Author: Nicole Lopez

My name is Nicole but you knew that already.

‘Battlefront II’ excites fans with new gameplay, intersting features

In a galaxy far, far away the fate of the universe is determined by the battle of the dark side and the rebellion. Only one can win.

“Star Wars Battlefront II” has finally hit the shelves after the long wait and requests for the game. “Star Wars” fans were thrilled when EA finally announced that there would be a “Battlefront II” due to the high demand of the game.

I was very excited about the game, because being a big “Star Wars” fan, it warmed my heart to see that this day has finally come. The original “Battlefront” was great. It had some hits and misses that “Battlefront II” has successfully made up for.1d5e0aeb-f7fb-4822-966c-70cb36a1ac15

I’ve been playing this game for a few weeks, and I can confidently say that it is worth buying. I do have some problems with the game, but those problems are minor compared to all the additions “Battlefront II” has to offer.

The original “Battlefront” lacked a campaign, which made many fans upset and in disbelief since most of the “Star Wars” games have a campaign. However, “Battlefront II” has included a campaign in which the player goes on a journey through the eyes of Iden Versio, an imperial leader of a special force group called the “Inferno Squad.” This campaign is a great addition to the game, and it also explains what happened to the rebellion and the empire between the end of “Return of the Jedi” and “The Force Awakens.”

Versio is an interesting character, because usually in the “Star Wars” universe there’s a good and bad side of people. There isn’t an in between. Versio, however, shows, that not everyone who is part of the Empire has an evil heart. Her dedication for the Empire has left me astonished, because she goes to great lengths to get what she wants and she is proud to be part of the Empire. However, there is a problem that comes up during the campaign. I will say, without spoiling the campaign for anyone who wishes to try it out, that Versio’s intentions change during the campaign, which is quite disappointing. But, it’s not all bad.

star-wars-battlefront-ii-iden-emotionalThe cut-scenes are great to watch. Cut-scenes during campaigns are usually boring, and players can’t wait for them to be over. “Battlefront II” will change all of that. To me, it feels like I’m watching a mini “Star Wars” movie because the graphics are very detailed and the effects are beyond phenomenal. The storyline is interesting, and players have a chance to play as familiar heroes during the campaign. I’m still a little disappointed in Versio’s character during the campaign, but not enough where I don’t want to stop playing.

The multiplayer mode was something I was excited for, and, for the most part, it didn’t let me down. It is frustrating and confusing at times, but being a big “Star Wars” fan, I still find a new hope for multiplayer.

There are five modes in multiplayer. There is a 20 vs 20 in Galactic Assault, ranging from zone control to bomb planting to a mode that is identical to Walker Assault, but doesn’t really have the structure from the original “Battlefront.” The game modes are fun, but what I found annoying is you can’t pick which game mode you want to play. Whenever you join in Galactic Assault, it cycles you through all three modes, so it’s confusing at times because you don’t know which one you’re going to play.

Picking which trooper you want to play is interesting. There are four, which are Assault, Heavy, Specialist and Officer. Each trooper offers something different. It’s confusing, because you are only as good as your “Star Cards.” “Star Cards” are actually really confusing, which I will explain more about later. The game also spawns you in a group of five and tells players to stick together to earn more Battle Points, but nobody ever really does. I can understand the concept that EA was trying to do, but it just doesn’t work.

Many critics have said that Battle Points are a big issue, because those points determine if you can be a hero or a villain during the gameplay. That means if you’re better at the game, the better chance you will earn those points and become a hero or villain. Usually the better players become the hero or villain, which makes many upset because they argue it’s not fair to an inexperienced player. I honestly don’t see a problem with it. If anything, it should make a player determined to get better so one can earn those points to be a hero or villain.

There is also 12 vs 12 in Strike, a death match-style mode called Blast, a Heroes vs. Villains, and Starfighter Assault. I’ve only played Strike, Blast, and Starfighter Assault a few times, and I wasn’t really interested in those game modes because it wasn’t something I was drawn to. I was mainly interested in Heroes vs. Villains, and I love this mode.

star-wars-battlefrontI loved the mode in the original “Battlefront,” but I think the sequel made the mode so much better. You have to unlock some characters with the credits you earn during gameplay, but it was so worth it for me when I was able to unlock Darth Vader and use his force choke on another hero. That’s another thing. It’s a 4 vs. 4 showdown between heroes and villains. There are no rebellion soldiers or storm troopers. I live for this game mode. I play this mode mostly all the time because it’s so enjoyable. I thought the original mode was great, but I honestly think this one is better. Also, there are new heroes and villains that they didn’t include in “Battlefront.” They added Yoda and Darth Maul, which is a great asset when playing Heroes vs. Villains.

“Star Cards” can be confusing, so let me break it down for you. The “Star Cards” are already preset to a certain character or vehicle. You just have to craft them using crafting parts, which you can earn from loot boxes or achievements. So, long story short, it doesn’t matter how long you play as a certain character to make their class stronger, it’s all about getting the crafting parts. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, because if I want to upgrade my “Star Cards” on a character that I’m trying to make better, I want to play as my strongest character to earn credits so I can earn crafting parts for my weak characters. It’s not a bad concept. It’s just a little confusing.

“Battlefront II” is still being criticized for its loot box system, because many people believe you have to pay to win. It has been criticized so much that EA has taken away the option to use money in the game. Fans are being ridiculous. It’s not paying to win if what you earn in the loot boxes aren’t really good compared to your in-game achievements! I will argue about this with anyone who is against the loot box system. If someone wants to use their money to buy loot boxes, let them. It’s not hurting anyone. If someone uses money to buy loot boxes, it doesn’t mean that person is going to be better than you in the game. If they have better equipment, it doesn’t automatically make them better. You make yourself better by playing the game and practicing. Using money or not, you will both earn the same equipment.

e3-2017-star-wars-battlefront-2s-multiplayer-class-system-is_vpbv“Battlefront II” has a few problems, and it is a little disappointing in some areas. But I don’t regret buying the game. I think, for what it’s worth, it has great potential and it satisfies me. The graphics are the best gaming graphics I have seen in a video game. The hero or villain characters are fun to play, and if you get past the problems in the campaign and galactic assault mode, it’s not a terrible game. As you play on, remember, “May the force be with you.”

I give “Star Wars Battlefront II” 7/10

Dorris takes unexpected path to play basketball at SPC

Maddie Dorris never thought her basketball career would land her in West Texas.

Having attended a 6A high school in Weatherford for four years, Dorris never thought she would be a member of the South Plains College women’s basketball team.

Before attending SPC in the fall of 2016, Dorris thought she would be going to a university instead of a two-year college.

“My junior year of high school,” says Dorris,” “there were some people who talked to me about going to play basketball.”

According to Dorris, when being recruited, your junior summer when you play basketball is when many colleges start talking to you and recruiting you.

“As senior year came around,” explains Dorris,” I wasn’t getting the calls anymore, or the texts, or letters. I was thinking, ‘Man, if I’m not getting the attention anymore, then basketball might be over for me if nobody is offering it to me.’ Junior college never crossed my mind, and we even have a junior college back home. So, it’s not like I didn’t know about them. It was just something I didn’t want to do.”IMG_2795

According to Dorris, her senior year was when she spoke to Cayla Petree, head women’s basketball coach at SPC.

“She was asking me to come up for a visit,” says Dorris. “I thought, ‘Maybe I didn’t want to go JUCO. That wasn’t going to be for me.’ But I came up here, met coach and she had faith in me that I was going to be a good player. Seeing how dedicated Coach Brock Kimball was and everyone being so nice, the decision was easy after that. I ended up loving it here. I said this to everyone, but the people in West Texas are the nicest people you’ll ever meet.”

Dorris has been around sports most of her life. When she was growing up with her two older siblings, her parents tried to keep them out of the house.

“I grew up playing all the sports,” says Dorris. “I played soccer, volleyball, swim team, anything with a ball. But basketball just had this thing for me. It’s always been a thing for me. I think it’s because of the physicality of it. I think it got my aggression out. You know when your brother or sister annoys you? I played three years of varsity volleyball, track, but basketball has always had my attention.”

Dorris always played the post position when playing basketball, and she plays the same position for the Lady Texans.

“It’s like you always get into a little fight whenever you’re playing the position,” says Dorris.

Dorris is the only sophomore playing this season on the women’s basketball team. She explains that it’s different from last year coming in as a freshman.

“Coming into this year as a sophomore,” says Dorris, “I didn’t know how it was going to be. There is a lot of youthful energy in the locker room. Everyone is excited to be there. I tried to take a leadership role and show them the ropes, because I know being a freshman is really taxing. We have to get up and have 6 a.m. practices every morning. It’s exhausting. I try to be there not only on the court, but off the court to just say it’s going to be OK. I’ve stepped up and hopefully been the person I need to be for them.”

Dorris is majoring in kinesiology, which is the study of the human body. She plans to become an occupational therapist.

“It’s like physical therapy, but you teach life skills,” explains Dorris. “So, if someone had a stroke, you would reteach them how to use that side of their body, or kids with special needs and you help them with fine motor skills. And my mom was a special ed teacher. So, I’ve been around kids. I’ve always enjoyed kids. I want to help people. I think that’s something I will really enjoy.”

Dorris plans to graduate in the spring of 2018, though she doesn’t have any other plans for her future yet.

“We’re going to see how this season goes to see where I’m going after that,” explains Dorris. “Let’s see if I get any offers.”


Enjoyment of NFL gameplay minimized by excessive penalties

There was a time in the NFL when there was more gameplay and less penalties.

When I was beginning to watch football at a young age, I remember that the game was focused on the game play and spent less time on penalties. But, the game has definitely changed since then.

The conversation about penalties hasn’t come up in sports news. I’ve been thinking and talking about this for years with fellow football fans. I think the NFL flags players and makes tic-tac calls too often.

I’m not talking about false starts or too many players on the field. I’m talking about physical penalties, penalties that are called on another player because they barely lay a finger on the quarterback. There are penalties called because the defensive line is ‘holding.’ The penalties called during football games are distracting the viewers from getting into tempo with the gameplay.

referee yellow flagOnce upon a time, the defensive end with could hit the quarterback with no questions asked. Now, whenever a defensive player tries to get to the quarterback, questions are always asked if a flag should be thrown. It shouldn’t be like that.

The quarterback should be protected. All players should be protected. But, you can still protect the players without calling penalties on every single touch or hit made.

Every year, there are more penalties called, and every year the NFL makes up rules that often involve physical gameplay. Most of the time, when I watch a game, I can’t get into it because every two minutes there are flags being thrown, or plays being reviewed.

Penalties make it difficult to sit back and enjoy games. Every time the ball is snapped, I expect a penalty. That’s sad to say. Why can’t the NFL let players play? Isn’t that what football is all about? We see players get hurt, but are they really hurt? Years ago, football players had less padding and weren’t as prone to getting hurt.

Brett Favre is a perfect example of this. He was hurt multiple times and did not once miss a game. Many other players have the same mindset when it comes to this. I understand that the NFL wants to protect players, but there is such a thing as too much protection. Besides, penalties can’t prevent injuries. I think everyone can agree on that. So, why are there so many penalties being called? Football games are slow enough due to reviews of plays, and a big part of slow games comes from penalties. I know baseball is a slow tempo sport, but football is definitely right behind it.

Mike Pereira, rules expert for Fox, said he didn’t think penalties were ruining football games. Instead, he believes it makes it harder to watch. He’s right, and he’s also wrong. He’s right because penalties do make it harder to watch. He’s wrong because it does ruin the game. It ruins the enjoyment of the game for fans.

Football is a contact sport, and it’s slowly (no pun intended) becoming a non-contact sport. I doubt the NFL will change rules and regulations of these penalties. But if they don’t, football may surpass baseball as the slowest sport in America.

Native History: Navajo tribe continues traditions, culture for future generations

seamless-colorful-navajo-pattern-vector-illustration-43964511GALLUP, N.M. – Traditions and culture run deep through the veins of the Navajo tribe.

The Navajo tribe can be traced back through thousands of years, with traditions and beliefs passed down from generation to generation. Although the Navajo tribe has been through hard times, they still keep their culture alive.IMG_1288 2

The Navajo reservation is almost the size of West Virginia and located in four states, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

Larry and Anita Benally have been living on the Navajo reservation for many years, and they’ve been keeping the Navajo culture and traditions alive in their families.

“It’s best to spend two weeks to a month to travel all of the reservation and see all the sights,” says Larry Benally. “It’s an open reservation. The only time the natives are strict is when there are certain ceremonies going on. You can observe, but you can’t record or take photos.”

The Navajos have certain chants, songs, and prayers. They do these things because they believe in being one with harmony and balance with nature.

“If you fall sick to a certain disease,” says Larry Benally, “you are not balanced with nature and harmony. You do the chants, songs and prayers to get back with harmony and nature. That’s our traditional ceremonies.”IMG_6293

With the Navajos’ homes, their doors always face toward the east, because they believe it brings good fortune. The houses never face west.

“The east is considered a blessing, because each day the sun rises and it gives you a new day to look forward to a new journey,” says Larry Benally. “The north is considered no good, because all the bad things and evil things are casted that way. West is considered bad also because the people who passed on, their head faces west. South is kind of neutral.”

Although the Navajo is one tribe, there are many clans within the reservation.

“We go by clans,” explains Anita Benally, who is the chapter president of her community. “And if our clans are the same, or within the same category, we can’t marry, or be together. So, whenever you meet someone for the first time, you ask what their clan is. You can’t be from the same clan, because if you’re related, whenever you get married and have babies, there will be birth defects.”

Benally explains that the Navajo tribe migrated from Mongolia and eventually made their way to the south of the United States.IMG_6279

“They say that us Navajos come from four worlds,” explains Benally. “The fourth world, which we live at right now, it’s called glitter world. This is supposedly the last world. If you travel at night away from the city, you see all the lights and it’s kind of like glitter. The Navajos have already foreseen this.”

There are many stories told within the Navajo tribe, but they are only allowed to be told during the particular seasons. There are summertime stories and wintertime stories.

“There is another story that has to deal with the daytime and nighttime,” explains Benally. “The night creatures and day creatures argued if it should be night or day all the time. They came up with a game called Navajo shoe game, which would determine if it should be light or dark all the time. Nobody won, which is why it’s equal night and day.”

The Navajo government conducts business and political issues in Window Rock, Arizona, similar to the United States’ government process.IMG_6288

“The Navajo Nation capital is where our government is situated,” explains Larry Benally. “Back in the 1860s, a lot of these Navajos would gather at Fort Defiance, and they were forced to march to Fort Wingate. Then, they were forced to march to Bosque Redondo. They were prisoners of war for four years. The U.S government wanted to send them to Oklahoma or Florida, but our leaders pleaded to the U.S government. Eventually, they were told to go back to the reservation. Ever since then, government provided infrastructure to our native people.”

The Navajos are known for their language, since during World War II, they helped the United States Marine defeat the Japanese army. They were known as the Navajo Code Talkers.

“The Marines used our people to communicate in our own language so the Japanese army couldn’t break the language,” explains Larry Benally. “At the time, nobody understood our language, because it was hard to decipher.”

During the 1500s and the 1600s, the Mexicans and the Navajos used to live in harmony, according to Larry Benally. The Navajos have words that are similar to Spanish words, but there are some words in English that can’t be described in Navajo.

“Like helicopter,” says Larry Benally. “We say, ‘flying metal with a propeller on top.’ So, we have to describe what the objects is if we don’t have a Navajo word for it. The only specific words we have in Navajo are for nature and the animals.”

Although the Navajos have their own language, each clan has their own way of saying the same words differently.IMG_1535

“Words are also different in each clan,” adds Anita Benally. “So, some words aren’t the same within each clan. That’s why whenever you speak to someone from a different clan, they correct you because they say the word differently.”

According to Larry Benally, those who live in isolated areas speak more Navajo than those who live around the city.

“It’s sad to say, but we are losing our native tongue,” says Larry Benally, “because after the people were released we were required to attend boarding schools, we were forbidden to speak our own language.”

This happened during the 1930s, lasting until the 1980s. If the Navajos were caught speaking their own language, they were punished by scrubbing floors. Their hands and backs would be hit by a wooden board.

“We were hit with what we called the ‘board of education,’” explains Larry Benally. “It was a two by four… shaped like an oar for rowing. They punished us for having our own religion. We were put into a school where we had to choose a religion. It was either Protestant, Saints, Christian, or Catholic. We had to attend religious education every Thursday and Sunday. If you did not do these things, you were also punished.”IMG_2770

Anita Benally says she thinks the reason why they are losing their native tongue is because they were forced to speak English.

“They even forbid us from wearing our native clothes,” says Anita Benally. “They took all that away. We really suffered a lot in school. They abused us, humiliated us. It was kind of like a military-style school. They were very strict with us.”

The Navajos believe all your thinking goes into your hair. So, if you cut off your hair, you cut off your thinking. This is why the native people have long hair, and it is forbidden to wear hair loose.

“We are in two worlds,” explains Anita Benally. “We have our native side and Anglo side. It’s hard. It’s still hard. They even told us we had to cut our hair because nobody could braid our hair for us. I remember someone came down with lice, and when I went to school we were forced to cut our hair, and I remember crying.”

There are different varieties of Navajo food that can be found on the reservation. The most common is corn stew, which is similar to pozole, a Mexican dish, but without the chili.IMG_5251

“We have a bread that we call ‘fried bread,’” says Larry Benally. “It’s the same as sopapillas, and it’s a common Navajo meal. They also butcher a sheep or goat and they get the meat and cook in different ways like lamb stew. They cut the throat, save the blood and they make what they call blood sausage, and it’s almost like bratwurst. They add ingredients to the blood and boil it. They cook the insides, and it’s kind of like chitlins. We make tortillas too, but ours are a little thicker.”

Larry and Anita Benally have seen their Navajo traditions slowly dying away from their tribe. It saddens them to see that many natives aren’t practicing, or teaching the future generations about their heritage and where they come from.

“We don’t want them to lose our language and say they don’t know who we are,” explains Anita Benally. “With us being there for them and saying, ‘Hey, this is your clan. This is who you are and where you belong.’ That’s our job. So later on, they’re going to know where they come from, and I’m going to make sure they know where they come from.”seamless-colorful-navajo-pattern-vector-illustration-43964511

‘Between Earth and Sky’ film depicts environmental damage to Last Frontier

[Editor’s note: This story is the fifth part of the multi-part series “Climate Crisis,” examining the causes and effects of climate change, that begins with Issue #1 and concludes in Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]

Although Alaska is nicknamed the Last Frontier, the state has drastically become the first frontier in climate change.

Jonathan Seaborn, production director at KTTZ-TV at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, recently had the opportunity, along with his boss, Paul Hunton, general manager for KTTZ-TV, to go on an Alaska expedition to witness the climate changes in the area. Although they planned to film the expedition, he didn’t know it was going to turn into a film.

“We were approached by Dr. David Weindor,” says Seaborn, “who is a scientist here at Texas Tech, about an expedition they go on every summer. He was curious if we wanted to film that trip, and we did. But we were looking at, ‘Well, will people be interested in watching about this trip?’ As David was explaining to Paul and myself more and more about what they’re seeing, the changing landscape, what’s happening to the permafrost, it was like, ‘Oh that’s a story. It’s a climate change story.’”

The “Between Earth and Sky” film crew went to Alaska twice. The first time was for 25 days. They flew in to Anchorage and traveled up to the Artic Sea, went to Dead Horse and back down.

“Part of it was talking to locals, indigenous people and stuff like that, and scientists,” Seaborn told the Plainsman Press in a recent interview. “What they’ve seen over the years, what they’ve learned. We went back the second time and spent a little over a week, and spent time with native villages. All this information went over the course for about a year and half. We started in 2015.”


IMG_1982 (1)
Photo courtesy of Jonathan Seaborn


According to Seaborn, Alaska’s vegetation is changing at a drastic rate. The natives are especially being the most affected by the climate.

“The villages are mostly along the coastline,” explains Seaborn, “and the ability to fish and hunt their animals. Changes are happening, and they’re noticing that quite a big. The native villages are really the ones at risk to coastal erosion. The sea ice during the winter months build up, and during the storms it keeps it like a wall or a barrier to protect the villages. But they’re coming later and later, and the sea ice isn’t there, and the waves are ripping away the coast.”

The native villages are moving more inward to land, because the villages keep falling into the coast. The reason why the villages are collapsing is because the permafrost is melting under the villages. According to Seaborn, the natives are heading toward being potential climate refugees.

“If their homes go away, they’re going to be forced to relocate,” says Seaborn, a graduate of South Plains College. “They will be forced to located to other cities in Alaska, and their lifestyles will have to change. It’s happening too in small islands that flood and get washed away in the sea. We talk about what the world is going to look like in 50 to 100 years, but it’s happening now.”

Seaborn and the crew went to environmental film festivals to showcase their climate change film. They shared it at Washington, D.C., where there is the largest environmental film festival in the country. They also did universities tours such as going to Harvard to talk about the film with many students.

“We did Q&A during the festivals,” explains Seaborn, “and most of the time people asked what they can do to stop climate change. At the beginning, I wouldn’t have been qualified to answer these questions. But we worked with some people who are well respected, like Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, who is a climate scientist. Me and her do a web series called “Global Weirding,” which is uploaded every other Wednesday. Before we started, I thought I did care about climate change but I wasn’t doing anything about it.”

Seaborn, a photojournalism major during his time at SPC, says anyone can help reduce the changing of the climate by making small personal changes, such as carpooling, cutting back the amount of meat you eat, or even talking to government representatives about the climate.

“My wife and I recycle now,” says Seaborn. “and the great thing in Lubbock is at Texas Tech they offer a recycling center. The money goes back into scholarships for kids. There are little things you can do. Turn the lights off while you’re not using them, or turn the water off when brushing your teeth. If we start making the move to change the environment now, it will also change the economy. If we don’t start looking at alternative energy, our economy is going to get left behind. I thought thinking that I cared was enough. You have to lead by example and hope people will follow.”

“Between Earth and Sky” will be available on Amazon and iTunes in the next couple of weeks.

Passion for biology leads Mendóza to cancer research

One student at South Plains College is trying to change the world one cell at a time.

Roberto Mendóza, a sophomore from Fort Worth, says his initial major was pre-law when he enrolled at SPC, but found his calling when he took his first biology class.

“Something about [the class] made me want to switch entirely,” says Mendóza. “That’s been my driving passion.”

Mendóza, who graduated from Denver City High School, switched his major to cell molecular biology for pre-medicine, which is the study of molecules and how the cell works. He is currently part of the Plains Bridges to the Baccalaureate Program through Texas Tech and applies his knowledge of cell molecules through his current research.

“Right now, through the Bridges program, I’m doing cancer research, and it implements a lot of the cell molecular side,” explains Mendóza. “Some of the research I’ve been doing is on breast cancer and seeing some motility and shifts inside skeletal proteins to see how that cell metastasizes through the whole body, and see if we can mathematically predict that.”

Mendóza has been part of the program for five months. He says he heard about the program through one of his professors, Dr. Laci Alexander.

“I took her chemistry class,” says Mendóza, “and we typed out one of these papers talking about ourselves, and I said I wanted to do medicine and she wrote, ‘You should really consider being part of the Bridges program.’”

Mendóza became interested in the program, so he looked further into it, applied, and was accepted. The Bridges program accepts 10 to 15 students, on average, who do research during the summer.

“Essentially, they set interviews with professors or physicians over at the Health Science Center or the Texas Tech campus,” explains Mendóza, “and you get interviewed to see what you’re interested in, what kind of research you’ll be interested in that might relate to your field. Depending on the professor, you might be more on the writing side, or you might be contributing to the project.”


Roberto Mendóza utilizes knowledge in biology through the Bridges Program at Texas Tech University. TOVI OYERVIDEZ/PLAINSMAN PRESS


Mendóza interviewed with multiple professors and initially wanted to do something with neuroscience, which was leading him to join a professor’s lab that was working on Alzheimer’s Disease.

“When I was interviewed by Dr. Lauren Gollahon with cancer research, something sparked,” says Mendóza. “I liked it when she was explaining it to me. It was a lot of work, because you’re working with grad students and doctors. I personally had to bust my butt and read a lot. I had stacks of scientific papers and try to catch up and try to get a lot of knowledge they already had before I could really contribute anything to the overall project and conduct my own research.”

According to Mendóza, his part of the overall research was mathematically predicting the spread of cancer when the skeletal proteins in the cancer cell change.

“[The research] is part of a bigger project that they’re working on with a compound called NI-07,” says Mendóza, “which comes from a natural herb, and it’s known to be causing apoptosis, which means just killing the cells. If we can somehow predict when that cell is going to metastasize, and then just put the medicine on there and stop it from doing that.”

Mendóza says research was conducted during the summer, and the project was presented at two conferences, the SACNAS conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, and at the ABRCMS conference in Phoenix, Arizona.

“You just present your research, get judged, and you get to win awards,” explains Mendóza. “But the main purpose of it is networking. Because there are so many professionals over there, senior scientists, doctors, all kinds of people over there and you want to socialize and network to see what Ph.D or MD programs that are available, whatever it might be. Just to learn more of other people’s research to see if you can implement some of that into your own. There was a ton of cancer research, and there were some methods I could implement into my own.”

Mendóza plans to transfer to Texas Tech after earning his Associate’s Degree at SPC after this semester. His involvement with the Bridges program has challenged him with managing his time and making sure to not procrastinate.

“For anyone who is interested in pursuing a career in STEM,” says Mendóza, “one of the biggest challenges is sticking to it, because…it’s hard. It’s hard discipline in any field, such as engineering, to science, to mathematics, whatever it is. You have to stick it through and find ways to make yourself unique in order to be competitive in that field, and the Bridges program is one of those ways.”

Video game composer discovers niche through unexpected events

Grant Kirkhope can’t understand how he got so lucky.

When he was growing up, Kirkhope never considered being a video game composer. He went to school in the United Kingdom, and music has always been part of the majority of his life.

“I played the trumpet and recorder when I was younger,” says Kirkhope. “I started picking up the guitar from ages 11 and 12. I wanted to play in metal bands. That’s all I ever wanted to do.”

Kirkhope attended the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester when he was 18 years old.

“I kinda did the studying half heartedly,” Kirkhope says with a laugh during a recent interview with the Plainsman Press, “but I passed. I was terrible at harmony. You had to pass the harmony exam within the four years you were there, and I failed it the first three years. I scraped by in the fourth year because I was bad at understanding the harmonies.”

After graduating from Royal Northern College, Kirkhope continued to play for local rock bands. He played in a band called “Little Angels,” who toured with Bon Jovi and Van Halen.

“I played in metal bands for a long time, and I really didn’t get anywhere,” Kirkhope explains. “I did this for about 11 years. I had on and off unemployment. So, I would be on tour, come back play in local bands, and make no money.”

Kirkhope thought we would continue to do the same routine until one day his career changed forever. One of his friends, Robin Beanland, who was a keyboard player, announced he received a job at a company called Rare.

“I asked [him] ‘doing what?’ and he said, ‘Writing music for video games,’” Kirkhope explains. “I asked him if that was a thing. I played a lot of video games, and he was there for a year and a half. He says to me, ‘You know, Grant…you’ve been unemployed for about 11 years. Don’t you think it’s time for a job?’ I was 33 at the time.”

Beanland encouraged Kirkhope to try to compose some tunes for Rare. Kirkhope says that even though he wrote music for metal bands that he was part of, he didn’t think he could compose video game music. But he gave it a shot.

“I bought a copy key base, a computer with a mega ram,” explains Kirkhope.  “I sat and tried to write tunes that were appropriate for video games. I sent five cassette tapes to Rare through the course of the year…never got a reply.”

One day, Kirkhope got a reply from Rare, a rising video game company, asking if he can meet in Twycross, England, where the headquarters of the company was located. He went, and the company was pleased to meet him and hired him.image1

“It’s a surprise to me than anybody else,” says Kirkhope. “That was it. I started working with Rare up till 1995, and it was an absolute fluke. I never thought I could do it. I didn’t even consider it as a career choice.”

Kirkhope’s process of composing music hasn’t changed in 22 years. He explains that his process is not intellectual. Rather, he uses his imagination and messes around with the sounds of different musical instruments.

“So, I think with any composer, it starts with imagining the level or scene,” explains Kirkhope. “If someone says to you, ‘This cinematic scene is a frozen ice castle,’ right before I start composing for it, I think about spike instruments such as celeste, glockenspiel and things that sound icy to me. If someone says a lovely warm forest, I think about nice strings and bassoons.”

Kirkhope says through his composing process he always hopes he writes a good tune, and that’s what he always tries to do.

“My favorite part of composing music is the core sequence and the melody,” says Kirkhope. “I’m a really bad polisher. I’m an ideal person, and I hate polishing. My favorite part is getting the main melodies down.”

Kirkhope has won awards such as Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media for “Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth” at the International Film Music Critics Association in 2014, Best Score for “Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth” at the Cue Awards in 2015 and, Best Video Game Score for “Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth” at the Movie Music United Kingdom in 2015.

He has had countless nominations for many different video game award categories. He has also composed music for many popular, well-known video games such as “Donkey Kong Land 2,” “GoldenEye 007,” “Banjo-Kazooie,” “Banjo-Tooie,” “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts,” and “Donkey Kong 64.” His most recent project is for “Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle.”

Although he is referred to as a veteran composer, he doesn’t see himself as such. He considers himself humble with anything that he achieves.

“I don’t like focusing on the success thing too much, because you’re only as good as the last thing you’ve done right,” says Kirkhope. “If the next thing is [expletive] then, people forget about what you did before. I’ve been so lucky to be on some of those projects. It gave me inspiration to hopefully write hopefully good music. Like going from Rare to coming to America and going freelance. I think it’s always a happy set of fortunate disasters that kinda get me to the right place.”

According to Kirkhope, he is happy to stick around when it comes to composing music. He says he feels that he’s very lucky to be writing music, because if not, he would still be playing for local bands.

“I would be playing for local bands back in Yorkshire,” says Kirkhope. “At 55 years old, making no money. It’s a mystery on how I keep going.”

Kirkhope likes to reply to people who like his work on social media such as Twitter. He doesn’t consider himself a celebrity of any kind and likes to interact with his admirers.

“I don’t like to use the word fans,” Kirkhope explains. “I really try hard to reply to people on Twitter. I always think of it like this…If I could reach out to John Williams, he’s my absolute hero, and say, ‘Hey, John, I think you’re fantastic’ and he says, “Cheers Grant,” I would be over the moon. I think it’s a nice thing to do when I reply to people.”

Kirkhope takes his composing career one day at a time. He doesn’t focus on the success too much because he tries to live in the moment.

“I don’t really consider myself successful,” Kirkhope says. “I don’t let myself get a big ego. It’s nice to think that people like my music. I always say if one person, if someone likes anything that came out of your head, it’s pretty amazing. To see that people like my tunes, I’m always humble. It’s amazing for people to like what I do. That’s the reward for me.”

Servers not treated fairly in food industry

It’s a horrible feeling whenever you are a hard-working person and the establishment you’re working at belittles you.

I’m not going to mention the place of my previous employment, but I will certainly tell you the horrors of being a server.

First of all, servers don’t get paid enough, and automatically many believe that earning tips is enough to cover the lack of pay. Wrong. Somedays I didn’t even earn enough to cover what I was supposed to earn in tips during the day.

It’s not because I’m a bad server. I would know if I was. It’s because many customers don’t like to tip servers. They can spend $30 on a meal, but they can’t even tip their server 15 percent. At my previous employment, if you didn’t make a certain amount in tips, you got written up for it. Being a server, you have to rely on the customer that you’re waiting on to tip you. If you don’t earn tips just because customers don’t want to, you are the one that gets in trouble.

I used to make $3 an hour being a sever. It’s bad, I know. Tips are supposed to make up for the bad pay. How are you supposed to make a decent amount of tips whenever customers don’t feel like tipping you?

Another reason why I quit my previous employment is because of the way management treats their employees, especially servers. Servers receive bad pay, and we try to make the best of the situation. Management is supposed to help out servers and make sure their establishment doesn’t get a bad reputation. That’s pretty hard, considering whenever you’re the only server working for three hours and you’re expected to serve 50 people by yourself. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if a restaurant is busy and there is only one server, the smart thing to do is try to call someone in. But that’s the problem. A manager doesn’t want to call another person in because the fine establishment that you work at doesn’t want to pay for extra help. It doesn’t matter if customers are getting their food orders wrong, or late, and the service is slow (since there is only one server). All of that doesn’t matter. As long as they don’t have to pay for another server for a couple of hours, their reputation doesn’t mean anything.

My previous employer expected servers to do everything. We were expected to seat customers, take their drink and food orders, answer the phones, take care of the entrees coming out of the oven, fry wings, fries, and other sides, wipe down tables, take care of the salad bar, and, on top of that, take care of your ‘cut work’ before leaving for the day.

That’s not the worst part. The worst part of all of this is if you don’t leave at a certain time, you get in trouble. You’re supposed to do all these things, and you’re expected to the tasks at hand well and fast. It seems to me managers think you have super human abilities and you can do these tasks all at once.

The last time I checked, I’m just a normal person with only two hands. I can only do so much.

It makes me upset that servers don’t get the respect they deserve. You try so hard and you greet the customers with a smile, yet you don’t receive a tip. Then you have your manager in your ear all the time constantly telling you to do this and do that whenever you have a million other things to do.

If you mess up an order, they get on to you. It doesn’t even matter the situation. It doesn’t matter that the restaurant is filled with people and you’re the only server. It doesn’t matter that it was the only order you messed up on. You still get in trouble.

But if a manager messes up, it’s OK. It’s OK because apparently managers are worth more than severs. According to one of my previous managers, “servers are replaceable. Everyone of you is replaceable.”

Not all establishments are bad, though. I enjoyed some of my time where I used to work. They hired me whenever I wanted to earn some extra money. If I were to go back in time and knew what I know now, I wouldn’t even apply. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth my time.

Some may say I’m a cry baby, and I’m not cut out to be a server. That may be true. It’s true because I know my worth. I respect people who are servers. I will and have always tipped whenever someone waited on me. I know how it feels.

I hope this gives people a little more perspective on what the everyday server goes through. I also hope whenever you go into a restaurant you plan to tip. Because at the end of the day, servers are not replaceable, and we’re worth more than what we make.

Passion for basketball lands Williams assistant coach position

Careers can take people to unexpected locations, which is how Matt Williams landed in West Texas.

Originally from Peru, New York, Williams had the opportunity to come to South Plains College to become the new assistant men’s basketball coach.

“The past four years, I was at another junior college called Georgia Highlands, outside of Atlanta,” says William, “So, I worked there for four years and I actually had the opportunity over the summer to come here and work for Coach Green.”

Williams graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a bachelor’s degree in sports management. He received his master’s degree in athletic administration at Concordia University in Irvine, Calif.AE MW

“My first job out of school was in North Carolina,” says Williams. “I was in North Carolina for a couple of years, then I worked in Georgia for four. I’ve been bouncing around. Basketball has always been my greatest passion. I grew up playing it in high school and played a little in college. Then I had the opportunity to get into coaching. I just really enjoy it, and I’m basically trying to see how far it can take [me].”

According to Williams, being the assistant men’s basketball coach at Georgia Highlands and being the assistant men’s basketball coach at SPC are somewhat similar duties. But, every school is different.

“Mostly, the main things I do is recruiting,” Williams explained. “Then we do a lot of work with the players. We try to make them better, help with player development, and, of course, academics. We try to monitor guys and make sure they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing in the classroom. Because the most important thing for us is to get really good players that are also good kids. But also, make sure they graduate so they can move on to NCAA Division I schools.”6oballqlntsg6nqn

Williams is excited to be working under Steve Green, head coach of the men’s basketball team, and he was surprised when he received the call from SPC about the job offer.

“The biggest thing for me is coming to SPC and working for Coach Green,” explains Williams. “He’s been here for 17 years now and won multiple national championships. He’s in the Hall of Fame. He’s been great to me. He has been looking out for me ever since I’ve been here. He’s given me a lot of opportunity, a lot of responsibility. So, to have that chance to learn from him every day has been great, and I’m just trying to make the most of it.”AE Basketball

According to Williams, his transition moving from the East Coast down to West Texas has been smooth.

“Everywhere I’ve lived, it’s been a little bit different,” says Williams. “It’s been going great. The people all around the school, the administration, the Athletic Department, the teachers, they’ve all been really nice to me. It’s been going really well here. I like the whole town. It’s close to Lubbock, so there are things to do. I’ve just been getting used to it. It takes time where ever you go. But it’s been going well, and the people have been great to me.”

Pizza founder speculates NFL protests leading to lack of dough

Trouble is rising in the world of pepperoni and cheese, as John Schnatter has claimed his business isn’t raking in the dough due to the NFL protests.

Schnatter, founder and CEO of Papa John’s, hasn’t weighed in on the NFL protests, but he did have something to say to the media recently when it comes to his pizza sales.

The NFL has hurt us by not resolving the current debacle to the players’ and owners’ satisfaction,” Schnatter said in a conference call reported by Bloomberg News. “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders. Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership.”Papa_Johns_Pizza_logo

Schnatter is blaming the NFL for low pizza sales because the league hasn’t resolved the situation.

According to a CBS report, Papa John’s reported on Oct. 31 they recorded a lower than 1 percent rise in sales for its North American locations. Sales were up to 5.5 percent at the same time a year ago.

I’m not necessarily agreeing with Schnatter. But I can understand the reasoning why he is blaming the NFL for the low pizza sales. I can also understand that maybe he is blaming the NFL for the wrong reasons.

Maybe the reason why the pizza sales are low is because viewership is down for NFL games. There could be a connection between the league and lower sales numbers because less people are seeing Papa John’s advertisements.AE papa-johns

Either way, Schnatter shouldn’t have said that the NFL is an example of poor leadership. Since Papa John’s is the official sponsor of the NFL, this leads to the question of whether the company and the NFL will continue to work with each other. I’m surprised that Roger Goodell hasn’t commented on what Schnatter said, because now there can be an issue with NFL and Papa John’s.

Schnatter does make  a point with his comment about the NFL. He says that the NFL hasn’t resolved the current situation of the NFL protests. I agree with half of his statement. The NFL needs to resolve the issue with players, because if less people are watching football, that means less people are seeing advertisements from different companies. This can hurt sales for these companies, which can hurt the NFL in a major way.

Greg Creed, CEO of Yum Brands, parent company of Pizza Hut, has said that they haven’t seen an impact on their sales, and Schnatter’s comment was ridiculous. But Creed has to realize that Pizza Hut isn’t the face of the NFL. Pizza Hut is the official sponsor of the NCAA, while Papa John’s is the official sponsor of the NFL. So, Creed’s comment is irrelevant to the situation.

It doesn’t matter if the NFL is for or against the players standing for the national anthem. The problem is that they need to handle the situation, or companies such as Papa John’s are going to be voicing their opinion and causing more negative attention to the issue. Roger Goodell needs to come up with a compromise soon, or he’s going to be losing a lot more than just viewers.

‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ brings new hope to fans

The dark side is once again trying to take over the galaxy, and it’s up to the Rebellion to stop them.

The “Star Wars Battlefront II” beta ran from Oct. 6 to Oct. 12. However, if you had already pre-ordered the game, you had early access beginning on Oct. 4.

Betas are wonderful to the gaming community. They allow gamers to get a glimpse of what’s to come before the actual launch date of a specific game. They even help people who are interested in buying the game to know if it’s worth the time and money.

I had the benefit of playing the beta two days early because I have already pre-ordered the game. I played every day since the closing of the beta, and it was great…for a beta. There are some things the beta is missing, which I would expect since it’s not the finished product of the game.

One thing for certain is there is going to be a story mode, which was what the first “Battlefront” lacked. “Star Wars Battlefront” mainly involved online multiplayer modes, and many fans of the “Star Wars” franchise were surprised and upset that they didn’t put more single-player modes into the game. I personally enjoyed the first “Battlefront,” but I do agree it was lacking where I believe “Battlefront II” will pick up the slack.

Even though I believe “Battlefront II” will be better than the first one, that doesn’t mean there are some concerns. The main concern many people are discussing is loot boxes, also known as crates. Buying crates with actual cash leads to the question, “Do I have to pay to win?” Crates can be purchased with earned points from the game or actual cash. You can get Star Cards in the crates which you equip and use. That means if someone doesn’t want to spend any money, that person is going to have to work twice as hard to get what others can easily buy.

That doesn’t automatically make the gamer who buys crates good at the game, though. They may have better equipment, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to be high on the leaderboard.

An article in Rolling Stone magazine on Oct. 13 reported that EA (developer of both “Battlefront” games) said in a blog post that the most powerful items will only be earnable via in-game achievements. They’re hoping that will bring balance to the players who want to buy crates with earned points or cash. This is actually a great way to make the loot boxes balanced.

Another issue with the beta was Battle Points. You earn Battle Points in the game when you help others, defeat opponents, or stay on task with the mission you’re assigned. If you earn enough points, you can become a major character (a hero or a villain, depending on if you’re a Rebel or part of the Empire), or pilot a vehicle such as a X-Wing, and even become a better class character with powerful Star Cards already assigned to them. This can be a serious problem with players who aren’t very good at the game. It may take players longer than others to earn Battle Points, and once they do earn enough points, the character or vehicle they wanted may have already been assigned to someone else.First_Galactic_Empire_emblem

I can see this being a problem with people who aren’t good at the game. But I think that might encourage players to become better. A lot of gamers are saying it’s unfair. But in reality, it comes down to who is better at the game, which is the concept with most video games.

I also had a problem with hit boxes during the beta. It seemed that whenever an enemy player shot at me or around me, I would take damage and I would potentially die. Many players also complained about this problem, so I know for sure the developers will be working on this.

“Star Wars Battlefront II” will be released on Nov. 17. Whoever pre-ordered the game will have a three-day early access (which includes me). I can’t wait for the full release, since I’m a huge “Star Wars” fan and I was a fan of the first “Battlefront.”

I trust that the developers have heard the player’s comments and concerns and will fix the issues that were in the beta. If not, the game will likely turn toward the dark side.

Kosgei trains hard toward becoming top distance runner

Attending college may have its challenges when being from a different country. But those challenges haven’t stopped Felix Kosgei from succeeding at South Plains College.

The Kenya native grew up in the small town of Eldoret. Before making the transition to the United States, Kosgei trained to earn a scholarship to attend SPC.

“I used to train back home, and we had a time tryout to quality for a scholarship,” Kosgei explains. “We had to run a 3k, which is 7 1/2 laps. SPC was trying to get athletes to run for the school. They were taking the best guys with the best times, and I ended up being one of the best.

Kosgei has been one of the best distance runners at SPC since enrolling in the fall of 2015. He doesn’t have a specific major, so he is majoring in General Studies. According to Kosgei, his first semester at SPC was a little difficult because of the language barrier.

“My first semester was really hard,” recalls Kosgei, “because whenever I went to class I could see and hear the professor, but I couldn’t understand anything because the language is hard to understand.”

The language the Kenya natives speak is Swahili, according to Kosgei. There are different tribes that speak Swahili, but the mainland language is English.

“Swahili is mostly understood by the natives of the land,” explains Kosgei. “In school, we had to speak English. The teachers wouldn’t let us speak any other language, because when studying, everything is written in English. There is only one class that is about the Swahili language, and that’s the only class you’re allowed to speak that language.”

Since Kosgei has spent a lot of his time in the United States, he has more knowledge and understands more of the English language.

“I can speak English, but I may talk fast,” says Kosgei. “It’s still a little hard for me to understand the slang that is used. You know…whenever you’re not used to doing something? It’s hard. I can understand the English now. Whenever someone says something to me, I understand it. But, it takes a little while for me to answer back, because I’m still learning.”IMG_1283

The language isn’t the only thing that is different from what Kosgei is used to. According to the SPC sophomore, the big difference he notices is people drive to get to their destination.

“The first thing I can tell is back home the big difference is we walk all the time,” explains Kosgei. “That’s what makes us so fast. People from the United States use their car all the time, even if they could walk somewhere. If it’s like two miles, they drive. But back home, we walk. The reason is because the cars are expensive in Kenya, and people can’t afford to buy the cars, which is why we walk almost everywhere.”

During Kosgei’s time at SPC, he has competed for the track and cross country teams. He competes in the 5000-meter run, the 3000-meter run, and the 1500-meter run for track events.

Last year, Kosgei placed fifth in the 8k race at the NJCAA National Cross Country Championships in El Dorado, Kansas.  Earlier this year, he placed third in the 3000-meter run during the NJCAA Indoor Track and Field National Championship, which was held in Pittsburg, Kansas. He also placed fourth in the 10,000-meter run, fifth in the 5000-meter run, and 10th in the 1500-meter run during the NJCAA Outdoor Track and Field National Championship in Hutchinson, Kansas, in May.

“For me, it’s a big accomplishment whenever I place at cross country or track meets, because being fast isn’t easy,” says Kosgei. “It takes a lot of commitment, and it’s really hard. That’s why whenever I win any competition, I get very excited. I can see running being a career for me. I actually do consider running my career, because I prosper in it most of the time.”

According to Kosgei, he plans to graduate from SPC next fall. He doesn’t have a specific school choice yet, but he has been receiving several offers to run for different universitites such as Alabama, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, and Eastern Kentucky.

“Due to challenges in my family, I didn’t want to go to school again,” explains Kosgei. “After I graduated high school, I just wanted to focus on running professionally. To me, it seemed like running professionally would be the easiest way to help out my family. I didn’t know I was going to come to the United States, though. It’s a great experience, because I didn’t expect it.”

Kosgei says he’s going to miss the people who he as met and spent time with whenever he graduates and leaves SPC.

“I’m going to miss the coaches, the friends, and all the people I have met here,” says Kosgei. “I’m going to miss the community, because they’ve given me so much support.”

Media, fans should have faith in new Green Bay quarterback

In the world of sports, anything can happen.

The unimaginable happened recently as I witnessed Aaron Rodgers, quarterback for Green Bay, suffer a broken collarbone when playing against the Minnesota Vikings. I was crushed, and I’m sure all my fellow cheese heads felt the same way.

It turns out Rodgers will possibly be out for the rest of the season. I remember what happened last time Rodgers sustained a broken collarbone during the 2013 season. The rest of the season didn’t look too good for the Packers because their backup quarterbacks at the time weren’t very good. But, I feel like this time around things are going to change.

Brett Hundley, backup quarterback for Green Bay, played the rest of the game on Oct. 15. Even though Green Bay lost, I expected worse. The media, such as ESPN and the NFL Network, are suggesting that Green Bay needs to find another quarterback besides Hundley to fill in for Rodgers. Many people have even suggested signing Tony Romo or Colin Kaepernick!

First of all, I would rather lose every game than to see Romo and, especially Kaepernick, in a Green Bay jersey. There is no way I would want that to happen.

Hundley hasn’t even played a full NFL game yet. He came off the bench whenever he filled in for Rodgers. He wasn’t expecting to be playing right at that moment, which is why people need to cut him some slack.Sports OP NL

It makes me upset that people are jumping the gun and already expecting him to not be good. He’s no Rodgers. There is only one Rodgers, but he can still be decent. Like I’ve stated before, he has yet to play with some practice under his belt. He threw three interceptions during the game against the Vikings. He’s not going to be perfect. I’m sure he was nervous and did the best he could, considering the situation. Everyone is expecting him to play like Rodgers or be an amazing quarterback. He just came off the bench! What more to do you want from him?

The last time Rodgers broke his collarbone, Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien, and Matt Flynn were the backups for Rodgers, and things weren’t great. Wallace suffered a groin injury. Tolzien wasn’t good at all, so they turned to Flynn, who wasn’t that bad. I can already tell that Hundley is better than Wallace and Tolzien at least. I don’t know about Flynn, but Hundley doesn’t seem that bad. He just needs some practice.

Mike McCarthy, head coach for Green Bay, stated in a press conference on Oct. 16 that Hundley is the best man for the job. One reporter asked McCarthy if he would consider having Kaepernick as a backup quarterback, and McCarthy wasn’t happy with the question.

McCarthy said, “Did you not just listen to the question I just answered? I’ve got three years invested in Brett Hundley, two years invested in Joe Callahan. The quarterback room is exactly where it needs to be. OK?”

I don’t blame McCarthy for the way he answered the reporter. He already told them in the press conference that Hundley was the guy for the job, and the reporter still had the nerve to ask him if he would consider Kaepernick for the position. McCarthy is the head coach, and if he says Hundley is our best bet, then I can’t disagree.

I think Hundley will be good in time. It’s all about him practicing and the experience he is receiving. If he doesn’t get any better, then McCarthy and the rest of the Packers staff will handle it. The media needs to stop suggesting quarterbacks and let the staff handle the situation. I know for sure the Packers won’t be signing Kaepernick anytime soon, and I hope it stays like that.

Lobbyists, volunteers dedicate time to address climate issues

[Editor’s note: is story is the third part of the multi-part series “Climate Crisis” examining the causes and effects of climate change that began with Issue #1 and concludes in Issue #6. Several staff members took it upon themselves to interview and conduct research. The results of their combined efforts follow.]

Activists around the world are dedicating their time to stopping climate change.

One organization, however, is working to create climate solutions.

Citizens’ Climate Lobby is an organization that is working toward national policies to address the issues of climate change.

“We need to have national policies in place that are going to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are doing the climate changes,” says Steve Valk, communications director for Citizens’ Climate Lobby. “To do that, we have to generate political will to Congress to take action.”

Steve Valk Citizens Climate Lobby
Steve Valk, communications director for Citizens Climate Lobby, encourages volunteers to help with climate solutions. Photo courtesy of Steve Valk

Citizens’ Climate Lobby trains and supports volunteers from around the country to lobby their members of Congress to develop relationships with them by talking with or writing to them.

According to Valk, there are many important issues when addressing climate change. But the Citizens’ Climate Lobby believes the biggest impact that is going to address climate issues is putting a price on carbon.

“We lobby for a policy that we call Carbon Fee and Dividend,” says Valk. “You assess a fee on fossil fuels based on the C02 content in the fuel, and then increase the fee each year. So, you’re providing the incentive for a number of businesses and industries who shift to cleaner sources of energy because of the fee.”

Attaching a fee to fossil fuels leads to coal, oil and gas becoming more expensive compared to solar and wind power. The carbon fee is only one part of the policy, though. The other part is the dividend.

“Take all the revenue,” explains Valk. “Take all that money from the carbon fee, divide it up equally among households in the U.S. and give the money back to people, because we know that putting a fee on carbon will increase the cost of energy. If we give the revenue back to households, then they’ll have the additional income they need to cover.”

In 2014, Citizens’ Climate Lobby did a study for their policy and  found two things. In the past 20 years, they have cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent. The other discovery they found was because they’re giving back the money to households, it creates a stimulus effect that creates around 3.8 billion jobs.

“We’re focusing on getting that passed,” Valk says, “and to do that we need both Democrats and Republicans to support this legislation. We have accomplished in the last few years to get Democrats and Republicans talking to each other about climate solutions.”

According to Valk, Citizens’ Climate Lobby played a key role in the formation of the House Climate Solutions Caucus, a bipartisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives which was started in 2016 by two congressmen in Florida.

If you’re aware and alarmed with what’s happening with our climate, if you’re worried about the future of our world, then there is something you can do about it.

“Since January, the caucus has grown to 58 members, 29 Democrats and 29 Republicans,” explains Valk. “Eventually, some members from both sides will introduce the legislation. We’re not there yet, but we’re going to get there.”

Citizens’ Climate Lobby was founded in October 2007 by Marshall Saunders. However, Saunders wasn’t focusing on climate change during his career, as he operated an estate brokerage specializing in shopping center development and leasing.

“Marshall made a lot of money in real estate,” explains Valk, “and back in the early 90s, he became very interested in doing something about poverty. He learned about the approach addressing poverty using microcredit.”

Microcredit provides small loans to poor people and women, mainly used in developing countries. They can start or expand their own business to make money and pull their families out of poverty, according to Valk.

Saunders heard about microcredit through an organization called Results. Results lobbies Congress for hunger and poverty programs. Saunders went on to start his own microcredit program in Mexico based on the success of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh.

“He even went over to Bangladesh and learned all about [microcredit] from Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen Bank,” Valk explains. “He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 for his work with microcredit.”

Citizens Climate Lobby
Citizens climate lobby meets at the nation’s capital. Photo courtesy of Steve Valk.

In 2006, Al Gore’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” released and Saunders saw it. He ended up watching the film several times, and he was concerned about what was happening to the planet.

“He realized if something wasn’t done about climate change, the people that he was trying to help weren’t going to have a place to live,” says Valk. “He went to the Climate Change Project and was trained by Al Gore to do slideshow presentations. After doing the presentations for a year, something was missing. The presentations didn’t mention any national policies.”

One day Saunders picked up the New York Times and saw that Congress gave $18 billion in subsidies to oil and coal companies. He decided that the country needed a national policy to discourage the use of fossil fuels.

“He couldn’t find an organization that was providing the support for volunteers,” says Valk. “He said, ‘Well, I guess I’ll have to start my own.’”

In 2009, Saunders hired many staff members, and that’s when the lobby started to grow. At one time, the lobby only had a dozen chapters in the United States but now has 400 chapters. The chapters meet once a month and have national conference calls that involve climate experts.

“We provide a lot of support for the volunteers, and we educate them,” says Valk. “We train our volunteers and give them skills that they need to be effective advocates. We encourage people to check out the introductory calls and get to know a little bit about us.”

Valk explains there are many climate change-caused disasters happening around the world. He encourages people who are concerned about climate change to take action.

“If you’re aware and alarmed with what’s happening with our climate, if you’re worried about the future of our world, then there is something you can do about it,” explains Valk. “You can reclaim your democracy and get Congress to take action, and we will give you the support and training to be an active advocate to get our government to enact the solutions that are going to make a decision.”

Deadline approaches for December graduation applications

Applications are available for South Plains College students who have met the requirements to graduate in December.

Students who are planning to graduate in December need to check with their academic advisor or an advisor at the Advising Center on campus.

“[Students] need to check with their advisors to verify the completion of this semester,” says Robin Coler, graduation clerk at SPC.

To be eligible to graduate, a student must have a 2.0 grade-point average or better and have finished all degree requirements by December. Students also need to complete the online graduation application through their MySPC account. The deadline for applying for graduation is Nov 17.

To complete the application, students must sign in to their MySPC account, click on ‘Students’ tab, then ‘Admissions and Records,’ on the left-hand side, and then click on the ‘Student Forms and Tools’ tab. There will be a blue link named ‘Application for Graduation’ in the middle of the screen.

Students can choose whether to receive their diploma in December or participate in the spring ceremony. Students will be receiving their diploma in the mail if they choose not to participate in the spring ceremony, which will be held on May 12.

“[Students] can choose if they want to walk,” says Coler, “and if they do want to walk, they just need to indicate ‘yes’ on the application.”

Received applications take around six to eight weeks after the winter break to be approved. Once approved, the applicant will be notified.

For help, students may contact their program advisor or go to the Administration Building and see an advisor at the Advising Center, or contact Coler in the Admissions and Records Office.

Romero finds new home with track, cross country teams

Talents are usually discovered by not looking for them. For Leslie Romero, her talent for running was discovered unexpectedly.

A Houston native, Romero went to Memorial High School before making the transition to Levelland to compete for the cross country and track teams at South Plains College.

“I started running in middle school,” Romero recalls, “and actually the reason why I started was because I didn’t make any of the other sports teams. Cross country is a no-cut sport, so that’s how I started. It wasn’t until eighth grade that I started noticing I had a talent for running.”

Romero went to a 6A school, which she says helped her experiences as a runner.

“I’ve always had good competition with competing and stuff,” says Romero. “My coach was also a very good coach, so that was nice to have.”


Initially, SPC wasn’t Romero’s first choice for attending college. She planned on going to Stephen F. Austin, but her plans changed.

“My high school was academically challenged, so we had some issues getting me eligible for school,” explains Romero. “My high school coach told me she found another home for me. If I was going to go to a junior college, then South Plains College was the best place to go.”

Romero came to Levelland to visit the campus, and she enjoyed it. She moved and enrolled at SPC in the fall of 2016. She is currently majoring in physical therapy.

“I like to help people,” says Romero. “I’m looking toward more sports physical therapy areas, and I still want to be involved in sports because I understand being an athlete and how you get hurt while being an athlete.”

Leslie Romero, a physical therapy major, finishes running at the cross country meet in Levelland on Oct. 7. DOM PUENTE/PLAINSMAN PRESS

During her time at SPC, Romero is involved with the cross country and track teams. During track season, she runs the 1,600-meter race and the 3k for indoor track. For outdoor running events, she runs the 1,500-meter race and the steeple chase.

“I haven’t tried the 10k because I’ve been running the steeple, and that’s the first time I’ve tried it out,” explains Romero, “so the coaches and myself are trying to get me used to that.”

During the New Mexico Highlands Cross Country Jam in Las Vegas, N.M, Romero received her first collegiate victory the women’s cross country event.

“After that meet, I’ve been placing second,” says Romero. “It feels good to receive first place. It makes me want to go out there and win another meet. It’s nice to have that boost of confidence.”

Romero explains the more experienced she is with running events, her nerves don’t get to her.

“Honestly, I’ve been running for years, and I don’t get nervous anymore,” says Romero. “For cross country, I don’t get nervous at all actually. I just think in my head I’m about to race. A lot of people ask me, though, what I’m thinking about when I’m about to race, and I think about how fast I’m going and the people in front of me. I think about pacing myself and try to control my pace.”

According to Romero, being the number one girl for cross country is different for her, and it’s not something that she’s used to.

“I feel like it’s definitely something to look forward to,” explains Romero. “You’re not always going to be in that one spot, and people hold themselves back mentally, and then it becomes physically. Once you get out of that mindset, you can do greater things.”

The SPC running teams have different sets of workouts when practicing for their meets. Romero explains they have track workouts and long runs.

“When we do long runs, we run out towards where the cotton fields are,” says Romero. “It’s just a straight gravel road, and it’s 23 miles. We don’t go down that far, but that is where we do our long runs and tempo runs. Usually we have long runner minute runs, and then we have our track workouts.”

Romero plans to graduate next spring and wants to continue her running career.

“I’m actually visiting schools right now, and I’m not leaning towards a specific school yet,” says Romero. “I think where the university is located is a big thing for me, because you know how West Texas is a small-town type area and I’m from Houston. I like the bigger city atmosphere.”

Romero says her time at SPC has been enjoyable. When she leaves, she’s going to miss the people she has met during the semesters the most.

“I’m definitely going to miss the team and the coaches,” explains Romero. “I think SPC has a lot of culture, because the team is from everywhere around the world, and it’s nice coming out here and meeting them. You learn how they live and different things that they do. My roommate is from Papua, New Guinea and I love her. She’s so sweet, and her accent and everything is cool to me. I’m going to miss the people here for sure.”

Bryant deserves both Laker jerseys retired

Kobe Bryant has given his best years to the NBA.

Now, the NBA is deciding to celebrate the former Laker the best way possible.

Bryant has changed the great game of basketball. It saddened me when he announced his retirement after the 2015-2016 season. The Los Angeles Lakers finally came to an agreement on what jersey number should be retired. The franchise has determined that both jersey number 8 and 24, would be retired on Dec. 18.

It doesn’t surprise me. Bryant deserves that, if not more. He has worked hard his entire basketball career. He was drafted right out of high school, and his career statistics are unbelievable. Many believe he is better than Michael Jordan. Even if some don’t believe that, his records speak for themselves.

Bryant was the first player in NBA history to have at least 30,000 career points and 6,000 career assists. He was just the third player in NBA history to average 40 points in a calendar month, which he has accomplished four times. His 81-point game against Toronto on Jan. 26, 2006 was a night my dad and I will never forget! It was the second highest in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain, who has the record of 100 points.

My family, friends and NBA fans around the world were astonished by Bryant’s performance that night. My dad was so excited that he even bought a t-shirt representing Bryant and his 81-point game. I’m not saying Bryant is perfect, but he sure is close to it. He had a gift, and he utilized it well.

Kobe Bryant Opinion

So, I do agree with the Lakers that both numbers should be retired. Bryant started with number 8 and switched to 24 during the middle of his career. It would only make sense that both numbers should be retired. It wouldn’t feel or look right if another player was wearing one or the other. He has worn both jerseys for 10 seasons. He has won three NBA championships with the number 8 jersey and two with 24.

The best thing about this whole situation is Bryant never demanded to have both jerseys retired. He didn’t feel entitled. When the franchise announced that they will be retiring both numbers, Bryant said to ESPN in a news release, “As a kid growing up in Italy, I always dreamed of my jersey hanging in the Lakers rafters, but I certainly never imagined two of them. The Lakers have bestowed a huge honor on me, and I’m grateful for the fans’ enthusiasm around this game.”

Jeanie Buss, the team’s, controlling owner, said “Kobe’s jerseys are taking their rightful home next to the greatest Lakers of all time.” She is correct. Bryant’s jerseys will hang in the rafters with some of the greatest Lakers of all time, such as Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal and Jerry West.

I am very pleased with this decision. I’ve been a fan of the Lakers for a while, and so has my dad. I grew up watching him. He has set the tone for other great NBA players doing great things for the league.

I’ve been to a Lakers game once, and I knew something didn’t feel complete about it. Now I know why. The next time I go I’ll be sure to look up at the rafters to see two jerseys from one of the greatest NBA players of all time, in their rightful place.

Lubbock Center dishing out new culinary program

by NICOLE LOPEZ//Sports Editor


3-D Model of Culinary Technology Center courtesy of Patrick Ramsey


The smell of success is in the air as South Plains College plans to offer a new degree program starting next year.

Culinary Technology will be available in the Fall of 2018, with new facilities being built at the Lubbock Center campus.

According to Patrick Ramsey, executive chef, the program was first discussed five years ago by Rob Blair, dean of Technical Education.

“About two years ago, Title V and some of other funding came through, which became more of a reality,” explains Ramsey. “That’s when they hired me and Natalie to come out and make it a reality.”

Natalie Osuna, Culinary Arts program developer, says she and Ramsey started working with SPC in June to create the plans for the culinary program.

“The plans for culinary have been developed and approved,” says Osuna. “So we’re just waiting to break ground on this facility and also the course outline. We should be meeting with the advisory committee in a few weeks to have the outline approved.”

Osuna says the culinary program is going to be the only program in West Texas of its kind. SPC’s program is unique because of the facilities associated with the program

“The closest one that offers an associate’s degree is Odessa College, but their facilities are totally different than ours,” says Osuna. “We’re really proud of the design we have come up with as far as facilities go, because we feel that’s a step above anywhere else.”

Ramsey explains the labs and facilities associated with the culinary program are purpose-based designs, meaning they designed the kitchens and the classrooms to be very representative of real- world experiences.

“We’re trying to give them the real-world experience,” explains Ramsey, “an education that will enable them to do better in the real world. We’re exposing them to the noise when cooking and all the good things that go around in the kitchen.”

According to Osuna, SPC and the surrounding areas of Lubbock are excited about the program. She also points out it is necessary and very much in demand because of all the restaurants in the region.

Ramsey says that as Lubbock hits the 250,000 mark in population, that’s a benchmark for hotels, restaurants and food chains.

“As Texas Tech starts to grow, and the community gets bigger and bigger, and with the chain restaurants, the culinary degrees are going to exist here,” explains Ramsey. “It’s going to grow exponentially.”

Ramsey explains the culinary program won’t be focusing on just cooking, Even though the program is focused on culinary, it’s also geared to give students a good career.

“They will be walking out with a degree that no one can take away from them,” says Ramsey. “But also besides the cooking arts and stuff, we’ll be exposing them to all aspects, such as looking for jobs in the culinary arts program from management to grocery stories, bakeries and wedding cake designs.”

The culinary program will be taking students from an entry-level position and taking them through the culinary technology they need to receive their certificate. The degree plan will offer a basic certificate after two semesters are completed and an advanced certificate after four semesters.

“Of course, if a student wants to get their core courses accomplished as well, that will result in an associate’s degree of applied science,” explains Osuna. “Patrick and I will be teaching. When we start up, we foresee hiring another person. But as the program develops, our whole faculty for culinary should be six professors.”

Every fall, 48 students will be accepted into the program, with a student-to-professor ratio of 16-to-1.

“When these kids get out of here their second year, they’ll have a pretty good tool box to continue on in the culinary field and pursue a career job,” says Ramsey. “We also want to enlighten them in the other aspects that exist out there in the food industry. Nobody is going to be a chef when they come out of the courses. Nobody is a chef when they get out of any culinary school, despite what they think. They can choose to take their career at any path that they want.”

Student shares experience of Harvey aftermath

by NICOLE LOPEZ//Sports Editor


Victor Madrid recently came back from patrolling the city of Houston and surrounding area after Hurricane Harvey. THALIA GONZALEZ/PLAINSMAN PRESS


Flooded streets and cars underwater were among the sights a South Plains College student saw after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston.

Victor Madrid joined the National Guard in February 2014. He says the reason why he joined was because his friend wanted him to.

“I did it because he was a really good friend, and I didn’t want him to do it alone,” says Madrid.

The Friday before Hurricane Harvey hit, the National Guard was asking for volunteers, so Madrid decided he wanted to do it. But, he ended up changing his mind because he didn’t want to fall behind in school.

“I changed my mind because school was about to start,” explains Madrid. “But that Monday, on the first day of school, they told me everyone was activated to go. So I had to tell my professors that I would be going to Houston.”

Madrid and his company flew out of Lubbock and landed at Camp Swift in Oklahoma. They qualified for weapons again before going to Houston.

“The flooding was pretty bad,” explains Victor Madrid. “Before we went, we had to put a piece of tape on our vehicles which indicated if the water passed the tape you were at risk for flooding your vehicle, and it easily passed that. The flooding was able to reach the top of a RV.”

Madrid explains the National Guard separated the companies into two. He went to Katy and Houston, while the other company went to patrol in Beaumont and Vidor.

“Our main thing was security and patrol,” says Madrid. “They already had enough people doing aid and help. We went there to stop looters and show presence of power. We went there and showed that even though we’re [in Houston] helping, you still have to follow the rules.”

According to Madrid, the parts of the city of Houston weren’t affected. However, the little towns surrounding Houston were affected because they were closer to the water.

“Beaumont didn’t have any running water and electricity for two weeks,” recalls Madrid. “There was also a chemical plant that was on the verge of exploding because of the flooding. The hurricane knocked out the generators and the backup generators, and the chemicals needed to be a certain temperature. Since the generators weren’t working, they couldn’t keep it sustained.”

Madrid spent two weeks in Houston. He says the National Guard decided to send the college students home, which is why he returned. However, the majority of the National Guard members stayed.

Madrid signed an eight-year contract with the National Guard, and he is currently serving his third year as a 68 Whiskey, which, in civilian terms, means he is a combat medic.

“I actually didn’t want to be a medic,” says Madrid. “I wanted to be infantry with my friend. They told me I couldn’t be infantry because my ASVAB score was too high, and they didn’t want to waste a high score on a basic infantryman. So, they started listing other jobs that were available, so I chose medic.”

According to Madrid, to be a medic you have to be EMT certified. The EMT course training is done in basic training, a six-month course compacted into six weeks.

“Being a medic has its ups and downs,” says Madrid. “Basically, we just take care of the infantry guys. I remember plenty of nights where I had to stay up past 3 a.m. just helping guys. It just depends on the injury.”

Born in Portales, New Mexico, Madrid moved to Amherst with his family in 2010 and graduated from Amherst High School in 2013. In the fall of 2013, he enrolled at SPC to start his basics.

Madrid says he hopes to graduate from SPC in December, with plans to attend Texas Tech University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“It’s just something about talking to people that I really like,” explains Madrid. “My plan is to go into forensic or clinical psychology, depending on what career path I choose.”

Cosmetology professor, family has seen college grow from start

by NICOLE LOPEZ//Sports Editor


Sarah Thompson’s family has been at the college since it was founded. TOVI OYERVIDEZ/PLAINSMAN PRESS.



It is rare to get to see a college grow from the beginning.

But for Sarah Thompson, instructor in cosmetology, her and her family has been part of South Plains College from the start.

Thompson and her family have SPC running through their veins. Thompson’s parents, James and Sycily Lattimore, built their first home on Linda Lane, the first street past the college to the south.

“SPC used to be just a pasture,” recalls Thompson. “Whenever they built that home, College Avenue was just a dirt road.”

Her mom was a faculty member at SPC for more than 30 years, and her dad provided most of the trees that are on the campus.

“My dad had a tree nursery, so I helped him plant a lot of the trees we have around the campus,” recalls Thompson. “I spent every waking moment on the campus. When my mom first became a faculty member, we would have Christmas parties, and I knew everyone. I called everyone by their first names. We were all a family.”

Thompson has lived in Levelland all her life. She went through grade school up until she graduated from Levelland High School. She also married her high school sweetheart and has been in town ever since.

However, Thompson’s initial profession was not cosmetology. She had another career choice in mind.

“In high school, I thought I was going to go into veterinary medicine,” recalls Thompson. “But when my dad got sick while I was in high school, I wanted to stay home and help take care of him. I then chose instead of doing the science and the math, I already went ahead and did cosmetology. That way I can go ahead and work my way through college, or be here to help with him.”

Thompson graduated from high school when she was 17 years old and received her cosmetology license before graduating. She attended SPC in the fall of 1978 through 1982, taking night classes for her basics and business courses.

“After I had family and whenever I had my parents to take care of, I decided to own two salon shops,” says Thompson. “I had one shop called the Clipper. I worked my first year for a lady who was a wonderful mentor to me. After I worked for her for a year, another lady and I went into partnership, which was the Clipper. The first year that I worked at the Clipper, I was trained in electrolysis, which is permanent hair removal. I sold the Clipper, and I had that one for 14 years.”

Thompson needed a little more privacy for her clients, which is why she bought another shop named Shear Imagination. She has owned Shear Imagination for 37 years.

During the time Thompson owned the Clipper, she decided to pursue her instructor’s course in cosmetology. She finished her instructor’s license in 2002. She was a part-time instructor in 2003, then got a full-time job at SPC in August of 2006.

Thompson says that she loves everything about her job. She says cosmetology is a wonderful profession, and it’s a great way to raise her family and take care of loved ones.

“There is nothing better than someone coming in after they’ve had a bad day and you give them a new hairstyle, or a manicure, or a pedicure, or a facial,” explains Thompson. “You can see all that weight being lifted off of them. It’s very rewarding. It’s very one-on-one, so you build that relationship with those clients. I got clients that I’ve been seeing for 40 years.”

Thompson and her family have dedicated most of their life to SPC. Her husband is also an alum, as are her two daughters. Her granddaughters are also alumni, with another granddaughter on the way who is sure to follow in the tradition of attending SPC.

“I have three siblings, and they all have gone to SPC and graduated,” Thompson said. “My sister is still a faculty member, and she teaches accounting. I have nearly seen SPC grow for 60 years. I feel my family and I bleed orange and blue.”

Thompson also is a proud member of the SPC Foundation Board and the Scholarship Committee. She teaches yoga at the SPC PE complex on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She also loves being with family, swimming, animals and being outdoors.

“I would like to challenge all SPC alumni to donate to SPC and share the joy of education,” says Thompson.