Category: Feature

Retired CIA agent settles down after life of adventure

by: MALLORY CARVER/News Editor

From the jungles of the Vietnam War, to the classrooms of South Plains College, former CIA agent Sanford Hunt has witnessed history firsthand.

Hunt has been teaching at South Plains College on and off for nearly eight years. He just recently became a full-time professor about three years ago.

But SPC is merely a retirement job for Hunt, an instructor in history.

The Marine Corps was the first to employ Hunt in the 1960s. He spent a year in Vietnam learning Vietnamese. After spending some time in the military, Hunt got a call asking him to come to Washington, D.C., where he was offered a possible position with the CIA. He accepted the offer. The CIA put him through multiple tests, and then he waited.

After about six months, Hunt got a call from the CIA, asking him if he was ready to come to work.

During the Vietnam War, Hunt’s previous experience with speaking Vietnamese caused him to be stationed in Vietnam once again—this time as a translator. He stayed in Vietnam from 1963 until 1975, when the war ended.

Hunt had already received his Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Upon returning from Vietnam, Hunt went back to school to acquire his master’s degree in history at Texas Tech University. Hunt says his experience in the CIA gave him the opportunity to have a close-up view of history, and that as he got older, he began to find history even more interesting than he had before.

Teacher Feature
Sanford Hunt in his office at SPC on Sept. 16. MALLORY CARVER/PLAINSMAN PRESS

Hunt says that his experience in Vietnam assisted him in, “not only getting a job, but also a family.”

Hunt met his wife, Oanh, in Vietnam. On a wall in his campus office is a large family picture with the smiling faces of Hunt and Oanh, their four, grown-up children, their husbands and wives, and a bunch of happy grandchildren.

Hunt’s incredible life story continues as he affects the lives of his children and grandchildren, along with the students he teaches at SPC. He loves teaching, he said.

“This place is a really nice environment,” Hunt says, “one of the nicest schools that I’ve been in. There’s a really nice pattern of students at SPC. We have a lot of foreign students out here, probably a lot more than most junior colleges. I think it’s really nice.”

Hunt says that SPC is a really important bridge for a lot of students. It’s good for all students, whether they’re going from high school to a bigger institution, or previously missed out on the opportunity of a college education. Even students who are training for a career, such as nursing or welding, find a place at SPC.

“…It not only prepares them for some kind of career, but it opens up the possibility of going on to a higher education as well,” says Hunt. “ I’ve really enjoyed working with the other teachers here, and the students are fun.”

Many students will undoubtedly benefit from the variety of experiences that Hunt has to share.

Coogan make Lubbock stop on ‘Adventure in Babysitting’ tour

by: SKYLER McCLESKEY/Staff Writer

From voicing, Tod the fox in “Fox and the Hound,” to Brad Anderson, a teenage boy in love with his babysitter, Keith Coogan is very diverse.

Coogan was born Jan. 13, 1970, in Palm Springs, California. He is the grandson of the late legendary character actor Jackie Coogan. Coogan started acting at a very young age, appearing in commercials. In 1981, he had his first role on the big screen, voicing young Tod in Disney’s “Fox and the Hound.”

In 1987, Coogan’s big hit, “Adventures in Babysitting” came to the big screen. The $7 million budget movie made more then $23 million in profit. It was directed by Chris Columbus, who also directed the first two Harry Potter movies, as well as “Home Alone,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” and “The Help.” The movie also was released in England as, “Night on the Town.”

“Filming this movie and being a part of it changed my life,” Coogan told the Plainsman Press during an exclusive interview on Sept. 10 at the Alamo Draft House in Lubbock.

Keith Coogan signs autographs for fans at Alamo Draft House in Lubbock on Sept. 1o. SKYLER McCLESKY/PLAINSMAN PRESS

Coogan is touring all the Alamo Draft House locations, doing Q&A’s after the showing of “Adventures in Babysitting.” This was his second stop in Texas after visiting Houston the week before.      “Adventures in Babysitting” opens with a high school senior, Chris Parker (Elisabeth Shue), having to babysit the Anderson kids, Brad (Keith Coogan) and Sara (Maia Brewton) after her boyfriend stood her up. What should be a quiet night in turns into a series of ridiculous events, starting when they leave the house to pick up Chris’s friend, Brenda (Penelope Ann Miller). Soon, Brad’s buddy, Daryl (Anthony Rapp), is involved, and the group must overcome a series of events that involves car thieves, blues musicians and much more.

Coogan said his favorite scene to shoot was the train scene. That scene was shot in Chicago on the elevated subway.

Coogan explains, “We just road the train in circles a hundred times, shooting and re-shooting that scene.”

After “Adventures in Babysitting,” Coogan played other roles such as, Jonathan “Snuffy” Bradberry in “Toy Soldiers.” Coogan also was a star guest stared on many TV shows such as, “The Love Boat,” “Eight is Enough,” “Mork & Mindy,” “Knight Rider,” “Chips,” “Starman,” and “21 Jump-street.”

Coogan married Kristen “Pinky” Shean on Oct 26, 2013. Their love story is like no other, according to his wife. Shean works as a Disney production assistant and blog writer, but that’s not how they met. Shean’s hobby is what is called “celebrity enthusiast.” She goes around taking pictures with many celebrities. Shean and Coogan met in February at Keith’s first autograph show.

“I was not real sure who he was at first,” Shean recalls. “But after our picture and talking to him, I found out he was from my favorite Disney movie.”

Just six short months later, the two were married. They are now touring with Alamo Draft House, signing autographs and taking pictures. Coogan recently said on a radio talk show that he is currently working on a short film. The film is about a man who only has 6,000 seconds of eyesight left, and what he chooses to see.

For more information, on Coogan and this upcoming film check out his blog at

Family tradition… Hall begins new chapter as third generation on campus

by: PAMELA GANDY/Editorial Assistant 

Selecting which college to attend is a very big decision.

There are many factors to consider, such as location, cost and available programs of study. The number of options can be overwhelming. However, for freshman Katelyn Hall, attending South Plains College was a simple choice to make.

Katelyn is the third generation of Halls to attend SPC. The family tradition began with her grandfather, Randy Hall, who began his education at SPC in 1969. Randy was born in Levelland, but had grown up in California. He chose SPC because he was attracted to West Texas. Randy studied middle management and lived nearby on a farm with his aunt and uncle.

Katelyn’s grandmother, Candy Hall, also began her college career at SPC, enrolling in the fall of 1971. She studied elementary education and minored in English. Having grown up in Brownfield, SPC met all of her requirements.

“It was close, it was a small school,” Candy said.  “It was just a good fit.”

Katelyn’s grandparents met while attending SPC, which made their experiences at the Levelland campus even more significant.

When Candy and Randy’s son Russell began looking into different colleges, they encouraged him to go to SPC as well.

“We were living in McKinney at the time, and I knew that I wanted to come to Tech,” recalls Russell. “I couldn’t afford Tech, but I wanted to move out. They ordered catalogs. We got the catalogs in, and they told me they had student housing so I could move out and live on campus and go to school. Eventually, I made my way to Texas Tech.”

Katelyn Hall, center, continues her family legacy by attending South Plains College. She was recently visited at Tubb Hall by her grandfather, Randy, her grandmother, Candy, her mother, Krystal, and her father Russell. PAMELA GANDY/PLAINSMAN PRESS


Russell began his education at SPC in 1993, majoring in agri-business and minoring in commercial music. He went on to work at SPC for eight years before his family moved to Dallas.

When it came time for Katelyn to decide which college she would attend, SPC was one of the first schools she considered.

“What interested me was, because my dad worked here for eight years, I grew up around here,” said Katelyn. “I knew a lot of people here. It’s my home away from home.”

Although SPC seemed like a good fit for her, Katelyn did consider other colleges.

“Because we live in Dallas, I did consider going to the community college there,” Katelyn explained. “But, I kind of wanted that away-from-home experience, so this was a really great place to come.”

She said that the academics at SPC also enticed her to come to South Plains College. Katelyn started school at the Levelland campus this fall, and is majoring in education.

Her family is very excited about her decision to attend SPC.

“I felt good knowing she was coming here,” said Krystal Hall, Katelyn’s mother. “We know a lot of the faculty and the administration here. It was a home away from home. If she needs someone, we have lots of family that live close and lots of friends. It was a safe place.”

Russell, Katelyn’s father, also felt that SPC was a good school for Katelyn. He felt that it was important that she gain independence, but did not want her to feel alone.

“It was the one place where we could send her six hours from home to be off at college, but not be on an island by herself,” explains Russell. “Not just with family and friends in Lubbock, but with the faculty and the staff. We were just friends with so many people because we lived here for eight years.”

Russell also added that all of the family connections at SPC made him feel confident that Katelyn would be able to get help if she ever needed it.

“That’s also how we felt as students, before we knew anybody,” Russell continued. “That was part of the family atmosphere, you didn’t have to be anybody special to get special treatment.” He adds that part of why he hoped Katelyn would choose to attend SPC was, “the family atmosphere of the college.”

Randy said that the family atmosphere at SPC was also why he and Candy had encouraged Russell to go to SPC in 1993.

Beyond the close connections, SPC’s small class sizes and wonderful professors also made a big impact on Katelyn’s decision.  Russell added that SPC’s smaller academic setting would help his daughter to get more interaction with her professors, and, therefore, learn the material more in depth.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Katelyn said of her SPC experience so far. “I’ve been staying busy with my classes, but I love my teachers. All of my teachers are amazing.”

With the encouragement and support of her family, Katelyn has had a wonderful time at SPC so far.

“I love it here,” Katelyn said.


Hernandez begins her role as testing, advising director

by PAMELA GANDY/Staff Writer

The newly-formed South Plains College Testing and Advising Center will continue to help students map out their education and prepare for success under the influence of Lola Hernandez, the new director of testing and advising and quality enhancement plan coordinator.

Hernandez is a West Texas native. She grew up close to SPC in Sundown, Texas. She still lives in Sundown, where she raised her five children.  She described growing up and living in a small town as being a part of a larger group.

“Everyone knows everyone,” Hernandez explains. “Everyone’s kids know everyone’s kids, and it just becomes a family.”

Hernandez said that the close connections between people at SPC very much resemble the atmosphere of her hometown and was likely the reason that she was attracted to SPC.

Hernandez is also very familiar with South Plains College’s environment, because she is an SPC graduate.

“As a student, it was always a family,” said Hernandez. “I could walk down the hall and everybody knew everyone.”

Hernandez started her education at South Plains College as an office technology major in 2002. In 2004, she started a job as an admissions clerk in the Admissions and Records Office. As an admissions clerk, she became colleagues with the woman who had previously been her work-study supervisor. Her former supervisor introduced her to the office and taught her the ropes of being an admissions clerk.  Her position there is where Hernandez found her true passion for business, and helping students. This helped her to decide that she wanted to further her education.

From SPC, she went on to attend Wayland Baptist University, where she earned a master’s degree in business administration, as well as a master’s degree in business management.

Hernandez has held many positions at South Plains College in the past several years, including secretary to the registrar, activities coordinator for the Title V cooperative grant, scholarship coordinator, administrative assistant to the vice president of student affairs, and Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) coordinator before becoming the director of the advising and testing center and QEP coordinator in April 2015. She said that the close connections and family aspect of SPC is why she has stayed. Outside of her current position, she donates her spare time to assist Chris Riley, director of Upward Bound, in helping high school seniors to prepare for college.

When discussing her goals as the director of the Testing and Advising Center, Hernandez said that her primary goal was, “Just to keep growing in the direction of helping students figure out what their goals are.”

“We’ve always been student centered,” Hernandez continues, “but it was focused on guidance and counseling; it was a different model. Now we are focused with advising, academic advising and identifying your specific goals as a student and how we can help you get there.”

Although the Testing and Advising Center no longer houses personal counselors, Hernandez mentioned that the close connection with the students is still there.

Hernandez says that she is very excited to be in her new position. She mentioned that her favorite thing about working with students was “Seeing the light.”

“When working with students, and they’re kind of lost, or they just come and say that they want to get their basics, and then you say something about a certain discipline, or you start talking about a certain class or instructor, and you see that light come on,” she added. “I think of football season. When you see the lights come on in the stadium, and all of a sudden it’s really, really bright. That’s what happens when students come in and you’re working with them. You bring up the sciences, or you mention a history class that they enjoy, suddenly, that light comes on. You act on it, and then you know how to direct them after that.”

Hernandez mentioned throughout her interview that personal connection with staff and students was very important to her, and something that she tries to place a focus on in the Testing and Advising Center.

“SPC is my home,” says Hernandez.

Lola Hernandez web
Lola Hernandez is eager to start new position. LINDSEY BLACKWOOD/PLAINSMAN PRESS

Presley travels to Nigeria to talk agriculture to students

by SARA MARSHALL/Photo Editor

Many spend their summer vacations by the pool or traveling to see family.

But Ron Presley, Professor of agriculture at South Plains College, chose to spend his summer contributing to the education of agriculture students in a developing nation. On July 24, Presley stepped off an international flight to Nigeria, Africa, determined to plant seeds in the hearts and minds of Nigerian students.

“My first impression of Nigeria was that I was in a totally different culture, a totally different world,” Presley said. “The air was heavy with charcoal and eucalyptus, and I had this overwhelming moment when I realized I was actually in Nigeria; that I couldn’t go home.”

In March, the United States Agency for International Development’s Farmer-to-Farmer program recruited Presley to speak to six colleges and polytechnic institutions around Nigeria. Presley has taught many Nigerian foreign exchanges students in his classes at SPC, so he understood how to teach in a way they would understand.

“I have an immense respect for the Nigerian students I’ve had in class before,” Presley said. “They’re such wonderful people.”

While attending the educational workshops at each college, Presley talked to students about the many career opportunities in the agriculture field. He spoke to them of the differences between the American agriculture industry and the Nigerian agriculture industry.

“We talked about certain agriculture problems, and they asked many questions,” Presley said. “Some I could answer, some I couldn’t. I mainly talked to them about what wonderful opportunities would be open to them in the field.”

Toward the end of the 20-day Farmer-to-Farmer program, Presley traveled to a remote village, which became one of the most memorable moments of his trip.

“People were just going about their everyday lives, and then kids were running after us, cheering and waving at me,” Presley said. “When we got to the compound where I stayed the night, people came up to the gates to see me sitting there, and they would look and wave. So everyone who lived in the village knew I was there. I just felt a little exposed, but I was assured I was safe.”

After visiting the village, Presley traveled to a Nigerian high school, where he was able to talk more about the opportunities in agriculture to a younger audience. He met with more than 250 students in a large 115°F room with no lights, so the windows and doors were all open. Students volunteered during their summer break to attend the Farmer-to-Farmer program. “After I was finished, they sang to me,” Presley said. “Though I didn’t understand the language, the students truly touched my heart.”

Presley someday hopes to go back to Nigeria, fulfilling his bucket list goals of traveling the world.

“I’ve always dreamed of traveling,” Presley said. “Getting to go to Africa was such a wonderful experience and opportunity.”

by plane
Photo courtesy of Ron Presley

DeRuise races cross country, pursuing his dream while living out of van

by JESSICA COX/Entertainment Editor

So many young adults get caught up in the endless cycle of working a job they do not enjoy – day in and day out – ultimately unhappy with the direction that life is going. It takes a very dedicated person to break away from the norm and truly follow his or her dreams.

Trevor DeRuise and his girlfriend, Sierra Davies, are those kind of people. In their book, “Project VanLife: An Epic Journey of Discovery and Perseverance Through the Eyes of Young Entrepreneurs,” this couple pulled themselves away from everyday life and chased their dreams with pure ambition. Living out of a 2000 Ford Econoline van, which they bought in Los Angeles only three weeks before they left, and taking life one day at a time, these two traveled cross country to do what most people only hope of doing: following their dream with abandon.

DeRuise is a 22-year old professional mountain bike racer. More than a year ago, he was a college student at the University of Nevada at Reno with a passion for success. Coming to the end of his undergraduate career, he knew it was time to make a decision.

“I could either go ‘the normal path’ down grad school, or just find a job,” DeRuise explains, “or really go for it and try to do something with cycling – and that’s the path I chose.”

DeRuise decided to go all in. He knew that if he put all of himself into his goal, then failing would not be an option – an attitude that later won him a silver medal at a national competition.

DeRuise and Davies began their journey in the summer of 2014. Living out of his beat up van, they traveled across the country to follow the largest professional mountain bike series in North America. The couple had various businesses in place before the trip, and they continued to run them from the road, proving that anything is possible with a little determination.

They had brought a hotspot box along to provide them with WiFi, but it hardly worked. They improvised by driving extra hours to find somewhere with WiFi. He explained how Davies would continue to stay on top of her work, despite the tough circumstances.

“She would sit in the parking lot, even after it was closed, just so she could use the WiFi – very late at night…” recalls DeRuise. “She would make herself carsick trying to get work done.”

In addition to keeping up with their businesses, DeRuise says there was stress from trying to keep up with his training.

“And then on top of that – the level of racing,” DeRuise added. “That was my first real season in that level of racing. I tried to stay focused and stay up on my training.”

Although that summer was quite the adventure, it was not always glamorous. From “sleeping in weird parking lots in the middle of nowhere” to staying awake all night – it was not always what someone might expect. There were times when they were not sure if their van would start up the next morning – let alone if they had enough food, water, or even enough gas in the tank to get by.

“The biggest thing that gets to you is the uncertainty of it all,” DeRuise says.

In times like these, DeRuise would focus on sticking to his routine and keep pushing through. Above all, he says he would try not to dwell on the negatives, but focus on the positives.

DeRuise’s point of view on life has changed drastically since his experience a year ago. His everyday hustle and bustle seems easy compared to what he has already been through.

“It opened my eyes to how far you can push yourself,” says DeRuise, “how much you can go through, how much you can persevere, and still make it through.”

Though when life does seem to get tough, he looks back at what he has accomplished.

“It’s so much easier to keep going now, knowing that I can keep going,” says DeRuise.

“Project VanLife” is an inspiration to young entrepreneurs around the globe. DeRuise says he finds joy knowing that he can be a part of someone’s dream. Lastly, he encourages entrepreneurs “to just go for it, and not worry about what everybody else is doing… or else you’ll never truly reach your full potential.”

Photo courtesy of Trevor DeRuise

Solis jumps into new culture at SPC


Staff Writer

Some of the most unique people we can meet are those we encounter from other countries. South Plains College is the place to encounter these students.

One of these students is Anyi Paola Garcia Solis, who is from Columbia, located in South Africa.

Out of all the colleges Solis could have gone to, she ended up in Levelland at South Plains College. She received a full scholarship to participate in track and field.

When looking at colleges to attend in America, she saw that SPC had one of the top track and field programs for a community college. Solis loves to compete in the high jump. In the spring, she became a national champion in the triple jump, after placing first in the event at the National Junior College Athletic Association Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Solis says she could not pass up an incredible opportunity to experience life in the United States.

“This is the land of opportunities,” said Solis. “I like it here. You can study, and you can become a professional, and this is important for me. Here, they give you opportunities that make you a better person and change your life on the positive side.”

Solis is only seeing the positive side of America, which is something many others could learn from her.

Solis said that she does not like that other countries don’t have the same opportunities like these in the United States.

“The United States is multi cultural,” Solis says, which aids in the reason that she loves it.

Although living in America is great for Solis, she does miss her home and family. In Columbia, there are different traditions that she took part in often. Every Sunday, the people of Columbia ride bikes and run up to the mountains, where there is a view of the whole city. She also misses the people, food, and places in Columbia. As for differences between America and Columbia, Solis said the people in Columbia are always very happy.

Solis loves Columbia, but at the same time life is difficult there, she says. In Columbia, it is very difficult to find or get cars, as they are much more expensive. Even worse than expensive cars is the price for an education and health care, says Solis.

Coming from Columbia is a big step and a completely new chapter in Solis’ life. But with her positive and friendly attitude, it will only be a great experience of a lifetime. Since Solis has been in America, she says that she has seen many things that have amazed her, making it hard to pick a favorite.

“I like the parks that are here, like Disney, and Universal Studios, Bush Gardens in Tampa.” Solis said, “All the Universities are really big.”

Solis looks forward to the rest of her time in America. Though living away from family can be challenging, perhaps her experience at South Plains College will make the time away worth it.

Anyi Solis at the Administration Building on Sept. 8. HANNAH NELSON/PLAINSMAN PRESS

‘Fratty hipster’ Fitzgerald shares passion for helping students

by: BRANDI ORTIZ/Staff Writer

For some people, going to work is a dreadful event.

But Ryan Fitzgerald, the new director of research and reports at South Plains College, says he has fallen in love with his job.

Fitzgerald, 25, has known since he was a child that he wanted to work in education. His passion for administration continued to grow.

Fitzgerald, who’s from Nacogdoches, Texas, loved the small town environment, and SPC offers just that. With SPC offering a Student – Faculty Ratio of 21:1, relationships are easily formed.

“Education is about the people involved,” Fitzgerald says, “not the money. It’s about the relationships.”

Reminiscing on his past college experiences, Fitzgerald thanks one special professor in undergraduate school and his father. Fitzgerald believes it is the constant support and the added extra “push” when he needed it that helped him achieve his goals.

But it’s passion and enjoyment that have driven Fitzgerald to choose such a career.

“Pick a major that you want, that you find interesting,” he says.

As director of research and reports, it is Fitzgerald’s job to find ways to help students succeed. He also says for students to look back and think of all that SPC had to offer that helped them achieve not only career goals, but personal goals as well.

Fitzgerald says if you find a career that you love, then going to work should be a breeze.

New Director of Research and Reports, Ryan Fitzgerald in the Technical Arts Building. JONATHAN BROOKSHIRE/PLAINSMAN PRESS

“There is a quote that goes, if you enjoy what you do at work, you never work a day in your life, something like that,” adds Fitzgerald.

“You spend more time at work and with your coworkers than you do at home with the person you marry and the kids you have,” he says. “So you better like where you go to work every day, and you better like who you work with, because you spend a lot of time there.”

Like any job, it could be stressful. So once Fitzgerald does get to go home, he has many ways of relieving such stress. He compares his methods to one character from a hit TV series.

“I’m Kevin Spacey from ‘House of Cards’,” explains Fitzgerald. “When I go home in the afternoon, I check out and play video games.”

Aside from playing video games that require strategic thinking, such as Fall Out and Skyrim, Fitzgerald also has a love for vinyl records and comic books. Though his favorite setting in a book is one of the post-apocalyptic era, Fitzgerald has many Marvel and DC comics covering his office. One student once described Fitzgerald as a “fratty hipster.”

Fitzgerald loves the students and hopes to “impact students’ lives for the better,” and to “make sure the students are liking what they do.”

As for advice he has for students, Fitzgerald says, “Read the syllabus! Everything you need to know is in it, important dates and when a paper is due.”

Also, he advises the students to ask questions, even if it is not class-related questions. Fitzgerald also encourages students to question their professors, not in a rude way, but in a way where you understand the material he or she is teaching. He also advices students to “become a skeptic in life,” to ask any and all questions, so when the time comes, you know why and how something is.

Fitzgerald urges students to get to know their professors, for it will be the professors at SPC who will help you become who you want to be and will always be there for you.

Last but not least, “find yourself,” says Fitzgerald. “It’s what college is for. It’s where you find out what you want to be, what you want out of life. You have four or five years to do it, so do it.”

Who we are…

The Plainsman Press is a junior collegiate newspaper run by the students and advised by Charlie Ehrenfeld.

The staff consists of Devin Reyna, Sergio Madrid, Tovi Oyervidez, Steven Gehegan, Michaela Chamblee, Haiden Hawkins, Alexandria Perez, Elias Hernandez, Dominick Puente

Editor-in-Chief/ Chesanie Brantley, Editor-in-Chief/Nicole Trugillo, News Editor/Jonathan Brookshire, Opinion Editor/Matt Molinar, Feature Editor/Mallory Carver, Entertainment and Online Editor/Jennifer Garza, Sports Editor/Joshua Ramirez, Photo Editor/ Sara Marshall, Editorial Assistants/Riley Golden, Dariella Hernandez, Nick Alvarado, Brandi Ortiz, and Marcella Ivins.