NVC Student Gets Coveted Charles Butt Scholarship

After spending nearly 14 years in the Army, DeMarcus Credit, 35, was on a path to find his new mission in life. What he thought would be a career in law enforcement got derailed with an injury forced him to look for other options.

Volunteering at his daughter’s elementary school gave him a new sense of purpose. He found a passion for teaching kids. The school leadership kept inviting him back because they saw he had a gift with connecting with boys of color who needed a bit more guidance. Eventually he found himself at Northwest Vista College enrolled in Math for Teachers or Math 1350.

It was in this class he connected with NVC’s Dr. Mary Zocchi. She helped him prepare for a teaching video he had to submit to apply for the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers. He was one of the few selected in the state.

Dr. Zocchi said she doesn’t know of any other student of hers at NVC who received the scholarship.

This hefty scholarship puts recipients on a fast track to getting their Masters of Teaching degree in just one year. To be eligible for the scholarship, students must be committed to teaching in a Texas public school that is majority-economically disadvantaged school (meaning more than 50% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch) or in a shortage subject area (specifically math, science, bilingual, or special education).

While DeMarcus is honored for the scholarship, he said he must stay focus.

“I can’t celebrate until I graduate,” he said. “I went to a community college in 2005 and I didn’t take it seriously. Dr. Zocchi has been amazing. She has given me help outside the classroom to make sure I’m successful.”

DeMarcus had to go through a demanding, six-hour interview for the scholarship. Also, just last year, he earned a Bachelor of Science Cum Laude in Criminal Justice from University of Maryland Global Campus.

“My goal is to reach students earlier in life to let them know they can do well in school,” DeMarcus said. “I want to be where I can make an impact. After seeing how open students were when I was volunteering, I think they would like school more if they had teachers they liked and could relate to.”

NVC Student Gets Opportunity to Study Dolphins

Not many community college students get to study dolphins in the Caribbeans, but Northwest Vista College student Megan Davis, received this opportunity thanks to the National Science Foundation FUERTE grant that NVC has with St. Mary’s University.

Over spring break, Megan travelled to Roatan (an island in the Caribbean) to study dolphins, and recently presented her research at St. Mary’s Research Symposium, which hosted nearly 300 posters this year.

For the first part of Megan’s adventure, she took part in a “field study” or study abroad class at St. Mary’s University where her class spent the first weeks reading scientific articles and learning about field research. This class culminated in data collection on a longitudinal study from 2018 – 2023 at the dolphin pod at RIMS (Roatan Institute of Marine Sciences).

“My group looked at dolphin activity levels – specifically, before and after in-water research sessions and in-water guest interactions. We also collected baseline data for each,” Megan added.

The “In water research sessions” refers to Dr. Dudzinski, director of the ‘Dolphin Communication Project’ getting in the water for 30 minutes every morning to conduct her underwater video and audio data collection focusing on behavior and communication. In addition to the in-water activities, Megan’s group then analyzed the activity levels in relation to season, utilizing the longitudinal data.

She said their findings refuted their hypotheses and are interesting, as in part contrary, to published research. She said they found dolphins are more active in summer and fall, but causality can not be determined.

In addition to dolphin data collection, Megan’s group took part in coastal inter-tidal surveys, as well as experiencing the island and learning about different ecological projects they do, including sea turtle rescues and Coral Reef Restoration.

“It was informative, fun, and overall an incredible experience that I credit NVC & St. Mary’s FUERTE program, and all of those involved for helping make this happen,” Megan said. “The experience abroad as well as in the classroom has been unparalleled, and I am so thankful that I could take part in something so amazing.”

Along with being a part of NVC’s Psi Beta National Honor Society, Megan was selected last summer to attend NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars (NCAS) Virtual Experience. She was one out of hundreds of community college students from across the country to participate in the virtual experience, where students form teams and design a mission to explore Moon or Mars.

Students Can Get Help at the NVC Advocacy Center

Are you a student at Northwest Vista that is having challenges with daily basic needs such as food or paying a utility bill? Are you a student going through a mental health crisis?

Well… the NVC Student Advocacy Center (in Husiache Hall) is here to save the day and yourself! As a student at Northwest Vista College (NVC), my experience at the Student Advocacy Center has made me realized that it is a safe space for all students and employees. The center is here for us students who are in need, deal with everyday struggles, or just need a space to relax and clear your mind. I have had my own fair share of short-comings and delt with mental health issues in the past where my stress levels were so high and overwhelming where it took a huge toll on my academic performance.

The Student Advocacy Center always reached out to me via my student email. Once I finally realized I could not handle everything on my own, the center was there for me and only a phone call/email away. The Student Advocacy Center helped me with food, my tuition, other necessities such as feminine products and face masks in the “Health and Wellness Station.” They also told me about many different resources that other students and myself could use when in sticky situations. Resources that the center provides is “Grab N’ Go” for students who needs a quick snack and drink to get through the day, counselors to help with your mental health, case managers to help you gain access to critical onsite support, emergency student aid, community resources, etc.

They also have external resources to help with groceries like curbside with H-E-B. My personal favorite resource is the financial literacy portion that helps students learn how to manage money and help students get on the path to financial success. They provide helpful links like “Crash Course” https://www.cashcourse.org/Registration and “I Grad” https://www.igrad.com. Once this was brought to my attention, I felt extra weight was taken off of my shoulders. I knew moving forward that this school really cares about their students.

I want to dedicate this blog post to the sweet Ms. Lisa Black who was the very first lady who helped me in my shortcomings, who is also the mastermind behind Student Advocacy Center that pushes students to not be afraid and ask for help. Ms. Black is a huge influence at Northwest Vista and her dedication to help these students is a big part on why students come back to Northwest Vista College.

I also want to thank the other student advocates, Ms. Catherine Lopez and Ms. Yolanda Reyes Guevara. These women have helped me in multiple ways and stood beside me to make sure I was getting the help I needed, even when certain situations were not fully met, they still went above and beyond finding other outlets to help me succeed. To the three of you, thank you again for being personal fairy godmothers to me and the students at the Northwest Vista College.

By NVC Student Diamond Murphy

How to Not Just Survive BUT Thrive in College

Starting college can be exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. When I first started college, I was so lost. I did not know where I wanted to take my academic career. I did not know you had to register yourself for classes. I was struggling. Below are some tips to not only survive, but to thrive in college and become successful at NVC.

Know where you are headed.

Having a clear idea of your goals and what path you will take is important when going to community college. If you want to get through community college quickly, you must have some idea of what career you want so that you can plan your path to success.

Register as soon as possible.

College classes fill up fast, if you want to ensure you graduate on time you must always register on time.

Take advantage of student services.

This one is so helpful. NVC has so many resources for you to be successful. The Student Avocacy and Resourse Center can help you with

  • Financial Aid
  • Counseling and mental health
  • Food and shelter

Do the work.

Not all the learning is done in a classroom. Doing your homework and practicing your skills is the most important thing you can do to being successful NVC.

By NVC Digital Media Student Christopher Miranda

 

Returning to School Later in Life Can be Challenging!

By NVC Student Evangelina Ramirez

Returning to school for my degree at age 48 has not been easy.

When I first became a college student at age 18 life was simple. I came to school and went home to momma’s house. I never had to worry about rent or mortgage, car payments, car insurance groceries, and dog walks. Not to mention, the full-time job and part time jobs I have now.

Fast forward 30 years and after serving 14 years in prison and starting all over from a recent divorce, I find myself searching for every opportunity to study and do my class work between trying to make ends meet.

Before the semester started, I made a very questionable decision to join a kickboxing class that I would pay for semi-weekly. I have made four classes since October 2021. Prioritizing time for me is now a daily task. And going home to Austin to be with family is a great feat with my schedule.

However, my career and my education are very important to me therefore, I am willing to accept the sacrifice of minimizing my extra-curricular free time to ensure I am focusing on what is important to me. Life’s curve balls are tough to juggle, however, I have found a way in every situation. I’m focused on striving to do better for myself and to continue to grow as a person.

It’s important for me to meet with my advisor to make sure that I stay on track with my class requirements. If I had to figure out my plan myself, I probably wouldn’t graduate for five years on a two-year program. You would think being an adult coming back to school would be so much simpler. Some of the obstacles I have encountered are financial hardships.

Since I am an adult with adult responsibilities, I must work. A full-time job is not enough. Then there are the bills that I am responsible for because I am my sole provider. After working my eight-to-five, I head over to my 5:30 to 9 p.m. gig every Monday through Thursday. On weekends, I dabble in Door Dash for a few extra bucks. I am grateful to have friends and family that think of me and sometimes drop a dinner meal off for me on my doorstep to my apartment so I will not have to cook. Those evenings are the best.

Before I became a student, I adopted a rescue pet named Andy. Andy has been my sidekick for six years. He requires a lot of attention but is very understanding and loving nonetheless. With the addition of my new Chihuahua terrier, Abby, they have become my fur babies and give me joy, but I have to make sure I walk them in the morning and come home at lunch to let them out and then head out to my second job.

I always keep my laptop on and ready on my desk for slow moments when I can get back to the homework. Once 5:30 pm hits, I am off to my next destination. It seems overwhelming at times, but I do know that I am proud of pushing myself every day. Some days are harder than others but, the final outcome will be a great accomplishment that I will feel good about.

Getting Used to Zoom and a New Normal

By NVC Student Daniel Acosta

First-day-of-schools can be stressful or exciting and I have had many since I was 3 years old. However, having to go through the pandemic was one of the most challenging periods in my life. Returning to school after the initial COVID lockdown felt like it was going to be a shot in the dark. I already had a lot of experience being a college student and graduated from UTSA, receiving my bachelor’s degree in 2016.

After training with the local adaptive sports program, STRAPS (South Texas Regional Adaptive & Para Sports) program for 4 years, I was experiencing some burn out. I won some medals, met some great people and given the circumstances of the incoming pandemic, STRAPS had to shut down as well. The stress level of being stuck at home made me realize that maybe it was time to return to school.

With my sister’s advice, I chose to attend Alamo College in the spring of 2021. I was excited to return to the academic world but obviously I had to tame my expectations as I instantly thought it was going to be like 2016 and before. I had plenty of experience dealing with Zoom during 2020 as I managed my local support group and other gatherings such as speed dating or playing online Jeopardy with my peers.

But I didn’t know what to expect trying to navigate Zoom in the classroom environment. So, I did what I would normally do on a typical first day of school: get up early, get dressed and look my best.

I open up my mother’s iPad, click on the Zoom link and then I saw a screenshot: “Basic Graphic Design Zoom Lecture starts at 9 AM.” In my mind, I needed to forget that I was still home. A few other students came in the chat and I remember telling them a silver lining: “Well, at least we don’t have to worry about morning traffic.”

I have been riding on a city bus between three cities since 1998. When Covid hit, I think I only caught the bus a total of four times in 2020. The old saying goes, you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone. Despite the city bus not being a luxurious experience, I always try to appreciate it because it gives me a sense of independence especially since I have Cerebral palsy which keeps me from mastering the reflexes to drive a vehicle. Overall, riding the city bus has certainly saved my family a lot of money in gas over the years.

Trying to interact with the other classmates in a Zoom or online environment is still a challenge. For this particular class, there was a chat section but the settings in our Zoom sessions didn’t’t allow us to chat privately or in groups. There was only one chat window where everybody saw everyone’s comments, which everybody was respectful and kind. But, I know I can’t be the only one that misses the side interactions with individual classmates. For example, I would more likely build a bond with the classmates that are next to me in the physical class setting.

Although a group of students and I made a GroupMe chat to alleviate the chat limitations, it cannot replace the physical dynamic of in-person interactions. Unfortunately, I think the lockdown created a lot of hesitation and isolation to try to create those interactions virtually. I know a lot of people are still so conditioned and still enjoy the benefits of being at home. I think if Zoom continues to become an option for classes, those in-person interpersonal skills will start to diminish if they haven’t started already.

I would also try to show up on campus and go through the COVID protocols when going inside a building on campus. Going to NVC on the bus takes about 2 1/2 hours. Yes, there is a huge convenience to not having to go to campus a few times a week especially if your classes are already online.

On the other hand, who wants to miss student orientation with the Ducks?

But I guess I have been conditioned since I was in preschool that going to another physical location for my education was normal and despite the commuting challenges I would face, it was part of the journey.

I don’t know what the future holds for in-person instruction in schools, but I’m sure I will be done with my certification before things get closer to “normal”.

But for better or worse, virtual gatherings will be in our lives. However, given that the stability of our Internet infrastructure at certain times like extreme weather, moderation is key. During the 2021 Texas winter freeze, my sister made a comment, “Now that we have Zoom, there are no more school weather closures. Then I said: “Maybe, unless the power goes out.”

 

 

Making New Friends During a Pandemic

There is a saying that I heard once –  “You never know what you got ’till it’s gone. The truth is you know exactly what you have though, you just never thought you’d lose it.”

For me, it was losing the chance to make new friends and meet familiar faces that became the epitome of that phrase. The pandemic changed everything!

Like many of you, I went into isolation before I got into college; I lost the chance to meet friends and teachers new and old. I lost the chance to explore and expand my boundaries which I’d slowly begun opening up to at the time, and it pushed many of the things I wanted to do back many months.

At first, I was happy. Not having to wake up early for school. Class assignments are all due on Sundays. Not having to meet with people. (I’m not the biggest social butterfly, don’t judge me.) Not having to eat cafeteria food. Sign me up! And for a while, it was great; I was able to work at my own time, help around the house more, get my personal life in order, hang out with my family, etc.

But eventually, the joy of being at home got numb, and like many people, I found myself tired.

Tired of seeing the same few people every day. Of wearing a mask whenever I went outside; or waking up to virtual meetings. And it only grew more tiring and irritable when I found out my next year of college would be like this. TWO YEARS of doing nothing but talking to someone behind a screen?

And it certainly didn’t help that I couldn’t talk to any of my high school friends, either. So much for keeping in touch! And there’s only so much you can do or learn about somebody else over video chat or a text message. So needless to say, even as a not-so-social butterfly, I feel as though I took being around new people for granted. It’s still something I take for granted, but I am willing to admit I’m at least trying. And soon I might not have to try as hard through a computer screen to meet a new face.

Right now, we’re seeing the distant light at the tunnel’s end. Sooner or later, COVID will be a thing of the past and we’ll hopefully be able to look back on it and see where we’ve come from since then. And sooner or later, we’ll be able to meet people and one another face-to-face. But that doesn’t mean we can’t meet one another right now – there are always different ways to get involved with classmates, clubs, and your campus. And for someone like myself to say that, it takes a lot. So I suggest reaching out to new people, make friends with your peers, and just remembering to stay safe during those moments.

By NVC Student Alex Rocha

To learn more about NVC clubs and organizations, go to our Student Life page

 

Progress is Not Linear

When you were a kid, how did you envision spending your twenties? I know I had a pretty rosy picture of myself finally being able to live life by my own rules and following my wildest dreams. I mean we all did, right?

I saw myself balancing all of my most exciting adventures with my definition of success, fueled by a degree. As a little kid and even in high school leading up to the great leap of adulthood, I always figured I would “be on the right track,” and stay there, ever steadily moving forward and up. Obviously, I thought, by my 30’s I’d have everything more or less set up and figured out for myself so that I could live a happy and healthy life. Forever and ever.

As I am sure many can relate, this is not how my 2nd decade on this earth went. To be honest, I had a tough time in my twenties. It began in my first year of high school, where I fell in love.

First love, right? Well, first loves sometimes turn out to be maniacally abusive sociopaths. Sometimes, they stick around for several years until you finally muster up the guts to run away in your bare feet just before your 19th birthday to a gas station and beg to use the phone to call your dad. And you liberate yourself from the pit of despair and you think, okay, I know what to do. I’m going to fix everything and get back on track.

So, long story short, I bit off way more than I could chew. I took such a huge bite I nearly choked to death. I spent the next several years repeating this cycle. Trying to “fix what I had ruined” by taking on too much, crashing and burning, hitting reset. Rinse and repeat. On two separate occasions, I attempted an associate’s degree with the Alamo Colleges and on both occasions, I failed to be successful because I refused to face how unhealthy I was, emotionally and mentally.

It wasn’t until my Stepmom asked me point blank one day at 25 years old if I was feeling suicidal that I finally admitted I needed help. I was diagnosed with PTSD and a few other mental health disorders. I spent the next few years recovering with the help of therapy and my family. Shedding weight, readjusting my life and goals to what I could manage and balance. And to what actually made sense for me.

I cannot fully explain it, but 11 years after I freed myself from my trauma, I woke up one New Year’s Day, and suddenly, I was overwhelmed with relief. It was like I was finally coming up for air for the first time, even after finding peace. And I realized that although I was in recovery, and feeling better than ever, I was still in full-on ostrich mode with my head in the sand. I was playing it safe, too scared to risk my newfound healthy and stable place of well-being.

I never thought I would be able to risk going back to school and failing again. But guess what? I decided by not pushing myself to reach my potential, I was still telling myself I wasn’t good enough. So, the spring before my 31st birthday I returned to the Alamo Colleges after my two previous failed attempts. I was able to bring my GPA up from a lowly 1.8 and back into good standing after 1 semester.

I’m now halfway through my 3rd semester since returning, still going strong. I have prioritized my goals but am working on them at a pace that is manageable and realistic for me. I wanted to share my story with you all in case there is anyone out there who might be feeling like maybe it’s too late or too much of a pipe dream to make a change. Maybe you feel like you’ve screwed your life up beyond repair. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Maybe you’re in school right now and you’re struggling with something personal and it’s interfering with your academic success and your mental health. My advice to anyone experiencing anything similar is this. Please reach out to someone and let them know how you’re feeling and what you’re struggling with. If I had just had the guts to be honest about how much I was struggling I could have saved myself a lot of trouble and pain, not to mention precious time.

It may seem cliché, but it really is true that it’s never too late to go after what you want. You are worth it. But please know that if you are in school and you are struggling with something that is damaging your mental health, there is also no shame in pairing back.

Maybe take one class less or take a semester off. Consult with your advisor on how best to approach it so you can prevent damaging your GPA like I did (but if you do damage your GPA, do not shame yourself into believing you’re doomed, please). That way, when you are ready to return, you can pick up where you left off, even if you end up wanting to take a different direction.

If you burn out and your flame runs too low to function on a healthy level, something is going to give. Do not let that something be you. Let your definition of success also include making your well-being a priority. Making your personal success the priority will in turn set you up in the best way for your academic and professional successes.

By NVC Student Kyla Vance

If you need advice, resources or help, please reach out to NVC’s Student Advocacy & Resource Center. They provide a variety of services including mental health and counseling. 

The Right Time is Now!

In my family, a good work ethic was expected of me from a very young age. My parents always stressed that anything worth having could only be achieved through hard work. As a first-generation American, this was amplified by the idea that as foreigners in this country, the only way to be successful was to work (and to work hard). Of course, they also expected me to excel at my studies, but in school, being an honor roll student was not nearly as impressive to my family as becoming a manager at my retail job.

By the time I graduated high school, my mother was raising us on her own. We were doing well, but not well enough to afford college. I decided to take a year off and work to put myself through school. I had a good job and made good money before I even graduated high school. I told myself I would work one year, save some money and go back to school. Then, before I knew it, a decade had come and gone. I had spent the last 10 years at the same job, prioritizing work over my dreams.

Unfortunately, like many people worldwide, I lost my job last March due to the pandemic. For the first time in a decade, I had the opportunity to stop and reflect on what I was doing with my life. Ten years I spent at a job that I knew I didn’t want to do for the rest of my life. It took unemployment and a pandemic to realize that while I was working hard, I wasn’t working towards my goals. I was merely working.

Thankfully, things have been going better than I could have ever imagined. I am currently back in school pursuing the career of my dreams at Northwest Vista College. After so much time off from school, I was nervous about returning, as I am sure many others are. The staff at Alamo Colleges was a big help in easing my nerves. From career counseling to finding the right online degree program for me, they encouraged me to let go of my fears and get back to pursuing my dreams. I am currently wrapping up my first semester back to school, and in eight weeks, I have learned so much. My summer courses covered everything from working with multiple Adobe programs to the basics of HTML, and I hope to use these skills to start my own business one day.

I chose to write about this topic because I know there are numerous other students in a similar situation. The world we live in instills in us that financial security is equivalent to success. I believe having a good job isn’t the same as being successful. For me, success comes from finding your purpose in life and pursuing your dreams. Therefore, to anyone who is considering returning to school or is putting it off for the “right” time, the right time is now. I’m not saying it will be easy, but I am saying it will be worth it.

By NVC Student Janeth Cruz

NVC Scholarships & Undergrad Research Projects in Nano Program

The NanoEngineering program at NVC will be offering undergraduate research projects and workshops in fall 2021. The students who are enrolled in the Nano program and/or are taking nanotechnology courses can participate in these workshops and will receive a stipend up to $1,800. Students will be trained on using microscopy and spectroscopy techniques, biomedical engineering projects, and nano-electronics.

This is a great learning opportunity and also helps students financially. If there are open slots, other NVC STEM students may be considered. To receive the stipend, students must successfully complete and participate in the workshop. 

Space is limited so if you’re interested in these workshops, please email Dr. Neda Habibi, coordinator of NanoEngineering program at [email protected].