out working in the research office as a research assistant. He was promoted to Director of Institutional Research and Reports in 2015, before taking on the role of Dean of Dual Enrollment and Distance Education in August of 2018. In addition to his new responsibilities, he will continue his role of director of the Research Office. Fitzgerald said it has all just been a huge progression.

“I love the job,” Fitzgerald said. “I’ve always been passionate about dual credit. Because that’s where I got my start with college courses. I took dual credit when I was in high school. That’s where I found my interest in Government, before I even got to college and decided that’s what I wanted to do.”

Fitzgerald explained that his job is extremely fast-paced, but that he enjoys the challenge and the opportunities. He also said dual credit enrollment for the college is the highest it has been in four or five years.

“We want to grow our dual credit program,” said Fitzgerald. “This spring semester, we are going to start offering CTE, which means technical courses, at the dual credit level. So we’ll be able to offer more welding classes, a couple of different courses. We’ll be offering a whole variety, auto body, auto mechanics. So that’s a huge initiative. We’re thinking that we could possibly get another 500-plus students in the spring for that.’

Fitzgerald says he wants the dual credit program at SPC to stay hands-on and personal with high school counselors. He wants the program to grow, but foresees difficulties with keeping a personal feel with more than 4,000 students. He puts importance on still keeping up with their counselors and advising students.

The dual credit program is also moving a lot of classes online. Fitzgerald wants to be doing more with learning technologies and new platforms. He explained that Blackboard offers a whole new set of tools and software, and other opportunities, that they don’t yet take advantage of.

“What I tell everybody is that the two biggest topics in education in Texas today are dual credit and distance education,” said Fitzgerald. “And I’m just lucky I get to kind of front both of those efforts for the college.”

Fitzgerald also teaches an evening government course at the Reese Center campus.

“I don’t have to do it,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m lucky that they let me. Shout out to Laura Graves and Angela Roberts for allowing me to do it, and asking me to come back and do it, because I love teaching. I think, as an administrator, I need to stay in touch with students and the classroom. I think that it’s an important thing to do. So being able to teach that course, even if I teach that course with just 15 kids in it, it’s something.”

Fitzgerald explains that because the class is an evening course, most of his students aren’t the typical fresh-out-of-high-school students. Most all of them work, a lot of them have children, and a lot of them are nontraditional in terms of age.

“So they have other things on their plate besides just ‘I go to school and am a full time student,’” Fitzgerald added. “Well, no they’re not. They’re doing tons of other things. So anytime I can help them out and make that process easier, and help them get through school at the same time, that’s what I’m here for.” 

Alexander named new executive director of Lubbock Center

Benjamin Alexander says his vision for South Plains College is to see students become successful and to share his love for education with others.

At the beginning of the 2018 fall semester, he was appointed as the new Executive Director at the Lubbock Center. By offering new opportunities, Alexander helps students have a positive outlook towards education.  

Alexander, a Lubbock native, graduated from Estacado High School in 1983. After graduating, he went on to attend a community college, Western Texas College, located in Snyder, Texas.

“I attended college as an afterthought when my art teacher encouraged me to apply for a scholarship and capitalize my artistic talent,” Alexander recalls. “She deposited into me and got me vested in higher education.”

Ben Alexander DowntownAfter completing two semesters at Western Texas College, he transferred to Texas Tech University in 1984, majoring in Design Communication. Later on, he decided to change his major to general studies and centered his focus on Art, Humanities, and Communication.

After graduating from Texas Tech, Alexander began working in merchandising at a distribution center, US Foodservice. He worked for that company for 17 years before deciding that it was time to venture back to TTU, where he later earned a bachelor’s degree in Educational Counseling and business. From there, Alexander decided to switch his profession from business to education. “I switched to the ED position because it was a natural fit for me,” Alexander said.

He recalls that he also took the skills he developed while working for US Foodservice and applied them to his own business, which happens to be education.

For 12 years, Alexander served as an academic and career advisor at the SPC Reese Center campus prior to accepting the new position.

In 2006, Alexander used his counseling education and business background to become a career counselor at SPC. He also taught career development and human development classes as an adjunct instructor.

Alexander says that he had “worked with various SPC program departments and offered career development workshops.” He helped many students with resume writing, interviewing, and job readiness.

Alexander worked with the Levelland Economic Development Association to bring in industry leaders that looked to hire SPC students.  He coordinated hiring workshops for specific industries, from Law Enforcement to Industrial Manufacturing to Allied Health, that was all used to help expose students and to offer more job opportunities for them.

“The South Plains College Lubbock Center is strategically located in central Lubbock to provide work-ready skills for businesses through hands-on Workforce Development classes and skills specific to industry,” he said. “The center prepares students with job-ready certificates and or/associate’s degrees from Technical Education programs in Automotive, Welding, Machinist Trades, and now the new Culinary Arts program.”

Alexander also operated Mad Science from 2006 to 2010. He employed college students who majored in education to facilitate the programs they offered. He also worked as a Youth Services Coordinator for three years.  Ben WES_0696

After accepting the promotion to the executive director, Alexander shares that his vision for the Lubbock Center is to exist and operate as one unit of SPC where “we serve students and help to make dreams proceed to reality.”

By providing science enrichment programs to schools and accepting the position as Executive director, Alexander hopes to continue to follow the vision of the college, “helping dreams become a reality” for individuals. He hopes to seek out the needs of the Workforce community and to continue to help expand the workforce component of SPC.

Gerstenbergers honored at hall dedication ceremony

After 60 years of dedicating their lives to South Plains College, Earl and June Gerstenberger recently were honored with the dedication of Gerstenberger Hall.

The South Plains College Board of Regents and administration hosted the dedication ceremony on Sept. 7. More than 175 members of the Levelland community, along with friends and family of the Gerstenbergers, were in attendance. The dedication was followed by a ribbon cutting and a reception for the honorees.

Earl Gerstenberger was one of the first faculty members to be hired at SPC. He was a former Blinn College agriculture and science instructor, as well as a football coach, before moving to Levelland. He taught agriculture at SPC from 1958 to 1969, then served as Dean of Men from 1967 to 1973. In 1973, he was became Dean of Students, a position he held until 1982, when he became vice president of academic affairs before retiring in 1993.

June Gerstenberger joined the SPC staff in 1967 as secretary to the Registrar. She spent 26 years assisting SPC students in the registrar’s office, and then later worked in Financial Aid, Special Services and the Business Office.

The Board of Regents passed a resolution on May 10, 2018 to change the name of the college’s newest student residence facility from Southwest Hall to Gerstenberger Hall.

“Everyone of our residence halls is named after a significant contributor to South Plains College,” explained Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of SPC. “We had one residence hall left, Southwest Hall, that didn’t have a name.”

Dr. Satterwhite said that he and the regents started to have a decision-making conversation on naming Southwest after Earl and June Gerstenberger, because they were significant members of the original SPC family.

“We started asking around, and every single community member, faculty member and staff afterwards said that this is the best decision we could possibly make,” Dr. Satterwhite said.

IMG_3626Earl Gerstenberger responded to the dedication by thanking the college and regents, and shared stories of  his time at SPC.

“Thank you all for coming,” said Gerstenberger. “It’s a wonderful experience. It’s very difficult to explain. But to June and I, this is a very emotional time, and we have so much love and understanding between all of these people and all of you. We are just so grateful.”

Gerstenberger Hall is located at South College Avenue and J.V. Morton Drive, across from Tubb Hall. Earl Gerstenberger explained that the great thing about the dedication to him is that he and Nathan Tubb, the college’s first registar who later served as  the academic dean from 1965 to 1981, have not only been associated in the past 60 years, but are going to be neighbors, in a way, forever.

“We feel overwhelmed,” said June Gerstenberger. “There have been so many people that have done so much, and we are grateful.”

Earl Gerstenberger explained that the naming of the residence hall is something that is “a legacy from the past and now and into the future. It’s long lasting, and that’s tremendous.”

Regents discuss fall enrollment, coding acadamy

Enrollment, a new coding academy, and an update on bringing the CDL truck driving program back were among the topics discussed during the September meeting of the  South Plains College Board of Regents.

Dr. Stan DeMerritt, vice president of student affairs, presented the Fall 2018 enrollment. The total unduplicated headcount is at 9,300, 28 students fewer than a year ago. The Levelland Campus enrollment is 4,187, which is 24 less students than in 2017. The Reese Center campus has an enrollment of 2,210, 418 fewer students from last year. The Lubbock Center has 1,054, an increase of 270 students, and Plainview’s enrollment is 328, 24 less students from Fall 2017.

“For 2018, Dual Credit, Internet, and ITV all get counted into Levelland,” added Dr. DeMerritt. “That would total 9,165, compared to 2017 of 8,909. That’s up 256 from last year for Levelland, or 2.8 percent over 2017. That gain for Levelland is in the dual credit zone right there, as well as an increase of students across the Internet versus ITV.”

The total contact hours for SPC for Fall 2018 is 2,111,264. That is an increase of 167,696 hours over last year, or an 8.6 percent increase.

“So that’s very, very significant, because our funding comes off of these contact hours,” Dr. DeMerritt said. “A significant increase of that is from dual credit. We gained over 200 dual credit students. Most of those students are taking six or more hours of dual credit. Another significant increase is on the Levelland side, as science courses are all capped out. We’ve added more and more sections. But we can’t add any more sections because we have zero room in science.”

The Levelland contact hours total for 2018 is 1,556,017 hours, which is 77.73 percent of all contact. Compared to 2017, that would be 1,362,000, or a 14.2 percent increase over last year on contact hours.

Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of SPC, said, “Having this increase in contact hours enrollment is really phenomenal. This is outstanding news, 15.1 percent. That means we’ve got a lot more full-time students, we have fewer part timers and fewer students taking a small number of hours, and more taking more hours. And that’s what creates the successful student. That’s what we want. That’s the student we could possibly get.”

Dr. Ryan Gibbs, vice president for academic affairs, presented an update on the CDL truck driving school. SPC has been looking for a vendor to continue the truck driving training program that abruptly ended last year when the previous vendor pulled out at the end of the semester.

“We have asked for opinions from insurance and also from legal opinions on the contract,” Dr. Gibbs explained. “We are working through the contract and through purchasing here at the college. We hope to be wrapped up with that and bring it for the Board before our next meeting in October.”

SPC has given the potential vendor a tour of the Reese Center campus, where the program will be held.

“I think they were giddy, to say the least, about their potential for that facility to meet the needs of what their curriculum is, and also the needs for professional CDL drivers in this area,” Dr. Gibbs said. “It is a workforce development training course, but we can collect contact hours.”

Dr. Gibbs also presented plans for a Coding Academy that SPC, Texas Tech University and Lubbock Economic Development Alliance have been developing for the past 10 months. A coding academy is a shortened programing course to teach students how to write programing language for computers.
“What they do is they get them ready and prepared for the workforce in a truncated amount of time,” Dr. Gibbs explained. “I believe it’s nine weeks is the program we’re looking at. We have entered into negotiations of a contract with Austin Coding Academy out of Austin. We let them know that Austin Coding Academy is not a good name to have in this part of the country, and they have decided that it will be called Lubbock Coding Academy.”

According to Dr. Gibbs, the South Plains region has a growing IT industry. The IT industry is expected to continue to grow because companies are moving away from the high cost of living in California and Austin. They will also have access to the infrastructure needed to run an IT company on the South Plains.

“There’s a need for coders,” said Dr. Gibbs, “and this academy is going to start to meet that need. The goal is to start classes in January. My goal is to bring the contract for the next meeting. There’s a lot of pieces left to this one. We just started the negotiations, but I think we can get it done. Both of these programs are going to be high volume and produce a lot of graduates.”

The coding academy will have a flipped class environment, with most of the work done at home online. The class will meet twice a week for a two-hour time slot to work through problems and issues. They will also provide one-on-one tutoring to students who need help.

“They provide a lot of support for the students,” Dr. Gibbs said. “The best way to learn coding is to do it, and do it a lot, and that’s what they do. The first day they’re in there, they start coding. The idea is to teach classes of 20 students at a time, to keep a good student to teacher ratio. The idea is to do two sections of 20 every nine weeks.”

Professor applies unique method of helping students toward independence

It’s hard to miss an instructor wearing a kilt on the first day of class.

Brant Farrar, associate professor of Sociology at South Plains College, attended Wellman High School, before coming to Levelland to attend SPC. He later dropped out, but “came back with a vengeance,” according to Farrar.

After his time at SPC, he graduated grudgingly and went went on to attend Angelo State University, where he attained the opportunity to study abroad. He found his heritage in Scotland, along with a kilt, clan, and a part of himself.

Farrar, pronounced “Fair-Ra”, is proud of his many traveling experiences in and out of the country with his wife and son. However, that is not the only thing that defines him. Many interests and hobbies he enjoys include reading graphic novels, spending time with family, and tattoos.IMG_8645

Farrar takes pride in his ability to be himself and be proud of who he is, along with keeping an open mind to others and himself. His tattoos are his way of treating himself, but also something to tell his story and visualize his identity as much as his experiences. In the classroom, Farrar wants to help students just as his instructors helped him during his time at SPC.

For many years, Farrar was undecided about a career, even thinking he wanted to be a social worker at one point. But he soon found out that wasn’t his calling either. He realized he couldn’t handle the tragedy and heartache that came with the job.

“Dealing with the abuse in such a real way was too much for me,” he explained.

Farrar says, “When students die, I take that to heart. . . . How I deal with tragedy, I lean on my friends and my co-workers, and I talk to them about these things, . . . That family kicks in here at South Plains College.”

Along the way, Farrar dabbled in many things, including photography and art. But his love for teaching won out during his time spent as a teaching assistant in math at Texas Tech University. Some time later, he took a Calculus II class, which he dropped, and picked up a sociology class.

Farrar says that he takes pride in his curiosity, because it’s who he is. He asks the hard, uncomfortable, and “dirty” questions. His curiosity is what makes all his classes interesting, because not only does he want to question, but he also wants to be questioned. He encourages curiosity in class and makes the classroom uncomfortable.

“Comfortable is not good,” Farrar said. “Comfortable is just that it’s easy. Comfortable doesn’t move you forward. Comfortable doesn’t cause you growth.”

By making the classroom uncomfortable, it also allows the students to be free to be themselves, according to Farrar. This teaching method allows students to be independent individuals with their own stories, past, and future.

“I’m trying to teach you to make your own choices, because I can’t make them for you,” Farrar says.

While teaching, Farrar still makes time for his passions, including his part in SpeCtra, also known as the LGBTQIA+ community. Being a part of this group is life-changing, he says.

“A lot of people come from really small schools and have never ever experienced affirmation,” explained Farrar. “They have never had anybody say, ‘You’re OK, you’re good, we want you to be a part of this.”

This group is a very important part of Farrar’s life and takes up a lot of time. However, it gives him a chance to work with students, and, as Farrar puts it, “Help them do their thing.”

IMG_8675Because of his past and the way he has been defined by how he looks or has seen others be defined by how they look, Farrar understands and is relatable to his students.

Farrar uses a poem, “Famous,” by Naomi Shihab Nye, to express what he wants in life, which is to stay exactly where he is now.

“I have no desire to work anywhere else, to work any other position,” Farrar says. “I don’t want to do anything else other than this. Essentially, this is my philosophy, . . . I believe I am doing what I am supposed to do. I want to stay here until I die or retire, and hopefully I retire.”

Most people have that one thing that gets them out of bed.

“I have the ability to change lives every day,” explains Farrar. “Something I say could have meaning and change their life, or it could save their life.”

“I am a Christian, and doing love, loving people, is what being Christian is, and if I missed that opportunity to be able to help somebody have a better life, then I have done a disservice to myself and to those individuals,” he added.

Alum expresses fondness for home away from home

From the beginning, Stephanie Smith always knew that South Plains College would be her home away from home.

Her journey began when she graduated from Levelland High School in 2009, and went on to attended South Plains College from Fall 2009 to Spring 2011. While she attended SPC, she started off as an English major and became a work-study student in the office of Marketing and Recruitment during her freshman and sophomore years.

While focusing on her studies, Smith had always found a way to be involved with campus activities and continued to encourage the people around her daily.

“I really want to drive in that I completely believe that SPC changes lives,” Smith said, “This is a place where students can develop into who they are meant to be.”

During her time at SPC, Smith was a member of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, served as Terrible Tex, the mascot, and was a member of Campus Ambassadors. She also received the Lena Roettig English Scholarship Award, and participated in the Miss Caprock Scholarship Pageant.

Smith recalls that she spent many late nights studying at the Student Center with her brother, as well as playing ping pong in between classes for fun.

Smith graduated from SPC in May 2011 with her Associate of Science degree. She then continued her education at Texas Tech University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Public Relations in 2014.

Smith said that she considered working in non-profit PR during her senior year of college because she felt that is where she belonged and would have the strongest impact.

During that time, she called Myrna Whitehead, the media coordinator at SPC, looking for an internship to have some experience in that field. She would travel from Lubbock a few times a week to help around the office. She said that being a part of that internship has helped her strengthen the skills she needed as a writer.

While interning, Smith got word from other co-workers that they were starting up an Alumni Relations Office, and she knew where she was meant to be. “Prior to me working here, this office didn’t exist,” Smith said. “So, when I heard about it, I was excited, because SPC is so important to me and I love this place.”

Smith immediately made it known that she was interested in the job and began an intense interview process. She got the job and started working as the Alumni Coordinator at SPC in 2014.

Smith explained that what she loves most about SPC is that “the physical aspect of the campus may change; however, the culture here and the way that things [have always felt] like home, hasn’t changed.”

Smith also says that before being involved, she was very introverted. But once she began

working in the Marketing and Recruitment office, in addition to participating in other activities around campus, everything compiled together and Smith brought her out of her shell.

Throughout her time in high school and college, Smith discovered that she enjoyed photography as a hobby. In her free time, Smith ends up at different shows or gigs in support of her friends and significant other to take photos of their performances.

She also finds joy with writing in her spare time, even though she writes quite a bit as part of her job. She likes to write things such as helping with writing biographies and a little bit of poetry.

Smith also stays involved in the Levelland community as a member of a women’s service group, Marigolds of Levelland. The goal of this volunteer group is to ultimately serve the Levelland community.

Smith knows that with all the activities going on in her life, it is important to have a healthy balance between her job and things she enjoys doing for fun.

“I really do love this place,” Smith says. “It really is a second home to me, and it always will be. I’ve been really blessed in my career, and overall, working here has been really fun.”

Nursing student perseveres despite uphill battle

Daphne Sonnenburg demonstrates an incredible amount of effort while reaching for her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner.

Sonnenburg grew up in Pasadena, Texas, before moving to Lake Charles, Louisiana with her dad for work reasons. She attended Sam Rayburn High School in 1995 for one year, before she had to drop out due to an unexpected pregnancy.

For a few years, Sonnenburg focused on her family life, while still making time to study for her G.E.D., which she earned at 17. She was expecting her second child when she found out her expected baby was diagnosed with Osteogenesis imperfecta, or, brittle bone disease, which made every one of his bones soft enough to break during delivery.

Sonnenburg had trouble keeping up with the medical jargon being thrown at her daily. Out of worry for her child, she started hitting the books harder than ever.

I researched everything trying to figure out if there was something I could do, recalls Sonnenburg.

Sonnenburg could be found in the library every day researching her sons disease, familiarizing herself with the terminology, and trying to wrap her head around her parlous situation.

When he was born, recalls Sonnenburg, they didnt even turn the baby warmer on, because they thought he was going to die.

Her son, Cory, was miraculously born without every bone breaking in his body like the doctors expected.

Sonnenburg found her passion waiting for her in the pages of the medical books she had devoted so much time to.

It intrigued me, Sonnenburg explained, and ever since then its been something Ive strived for.

She decided that she wanted to become a nurse, and has lived her life reaching for her goal at every opportunity.

Sonnenburg graduated from the Texas School of Business in Houston with her Certified Medical Assistant in 2001. She went on to receive her Licensed Vocational Nursing Degree from San Jacinto College in 2005. She attended the University of Kentucky in Lexington to pursue her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, before transferring to SPC so she could move with her husband back to Levelland.

My mother-in-law and my father-in-law graduated from SPC, Sonnenburg said. They recommended the college, and both went to get their masters later on.

Sonnenburg said she enjoys the more hands-on approach of many of her professors since transferring.

Because I am an older student, I like the fact that the class sizes are smaller, said Sonnenburg. I like that the instructors seem to understand non-traditional students.

Sonnenburg spends much of her time studying when she is not at work or taking care of her kids. In her free time, she typically has her head in a novel, or is outside playing or watching softball.

Sonnenburg has been juggling work, school, and home responsibilities for years. She says going back to school for her was Intimidating at first, because youre nervous.

You are fixing to walk into a classroom full of freshmen, that just graduated high school, and youve got kids their age, she added. But the main thing to realize is that most of the younger students in the class think that you are the smartest when you are the oldest in the class.

Sonnenburg says she plans on working as a Nurse Practitioner, with her own patient load. She emphasizes wanting to help people with mental health issues.

A major portion of my nursing background is in psychiatric and drug rehab, says Sonnenburg.

Sonnenburg says her friend, Debbie Knock, a registered nurse and the Department Supervisor at Covenant Hospital in Levelland, has encouraged her to never give up.

Debbie Knock is the biggest inspiration, and encouraged me to keep going to school. says Sonnenburg. She always tells me, You can do anything for 13-16 weeks. So, if you tell yourself that for the entire semester, you can do ANYTHING. Thats how she made it through nursing school. Shes my hero.

‘The Meg’ delivers new take on popular movie genere

A massive 75-foot shark approaches a heavily populated beach off the coast of Asia. The beast barrels past a yacht, with passengers watching helplessly as the megalodon wreaks havoc on the innocent beach-gowers.

“The Meg” is packed with thrilling and suspenseful scenes that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats throughout the entire movie.

the-meg-new-posterDirected by Jon Turteltaub, “The Meg” is a movie about a colossal prehistoric shark known as a Megalodon. The movie is set on a high-tech, deep sea research facility submerged on the edge of the Mariana trench. The facility was funded by Jack Morris (Rainn Wilson), an eccentric billionaire.

The facility’s main purpose is to study and possibly find new depths in the ocean floor thought to be hidden under a layer of frozen gas.

The main character, Jonas Taylor (Jason Statham), was a retired deep sea rescuer.  He is brought out of retirement when he was sought out and tasked with a mission to rescue the stranded team.

A team of researchers led by Jonas’ ex-wife Lori (Jessica McNamee) sets off in a deep sea submersible vehicle, reaching the hypothesized layer of gas. The team proceeds and breaks through the layer of gas separating the rest of the ocean from a secluded deep sea environment.

The team is suddenly attacked by a gargantuan creature that abuses and disables their submersible, leaving them stranded at the bottom of the ocean.     

Jonas is recruited by Dr. Minway Zhang (Winston Chao), who is the head scientist on the research facility, and Mac (Cliff Curtis) an old friend.

Jonas believes that a Megalodon is responsible for attacking and disabling the submersible, due to his previous encounter with the beast years before when it attacked a wrecked military submarine and forced him to leave two friends behind.the_meg

Jonas is brought to the research facility where he meets Suyin (BingBing Li), a shark expert who is running the research facility.

While Jonas is rescuing the crew, they are attacked by the Megalodon. Jonas nearly escapes with the crew, but not before releasing the Meg from the icy depths of the trench.

Generally, when people think of a movie with a giant shark, they think of one of the “Jaws” movies, a cliche and poorly developed movie with underdeveloped characters. When a character dies in a “Jaws” movie, it is not really a big deal.

In “The Meg,” the movie and the characters are well developed. The audience can easily connect with the characters. When one gets eaten by the Megaladon, it is sad and feels like a personal loss. When a character sacrifices himself to save the other divers stranded at the bottom of the ocean, it feels like a personal loss.

My favorite scene from the movie is when the team punctures the layer of frozen gas and first sees a completely different world at the bottom of the ocean, one that is untouched by man and has been completely cut off from the rest of the ocean for millions of years. The team drops lights revealing the beautiful landscape at the depths of the ocean.

I give “The Meg” an eight out of 10 for its amazing special effects and the well developed characters.

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ has cliché, repetitive storyline

The most popular movie right now might not be as good as people are saying.

“Crazy Rich Asians” is a romantic/screwball comedy. The movie, which features an all-Asian cast, is about Nick Young, played by Henry Golding, and Rachel Chu, played by Constance Wu, who are dating. Nick grew up in Singapore but moved to New York for a short while. That is where he met Rachel Chu, who grew up in New York and is an economics professor.

Nick’s best friend, Colin Khoo, who is played by Chris Pang, got engaged and is getting married, so he invites Nick to be his best man at his wedding, which is going to be the event of the century. Nick decides this would be the perfect time for Rachel to meet his tough-loving family, so he brings Rachel along with him. However, he fails to tell her anything about his family, leaving Rachel oblivious to what she has coming.

From the very beginning, Nick’s mother, played by actress Michelle Yeoh, does not approve of Rachel because she believes Rachel is not classified on the same society level as her family, the Youngs. In other words, Rachel is not good enough because she is not rich.

While Rachel is battling for the approval of Nick’s mother, she is able to meet up with an old college friend, Goh Peik Lin, played by Awkwafina, who moved back to Singapore after college. Goh Peik Lin helps Rachel build up confidence to keep trying to impress Nick’s mom.  Things end up taking a turn for the worse until the mother comes through.

I watched this movie two times. The first time I watched “Crazy Rich Asians,” I absolutely hated it. I was uncomfortable, stressed, and nervous throughout the movie. I felt like Nick’s mother was degrading me personally, and I had to keep reminding myself that she was not, that it was just a movie.

The mother in the story made me feel insecure about my own life choices, overall, I felt it was too negative. The only part I truly enjoyed was Goh Peik Lin, who was quirky, strange, loving, helpful, bubbly, and funny. She really helped to lift the movie, making it more enjoyable.asians3.0

However, I decided to give the movie a second chance, thinking I might not have liked the movie because I simply do not like stressful negativity. Giving it another go, the second time I watched the movie was a lot better. Knowing about all the negativity helped me to be able to see the comedy in it and laugh a little more.

Even though “Crazy Rich Asians” was better the second time, I felt the movie was dry and repetitive. The only action was the mother hating Rachel, Rachel running to her friend for comfort, and Rachel getting confident to go back to the family, only to run away again. Rachel’s friend was still the best part of the movie to me, seemingly being even more funny the second time around.

Overall, I would still recommend the movie to others, despite my feelings toward it, because most people do not have a problem with negative acting. It has luxurious scenes which everyone loves, and it portrays a royalty feeling.

This movie is based on the book, “Crazy Rich Asians,” written by Keven Kwan. The book is loosely based on the author’s childhood in Singapore. Kwan ended up writing two more books, continuing the story, called “China Rich Girlfriend” and “Rich People Problems.”

I give the movie three stars out of five, because I found the movie to be too negative. Everyone was trying to prove something to someone while at the same time everyone was trying to tear someone else down.

New ‘Destiny 2’ expansion revives expectations for fans

Destiny 2’s population has been dwindling since release. The handful of players who have stayed loyal to the franchise deemed “Forsaken,” the latest expansion, an important step that will determine the future of the franchise.

New and old players have high hopes and expectations for the new downloadable content (DLC). Many veteran players see this as a final opportunity for Bungie to get with the program in delivering a fast-paced console game that classic MMO players can enjoy as well.

“Forsaken” seems to be a step in the right direction. I have about six hours of gameplay into the Forsaken DLC, and I have enjoyed most features, changes, and cinematics that Bungie has bestowed.

Essentially, the gameplay for “Forsaken” is more of the same. “Forsaken” includes a small handful of cinematic quests for the campaign, another handful of side quests, more gear, higher light level and guardian level caps. Yes, you still have to grind light level with the same, traditional, genocidal rampage as always. But now it can be done with bows too.toast

The new story is far from more of the same, though. Instead of a war being declared or entire populations being in danger, the guardians set out on a personal, vengeful mission to destroy Uldren Sov, the Queen of The Reef’s brother, who is responsible for Cayde-6’s death. However, the guardians do not receive much screen time, and only speak once in the campaign cut-scenes. For a personal story, I think our guardians should’ve had more screen time.

“Forsaken” is to “Destiny 2” what “Rise if Iron” was for “Destiny 1,” a fresh start with new abilities and gear. New, fairly interesting enemies, called “The Scorn,” debut as well. In these early days of “Forsaken,” the game does feel a bit more challenging. That could be due to the increased light and guardian level caps, or the new Scorn abilities that took me by surprise.

The Scorn are formidable, and sport a different style of enemy than what Destiny players may be used to. The Scorn do not keep their distance. They close in on guardians quickly, with devastating area-of-effect attacks, which takes some getting used to.

One feature I am particularly fond of is the “Collections” tab in the Options menu. From anywhere in the solar system one can now view and obtain any previously-owned exotic and legendary gear account-wide. You can even claim old legendary gear that you might have accidently dismantled.

3434086-gambitAdditionally, there is another “Record Book” similar to the one seen in “Rise of Iron.” I do not understand why one of the milestones for the record book includes “Purchasing the Legendary addition,” but I suppose the Legendary Edition wouldn’t be the package it promised to be without some kind of leg up on those who did not spend the extra money.

“Destiny” developers wanted to make it “harder” to gain higher light levels, so they introduced the requirement of planetary materials, and Masterwork Cores to infuse Legendary gear. I can understand the planetary materials system, which is a mechanic seen in “Destiny 1.”

I do not think that Masterwork Cores should be a requirement for infusing. This does not make it “harder” to level up. It just promotes more grinding of the same thing. there is no skill required to farm masterwork cores. With the prices for infusing and masterworking being so steep now, light levels will reflect more on how much time is put into each character.

I think “Destiny 2: Forsaken” is a hit, albeit I have my reservations about how it will age. Most “Destiny” expansions since the release of “Destiny 1” have been fairly short. I may have finished the “Forsaken” campaign missions in one night, but still felt like I had only scratched the surface. I rate “Destiny 2: Forsaken” 7 out of 10 stars.

Original teen romance captivates audience with relatable storyline

Netflix’s new romantic comedy captivates audience with coming of age story.

“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” has become a fan favorite quickly.

Within days of its release, the Internet swarmed with people talking about it. Within a week of its release, the movie had a huge fan base.

“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a romantic comedy that follows 16-year-old Lara Jean Song Covey, played by Lana Condor, who is half-Korean and half-Caucasian. Directed by Susan Johnson, the movie is based off of the best-selling book written by Jenny Han.tatbilb2

Lara Jean has written love letters to every boy she’s had a crush on, five in total. The letters are only meant for her eyes only, to help her cope and understand her feelings. She keeps her letters hidden in a hat box that her mother gave her so no one else will find them.

Just before her older sister Margot, played by Janel Parrish, leaves for college in Scotland, she breaks up with her boyfriend Josh Sanderson, played by Israel Broussard. Josh lived next-door to the Covey family and had been friends with Lara Jean growing up.

Lara Jean finds her feelings that she once had for her childhood friend coming back after Margot leaves. To cope with her feelings, Lara Jean writes a postscript to a letter she had written when she was 14, after Josh asked Margot out instead of her.

Her letters somehow get out. Peter Kavinsky, played by Noah Centineo, is the first to come talk to Lara Jean about the letters. He is the recently ex-boyfriend of Lara Jean’s former best friend in middle school, Gen, played by Emilija Baranac. Peter tells Lara Jean that he thinks the letter is sweet, but he can’t be with her.

As Lara Jean is talking to Peter, she sees Josh headed her way with the his letter. She panics and kisses Peter, in the hopes that Josh will think that they are together. Peter later confronts Lara Jean again, about the letter and the kiss. Lara Jean tells Peter about the letters and why she kissed him.kissy

They later decide to pretend to be in a relationship so Peter can make Gen jealous and so that Josh won’t suspect that Lara Jean’s feelings are still there. But things don’t go as planned, and they start to fall for each other.

“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” has a wonderful nostalgic feeling about looking back on past crushes. Everyone can relate to having a crush that you keep to yourself, always wondering about the what if’s. The message is to not hold back your feelings and to tell people how you feel when you feel it.

“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” is a captivating romantic comedy because of how personal it feels. It’s incredibly funny and heartfelt. The onscreen romance between Lara Jean and Peter feels authentic.

The movie also does a really good job of depicting what it’s like to be in high school in the 21st century, without putting an overwhelming emphasis on cellphones and social media.

“To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” also includes a wonderful soundtrack. The soundtrack offers variety, featuring artists such as Blood Orange and The Velveteins. It’s nice to have a break from movies that only have songs heard on the radio.

Overall, it was an amazing movie, I give “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before” 10 out of 10.

Formation of conspiracy theories creates more questions than answers

All throughout history, Americans have demonstrated high levels of suspicion toward centralized authority and unexplained events.

In April 2015, there was a study conducted by Scott Radnitz and Patrick Underwood to determine whether the belief in conspiracy theories is pathological, or if they are linked to social tensions.

In this survey, random subjects were given mock news articles to bring about conspiracy beliefs. The results show that these different opinions can emerge from both “situational triggers” as well as “subtle contextual variables.”

I think that often these opinions can go far beyond a general distrust, and ultimately it expresses the essential fears of many individuals. The possibility of supporting conspiracy theories could be strongly projected by a willingness to believe in other unseen or intentional forces. Many of these theories are also created by people who make judgments or try to explain phenomena in certain social or political situations.

Today, there are theories on subjects ranging from Chemtrails to debating if Earth is flat. Although those are only two of various topics that have been brought about, I believe all theories share one common factor.

636232085399256659-978523634_social-media-account-management-issues-businessIt’s the feeling of powerlessness that drives individuals to formulate conspiracy theories. It helps regain a sense of confidence, and it also helps engage in collective action within society, whether it is to bring peace to one’s self or to try to create chaos.

It’s hard to say where I stand when it comes to the idea of understanding and discussing a theory, no matter the topic. For example, I have had many unrealistic but logical conversations about the Illuminati or Reptilian Elites taking over our government. With those type of discussions, I end up leaning more toward it may not be true.

To seek explanations and to constantly ask why certain events happen the way they do is simply a natural human desire. I’m not stating that these theories cannot be true. Through my own research, I’ve found that the Illuminati was a cult that existed in 1776, and possibly even before that. However, when arguing if it is a cult that still exists to this day, the idea of a secret society within our own to create a New World Order seems highly unlikely, but not impossible.

On the other hand, when it comes to deliberations such as if the moon landing was filmed in Hollywood or if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the JFK assassination, when looking at solid facts and different points of views, it can be hard to even consider what the truth could be. Of course, there are hundreds of different ways to look at a theory and to evaluate specific events before and after it took place. But it can be hard uncovering the truth if there even is something to discover to begin with.

That’s what I find to be somewhat terrifying about the world that we live in. We never truly know what is going on around us. Within our own government or even in our home towns, the world is full of dark secrets. Many truths have been buried so deep they may never be uncovered again.

Border Collies exceptional breed, loving companion

by Geneva Natal


There are many different kinds of dog breeds, but Border Collies are the best.

Bred around the Anglo-Scottish border, which is between England and Scotland, these dogs were bred specifically for their intelligence and obedience. Any dog is trainable, but Border Collies have a faster learning capacity than any other. Proving they are one of the smartest dogs, they live up to expectations and are easily trainable.

These dogs can give you a high-five or even give you a hug after you both have a long work day. Border Collies, which are sheep dogs, have the energy to work all day with you on the farm or run around all day with you. They are basically the cutest workaholics ever.

Border Collies are amazing around other animals, as they are very energetic and loving toward large and small animals. They will almost always welcome any new pet. Just be wary because there is a high possibility they will give too much love. It helps to give these dogs a friend if you don’t have the time or energy to keep them occupied. Border Collies have a lot of energy to keep you loved and happy. But if you can’t bring them along, leave them with a friend.

That friend could be a child, and then both of these cute energy balls will be busy while you can relax. Never worry about your children around these dogs, as they are protective but not fierce. Border Collies may love on you but will be wary of strangers. In my experience, they will keep you close and be attentive while protecting their owners. They are active and playful, always eager to give you their attention and keep yours. With their gentle nature, these dogs give awesome cuddles when you’re lonely because of their soft fur. After a long work day, these dogs are happy to relax and sleep next to you or at your feet. They are always there for 2

I believe that along with their beautiful and majestic fur comes an awesome personality. Border Collies can be your best friend if you make that connection. Communicate with these dogs and they will always keep you company. Their personality shines when they are with their owner. But you won’t see it if you don’t pay attention. Whether you are down or up, Border Collies will bring you a smile that lasts until you have to leave with a heavy heart. Each day is different, and coming home to a loyal best friend is what everyone needs.

Not only are these dogs amazing in every way, my personal favorite attribute is the color of their fur. The colors range from black to gold, and I love how the color of brown looks on my Border Collie. Most dogs vary in color, but none pull it off as well as a Border Collie.

Border Collies aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Each person has his or her own favorite dog breed, from Poodles to Golden Retrievers. But Border Collies finish first across the board.

Other dogs can fit in a purse or become police dogs and be amazing to the general population. There are many different dog breeds that are stronger, more protective, and possibly cuter than a Border Collie. We can agree to disagree on the best dog breed known to man. However, no one can dislike the soft, cute, and friendly nature of man’s best friend, Border Collies.

Word on the Street

by Kendall Rainer and Reece Turner


Alicea“I think Hollywood, at the beginning, didn’t have a lot of diversity, but now it is beginning to. Kind of like in “Deadpool,” Domino was originally white. But in the movie, she is Black. A lot of people were kind of upset about that. But i think it shouldn’t matter. She’s the same character; she has the same role. It shouldn’t matter what she looks like.”


Alicea Biggs





Kaylum“I think Hollywood is pretty diverse right now. That part of the country is a hot spot for a lot of people. I think it’s pretty representative of our population as a whole.”


Kaylum Simpson





Martha“I think there is plenty of diversity in Hollywood. I think it would be good to make certain races or cultures less stereotypical in television and movies, and show them in a better light.”


Martha Castillo

Business Administration




Tim“It would be nice to have people of all genders, races and ethnicities in Hollywood. I think it’s important to make sure that you’re not messing with any source materials. This doesn’t come down to characters. It comes down to writing. I don’t think you should change the story of a film for the diversity of it, but i’m OK with the changing of genders or ethnicity of characters.”


Tim Boomer

Graphic Arts




Steele, Edwards settling into new roles as assistant coaches

In addition to a roster full of new players, the South Plains College women’s basketball team has added two new coaches to the staff.

Landon Steele and Ciarra Edwards are the two newest additions.

Coach Steele is from Tribune, Kansas, where he competed in football, basketball, and track in high school.

Coach Steele went on to play basketball at Cloud County Community College, where he earned an Associate of Science Degree. Steele also earned a degree in General Studies and Health Promotion from Fort Hays State University.

“ I got into coaching because I wanted to stay around the game of basketball,” says Steele. “I also like helping players improve on the court.”

Coach Steele spent eight years coaching high school basketball at Sharon Springs High School in Kansas, two as an assistant boys coach and six as the head girls coach. He later spent two years as the head coach at Northwest Kansas Technical College. He also spent two years as a head coach at Lamar Community College in Lamar, Colorado.

Coach Steele says that he wanted to come to SPC because it was a great opportunity for him and his family.

“I’ve known Coach Petree (head women’s basketball coach at SPC) for a while now,” Coach Steele said, “and she has always talked about what a great place SPC is. So when she offered me the job, it was not even a question as to whether or not my family and I would be moving to SPC.”

Coach Steele said he loves SPC and everyone he has had a chance to meet and work with so far.

Coach Steele says, “Mr. (Andrew) Ruiz, and Mrs. (Vanessa) Olivo in the Registrar’s Office, Dean (Kathryn) Perez, Sammy in the cafeteria, the Business Office, Trish in the Bookstore, obviously everyone in the Athletic Department, everybody has done a phenomenal job of helping our women’s basketball team.”

The thing Coach Steele enjoys most about coaching is the relationships he develops with the players and watching them grow as people and players.

“We have several international players this year,” says Coach Steele. “So it is cool to see everyone working together and learning about each other.”

Coach Steele says that he can’t wait to get the season started, and he thinks the team has a lot of potential.

Coach Steele enjoys watching college football, professional basketball and traveling with his family.

He has been married to his wife Lauren for three years. They have two children, Locklyn Jae, 2, and a 1-month-old baby, Lynlie Kae.

“It takes a special person to be a coach’s spouse,” says Coach Steele. “Coaching demands a lot of your time, and as Lauren likes to say, ‘You’re basically on call 24 hours a day.’”

A Florence, Alabama native, Edwards played basketball, volleyball, track and softball in high school. She went on to play four years of basketball at Shelton State Community College, where she won an Alabama state championship.IMG_9565

Edwards graduated from Shelton State with an Associate of Science Degree, before going on to Mercer University, where her team won back-to-back regular-season championships. Edwards also competed in the Socon Conference meet in track and field, winning a silver medal in Javelin. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication, with a minor in Education, from Mercer.

Coach Edwards enjoyed playing basketball so much through the years that she wanted to be able to teach others about the game as well.

“I have always been around the game of basketball and have always been very passionate about it,” explained Coach Edwards.

Coach Edwards says that she wanted to come to SPC because it was a great opportunity for her to grow and develop as a coach under Coach Petree.

“SPC is a very competitive program,” Coach Edwards says, “and I wanted to be able to bring something to the program to help us compete for a national title.”

Coach Edwards says that she enjoys getting to go in the gym every day and work on getting better as a team.

“We have a lot of great players with a lot of potential to be very successful this season,” says Edwards.

In her free time, Coach Edwards enjoys swimming and being outside as much as possible. She also enjoys spending time with her very small family, her parents Jerry and Lisa Edwards, and her younger brother Skyler, 19.

New assistant men’s basketball coach excited for upcoming season

Tyler Notch is bringing previous coaching experience to his new role as assistant men’s basketball coach at South Plains College.

Coach Notch grew up in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where he played basketball for Cheyenne East High School. He went on to attend DePauw University, where he played basketball for one season before beginning his coaching career by serving as a volunteer coach for three years.

Notch has two older sisters, along with eight nieces and nephews.

“I don’t have any kids,” says Coach Notch, “but I do have a husky named Apollo that lives back in Indiana.”

Coach Notch said he enjoys watching reality talent shows in his free time, adding, “ I’m pretty boring otherwise.”

Coach Notch graduated from DePauw University with a bachelor’s degree in Sports Medicine. He went on to attend Indiana State University, where he earned a master’s degree in physical education and a second master’s from Indiana State University in Human Resource Development.

Coach Notch says he has wanted to get into coaching for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve always admired John Wooden, and a lot of the lessons he taught resonated with me,” says Coach Notch.

After DePauw, Coach Notch served as a graduate assistant coach at Indiana State. He also served as an assistant coach at Lamar Community College.

Coach Notch explained that he wanted to come to South Plains College because of the history and the ability to learn from Steve Green, the head men’s basketball coach at SPC.

“This is a great place to learn and grow as a coach,” said Coach Notch.

Coach Notch said he enjoys the strategies behind coaching basketball the most.

“It’s all a big chess match,” Coach Notch explained. “You have to anticipate the other coach and players, move first and then counter when they attack. It’s all about how you prepare.”

Coach Notch says he is enjoying SPC so far.

“The people are incredible,” he noted. “Everyone says ‘Hi!’ when walking by, and you feel welcomed no matter where you are.”

Coach Notch says he is excited to see what is in store for the upcoming basketball season.

“I’m ready to get to work and see what this group can do,” says Coach Notch.

Cross Country teams sweep top spots at Western Texas Open

The South Plains College men’s and women’s cross country teams started the season in stride, sweeping the top places at the Western Texas College Open.

Dorcas Ewoi
Dorcas Ewoi competing in the women’s race on Sept. 8.

The Texans and Lady Texans competed in Snyder, Texas on Sept. 8.

In the men’s race, freshman Alex Kitum led the Texans and placed first, covering the 8-kilometer course in 27:12. Sophomore Filmon Beyene wasn’t far behind, placing second with a time of 27:29.

Sophomore Andrew Bosquez placed third with a time 27:31, while sophomore Jessie Madrid placed fourth with a time of 28:21. Sophomore Erick Arambula finished ninth with a time of 29:47. The Texans posted a final team average of 27:47:24.

In the women’s race, freshman Gladys Jemaiyo placed first after completing the 5-kilometer course in 19:48. Freshman Dorcus Ewoi placed second with a time of 20:28, while  freshman Lynda Martinez placed sixth with a time of 22:45. Freshman Nyia Sena finished seventh with a time of 23:05.

Freshman Rocio Ramirez finished eighth with a time of 23:35, and freshman Angela Rodriguez finished ninth with a time of 23:50. The Lady Texans recorded a team average of 21:56:12.

Both teams returned to action on Sept. 14, competing at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Results were not available at press time.     

Contemporary fitness classes feature aerial aerobics

Aerial hoops, silks, and poles are more than just a new way to work out. It is an art form, dancing in the air.

Aerial Atmosphere, which opened on Feb. 5 in Lubbock, offers several classes, including: Aerial Hoop, Silks, Pole, Flexibility, Strength and Conditioning. For those who may be afraid they may not be as good as others who have been attending longer, no worries. Aerial Atmosphere also has different levels for each class. Aerial Atmosphere uses an easy app to help book classes. Simply download the Mindbody app, create an account, search for Aerial Atmosphere, and look through the schedule to book a first class.IMG_7344

Aerial hoop is a ring, sized to fit a person in the middle of it. This ring is hung from the ceiling and spins when being performed on, giving the allusion of floating and flying.  Silks are two long pieces of smooth cloth, which also hang from the ceiling. Wrapping the material around a body limb makes it possible to climb, slide, twirl, and hang from it.

Pole dancing is taught more as an art form, a dance, a performance.

“I do not teach you how to twerk around a pole,” said Sarah Baker, an instructor at Aerial Atmosphere.

Aerialist students have several different reasons as to why they start going to Aerial Atmosphere. Most people start because they want a physical activity that is fun but also a work out. For others, they already knew one of the instructors (Sarah Baker), and some come just out of interest.

Baker is Aerial Atmosphere’s main instructor. Summer Branch and Brittany Laub are two of the silk instructors who teach a class every other week on Sundays because they live in Amarillo. Branch has been working with silks for three years now.

All the instructors are very experienced and encouraging, according to Jessica Luna, who participates in classes.IMG_7172

“Sarah is very patient and understanding,” said Luna.  “We could go over something a million times, and not once does she make you feel discouraged.”

Every instructor has the class participants stretch out their muscles extremely well to insure they are warmed up to help prevent injury.

Belem Patton explained, “It was love at first class.  Not only was it a great workout, it incorporated my love of dance and provided a creative outlet for me, which is much more difficult to do as a mom.”

All the fun, exercise, and encouragement is not all you get out of a class, according to Bianca Anabtawi, another one of the 320 class participants since the facility opened in February.

“Aerial Atmosphere has helped me get out of my shell,” said Anabtawi. “I’m a natural introvert, but after spending a few classes with Sarah and the other girls, I completely opened up. It was like I had known them for years! I have tried pole classes at a different studio in town, and my experience was completely different.”

Luna said it has helped her build strength, confidence, and meet new friends.

“These classes really take you out of your comfort zone the first few times you attend,” Luna added, “but everyone starts as a beginner. We all learn, grow, and influence one another each class!”

Patton says that the unique way to work out has become her new favorite hobby.img_6963.jpg

“My kids love seeing the videos of what I learned in class that day,” Patton said. “I feel like I’m modeling, being fearless to them, and showing them the value in trying new things, no matter what stage of life you are in, and that’s the best thing I’ve been able to take away from my aerial classes.”

Baker started her training two years ago in Dallas at Extend Fitness Studio.

“I learned so incredibly much from all the brilliant instructors out there,” she explained. “That is also where I got certified to teach.”

Baker said she decided to open an Aerial studio in Lubbock because she says she thought the community was ready for a new, fun, and alternative way to get fit. Having grown up in Lubbock, Baker says that she had always wished there was more to do.

“Lubbock has grown so much in the past few years,” Baker explained. “It was time to open up a new form of fitness for the population here!”

But Aerial Atmosphere is not just for fitness, according to Baker.IMG_7480

“The best gift I have been given as an instructor is watching people meet their goals, whether that is physically or mentally,” said Baker. “Everyone comes to our classes for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because they need a hobby, or a new mom wanting to lose the baby weight, or someone who has been through some rough times and needs an outlet. No matter what that reason is, we all support one another. Watching everyone grow as aerialists and as people is just down right inspiring.”

Aerial hoops, silks, and poles do not only have to be for fitness, though.

“It’s very possible to use these skills for a future career,” said Branch. “I didn’t start learning until my mid-late 20’s and have come a long way in a few years. I know many different people who have started at different ages and levels (including a close friend who started in her 40’s from ground zero) who have gone on to teach and perform. This would be a great starting point to build on any career in performing, whether in aerials or dance or otherwise. It can also be a fun hobby and fitness addiction that will enrich your life. It just depends on how much you want to commit to it.”