Category: Feature

Student chooses SPC for college experience

Donald Duane Sanders II is enthusiastic about education and looks forward to making the classroom a fun place for students.

A sophomore at South Plains College, Sanders currently resides in Arlington, Texas, with his mother Lashunya Sanders and his cousins.

During his free time, Sanders enjoys listening to almost all kinds of music, along with watching animes and sports.

A Human Development and Family Studies major, Sanders plans to pursue teaching after completing his associate’s degree. He also would like to be a football, volleyball or basketball coach.

Sanders would ultimately like to coach basketball at a college or university, but mentioned, “If I stay in high school, I at least want to win two or three championships.”

Sanders decided to study to become a teacher because he said he believes that the classroom must have a very fun and entertaining environment so the kids can learn and enjoy the process.

“I want to be able to leave an impact on my kids,” said Sanders. “Even if like they don’t go to college, at least they had a change in their character and I made an impact on their life.”

Before coming to SPC, Sanders attended the Southeast campus of Tarrant County Community College. He said that he enjoyed his classes, but the college did not have sports or dorms. That was one of the main reasons he decided to transfer.

“I felt like I wasn’t growing as a person and I really wanted that experience,” explained Sanders. “I feel like knowledge is really important to people being impactful with other people.”

After one of Sanders’ close friends came to study at Texas Tech University, he was encouraged to go out and live the full college experience.

In the process of looking to obtain a full college experience of living in the dorms, meeting new people and participating in campus events, Sanders found SPC. After coming to a student orientation, he learned interesting facts about the college.

“It’s funny, because where I live there’s a street that’s called Levelland,” Sanders said “My mom noticed that when we came back from the student orientation.”

The thing that Sander enjoys the most about SPC is the atmosphere of a small city and how friendly the community is that he found at the college. He likes how accepting and open minded the school is, a different experience than at his previous college.

“I think people just realize we’re different,” Sanders said. “We’re in a different part of our lives, and we should have fun. Everybody’s really calm and respectful of each other.”

Sanders also mentioned how Levelland reminds him of the city where he lived for most of his childhood in Mississippi, and how enjoyable the environment is.

“It just feels like at home,” said Sanders.

When it comes becomes to motivation, Sanders is always looking for ways to motivate himself. He knows that he can improve his skills to become a better person by working hard at his academics.

Sanders says that the one thing that motivates him is the importance of education in his life.

“Even if I didn’t have the opportunity going to college, I still want to go because I think learning is important,” added Sanders.

Former student become published speech professor


Before becoming a professor at South Plains College, Kelley Finley was a student who was involved in many campus organizations.

After getting her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wayland Baptist University and Texas Tech University, respectively, she returned to SPC for the opportunity to teach speech to college students.

Finley grew up in Bledsoe, Texas on a cotton farm. She had to commute to school every day.

“I went to school in Whiteface, 23 miles from my hometown,” she recalled. “We didn’t have a middle school or high school, so we had to commute.”

According to Finley, she chose to attend SPC because it was so close to home.

“I had no career aspirations,” she said. “I just didn’t know what else to do after high school. SPC was affordable, and my parents had both attended SPC. So it was an easy choice.”

As a Texan, Finley was very involved on campus. She lived on campus in Smallwood Apartments. She was a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges, and served as a Campus Ambassador and as president of the Baptist Student Ministry during her time at SPC. She was also a member of the forensics team and participated in the Miss Caprock Scholarship Pageant.

“At SPC, I met Laura Dickinson, who taught Public Speaking and was the coach for the forensic team,” said Finley. “She encouraged me to continue my education and to think about getting a Communication degree.”

After attending SPC, Finley transferred to Wayland Baptist University. While at WBU, she pursued a Mass Communication minor. Finley was very involved at Wayland, just as she was at SPC. She participated in plays with the Theater Department and also helped with the TV department.

By her final year at Wayland, Finley found what she wanted to do.

“My senior year, I decided I wanted to teach speech to other college students,” she explained, “so I knew I had to get my master’s.”

After Wayland, she attended Texas Tech University to get her master’s degree. While attending Texas Tech, she served as a Teaching Assistant. Being a TA helped Finley know that she truly wanted to teach. While attending Texas Tech, she worked at a daycare, as a waitress, and at Cavender’s Boot City in Lubbock.

After Texas Tech, Finley taught English and speech to high school and middle school students in Whiteface for four years. At the end of those four years, there was an opening at SPC.

“I loved my time at SPC, and I knew it was where I wanted to end up,” she explained. “I applied as soon as there was an opening, and when I was offered a job, I jumped at it! It’s a great place with great people and great students.”

Finley currently teaches Public Speaking, Introduction to Communication, and Business and Professional Speech. She also has been serving as the president of the Faculty Senate.

Finley also recently wrote a textbook with fellow instructor Janine Fox. They wrote the textbook “Entry Level to Executive: All Communication Counts” because they believed students shouldn’t be paying upwards of $100 for a speech textbook. They also decided to write the book to fit the needs of their students.

“We like that it’s a consumable, that we have tear-out pages in the back,” explained Finley. “We like that our students have that option. We like the way it looks. We like that it’s marketed to South Plains College, and when you get that book you don’t say, ‘Wow, that was a huge waste of money.’ It’s got resumes and interviewing,  so even if you only use it for public speaking, it’s got stuff you can use well into your adult life. We’re proud of it, and it was a labor of love.”

When not teaching, Finley spends time with her family and is very involved in the community.

“In my spare time, I read and watch movies,” Finley said. “I have three kids,  so my spare time is usually spent with them.”

Finley is also on the King’s Kids PDO board and helps on Wednesday nights with the children’s program at First Baptist Church in Levelland. She also enjoys researching issues relating to health and essential oils.

For students who want to obtain a Communication degree, Finley says it is a very useful degree to pursue.

“You can do so many things with a Communication degree,” she explained.

Finley also encourages teaching at the collegiate level.

“If teaching is your thing, then I highly recommend you teach in college,” Finley said. “It is the best job ever!”


Married musical duo released third studio album


Brent and Emily Wheeler still make time out of their busy lives to play guitar together after 20 years.

They are married, but they make time to play music together and with others in the industry. Brent is the director of guitar studies at South Plains College, while Emily is a part-time instructor.

They recently released their third CD titled, “Maybe I am.” Emily and Brent both play guitars on the CD, and they are joined by Kristin Bassett as the vocalist, Joy Harris on Bass and Alan Shinn on drums. Emily has already started writing more songs to create another CD.

Their CD can be purchased on Spotify, Amazon, CD Baby, or from Brent or Emily Wheeler on campus.

IMG_6291Brent is from Las Vegas, Nevada, while Emily grew up in northern Utah, outside of Salt Lake City.

When Emily was in graduate school in Ohio, there was a day she received an email asking her to apply to work at South Plains College.

“It looks impressive on my resume that someone asked me to come here and try out,” she said.

She was going to fly down and interview but not take it. She and her husband had no desire to move to Levelland. When she saw the college, it was a “game changer,” she recalled, adding, “very few schools have the funding for the arts program like they do here. When you walk in and see the facility, it is a no brainer. Most schools don’t have what this school has in terms of the equipment and the administrative support. It was exciting when I saw the recording equipment and what all the rooms are equipped with, the excitement of the kids and their passion for it.”

She went to her room and called Brent, telling him, “I think we are moving here.” Brent’s response was “What???” Most people haven’t heard of Lubbock, Texas, much less Levelland. Brent added that the professors of South Plains College really found Emily when she was 18. Someone had seen her teach kids.

Brent Wheeler said he knew of SPC through some contacts and Leanne Womack, a former SPC student and country music star.

“People here are very kind, warm and real, which is very nice,” Emily Wheeler said. “It isn’t like anywhere else we have lived. It has a nice charm to it.”

Brent teaches private lessons, jazz, country, blue grass, western swing, vocal jazz ensemble and topics for the professional musician such as concert promotion and venue management.

Brent Wheeler also created a youth program for kids between the ages of 10 and17. It is called SPC Youth Live. It leads up to the “Explore the Arts” summer camps, where they teach music and how to play in a band. “It takes place after school throughout the week,” said Brent Wheeler. “The kids get to come and play on professional instruments. They also get to perform in the Tom T Hall performance hall. It is super fun for the kids.”

Emily Wheeler said moving to Levelland and working at SPC has lasted 16 years.

“We really like it,” she said. “It is very unusual to have the faculty that is here and the support of the administration. To have the funding for the arts in higher education is rare.”

Emily Wheeler started playing the guitar at the age of 4. Her father is a musician and professor. Her home was full of enriched music, but her interest was never forced. Brent and Emily met because of her father.

Brent Wheeler started playing the guitar at the age of 10. His dad was a professional musician also.

They have four children, ages 13, 10, 7 and 5. The two oldest are already playing the guitar and participate in the SPC Youth Live program. The eldest also plays bass guitar for a band at SPC.

Emily Wheeler also teaches at Texas Tech University and Lubbock Christian University. Her classes include Jazz and guitar, performance, and Jazz ensembles.

Emily Wheeler said there were several female guitarists who influenced her, but her father played a large role in her love for music and guitar.

Brent Wheeler says that he was influenced by several people, including his father, who was a “top 40 musician.” He also once played in “Purple Reign,” a tribute to Prince. He was one of the founding members of the tribute band, playing with them for three years.

The Wheelers can often be found playing in Lubbock at the Funky Door or the La Diosa Cellars and Bistro in Lubbock. They also play private venues as well.

Brent has also signed a contract with the Lubbock Symphony.

There are so many ways for musicians to make a decent living today that didn’t used to be available, according to Brent Wheeler.

“There has never been a time before when you could make money independently and not rely on a record label,” he explained. “It also puts a lot more on self-motivation. At the same time, you have to have self- discipline to be sure they are shaking hands, reaching out with emails, or whatever the media that works for them.”

“It is a fun industry, but we go non-stop,” he added. “They are busy from 5 a.m. until midnight constantly, and that is like a freight train moving down the track.”

Former student pursues business endeavors in Thailand


Before deciding to move to Thailand, Devin Hargrove was an unconventional college student.

Hargrove, who grew up in Lubbock, planned on going into the military after an ROTC program, but medical issues kept him from continuing on that path.

“I kind of had it planned all through high school, coming out of high school, for the first few years I had planned on that route,” explained Hargrove. “When that ended up not fostering, I had to make a decision. I didn’t have anything else planned.”

With no plan, Hargrove decided to go to college.

“I had to figure out what to do,” recalled Hargrove. “For a long time, that kind of just ended up being going to work and going to South Plains.”

During his time at South Plains College, Hargrove got involved in the campus newspaper, The Plainsman Press. He served as a staff writer for one year and feature editor the following year.

“I always really enjoyed being a writer,” said Hargrove. “Even though it was just a college newspaper, it gave me the opportunity to explore.”

After SPC, Hargrove moved to Denton to attend the University of North Texas.  That was when he decided college wasn’t what he wanted.

“I had spent about $5,000 for the first semester,” recalls Hargrove. “I remember thinking, ‘This is kind of absurd’.”

For Hargrove, the decision was not difficult to make. He knew what he wanted to do, which was to establish a business where he could outsource most of the work.

“Initially, I found the cheapest plane ticket that I could,” explained Hargrove, “which at the time was a flight to Thailand. And I took all my money that I had and I went.”

According to Hargrove, the first time in a different country is always magical, but after a while, it fades away.

“We don’t live in a movie,” explained Hargrove. “Even if you’re doing something cool, you have to live in that. There’s going to be ups, there’s going to be downs. There’s going to be periods of boredom. There’s going to be times when you’re broke, times when you’re rich. Things are going to happen. It’s just life at the end of the day, even if you’re in a different place with a different set of standards. “

For a while, Hargrove was just hanging out in Thailand. After coming back to the United States a few times, he decided it was time to make the move.

“I ended up coming back for the holidays and also working for a few months to save up money to go back over there,” said Hargrove. “That’s when I really made this plan of this is what I’m going to commit to. I’m going to commit to finding people who can nourish that entrepreneurial spirit, and who I can learn from.”

In Thailand, he was staying in a hostel that a friend owned that was so small he could barely stand up. To sustain himself, he started teaching English.

“I literally just slept there,” said Hargrove of the hostel. “The rest of the time I was out doing things. I was learning from people, hanging out with tour operators, learning how they sell to people.”

Currently, Hargrove is back in America until April. In the meantime, he hopes to set up a business geared toward teaching English as a second language. ”

Outside of business, Hargrove wants to earn his black belt in Jiu Jitsu and become a dive master for recreational scuba diving.

He said he hopes to start a fund that would help Lubbock students pay for travel

“Once I’m able, I want to donate money to local schools here in the Lubbock area,” said Hargrove, “to allow students to travel more on these group trips, outdoor learning, as it’s called.”

Hargrove says one of the best pieces of advice he ever received was from a colleague.

“His best piece of advice was to be singularly focused in whatever you’re doing,” said Hargrove. “Make a lot of money, invest it all, and then break free from whatever you’re doing, even if you’re doing something you enjoy, because that freedom is going to be better.”

Hargrove also recommends having mentors and coaches. While coaches seem like a waste of money, Hargrove recommends it because you might be losing money by not seeing a coach.

“If you spend $250 every month for a coach to work on specific goals,” explained Hargrove, “how much more money could you be making? How much money are you losing by not talking with them?”

Aside from coaching, Hargrove says to have very specific goals, those that can actually be achieved.

“You have to have very specific goals,” said Hargrove, “because from that point you can break it down into individual, actionable plans. That’s something that took me a very long time to learn, but once I did learn that, it has helped me accomplish more in the past two or three years than I’ve accomplished in 15.”

Student becomes novelist after years of hard work

Elizabeth Sacks came up with a story idea 10 years ago and recently got it published.

Sacks, who is majoring in Graphic Arts at South Plains College, published her first novel on Feb. 14.

Sacks, who uses her pen name, said she has been writing most of her life. She said that she would come up with stories before she was able to write them down, and her mom would write them down for her.

“I made up a story about Daniel and Danielle,” she recalled. “It was about two twin brothers, which now I realize that Danielle is a girl’s name. I’ve just been making up stories ever since.”

The 23yearold Sacks started writing stories before she read her first novel. She was writing stories like a script.

“I just had all this dialogue and character names,” Sacks said. She started understanding how stories worked when she started reading novels. The first novel she read was “Little Women.”

“My dream job would be to make movies,” Sacks said. “But as I write, the more I love it.”

She explained that not being able to make movies is one of the reasons she got started writing.

Sacks also mentioned that writing is also a way to express what she is thinking, “and I think we need more good books in the world.” She says that she had a hard time finding novels which were age appropriate, and because of that she  wants to write books for people to read, “because I think reading is important, and any age can read them because you don’t have to fear what’s inappropriate inside.”

Sacks went on to confirm that her novel, titled “Matthew Calbrin,” is written in a way that she said she believes any age group would enjoy. She also mentioned that her editor wants her to target it more to kids who are still in grade school.

“I try to make it interesting enough that all ages would like to read it,” Sacks said.

Since Sacks is a student and works as well, she said it took her a while to get her novel out.

“This particular book took me 10 years to write,” she explained.

Sacks started writing the book in 2008 in a spiral notebook. Then she expanded it and rewrote it on her iPad. Then she rewrote it a second time on her laptop. However, those would not be the only times she rewrote her book. She said when a publisher picked her up, “they went over it, and my mom also went over it. It has been gone over several times.”

“As far as finding the time, sometimes my priorities are a bit mixed up,” Sacks said, adding a laugh.

She said that she will write her stories before homework sometimes. On other days, though, when she does put homework first, she said that she will stay up late at night and write.

“Just anytime that I have a free moment,” said Sacks.

Sacks said it took two years to get her book published.

“A part of that was my fault,” Sacks said, “because the editor left comments on things and some of them were negative. I have never had negative feedback on my story before, so I was just like ‘what am I going to do?’”

Sacks said she got discouraged because it did take a while to get the book published, and she started wondering if anybody would ever read her book.

The book is about Matthew Calvin, who lives in a fictional kingdom in 1795.

“He’s new to the capital city and is involved in a murder plot against the royal family, but doesn’t know it,” explains Sacks. She adds that Matthew meets a young woman who is in the Royal Army, “which you know, in the 1700s there were no women in the Royal Army,” and they fall in love.

Sacks mentioned that her inspiration for this particular story was the movie “Barbi and the Three Musketeers.” However, she said that her story is nothing like “The Three Musketeers.”

Sacks announced she will have a book signing at the SPC Student Center on March 20 from 11a.m. to 2 p.m., when people can also purchase her book.

In her free time, Sacks says that she enjoys watching movies, reading, or hanging out with people she knows when she is not in school, at work, or writing.

“I was homeschooled,” Sacks said, “which is probably part of the reason why I do like writing, because I read a lot for school. My favorite subject was history.”

She mentioned that her favorite historical time period is the Revolutionary War, and that her book is set in the 1700’s because she enjoys history.

Sacks was born in Lubbock, but her family moved to Meadow, Texas, when she was around 10 years old.

“If you enjoy writing, if you have a story in your heart, just write it,” Sacks said, offering advice for anyone who wants to write a book.

She adds, “I’ve held onto my first love, that’s what you have to do. You’ve just got to hold on to your first love, because there’s a reason why you love it.”

Sacks mentioned that you don’t have to sit down for a long period of time to write a story. You can write in a notebook while you are eating lunch, or while you are in the car.

“If you don’t do what you love,” Sacks said, “you’re probably not going to be very happy.”

Professor combines appreciation for dance with artistic abilities


For Kristy Kristinek, teaching is only one of the things that occupies her time.

Kristinek, associate professor of fine arts at South Plains College, made the decision early on to stay in Lubbock.

“Leaving Texas or just leaving Lubbock, in general, was not an option for me because I just established my family here, my life was here. This was just where I wanted to be.”

Kristinek, who graduated from Texas Tech in 2015 with a master’s degree in Fine Arts, knew she wanted to teach.

After teaching part time at Texas Tech and Lubbock Christian University, Kristinek applied for a position at South Plains College. After she didn’t get the position, she decided it was time to start a family.

“I took a break from academia for about a year and had our son Luke,” Kristinek said.

Six months later, Kristinek applied for another position at SPC. This time she got the job.

“Sometimes not necessarily rejection, but it’s just not the right fit for that time, when it comes to working in academia and wanting to teach,” said Kristinek. “It’s very different from other jobs.”

SPC has been a place for Kristinek to grow, both artistically and academically. She feels that the program is open and creative, especially to any ideas that she has.

For students, Kristinek wants the college to not only be a stepping stone, but also an end goal for some.

“We want this experience to feel like an end goal for out students,” said Kristinek. “That they get what they need, they get the experience they need, they get the communication and the support from the professors, that they can make those decisions on their own.”

40395449_10217194473117750_2612771851906056192_nThis semester, Kristinek is teaching art appreciation, art history, and a painting and drawing studio for non-majors. In the fall, she also teaches a design course for students to learn about different art materials and how to use them.

According to Kristinek, she draws inspiration from both lectures and studio.

“Teaching lecture is very different when you’re just talking about something versus physically showing a student how to do something,” said Kristinek.“Having that balance has been really interesting for me as an instructor, as well as where it’s almost like two parts of my brain, but they feed each other at the same time.”

Teaching is just one part of Kristinek’s life. Currently, she is an artist in residence with Charles Adams Studio Project in Lubbock.

When Kristinek made the decision to become a professor, her main fear was becoming someone who used to paint. She wanted to be able to continue her passion while also pursuing a career in academia. This studio gives her the chance to leave the classroom and continue painting.

“I’ve been very lucky and very blessed to be able to have both at the same time and not feel crippled artistically or academically,” Kristinek said. “I’m kind of at a good level at both right now, and it’s kind of nice to be able to balance the two, and spending equal time with the two has been really good.”

When Kristinek first applied to be an artist in residence, she was rejected. A few days later, she got the call saying a studio had opened up. Three days before the First Friday Art Trail in August, Kristinek had to move in and prepare to show her work.

“For people to be able to experience my studio space and experience my process has been really exciting for me,” said Kristinek.

With creativity comes vulnerability. For Kristinek, the most vulnerable times come with acceptance and rejection. The trick is not taking anything personally, which is hard when your art is a part of you.

“I think the biggest step you have to make is understanding that people are making commentary about your work, not you as a person,” Kristinek said. “When you get really connected with what you do, there is a personal level of what you’re creating, because it’s you and it’s out there, and this object that you’ve obsessed over for however long and put thought into and emotion into.”

Kristinek’s artistic process is just as much a reflection of herself as her art is. Most notable about her process is where she chooses to paint.

“I really like, for myself, to work on the floor,” explains Kristinek. “So a lot of my work, whether paper or canvas, happens on the floor.”

Kristinek, who is classically trained in ballet, has always loved dance. In art, she draws comparisons from the dancer’s body and the painter’s body.

“I’m really interested in studying the dualities between the dancer’s body and the painter’s body, and how I can apply the two together,” Kristinek said.


Another important part for Kristinek’s artistic process is collaboration.  Previous collaborations for Kristinek have included Flatlands Dance Theatre in Lubbock. She often draws and paints on the floor while dancers are moving around her.

Involving dancers in her art was a choice made in her second year of graduate school. Her goal is to show the audience what the floor would look like after a group of dancers has danced there.

Kristinek’s choice in colors and mediums is also reflective of her dance background. Her main mediums are paint and chalk. She says that she uses the chalk because it reminds her of a dancer’s makeup and the way dancers almost change into another character. Kristinek also uses black in her artwork, something that symbolizes the dancer being on stage, not being able to see the audience when lights are shining down.

“You have the separation of the lighted surface versus the dark, blackness of the audience,” Kristinek explained. “And as a dancer, you can’t see the audience most of the time. The lights are so bright that they’re almost blinding in a sense. It’s like you’re functioning in your own space and you forget that the audience is there and that you’re being watched.”

Most importantly for Kristinek is the connection her artwork creates with people. She recalled a past First Friday Art Trail when a little girl asked to paint with her. After grabbing a pink, the little girl associated it with the shoes a ballerina wears.

“I said, ‘I used to be a ballerina, that’s why I like this color,” recalls Kristinek, “and she said, ‘that’s why you’re drawing on the floor. That’s what dancers do; they dance on the floor. Being able to have that connection with a 7-year-old was really enlightening for me and empowering for me that I’m able to connect with all kinds of different groups of people.”

Outside of teaching and her studio, Kristinek’s favorite thing to do is spend time with her husband and son Luke, who is almost 2. She said her husband has always been her number-one fan, always supporting her goals. Many times, she takes her son to her studio. As she paints, he plays and says, “Mommy, paint!”

Kristinek says she is often asked how she balances being a teacher, artist, wife, and mother.

“Honestly, I feel like an equal balance is what helps me accomplish all of that,” said Kristinek. “None of those things seem more important than the other, and I have extreme amounts of support to be able to understand that my career is just as important as everything else.”

Ultimately, Kristinek says that she hopes to always be involved in academia, teaching all studio classes and helping artists reach their goals.

Kristinek recently was accepted into “Studio Visit,” a magazine comprised of the works of different artists. She is also performing another collaboration with two dancers in her studio from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 1 for the First Friday Art Trail in Lubbock.

Alum find career she enjoys after facing challenges


Jordan Dewbre says she chose South Plains College because of their well-known Allied Health program in surgical technology.

“They have the best program around,” Dewbre said, “and also produce the best results in the work field.”

She said that she was “attracted to SPC for their small class numbers, and the willingness of professors to help her achieve her goal of graduation.” SPC was always her first choice because it was affordable and offered the classes she needed, according to Dewbre.

Dewbre attended SPC from 2014 to 2016. She earned an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Surgical Technology.

  She says her favorite class was Anatomy and Physiology because it challenged her  and kept her completely engaged. It was a very difficult class. However, everything she learned kept her attention and kept her wanting to learn more.

She always knew she wanted a career in something that she could keep learning and that offered something different and challenging every day. She walked the halls of the Allied Health Building not knowing much about anything other than nursing. However, when she saw they offered surgical technology, she saw that she could have a job in the operating room every day, which definitely caught her attention.

Dewbre said that college for her was very difficult. She had two young school-aged children and was trying to run her household and keep up with daily responsibilities. She says that there were times when she wanted to give up, but it was because of her children that she knew she had to keep going and show them how important a college education is to be successful in life.

Clinicals also were difficult for her, as they required her to be in class eight hours a day. So, holding a job was nearly impossible. She had to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. However, the hospital that allowed her to work there also ended up hiring her, and she says that she could not work for a better place. Clinicals were basically working for free for eight hours a day, so that in itself was a battle, according to Dewbre. However, the importance of hands-on experience was critical for her success.

  It also helped that her family was very supportive, as her parents helped her with her children and daily duties that needed to be done.

Dewbre said she really enjoyed the ease of parking and registering for classes at SPC. Everything was very user- friendly. Every professor she had was very helpful, and they were willing to help her with any questions she had, according to Dewbre. The head of her program, Kristi Cole, and Paul Landsman, were very helpful and knowledgeable as well.

“I can’t thank them enough for helping me become who I am today in my profession,” said Dewbre. “It is an honorable profession, and some days without many thanks. However, it is truly rewarding.”

She enjoyed a good rapport with her professors, letting them know she was willing to work hard and try her best at everything she did. She said she believes that helped them know she respected them, and they showed her the same in return.

Dewbre said that she would definitely recommend SPC to anyone who needs basic classes, or if they are looking into a job in the health field.

One of her favorite memories in her journey was being able to take a trip as a class to the medical examiner’s office, which she said was “a really neat learning experience.”

Dewbre recalls that during class time, they were visited by representatives from four different hospitals, including some from out of town because they knew that SPC produces the best results and hard-working surgical technicians. So finding a job after graduation was not hard at all for her.

Dewbre graduated in December of 2016 and participated in the graduation ceremony in May of 2017.

She spends most of her days working at University Medical Center. Patient care is important, she said, and to see it and know her life or her loved ones would be in great hands is very rewarding. Dewbre said that no day is ever the same, and no case is the same. So it keeps her learning and intrigued.

When she is not at work, she spends time with her 10-year-old, Maddison, and her 7-year-old, Hayden, along with her two dogs, Cali and Chloe, and her husband Jared. They love all things outdoors and sports. The kids go from one sport to the next, said Dewbre. She said they truly enjoy watching and coaching them.

“I am so thankful to SPC for my education,” said Dewbre, ”for making it possible for me to better my life and my family. I graduated with a 3.8 GPA and it was not easy having two small kids, However, because of their support and understanding, and a whole lot of late-night study sessions, it was made possible.”

Agriculture professor sows seeds of education

Ron Presley strives to open the minds of his students with life lessons, stories and agriculture.

Presley is a professor of agriculture in the Science Department at South Plains College

Born in 1957, the same year the college was founded, Presley did not think he was college material because he claims he did not do very well in high school in Abernathy.

In 1976, Presley attended SPC and became close with his professor, Jim Jenkins.

“He (Jim Jenkins) gave me a job out at the school farm…,” Presley recalls, “and I realized after a time that they weren’t determined to run me off or fail me.”

At the time, SPC had only about 1,700 students. Presley says that the campus used to be “local,” with mostly Hockley County residents attending.

He went on to attend Texas Tech University after his time as a student at SPC. He later got into agricultural banking. During the decade he was working as an agricultural banker, he realized that he wanted to be home for his family more often.
  “I was on the road so much,” Presley explained.

He called his old professor, Jim Jenkins, and asked him for a job. Within a month, Jenkins called Presley to work for SPC, and since 1989, he has been a professor at the college.

“South Plains College wants to help students move forward and be who they dream they can be, and I honestly still feel that on campus,” Presley explained.

Presley has watched SPC throughout the past few decades and thinks that the college has grown but has not necessarily changed, because the mission of SPC has been the same.

“It’s been fascinating,” said Presley, “because, of course, the reality that students live in has changed tremendously.”

The college has grown from 1,700 students in the ‘70’s to more than 8,700 students this semester.

“As we’ve grown, not only have we had more programs, but we’ve also opened the student’s experience up to more diversity amongst students,” said Presley.

Presley encourages his students to meet and visit with other students of different cultures and nationalities.

“That is very much a big part of a person’s education,” exclaims Presley.

Presley said that he has high hopes for the future of SPC, and mentioned future plans of opening more buildings on campus.

“I see us becoming more of an integral part of the high plains of Texas,” said Presley. “And you know the old saying, ‘If you’re going forward, or you’re going backwards, but you can’t stay where you are and survive.”

Presley occasionally travels abroad for the United States Agency for International Development (or U.S.A.I.D.). Presley is part of the Farmer-to-Farmer program (or F2F).

The F2F program “promotes sustainable economic growth, food security and agricultural development worldwide,” according to the organization’s website.

His past trips have included Nigeria and Senegal.
I went to Nigeria and talked to colleges and university leadership all around Nigeria about recruiting agriculture majors” Presley said.

His latest visit was to Guinea, on the west coast of Africa, in 2018. Presley’s job in Guinea was to train a group of farmers and co-op managers in agricultural finance education.

“I taught the balance sheet, the income statement, and statement of cash flows and how to set up a yearly budget based on that,” explained Presley.

Presley said he had a great time in Guinea, partially because it had been a French colony. He said that he enjoyed the food immensely, and he also needed a translator. His translator, Mr. Moray, became a dear friend of his during the trip.

After the first few days in Conakry, the capitol of Guinea, Presley traveled to Kindia.

So then, for the next week and a half, I met with this group of wonderful people and taught them agricultural finance,” explains Presley.

Presley also explained that many teachers in Conakry were on strike, and because there was trouble in the streets, he did not get to stay in his originally planned hotel. Instead, he was allowed to stay in a more modern hotel.

Presley did get some time off for one day during his trip to explore. His group went into the jungle to a park to admire the beauty of nature.
“Tarzan would’ve lasted about four days,” joked Presley.

Presley says that he took this trip because one line on his bucket-list is to see more of the world.

I came away realizing that education is the only thing that can save civilization,” explained Presley, “and we need all be carrying our share of educating, educating, educating.”

Presley says the entire trip has changed him a little differently than he had expected, because he realized that he was part of something very important.

“One of our old presidents from years ago, Dr. Marvin Baker, his favorite saying was, ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance,’” said Presley.

Presley says that he is fulfilled with his career and being able to help students. The energy in the classroom that he emits is very rewarding and fills his students with confidence and determination.

“I get to be around people moving forward, with dreams and hopes,” Presley said,  “and that is a wonderful karma.”

Student chasing dream career in media

Fox Jeree Parks has a welcoming smile and is never afraid to give her opinion.

The 21-year-old telecommunications major chose to attend South Plains College because it was close to home. She resides in Lubbock, Texas, so she wanted to attend a college that is a affordable. Parks also said that SPC has a great program for her major.

Parks said, “I went into media because I love movies, particularly “Lord Of The Rings.” That convinced me, and I love making movies.”   

She currently works for KJTV-34 in Lubbock, one of the local Fox affiliates, for the evening news.

“The best part of my job is being able to direct a live broadcast, ”said Parks,  “The worst part is working 40 hours a week, and most of the time that includes going in at 4 a.m.”

Parks’ heroes include any female director, along with actor Anthony Hopkins because he is creepy and progressive. She thinks he’s just great. Parks hopes to one day live in New York City after visiting there last summer. She said it was just so cool and she loved every minute of it.

Parks has two brothers and two sisters. For fun, Parks watches movies and enjoys hanging out with her fiancé and cat, Leia.

Parks finds balancing life very tough, saying, “I find it extremely difficult being so grown up with so many responsibilities. Although it is very rewarding, I have a fiancé that supports me, and helps me deal with the balancing of work and school.”   

Alum finds career path while at SPC


Before moving to New York City to become an actress and director, Anna Hogan got her start at South Plains College.

Hogan grew up in Lubbock, Texas. She attended Monterey High School before going to SPC.

Hogan says that she chose SPC because of its affordability and the opportunities it held for her.

“I knew I wanted to work in the arts, but I wasn’t sure which facet I wanted to work in,” Hogan said. “I appreciated the small class sizes, the one-on-one time with professors, and the community that the college had to offer. To me, the college size made it easier to focus on my work and feel supported while I was exploring options for my vocation.”

While at SPC, Hogan took her time declaring a major and explored her options before finding her place in the theatre program. She said this was where she was able to explore who she was.

The highlights of my time at SPC were definitely the performance opportunities,” Hogan recalled, “and I was lucky enough to perform in a variety of different platforms. From choir, to singing for a big band, to performing roles in the musicals and plays- it was an unforgettable experience.”

After transferring from SPC, Hogan continued her education at West Texas A&M University, where she majored in Musical Theater.

WTAMU got me ready with some heavy-hitter roles and some invaluable lessons on collaboration and perseverance,” said Hogan.

After graduating from West Texas A&M, Hogan decided she would move to New York by the summer of 2015. Before the move, she travelled around the South, directing and performing.

Hogan has lived in New York since 2015. She serves as the Associate Artistic Director for the Rising Sun Performance Company. She and her co-director recently won an award for Outstanding Direction from Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.

“Here, in 2019, I’m in pre-production for “Friendly Fire” by John Patrick Bray, which I’ll be directing at The Theatre at the 14th Street Y as a part of their season of War and Peace,” Hogan said.

Hogan also is an intern to the administrative director of the League of Professional Theatre Women, an organization that strives to increase opportunities for women in theatre.

In her spare time, Hogan likes to read, sleep, and watch television.

“I have been known to binge-watch Netflix and HBO (just finished “Killing Eve,” AMAZING),” said Hogan, “and I enjoy exploring the city for sweet shops and wine bars.”

For other students who want to pursue a career in theatre, Hogan says to keep your vision in mind and stick to it.

“Work hard, answer emails, show up when you’re supposed to and stay to help even if you don’t have to,” Hogan said. “This industry is all about trust and reliability – even more so than talent. Create relationships and nurture them.”

Hogan also offers some advice on rejection.

“Keep in mind that every experience, whether it’s negative or positive, can go in your toolbox as an actor,” she explains, “Never allow yourself to get defeated by a “no”. They’re your bread and butter as an actor. Allow yourself to ask take rejection in stride and KEEP GOING.”

Former student jumpstarts career with experience on Plainsman press Staff

Like many young college students, Jessica Safavimehr Hernandez had struggled to figure out what she wanted to do with her life after graduation.

Safavimehr Hernandez graduated from Lubbock High School in 2004 and transferred to South Plains College during the spring semester of 2005.

While attending SPC, Safavimehr Hernandez was a staff writer for the Plainsman Press for both her freshman and sophomore years.

Before attending SPC, I was a little all over the place major wise,” she recalled. “I was undecided and had no clear direction in which I wanted to take my education. I had always had an interest in writing, and, more importantly, journalism. But I never realized my true feelings until my time at SPC.”

Safavimehr Hernandez came to SPC after attending the University of North Texas for a semester. She had to leave due to a family member falling ill. She wanted to continue her education, but needed to find a school that fit with her work and life schedule.

“SPC provided flexibility and affordability in my time of need,” Safavimehr Hernandez explained. “Looking back, I am so appreciative and grateful for my time at SPC, and I established relationships with instructors and fellow students that have continued through my current career.”

Safavimehr Hernandez recalled that she enjoyed the small atmosphere of the college because she was able to build relationships with the faculty and staff.  She liked how approachable the professors were, and how easy it was to get in contact with them.   

SPC set me up for success,” said Safavimehr Hernandez, “and even though my last byline in the Plainsman Press was a bit touchy, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at SPC. College is such an impactful time in anyone’s life, and having the opportunity to take courses in a close setting and getting to know instructors on a first name basis was genuinely beneficial.”

She also shared some of her most fond memories while attending SPC, one of them being working late in the Newsroom on Paper Nights to create the upcoming issue of the Plainsman Press with her friends on the staff.

“Paper nights were one of the most educational experiences that I ever encountered at SPC,” said Safavimehr Hernandez. “Learning from the rest of the team and Charlie was wonderful. I enjoyed being a member of the staff because I was given a bit of free reign to write articles I was passionate about and to express myself through writing.”

Safavimehr Hernandez also spoke highly of Charles Ehrenfeld, associate professor of Journalism and Advisor for the Plainsman Press.

“Charlie made such an impression on me,” she said. “He was incredibly supportive, and his vast wealth of knowledge stuck with me through my journey at both SPC and Texas Tech.”

Safavimehr Hernandez transferred to Texas Tech University in the fall of 2007 to study Journalism and earned her minor in English in 2009.

While at TTU, she was a DJ for KTXT (88.1, Lubbock’s only alternative radio station) and was also a member of the Delta Zeta Alpha sorority.

At Tech, I became heavily involved in the retail world,” Safavimehr Hernandez explained. “I quickly took a liking to the operations and loss prevention side, and before I knew it, I was off traveling the country assisting stores in need. I never stopped writing and consistently applied myself toward finding a career in journalism. I did some freelance work, but the real opportunity for me came when I landed a job as an assistant to film producer Dallas Sonnier.”

After she began working for Sonnier, Safavimehr Hernandez managed to work her way up and became his Vice President of Operations for Cinestate and the Associate Publisher for FANGORIA magazine. For Safavimehr, this job was a dream come true to have the opportunity to work in the horror genre.

“My advice to anyone currently attending or thinking about a move to SPC is to make the most of your time,” Safavimehr Hernandez said. “Take in the full experience! SPC has so much to offer, and in a smaller setting, so you are not lost in the crowd. Once you are at a four-year university, it’s easy to get lost in the crowd full of students or feel like a number in a class of 500. Attending SPC provides an intimate approach to education, which in my case is what I needed to jump start my education and career!”

Student finds career inspiration from family



There are two choices when leaving high school: go to college or get a job.

Not many people have the luxury to spending a year finding themselves in a foreign country. Carolyn Sinklier, an education major at South Plains College, knew this and made the decision to better herself for others.

“It was my brothers, and counseling.” Sinklier said. “I didn’t want them to see how everything affected me. They absorb what I do, and I didn’t want that for them. So I changed for my brothers and for me.”

Raised in her hometown of Brownfield, Sinklier lived there with her mother and three siblings. Soon after, she and her siblings would be separated into different foster homes.

After two years of separation, Sinklier and her siblings were adopted by a couple in Abernathy, Texas. The couple already had two biological children of their own. When Sinklier moved to Abernathy, she attended Abernathy High School for the remainder of her high school career and graduated in a class of 42.

Sinklier chose to go to college, where she aspires to be a teacher to elementary students who struggle with autism.

“All of my biological brothers are autistic,” Sinklier says. “They are the ones who inspire me; I love them.”

Family is important to Sinklier. When she was separated from her siblings, she found perseverance by thinking of them. She has always spent quality time with her siblings and practically raised her younger brothers. This challenge gave her positive experiences in how to handle multiple individuals with autism and the mental challenge that comes with raising them.

“My mom lost it and did illegal activity that kept her out of the house and me and my siblings alone,” Sinklier explains. “I had a responsibility.”

That responsibility helped Sinklier find who she wants to become. She plans to graduate from SPC in the coming years, and started off her freshman year with a spring in her step and motivation to be better.

When not taking classes, Sinklier does make time to go see both her biological and foster family that are both close by SPC. Bettering her relationships, building life-long friendships, and fulfilling her dreams, she has found a home at SPC.

“I really like how SPC has a smaller campus,” Sinklier explains. “Being able to have a one-on-one with instructors and building that connection so I can learn better.”

She has found a way to fit into the college life as she has adjusted to all the other changes in her life. As of now, Sinklier plans to stay on this course, hoping to attend a four-year college when she graduates from SPC.

Sinklier says that she is “going where life takes me,” and, for now, she is enjoying the best of SPC.

“SPC has free cable and awesome french fries,” Sinklier says.

Her biggest problems include, like many other college students, procrastination and time management.

“In college, you are responsible for getting to class and turning in work,” explains Sinklier. “I forget about my deadlines and don’t pay attention. I have missed a whole module.”

However, with the connections she has made with her teachers, Sinklier says she will still pass and make it to her second semester. Through the struggle, Sinklier says she is “taking the good with the bad” at SPC and realizes that there will be more good than bad in the end.

“There’s a lot of damage, but if none of that would’ve happened, I would probably be pregnant, selling drugs, and living paycheck to paycheck,” Sinklier says. “I am one of ‘Vickie’s’ kids, but that doesn’t mean I am her. She has a reputation, and I am not following in her shadow. But now I’m in college. I have my own car, and I am going to be my own person, not what others want me to be.”

Retiring librarian sad to leave, happy about starting new chapter in life

With plans for the future, James Belcher is retiring after working for South Plains College’s Library for 10 years.

Belcher, was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, living there until he was about 6 years old. His family later moved to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where he lived until he graduated from high school.

Belcher attended John Brown University in Arkansas for his freshman year, then transferred to Oklahoma State, where he completed his bachelor’s degree.

After college, he served in the United States Navy for four years. Most of his time was spent at Whiting Field in Milton, Florida, which was the primary flight training base for the Navy. Belcher was an air traffic controller.

“Pilots earned their wings at our base and then moved on to advanced training,” Belcher said.

After Belcher served for four years, he earned his Master of Business Administration degree at Texas Tech University and later earned a master’s degree in Library Science at the University of Oklahoma.

Before he came to SPC, Belcher worked at three other libraries, Lanier Elementary School Library in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Fallsburg Public Library in South Fallsburg, New York, and Neill Public Library in Pullman, Washington.

Belcher said he applied for the position at SPC because he wanted to return to Lubbock.

“I had thought I would stay in the public library sector,” he explained, “but there were no positions open in Lubbock.”

Being ready for a new challenge and seeing that SPC came highly recommended, he took a job at SPC’s Library.

“I still thought I would eventually go back to the public sector,” Belcher said. “But once I got here, I decided SPC was the place to be.”

Praising his staff, he said, “I am impressed every week by one or more of the staff at SPC with what they do or know or are willing to contribute.”

He mentioned that the staff at every place he has worked has been good, “but the staff here at SPC have been super good.” He said he hates to leave them (the staff) because they work hard and they work together, never losing focus on helping students succeed.

“I know they are capable and willing to keep the Library moving forward and contributing to SPC success,” said Belcher.

Belcher and his wife have two sons. One who he gets to see quite often works as a fireman in Lubbock. The other lives in Pullman, Washington, “so we do not see a lot of him or his family.” However, he hopes to change that now that he is retiring.

Belcher enjoys riding his bicycle, reading, working on puzzles, and puttering in his workshop. He said that he and his wife will try to do as much traveling as they can physically stand and afford.

“We have some mission work we want to get into, and, of course, lots of books to read,” said Belcher of his retirement plans.

Lopez retiring after 41 years in nursing, health occupations

When she was growing up, Sue Ann Lopez could never remember wanting to do anything else besides being a nurse.

Lopez is retiring from serving as the Dean of Health Occupations after 24 years at South Plains College.

She grew up in Statesboro, Georgia, attending high school there as well. Lopez said she did some of her pre-nursing coursework at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro.

“At that time, they did not have a school of nursing,” recalls Lopez. “Then I transferred to Valdosta State University. I completed my BSN in June. And then in September, I started my master’s at the Medical College of Georgia and finished that a year later and then practiced.”

Lopez completed her BSN in 1976 and her master’s degree in 1977. Then she began her career working in a hospital before working in private practice. She also taught at Georgia Southern University for four years after they started a BSN program.

Lopez moved to Levelland in 1994 to begin working at SPC.

“My husband’s home is here, and so I was teaching at the BSN program back home and it just, for whatever reason, seemed like a good time to move,” Lopez explained. “There were a lot of changes going on within the department, within the division that we were in, and felt like the best thing to do would be to relocate.”

Lopez said her husband told her about SPC. He grew up in Levelland and attended SPC. She said she made a few phone calls and found out there was a teaching position in the Associate Degree Nursing program.

“The rest is history,” Lopez said. “I came and I interviewed over what was our spring break. It was a great place, and I like the town. It’s pretty much the same as the town where we were living, and I got offered the job and we moved.”

Lopez began as an instructor in the ADN program in the fall of 1994. In June of 1998, she became the Director of the ADN program and the vocational nursing program on the Levelland campus. She became dean of health occupations in 2010.

Lopez said she has seen growth in the number of students during her time at SPC. She said that the enrollment growth led to the expansion of facilities, including a new building, and locations.

Lopez said that even though she has seen large growth, the focus of the college has not changed. It has always been student oriented.

“That is our main focus, the students,” explained Lopez, “because without students, there is no need for any of the rest of us to be here. I think that when you look at the faculty, and the staff and administration, you can tell that this is their passion. This is what they love to do. And it comes across in their teaching and in their interactions with students, other faculty and staff.”

Lopez said that she has stayed at SPC so long because she loves her job. She said that it has been the best place she has ever worked.

The profession of nursing has changed a lot since Lopez first began school.

“I would love to take the students back to when I first went into nursing,” Lopez said. “I would like to take them either from even further back, because my mother was a nurse, and she graduated from nursing school in 1946.”

Lopez explained that when her mother was a nurse, there wasn’t a lab and nurses had to draw their own labs, type and cross blood. She said the nurses had to do everything themselves.

Lopez said that when she first started practicing, IV bottles were glass, and now they are collapsible bags. She also said that when she began nursing, there were very few procedures nurses would use gloves for. Now gloves are used in everything they do.

“It has changed dramatically,” Lopez said. “One thing that hasn’t changed, unfortunately, is the paperwork. You don’t have actual paper. Now we have the same type of charting that is on a computer. I would like to see nurses get back to the bedside more and be able to spend the time with the patient, as opposed to having to hurry because they’ve got a chart. And that will never change. Charting is a necessary evil for our job, but I would like to see the focus go back to the patient and be more at the bedside.”

Lopez said that when when she begins orientation for a new class of student nurses, she always asks the students why they want to become a nurse. She said that she receives answers all across the board, such as their parents wanted them to, they know they’ll always be able to make money and have a job, or even because they’ve experienced something happen in their lives when a nurse played an important role.

“But the one thing that I think you have to have is nursing has to be your passion,” Lopez added. “I can never remember wanting to do anything else. Yes, my mom was a nurse. But I was never told that I had to be a nurse. Nursing is so diverse, and there are so many different jobs that are available in nursing. You don’t have to go in a hospital; you don’t have to go in a clinic. There’s so much open that you’re not just put in a little cubby hole, so to speak. You can do any number of things that you want to do. But it needs to be your passion.”

Despite challenges, alum balances school, work, family

Finishing college and getting a degree seemed like a stretch to Fabiola Muñoz. But it is now a goal within her reach.

Muñoz graduated from Levelland High School in the top 20 of her class in 2009. In high school, she was intimidated by the thought of being part of a “big” club or organization. But she was a part of Spanish Club, Art Club, and National Honor Society.

Muñoz  said her first choice was not to attend South Plains College.

“But I found out I was pregnant the spring of my senior year,” Muñoz explained. “I had my parents’ full support to continue going with school after graduating. It was just easier for me to stay close to home.”

Muñoz explained that without her parents, going to college wouldn’t have been a possibility.

Muñoz  has gone through changing her major a few times. When she started at SPC in 2009, she was set on getting into the Radiology program. Instead, she got her certification in phlebotomy, before changing her major to business.

“In 2011, I decided to put school aside and focus on my kids and husband, at the time,” Muñoz  said. “The fall semester of 2017, I went back to school and started my application to the physical therapist assistant program, then decided that that career was not for me. I decided to talk to professor Lauren Gregory about finishing my associate’s degree for my Business degree.”

Muñoz  plans to graduate with her associate’s degree in December of this year.

Muñoz said that she wants to be an example for her kids that no matter how old they are, or even though they don’t do things the “cookie cutter” way, they can still reach their goals. It will be harder, but not impossible.

“Up to this day, I am worried that I won’t be able to finish college,” Muñoz said. “Even though it’s so close, it still feels a lifetime away. I know I’m going to finish; it’s just something that is in the back of my mind.”

Muñoz said she believes that SPC is helping her achieve her goals by being helpful with any questions and concerns, or any career major change, that she has had.

“I honestly love how I feel like I can get the one-on-one help from the professor or my advisor,” Muñoz  said. “And how I don’t feel like just a ‘number’ but a student.”

Muñoz  said that unfortunately she hasn’t been able to participate in any extra-curricular activities at SPC. She already has her hands full with work, her three kids and college classes.

Muñoz  currently works at SPCAA (South Plains Community Action Association), in the accounting department. She helps her co-workers process invoices so they get paid. She also works at United Supermarkets as a pharmacy technician. Since she started working at the SPCAA, she only works as needed at the pharmacy.

“It has taken me a long time to choose this career,” Muñoz  said, “but I think what finally pushed me toward this career path is the fact that I know I can help more people by helping them with numbers. I have tried careers that help others in other ways, and I believe I can make a bigger change and be a bigger help behind the scenes in accounting or finance than in person and in the forefront.”

Muñoz said that she wants to learn as much as she can with SPCAA and get as much experience as she can while growing with the company.

Muñoz  said that her favorite part about her career has been how challenging it has been, especially when she decided to take a Business Calculus course in the summer.

She plans on attending Lubbock Christian University in the spring to earn her bachelor’s degree in business finance.

“I have learned that no matter what life throws at you, or how old you are, you can still get a career and have the guidance that you need to achieve that goal,” Muñoz  said. “I have three kids and was working two jobs for about a year and was a full-time student. If I can do it, others can too. Everything is possible.”

Instructor values music after overcoming hearing disorder

Devin Collins recalls finding his passion for music at a young age, after overcoming a hearing disorder for the first three years of his life.

Eustachian Tube Dysfunction happens if the Eustachian tube becomes blocked, if the lining of the tube swells, or if the tube is not fully open to allow air to travel to the ear. This can be caused by a cold, flu, a sinus infection, or allergies. Collins’ condition was linked to his sinuses, and he was deaf until he was 4 years old.

“I wasn’t really old enough to remember overcoming it,” Collins said. “I just know from what my parents told me that it was a major improvement. Being able to understand language and hear my environment was crucial to my development as a human being. The fact that I was able to hear music for the first time at age 4 probably contributed a lot to my love for music.”

IMG_0936Collins, originally from Maryville, Tennessee, moved with his parents at a young age to Dallas, Texas. He spent most of his life growing up southwest of Dallas in Cedar Hill.

Collins graduated from Cedar Hill High School in 2002. He went on to enroll at the University of Houston, where he received his bachelor’s degree in Music Composition in 2007. After graduating from Houston, he transferred to Texas Tech University in 2012, earning his master’s degree in Jazz Performance in 2017.

Collins played music all throughout high school and college, participating in a Wind Ensemble, marching band, Symphony Orchestra, Jazz Orchestra, Brass quintet, and Tuba Ensemble, as well as in a few smaller bands outside of UH. While at TTU, Collins was a part of the Jazz Ensemble and the Jazz Combo.

“I was also gigging frequently as a solo pianist and as a member of my band, The Beat Garden,” Collins added.

Collins began teaching at South Plains College in January of 2018 and has enjoyed his time working here.

“Honestly, I hadn’t been much of a teacher until I started doing this,” Collins said. “I have been playing for a long time, and so teaching in this environment with more pop and commercial music, since that’s what I’m used to playing, I thought maybe this will be a good way for me to get used to teaching.”

Collins primarily plays the keyboard, but he also plays a variety of other instruments, ranging from bass guitar, drums, and ukulele, to brass instruments such as trumpet, mellophone, and tuba.

“I actually started music on the clarinet, but my parents couldn’t afford it, so I had to play something that was free, which happened to be the tuba,” Collins said.

At SPC, Collins teaches private piano lessons and Funk Ensemble, along with serving as the director of the Touring Ensemble which performs at a variety of area schools for students.

“Its purpose is to go to schools in our service area and perform for many students,” Collins said. “Ideally, we try to perform three to four times a semester.”

The ensemble plays a mixture of songs that are popular with the generation that is current for high schoolers, along with a mixture of songs that challenge the band and the vocalists. Not only do they play popular song choices, the ensemble tries to represent various eras of music.

“We mostly try to play genre pop,” Collins explains. “We don’t really play things like classic rock or country. It’s mostly pop, Top 40, or classics that really stood the test of time.”

The touring ensemble features six students who are musicians, along with students in the live sound program, which includes one or two different students to help set up for each performance. They also bring four to five different students who help video the performance. So far, the Touring Ensemble has traveled from Lovington, New Mexico, and to Patton Springs, Texas, which are both about two hours away. The group has only played for grade schools. However, Collins is planning on expanding to other performance opportunities in the future.

“The best part is working with the students,” Collins said. “They are talented, driven, and so much fun to be around.”

The touring Ensemble members include:

Carter Franks, 19, sophomore Commercial Music major from Lubbock, who is a vocalist. He is the son of Lu and Ginny Franks of Lubbock; Gillian Hess, 21, sophomore Commercial Music major from Lovington, N.M., is a vocalist. She is the daughter of Geoff and Kim Hess of Lovington, N.M; and Duncan Newey, 18, freshman Commercial Music major from Hobbs, N.M., is a drummer. He is the son of Paul and Mika Newey of Hobbs, N.M.

Joseph Raney, 20, sophomore Sound Technology major from Lubbock, plays bass. He is the son of Don and Robin Raney; Hannah Scott, 19, sophomore Commercial Music major from Levelland, is a vocalist. She is the daughter of Greg and Julie Scott of Levelland; and Jaden Wells, 18, freshman Commercial Music major from Lubbock, plays guitar. He is the son of Michael Wells and Jamie Pitman, both of Lubbock.

Collin says that it is rewarding to play music with other people who are also at a high level. He explained that there are moments that happen when he’s playing with another person and they both have similar ideas at the same time to add to the music. When the two ideas come together and happen to fit with each other, it sounds amazing.

“That’s one of the moments you live for as a musician,” Collins said. “And of course, bringing music to an audience. For people to have a shared experience with us as we’re providing music, it’s enriching all of our lives.”

Alum achieves goal of becoming law enforcement officer

Weapon drawn, preparing to apprehend a criminal, Blake Blanscett’s first-ever traffic stop turned into a situation you would only see in the movies.

Blanscett is a police officer for Midland Police Department. He began working for the department as soon as he graduated from South Plains College in 2017.

Blanscett started as a student in the Law Enforcement Technology Program in 2015, after graduating from Lubbock High School in 2014.

When he was growing up, Blanscett watched “COPS” and various law enforcement movies and TV shows with his father. This sparked his interest in the career.

On Blanscett’s first traffic stop, on his first day with his field training officer (FTO), a white SUV sped past them in front of Lee High School. As they pulled the driver over and began heading toward the SUV, one of their sergeants radioed them reporting that the vehicle was stolen.

“We move back our unit for cover and drew our weapons,” Blanscett explained. “We called the driver out, and when he got to the back of the vehicle, he ran from us.”

Blanscett explained that he could not pursue the driver because there was still a passenger in the car. The driver was apprehended shortly after he ran.

When Blanscett headed to the vehicle, he noticed on the passenger seat of the stolen car was a pistol with the magazine out of it.

“Based on my curiosity, I asked the driver why the magazine was out of the pistol,” Blanscett said. “He told me when I was walking up, the passenger had the gun pointed at me over his shoulder. He attempted to fire, but it was not loaded. When he went to load it, he hit the magazine release. The best thing about this story was it was my first day as a police officer and my first traffic stop ever.”

Blanscett explained that he wanted to attend SPC because of its reputation and the exceptional law enforcement program. While at SPC, he was a member of the Law Enforcement Club, attending the meetings and going on a few field trips. Blanscett said the club was a great way for him to get involved with other people in the program.

Blanscett said he is grateful for all the guidance that Dr. Lance Scott, Kenny Burns, John Barnes, and Mark Wittie gave him to achieve his goal of becoming a police officer.

“The leadership and training from the instructors helped pave the way,” Blanscett said. “If it was not for them, I would not be the police officer I am today. I would like to credit every law enforcement instructor for their leadership and guidance. Before I graduated, I was already hired on by my department because of their recommendations. I noticed right when I started the Academy that since I had already taken the college courses, I was already a step ahead, because I already knew the material.”

Blanscett’s duties include answering calls for service around the community, along with being proactive with citizen contacts and traffic stops.

The great thing is nothing is ever the same,” Blanscett said. “It is different every day on the streets. I love helping the community and putting bad people in jail, and making sure families can be safe during all hours of the day.”

Blanscett plans on continuing his education by earning a bachelor’s degree from either Texas Tech University or Lubbock Christian University.

Blanscett is also working towards the goal of making the SWAT team.

“I am a year out from tryouts,” Blanscett said. “It is a very physical and mental challenge to make the team. I am working towards in the next three years to make FTO so I can train the new guys that come into the streets.”

New Math Department Chair planning on expanding STEM programs

Dr. Sheyleah Harris-Plant shares fundamental lessons with her students by providing insights through the use of mathematics.

Dr. Harris-Plant is an Alabama native and a military dependent whose father served in the United States Army. She says being raised in a military family taught her the importance of discipline, hard work, teamwork, and respect for different cultures.

She graduated from Daleville High School in 1998 before attending Enterprise State Junior College, where she received an Associate of Arts Degree in Mathematics in 2000.

“I am a first generation college student,” Dr. Harris-Plant said. “I was originally trying to use the TAP program that was offered, but I didn’t meet the criteria for financial need or academic necessity. However, my community college allowed me to be a tutor for them, and I had access to advising, which is what I wanted.”

After graduating from ESC, she transferred to Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. She attended the four-year institution for two years, graduating in 2002 and earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics.

As she continued her journey through college, the idea of becoming a college professor truly began at Huntingdon College. It all started with small, simple tutoring sessions, and from there, everything fell into place.

“Huntingdon College is a private university, and a lot of students who attended there came from money,” Dr. Harris-Plant explained. “One of my cluster mates, who was a History major, was struggling with her Calculus I class and  came to me for help. She and all of her friends were willing to pay me $20 an hour to tutor them through the course.”

After she graduated from Huntingdon College, she then continued her education at Texas Tech University, earning a Master of Science Degree in Math in 2004, and later her doctoral degree in higher education in 2010.

“I went to a grad fair, and for every four-year school I thought that I would be interested in, I threw my name in the ring,” recalled Dr. Harris-Plant. “Texas Tech University called, saying that they would give me a TAship  if I taught a few classes for them and they would pay for my school.”

After completing her master’s degree at TTU, Dr. Harris-Plant applied to work at South Plains College. She felt drawn to work at a small community college because she knows many students may feel discouraged or disappointed for having to start at a two-year school rather than a four-year school. She tries to remind her students that they can still be successful no matter where they decide to start or continue their education.

Dr. Harris-Plant also works with the SPC Alumni Association to find successful alumni to return to the campus and talk to current students to show them they can be just as successful, no matter where they go.

After she began working for SPC, her husband, Robert Plant, soon followed after he completed his education at Texas Tech University and serves as an assistant professor of mathematics. Dr. Harris-Plant teaches a variety of courses, such as intermediate, college algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus.

“I prefer to prepare students to transfer into calculus,” explained Dr. Harris-Plant. “It’s not that I can’t teach the harder classes, but I do it to help students recognize the patterns and give them harder problems now before they take the even harder classes. I try to make it so that way it is easier for them in the future.”

Dr. Harris-Plant expresses that math is a strong skill subject. It is nothing like a history or English course, as the professor is giving students the tools they need in order to problem solve and walk through long processes in order to complete an equation.

“Once you get the process down,” she says, “you realize that the rules don’t change. We just give you uglier looking problems to try to scare you. I can teach you the steps in the process, and then I can give you whatever problem I want, no matter how ugly it is. I just want my students to recognize that the rules are the same, and just because it looks different means that the process changes; it doesn’t.”

Not only does Dr. Harris-Plant try to help her students better understand the subjects they are discussing in class, she tries to incorporate life lessons as well.

“I know students need to figure out priorities for themselves,” she explains, “and depending on the age group, there are usually some that have conflicts with each other. I prefer using the honor system and self-policing instead of me having to do it for them. In the real world, your boss doesn’t usually come in and settle things for you. Normally, they are expecting for everyone to take care of what needs to be done.”

Dr. Harris-Plant, who has been working at for SPC for the past 15 years, recently was appointed as the new chairperson for the Mathematics and Engineering Department.

“I have mixed emotions about the new position,” Dr. Harris-Plant said. “I like being a faculty member, and I know that I’m still part of the team. However, I really enjoy being on that side of the team. Part of the new position pulled me out of the classroom, but administration is something I’m good at, so I can see why I was appointed to this position.”

Dr. Harris-Plant went from teaching 15 hours to six hours once she was appointed to the new position. Even though she wishes she could still spend more time in the classroom, she and other faculty members are coming up with ways to improve the Mathematics and Engineering programs.

She sees that the math and engineering program is growing tremendously and wants to do everything she can to provide students with beneficial resources and offer more courses to choose from.

“We would like to offer more engineering courses, because there is a push nationally through our STEM programs,” said Dr. Harris-Plant. “This is going to directly affect us, because we offer two of the three programs.”

Currently, the department is in the process of incorporating corequisite courses. Rather than having students complete one college math course for a semester, the courses are used as a support course for students to complete their math credits in one semester.

The department also is looking into adding another computer programing course. They are hoping to help students finish their education at a fast pace and continue to expand the STEM programs in order to serve more students within the department.

She said that the department is “also creating the Maker Space, which was started by Dr. Ramesh Krishnan and Dean Alan Worley. Even though it is not finished, we have plans of adding a 3D printer, among other things.”

Dr. Harris-Plant says that the ultimate goal for the department is to provide excellent instructors to help students become more independent.

Veteran uses past experiences as guide to success

by Geneva Natal


College is a time to find yourself.

But for Sebastian Livermore, he is ready to start his new chapter and new career with the help of his past experiences that shaped him into who he is today.

Throughout his life, Livermore has always traveled, because he is a member of a military family that moved a lot. Born in Germany, he moved from there to the United States. He spent around six years in Colorado Springs, before moving one more time, where he finished his secondary education at Jordan High School in Columbus, Georgia.

In high school, he found a deep love for sports and played football all four years.

“I get up because I want to be successful,” Livermore says. “I have a dream of what I want to achieve. I feel like I’m behind because of the Air Force. I left my old career to build towards my new future, the American dream. I want to be successful, and I have a vision of what success is and how to get there.”

Choosing the path of college changes a lot for Livermore, a business major at South Plains College who would like to work in sports marketing or human resources for a professional sports team.

In his second year of college at SPC, Livermore is planning on transferring to Texas Tech University, where his siblings are attending. At 27 years old, he started his education late because he found his first step was to enlist in the military.

He joined the Air Force right after high school, spending basic training in Texas before being stationed in St. Louis for eight years. 

“I never really felt like I was missing out on anything,” says Livermore. “I like my space, and I was developing my personality in the military, making my own decisions, being away from family.”

During those eight years, he was deployed twice. He had a career in security forces in the Air Force, which he explained is like “military police.” He says he was not only proud but happy with his job. He got the chance to travel and see things many people won’t see in their lifetime.

Livermore spent his time in the military learning and growing as an individual.

“I wasn’t ready for the military at all,” recalls Livermore. “It felt like I was struggling to keep up while in the military, because I had to learn English and German,” said Livermore. “I didn’t feel like I was a grown up until the age of 24, after being matured by the military.”

Because of the military, Livermore says he is a different person because of what the Air Force taught him during his service.

After serving in the Air Force, Livermore moved to California for two years, until plans and fate brought him to Texas in August to attend South Plains College. In class, Livermore makes an effort to reach out to his instructors.

“I have a respect for what they do,” he explains. “Their teaching and education degree, I have a great respect for education and what the teachers do.”

Livermore says that he chose to attend SPC because of the closeness of the campus and the ease in which the instructors reach each student. Livermore finds a silver lining in everything and makes the best out of his situations.  

“In my time in the Air Force,” Livermore explains, “I learned a skill to gather multiple perspectives and not rush to conclusions.”

Because of this valuable lesson, Livermore says he looks at life and society differently. He still keeps in touch with his military friends, but he also finds new friends in classes with little judgement.

However, Livermore is an introvert by nature, and his hobbies include working out, which he started focusing on when he became unhappy with his weight after the military. Now he spends time working out, hiking, and being a nature fanatic. Indoors, he plays video games, playing with his dog, an American pitbull and terrier mix, and listening to any type of music, except country.

Livermore says that he enjoys the weather in West Texas, especially this time of year. He enjoys the cold weather and the rain, as he is thinking of moving to Oregon one day just for the weather. He also dreams of one day moving back to Germany after he relearns the language.

Romance author finds ideas through daily living

Jodi Thomas says she has been telling stories ever since she was a young girl.

South Plains College is hosting the New York Times and USA TODAY best-selling author at the Library on the Levelland Campus on Nov. 12 to speak and sign her new book, “Mistletoe Miracles.”

Thomas’s childhood was very creative.

“My mother would sit down as soon as I got home and ask me what I saw on my way home,” recalls the Amarillo author. “I would tell her all these things, and she would ask, ‘Reality or story?’ She was teaching me to see the difference between reality and fiction. But she never said, ‘You’re lying.”

Thomas, who had two younger sisters and a brother, says her job at night was to tell them stories. She says that she has always wanted to tell stories, but “I didn’t think I’d be able to write, because English was my weakest subject in school. I am not good with commas and grammar.”

Thomas attended Texas Tech University, where she earned a degree in Family Studies. She was honored by the University, along with her brother, as Distinguished Alumni in 2002.

“People say you don’t use your degree much after you graduate,” Thomas said, “but you use your degree every day. Home economics taught me things that I put in books.”

She also said that family studies helped her understand the complex structure of family life and situations.

Thomas got married during her senior year at Texas Tech and became a teacher. She later had children, which is why she started writing, because she wanted to help save for her children’s college education. However, being a full-time teacher and a mother of two boys, she wondered what was going to be her drive to make her write books. She said her goal was to write one book to pay for one year’s worth of college.

She had attended every conference she could find, to learn about writing. At one of those, she bought a t-shirt that said, “New York Times best seller in training,” which she wore often when she would write.

Thomas entered a local contest, with participants expected to write the first chapter of a book from one of eight categories, such as mystery, children, and love. She wrote a chapter for every category and didn’t win in any of them.

Discouraged that she could not win even a local contest after years of conferences, she was ready to quit. She went out walking and came across a quote that read, “Triumph comes through perseverance.”  That encouraged her to push on. One of the chapters would later be included in a book that received a national award.

“From the time I have the first idea (for a story), it’s usually two years until I see the book come out,” Thomas said.

  However, she says she also works on other books at the same time.

Thomas likes to write in different places, one place being a bunk house in Ransom Canyon.

“I move around for books,” explained Thomas. “I might stay some place for a week and then go on to another.”

She gets her inspiration from daily life.

  “It’s different every time,” she said. “It could be from the way a person walks, or the accent someone speaks with.”

  She has also gotten an idea for a story from a name on a grave tombstone. Most of the names of her characters come from tombstones in the state or town that the book takes place in, so that her characters’ names sound more from the town or state the book is set in.

“A lot of times, especially with historical romances, I would drive through the cemetery and pick last names and first names and combine them,” Thomas said.

Thomas has written 50 books and is working on number 51. Of those, 22 are historical romances. The first historical romance she wrote was while she was in grad school studying to be a counselor. In the middle of a class, she got an idea and started writing it down.

“I’m a quilter of words,” Thomas said. “I take things from many places and put them together, and then I have a book.”

She continued, “The easiest way to learn how to write is to read good books.”

She said her husband used to be in the Army. Because he was gone for months at a time, she kept herself busy with teaching and reading two to three books a day.

  “Writing a book has a beat, it has music,” Thomas explained. “The best thing to do is to read. And then write down an idea. The more creative you are, the more creative you become.”

  She changed to contemporary romances after 15 years of writing historical romances. She said one of the reasons was so she could reach a bigger audience.

“I began it because I wanted to write a story of a small town,” she said. “I wanted to show how everyone in small towns influence each other’s life, either in small ways or big ways.”

She has won the Writers of America (RITA) Award and the National Readers’ Choice Award Winner. She also is in the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Her books have been translated into at least six different languages.

Thomas explained why she thinks Old West stories still appeal to people today, saying, “I think, especially in this part of the country, we still have the same values. Sometimes I’ll use a term and people will ask if people still use that. And I’ll say; yes.”