Tag: alum feature

Alum expresses love for helping children by founding outreach center

by REBEKAH HARVEY

Megan Estrada has always had a heart for-at risk youth.

Estrada, founder, director and president of Hub City Outreach Center, attended South Plains College to pursue that love for children.

She grew up in Abernathy, Texas, 19 miles outside of Lubbock, and graduated from Abernathy High School.

After graduating, Estrada made the decision to attend SPC. She was drawn to SPC because of the small class sizes and the opportunity to build relationships with the professors. Estrada also enjoyed the opportunities for one-on-one learning from professors.

“I was drawn to SPC because they had services and resources for non traditional students.” explained Estrada.

While at SPC, Estrada majored in Child Development. She says some of her favorite moments at SPC were volunteering for the Autism Walk. She also enjoyed participating in community outreach.

“Some of the highlights I had while attending SPC were being involved in ACT, or Advocates for Children Today,” recalled Estrada.

After Estrada graduated from SPC, she transferred to Lubbock Christian University. She graduated from LCU in 2016 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Family Studies.

After graduating from LCU, Estrada began working in the human services field. She later founded the Hub City Outreach Center in Lubbock.

“Hub City Outreach Center provides prevention education to at-risk youth,” said Estrada. “Hub City has a clothing closet, hygiene closet, and free tutoring and volunteer opportunities for the youth we serve.”

Along with her bachelor’s degree in Family Studies, Estrada is also a certified Community Health Worker. For the past two years, she has been teaching students at Hub City Outreach Center through the curriculum to be successful.

Hub City Outreach Center uses curriculum to help students learn the skills it takes to stay away from drugs, alcohol and violence, and to rise above difficult situations. One of their intentions is to help students set and achieve goals.

“SPC taught me to strive for my goals and pursue my dreams,” said Estrada.

Hub City Outreach Center serves students between the ages of 4 and 17. The services provided by Hub City Outreach Center are free for families and students.

The services of Hub City Outreach Center rely on donations from the community for support. Hub City Outreach Center also accepts donations of clothes, shoes, school supplies and other items. All donations to Hub City Outreach Center benefit not only the children and youth but their families as well.

In 2018, Estrada was selected as the 2018 Hispana Inspiradora Award from the Hispanic Association of Women. The award highlights women who demonstrate outstanding work that benefits the community. Recipients are positive role models who exhibit leadership skills.

Outside of working at Hub City Outreach Center, Estrada enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and spending time at the lake.

“I like to spend my weekends with my daughter and grandson, who are my world,” said Estrada.

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.”

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.”

Alum serves community through career, volunteering

by DEBRA MONTANDON

 

When life doesn’t go as you plan, it’s not too late to plan again.

Sometimes people give up, but not Clifton Smith. Life obstacles were not seen as negative, just a new step in another direction.

Smith, known to friends and family as Dane, was born in Brownfield, Texas. He grew up and graduated from Loop High School in 1978. He graduated at the end of his junior year of high school and began college at Texas Tech University in the fall of 1978.

Smith attended South Plains College in 1999, graduating in 2002.

His initial major was pre-med. Smith says he finished high school early in order to get started on this career.

“I experienced a profound culture shock coming from a very small school with small classes and attending a large university with classes of up to 300 students,” Smith recalls.

At the request of his father, he transferred to Lubbock Christian College the following semester. He later transferred back to Texas Tech for the fall semester in 1979.

Smith then left college at the end of that semester for personal reasons, adding that the primary reason was because his dad needed help on the farm. He farmed from 1980 to 1997.

Smith said he had been interested in medicine since he was a small child. He became increasingly aware of the lack of medical aid in his rural community. Because of this, he began attending classes to help with the local Emergency Medical Services.

Smith became a member of the Seagraves-Loop EMS. He began this EMS career as an ECA and continued to take classes at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) until achieving his paramedic certification in the mid-1980s. Dane’s older brother, Timmy, Dana Lambert, and Rick Purcell, all members of the Seagraves-Loop volunteer EMS service, were instrumental in circulating petitions, holding meetings and, in general, increasing awareness for the possibility of forming an emergency services district in that area. Seagraves-Loop EMS had been severly underfunded prior to this time. Forming an ESD would solve that problem.  The Northeast Gaines County emergency services District #1 was voted in and formed in 1991.  This was the third such district to be formed in the state of Texas.

Smith married Pam Chaney in 1983. They  have now been married 35 years and have three children, Brandon (who also attended SPC), Sheldon and Kristen. They recently moved from Seagraves to Morton, Texas. They also have three grandchildren.

Smith had to quit farming on his own in 1997. He worked for his father from 1997-1998, before accepting a job as the assistant director of Seagraves-Loop EMS. Smith said that he still had the urge and drive to know more about medicine, so he began taking college classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at SPC. He said that he was only able to do this because his wife Pam could work as a paramedic in his place on the days he went to class. Smith took classes in order to work toward being accepted in a Physician Assistant program.

Smith says he has always wanted to be a doctor from the time he was a small child. Due to life circumstances, being a physician assistant would come in a close second. Smith got all of his prerequisites at South Plains College.

“It’s a fine school and a good place to learn,” said Smith of SPC. He particularly had the highest regards for David Etheredge in Biology, Leanne Smith in Biology, Dr. Jesse Yeh in Chemistry and Dr. Jackie Wright, an Anatomy and Physiology instructor.

Smith says that he liked the small classes at SPC and the fact that he wasn’t just a number.

When asked if he had any advice for current and future students who attend SPC, he said, “Don’t think you can breeze through if you made A’s in high school. Study, and you can make high A’s.  If you don’t study, you will not pass.”

He graduated in 2002 with an Associate of Science degree. Prior to his graduation, he was awarded the Psychology of Personality, Outstanding Student in Biology and Outstanding Student in A&P awards.

Smith first applied for PA school at TTUHSC during the summer of 2003. He was granted an interview but was not selected to be seated in the class.

In mid-December 2004, his wife, Pam, asked him if he had filled out the application to get into PA school. His response was, “I don’t know if I am going to.” She replied, “Oh yes you are!” The rest is history.

Smith was given an interview, and this time he was seated in the upcoming class. He began PA school in the summer of 2004.

Upon graduating from PA School in September 2006, he was approached by Dr. George Manning, who was interested in starting up a clinic in Seagraves. Together they opened the Seagraves family clinic in January 2007. The clinic was in operation from January 2007 until August 2009. It was located on the ground floor of what is now known as the Simpson Inn.

Smith now has a full-time practice in Morton. He works a the Cochran Memorial clinic and hospital. He said that if any prospective PA students wish to shadow him, he would be more than glad to accommodate them.

In his spare time, Smith continues to serve others. He purchased a riding John Deere lawn mower and mows up to five yards a week for others, including many elderly ladies who do not have a husband.  On one occasion, the man who mows for the hospital was not able to, and without anyone knowing, Smith mowed the hospital lawn until he could get back to his job.

Alum expresses fondness for home away from home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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