Staying Focused – Even During a Pandemic

The life of a college student can be busy especially if they are working and going to college part time – even during a pandemic.

For Jerrel Williams, busy is his middle name! This US Army veteran not only attends Northwest Vista College, but is a husband, a dad to two elementary-school age children, and a chef at a private local school that is still operating its daycare. The school is near the Medical Center and many of its parents are considered essential workers. Prior to the coronavirus, he was also busy running his catering business.

Jerrel said once his military career switched to being in the reserves, he wasn’t quite sure what to do with himself. He’s the main cook at home and often cooked for his platoon. His wife encouraged him to turn his love of cooking into a career and he earned an associate degree from the Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio. It was his mom who gave him the inspiration for his business’ name.

“I had to write a paper on what memories food gives you,” Jerrel said. “I remember my mom would make Bulgogi (a Korean-style beef you eat with steamed rice). Every time I ate it, it would lead me back to her warm heart (she passed away in 2011). When I have people eat my food, I want them to go back to their heart and cherish memories they have, while creating new memories. I want to make food a memorable experience.”

He also created fond memories at NVC when he took home first place in NVC’s first inaugural Beans & Chili Cook Off in February. He’s hoping to earn an associate degree from NVC next fall and combine his love of cooking, nutrition and fitness to be a knowledgeable resource for his clients that range from athletes, busy parents and businesses.

“NVC provided a warm welcoming feeling (when I first came here), the staff showed heedfulness in seeing me succeed,” said Jerrel, who’s studying Kinesiology at NVC. “Going to a big university can be overwhelming. Once I finished my first semester all of my instructors reaffirmed my initial thoughts, so for that I truly thank you.”

Prior to COVID-19, he and his business partner were busy making food for catering events. Their goal is to get funding for a food truck to one day bring the truck to catering events. While he specializes in Cajun food, his chili is now award-wining and he loves to get creative with dishes. He often posts mouth-watering pictures on his Instagram page (@AWaytotheHeart).

While the catering part of his business has slowed due to the virus, he has transitioned to making meals for athletes and everyday people who need a break from cooking. And the students at Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran School still get to taste his chef creations. When the school was in session, Jerrel and his mentor, Tony Zavala, fed about 200 students a day.

This summer on July 18, Jerrel will be the executive chef and host for the 4th Annual Community Junior Chef Competition on the South Side, which is hosted by San Antonio-based nonprofit, World Lolei Inc. At the event, backpacks and other supplies will be collected to help kids with back to school. Recently Jerrel assisted World Lolei Inc., and several community partners, with the donation of food and hygiene products to over 115 families, as well pay for rent and utilities for seven families for the month of April.

Jerrel said while the intensity of his catering business has slowed due to the virus, he’s looking forward to the future.

“At times life may seem like an over whelming struggle however, without struggle there is no progress,” Jerrel added. “Continue to stay strong through the tough times and always remember life is too short to wonder what if. I am making my dreams come true, I took that first step and I haven’t looked back since. Don’t sit on your passion. Make a plan of action, put your heart and soul into it, and prosper.”

Thank You for Making Education a Priority

Dear NVC Students,

Thank you for making education a priority. With so much happening around us right now in regards to the coronavirus, you may be wondering what the future holds.

As a parent and grandparent, who has two sons in college and a granddaughter in elementary school, education is important to me on a personal and professional level.

As your president, I want to assure you that Northwest Vista College is doing everything possible to keep our students, faculty and staff safe and to provide needed resources for remote learning as well as advocacy services such as how to obtain food, counseling, how to file for unemployment or speak to someone about domestic abuse and other resources.

Please continue to stay in college and reach out to your instructor or advisor if you need help with anything. You may also refer to this web page for resources:  https://www.alamo.edu/nvc/about-us/our-college/remote-learning/students/

Thank you.

Dr. Ric Baser
NVC President

 

10 Tips for Writing Scholarship Essays

Everyone jumps at the opportunity of receiving free money, but as soon as we see that an essay is required, we immediately put it off. I know I’m guilty of this. But this past week, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop on how to write scholarship essays. During the workshop, I learned a lot and decided that it’d be great to share some tips with fellow students.

  1. Personalize your essay- The readers want to know who you are. A good way to do this is to tell a story.
  2. “Challenge” or “Obstacle”- When the prompt includes one of these words, write a story about how you overcame a challenge or obstacle. Mention how you “grew” from that. Correlate it with your education or finances.
  3. Talk about your “goals” and “vision”- The people giving away the money like to know that their money will be put to good use. Talking about your career goals is a great way to make that valid.
  4. Be specific – Tell them what you want to do with your life. Why you’re pursuing a higher education. Why you need the money etc.
  5. Imagine your audience – Your reader is a real person with a life and personality of their own. Talk to them as if they’re a friend. You will more than likely relate to them.
  6. Be memorable – Tell them things that make you unique. Use emotions that will leave them crying, angry, frustrated. Usually heartfelt stories make these marks.
  7. Don’t be formal – You are telling a story, you don’t need to be overly proper. You often times don’t even need an intro for essays like this, just begin telling your story.
  8. Use imagery – Describe emotions, settings, details etc.
  9. Follow the word count – Try not to go over the word limit but do not go drastically under. (Ex: if it’s 300 words, don’t go under 250)
  10. Read your essay and then read it AGAIN and then have someone else read it!

To apply for the Alamo Colleges and Northwest Vista College scholarships, go here.

By NVC Student Haneen Rafati

 

How to Stay Healthy as a College Student

A student’s performance in school is heavily dependent on their overall health. Whether it’d be pertaining to their mental or physical health. As we approach the middle of the semester, it is crucial for student’s to take care of their well-being. All aspects of health correlate to each other and often times when we’re only paying attention to one, the others are abandoned. So, here are some tips that I do in order to stay healthy as a college student.

Preventing illness

  • Wash your hands!! – Germs are everywhere and they SPREAD through handshakes, opening a door, handling food or drinks.
  • Keep hand sanitizer with you – Washing your hands may not always be convenient and time friendly. Keeping sanitizer with you offers a quick and effective way to kill germs.
  • Up your water intake – You are more likely to stay healthy if you drink 62oz of water every day. Try adding half a lemon for taste. The benefits of lemon water can improve digestion, skin and weight loss.

Physical Health

  • Stay Active – This tip doesn’t necessarily involve working out or going to the gym. Simply walking around campus can aid with this goal. After a long day of classes, I do about 4,000 steps!
  • Mindful eating – Eat for fullness not satisfaction. Pause between bites and chew slowly! It aids with digestion and you get full faster.
  • Don’t restrict yourself – Often times restricting yourself from snacks and junk can result in binging. Try to limit your intake of unhealthy foods while simultaneously adding healthy foods into your diet for a balance!

Mental Health

  • Don’t bottle your feelings – Write, draw, talk it out with someone! But don’t keep it in. Decluttering your thoughts through a form of art can really make a difference.
  • Don’t neglect yourself- School can often be time consuming, but it’s important to make time for yourself to do the things you love.

By NVC Student Haneen Rafati

 

 

 

 

 

 

NVC Student Gets Priceless Opportunity to Take Part in NASA Program

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Northwest Vista College student Steven Moore is so knowledgeable about being on a plant-based diet, he incorporated his vegan lifestyle into a Mars proposal as part of NASA’s Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) program that he participated in over the summer.

In order to survive on Mars, he said astronauts will have to adopt a plant-based diet since its unlikely farm animals will be able to survive the trip or can be supported on the red planet. In fact, NASA is already researching this diet for its astronauts for long missions. Steven’s proposal eventually led him all the way to the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. But getting there wasn’t easy.

To be selected, students must submit transcripts, and write essays discussing their desire to join the program. Steven also received help from NVC Engineering Coordinator Dr. Thomas Pressly, who wrote a recommendation letter for him. Out of 700 students nationwide who applied, Steven was first selected for the five-week online portion of the program. At the end program, students were given the choice to write about rebuilding a Mars rover, redoing a mission to Mars, or changing one of the habitat systems.

Steven’s vegan proposal went into further detail about the water reclaim system and the importance of having two different water filtration systems for women and men at the International Space Center. Steven researched more than 100 hours about this topic that dealt with long-term food storage, growing food in microgravity, longevity of plant-based food sources, and how a vegan diet can provide positive health benefits to astronauts. His long hours paid off. He was the only student to accomplish a perfect score on his proposal.

Steven was then one of just 320 students selected for the four-day, all expense paid trip to Alabama where students took part in STEM-based activities. During the site visit, students were able to compete in two different challenges, tour the facility, and hear from guest speakers, including Dr. Ruth Jones, the branch chief at the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center. Dr. Jones is considered the next generation of “Hidden Figures.” The movie “Hidden Figures” depicted the role African-American female mathematicians played to get the first man on the moon in the 1960’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time for a Career Change…Back to School I Go

Who wants to go to work and argue all day? Not I. Not anymore. I decided to change my career instead.

This was a major decision. I had to understand that for a period of 2 years, I would have to:

  • Give up substantial income;
  • Travel less;
  • Pamper myself less;
  • Stop helping others financially; and
  • Forego other luxuries I’d grown accustomed to.

First, I had the difficult task of identifying which path to pursue. I wanted a less stressful career with greater opportunities for flexibility. I researched career sites, spoke with a career coach, took personality tests, etc., and decided to pursue Front-End Web Development.

Next, I had to figure out the most cost-effective way to train for this career. I had the option to attend a coding boot camp, but I wanted a well-rounded education that would teach programming and design. I am on track to obtain a Level 1 Certificate in Digital Media through NVC.

I’m noticing how much has changed over the years since I’ve been in school. Not to worry, because I have good adaptation skills. I’ve decided to do things differently this time.

Online Courses

I avoided online courses in the past and now they make up 75% of my schedule. I am less inclined to join clubs or attend events. Although, I wish I were eligible to study abroad. That would be awesome.

Pressure

I’m also realizing the crazy amount of pressure I put on myself. I’m in my first semester and have experienced high levels of frustration while working through assignments. I’ve earned a BA in Political Science, a Paralegal Certificate and a lucrative career, yet I’m questioning my abilities this time around.

I had to stop comparing my older brain to my younger one. I’m more focused on learning skills and less focused on making the grade. I must stay mindful of my self-talk to make sure it’s positive.

Confidence

I have to stop being timid when interacting with my professors. When my confidence wanes, I question my decision to change my career. After feeling the thrill of creating a project, I want to experience it again and again.

I have pep talks with myself to reiterate that this is a new field and I need to allow myself time to learn and gain experience. I have great teachers who are more than willing to help. I also have an amazing support system existing of my husband and teenage son.

Hard work and confidence is key. It took great courage to take this step. It will all be worth it when I obtain my certificate and start my new career. I can do this!

By NVC Student Kaphillis Brown

 

 

I Have not Failed, I’ve Just Found 10,000 Ways That Won’t Work

How does one just know what they want to be?

I’ve always been a good student who was in class every day, even when I was sick. I did my homework, made A’s and B’s, but when I graduated high school, I realized I had no idea what I wanted to do. I needed a plan, but I seriously felt so overwhelmed with all the options you’re given once you graduate high school.

I hated not knowing what to do and being this person just rolling through life. But it absolutely had to happen that way in order for me to figure it out. I had gone through high school doing everything everyone always told me to do and it got me nowhere, literally.

It took years of being in and out of college, experimenting in different jobs, and different settings before I found what I liked. My advice to early-college students – it’s absolutely OK with not knowing exactly what you’re doing. There is no manual for this, but if you stay persistent and patient, you will figure it out. In the famous words of Thomas Edision, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

By NVC Student Alexandra Ortiz

Why I Chose to Attend a Community College

As a high school senior, I felt pressured when I noticed my peers were applying to and planning to attend four year universities. But, I never felt obligated to follow the crowd and pursue something that I knew wasn’t for me. Going into college, I wasn’t sure about many things, but I was sure I wanted to attend a community college and I had my reasons.

  1. Affordability – Community colleges are known to be much cheaper than four year universities and the price variation is one of the biggest reasons why many students attend community colleges.
  2. Smaller classrooms- I’ve been accustomed to classrooms with no more than 30 students my entire life. I wanted to make sure that my transition from high school to college wasn’t too different because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. Auditoriums with about 200 students sounded too overwhelming. I also like the idea of small classrooms because it allows for the students to establish a relationship with the professor which makes it easier to communicate about your school work.
  3. Staying local- Community colleges are meant to serve and be available to those in the same community. I was really fond of the idea that I didn’t have to drive far to attend my classes. It makes showing up to class so much easier.

At the end of the day, there is no certain medal or certificate that one gets for the school they attend. Instead it’s about being financially smart and responsible. No one’s accomplishments should be judged by the type of college they attend.

By NVC Student Haneen Rafati

New Semester Tips

When beginning a new semester, it’s important to establish a positive mindset. Although it may be dreadful and really stressful, it’s crucial to lay down the basis of wanting to learn and succeed.

I enjoy looking at the bright side of things. For example, school gets me back into a specific routine and makes me feel like I have my life together. It allows me to stay organized and keeps me busy so that way I prioritize important things.

At the beginning of each semester when I’m feeling down, I like to remind myself how much of a privilege education is because so many others don’t get the same opportunity. I included some tips below that may help when starting a new semester.

  • Stay organized- I like using my “reminders” app to remember assignments/exam dates etc. It’s so much easier and convenient to store things on your phone.
  • Set goals- All goals are valid, no matter how big or little. Make sure to set a few, it helps keep me grounded and focused.
  • Give yourself time- I know it’s really difficult not to procrastinate but school feels like a breath of fresh air when you don’t pile up a bunch of assignments before the due date. I like giving myself 3 days before the due date, not too soon or too late, it’s more like a meeting in the middle.

By NVC Student Haneen Rafati

NVC Student Researcher Determines there are no Sasquatch on Campus

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Over the summer NVC student Allie Sanchez used camera “traps”—motion-sensor cameras affixed to trees—to conduct an exploratory study of campus wildlife. Having been bitten by the “research bug” last year while studying, presenting, and publishing on students’ knowledge of climate change research alongside other NVC students, Allie embarked on a student-faculty, extracurricular study of her own design.

Allie worked with Dr. Scott Walker in Geography and Environmental Sustainability to plan out where to place three camera traps around wooded parts of our campus and to map their locations using geospatial technology. For eight weeks Allie checked the cameras and retrieved the photos to determine what wildlife roams NVC day and night. She discovered raccoons, whitetail deer, opossum, skunk, a sounder of six feral hogs, coyote, grey fox, and a black-crested titmouse—a small bird common to this area. She was unable to “capture” any wildcat images.

Allie said “all this experience alone is worth more than a four-year degree.” When asked exactly what that means, she stated that she learned “not to be intimidated by something that seems monumental by taking a big project and breaking it down into smaller pieces.” She learned how to plan research, do a literature review, conduct statistical analyses, work with her research colleagues to write a peer-reviewed journal article, and present at a professional academic conference alongside graduate students and faculty from research-one universities—schools like the University of Texas-Austin and Louisiana State University.

She stated this work has boosted her self-confidence and she now finds herself doing some literature review work at UT Health San Antonio where she works as a full-time administrative assistant. Allie is moving on to Texas A&M-San Antonio this semester to pursue a BS in Biology with a concentration in Ecology.

Students interested in doing student-faculty research in Geography and Environmental Sustainability as an extracurricular activity, or for GEOG 2389-Academic Cooperative (independent study) elective credit, contact Dr. Scott Walker, swalker6@alamo.edu. Dr. Walker can also update students on the new BS in Environmental Science Field of Study coming in 2020 and discuss transferring to UTSA’s upcoming Environmental Studies BA degree.