NVC Student Recognized by People Magazine for Tackling Mental Health

It’s not every day that Northwest Vista College students get to claim that People Magazine gave them a shout out or in Micah Palacios’ case – a feature in their digital magazine.

Micah was one of 11 girls featured in its story on, “Meet PEOPLE’s Girls Changing the World in 2020.”

The magazine said, “In honor of International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11, we’re celebrating young innovators and trailblazers making a difference in their communities and beyond.”

This is from People magazine:

Destigmatizing Mental Health: Micah Palacios, 18

At 9, Micah Palacios lost 75 percent of her hair due to alopecia areata, an autoimmune disease. She turned to her San Antonio 4-H group to assist with the ensuing anxiety and depression, and their embrace inspired her to share her mental health struggles with others. Since then, she’s led 4-H community workshops, spoken to elementary school students and starred in a PSA with actress Sophia Bush.

“People say my story has helped them,” says Palacios. “I never thought I could change people’s lives.”

While Micah has been working on mental health and how to bring it to young adults for a while, she received the opportunity at Northwest Vista College to hone in on her passion in Dr. Homer Guevara, Jr.’s Texas Government class in the fall of 2019 when she was taking college classes as a high school student.

Dr. Guevara provides his students sample issue papers (white papers) that he’s authored for the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce related to higher education through his role as the Chamber’s co-chair of the Education and Workforce Council.

Students can select problems Texas faces in different areas such in K-12, Higher Education, Health, Energy, Criminal Justice System, etc. and then present their policy proposals to the class as if the audience is the Texas Legislature. The idea is to provide the legislature with ideas that can potentially become laws, thus creating a plan of action to improve the daily lives of Texans.

“It was exciting to learn how an assignment could inspire students to see that they can make an impact in their community.  I’m extremely proud of Micah for pushing her initiative and making her goals a reality.  We’re a better world for it,” said Dr. Guevara.

Now a freshman at NVC, Micah launched the “Navigating Your Thoughts Mental Health” in September 2019 with Bexar County 4-H. Her 4H mentors, Natalie Cervantes and Rudy Ruedas from Bexar County Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, also gave her the support necessary to make her project a reality.

“My 4-H leaders and friends surrounded me with support during the difficult times. My experiences with alopecia areata showed me firsthand how mental health can affects people’s lives. I wanted to educate young people on what his mental health and reduce stigma in our community,” Micah said. “I have continued my work in the 4-H program by educating youth on mental health in Bexar county 4-H by leading workshops and now Mindfulness Mondays on Zoom for all ages to learn about mental health/coping mechanisms.”

To contact Micah or to find out about Mindfulness Mondays, see her Instagram page at @MicahPalacios.

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.”

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

Health Professionals Inspire NVC Students

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Congrats to Northwest Vista College’s student club, Pre Health Delegation (PHD), of NVC’s Health & Biosciences Institute. Over 150 students attended a recent panel discussion, hosted by PHD, featuring health and science professionals who provided information on their own paths, careers, answered questions and served to inspire other students.

The panel professionals were:

  • Pharmacist- Michael James, Pharm D R.Ph.- Feik School of Pharmacy – former NVC alumnus
  • Doctor- Brian Parker, MD, MS- Assistant Clinical Professor, Dept. of Emergency Medicine, UT Health San Antonio
  • Flight nurse – Charles Robbins – RN/EMT-P Program Director, Air Evac 48 – former NVC alumnus
  • Scientific Researcher-  Adam Salmon, PhD- Assistant Prof, Department of Molecular Medicine, UT Health San Antonio
  • Physician’s Assistant- Caroline M. Sipili, MPAS, PA-C Physician Assistant, Medicine-Hematology/Oncology UT Health San Antonio, MD Anderson – former NVC alumnus
  • Occupational Therapist/EMT- Brad Zirkel US Army Reserves Major, OT, EMT-B

Students asked questions and interacted with the speakers. Many students said that the panel was inspiring and important for student’s future in science and health due to the information given. Samantha (Sam) Williams, PHD’s vice president, had put together the panel and hosted the event. John Pinion, PHD’s president, had originally came up with the idea. NVC’s Health Institute funded the snacks.

Interested students are welcome to submit their applications to the PHD Club through Orgsync. Applications will be available beginning next week.

 

NVC Student Earns Sought-After Military Award

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Nearly 400 soldiers, sailors, and airmen from Joint Base San Antonio and neighboring areas, such as Fort Hood, Kileen; and Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs competed in the 2018 German Armed Forces Proficiency Badge (GAFPB) competition hosted by the collaboration of Joint Base units at Lackland, Fort Sam Houston, Randolph, and Camp Bullis in late October.

The GAFPB, or Abzeichen für Leistungen im Truppendienst in German, is a decoration of the Bundeswher, the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. The decoration can be awarded to all German Military. Allied Service Members, such as the United States may also be awarded the badge to wear regardless of rank. The GAFPB is one of the few approved foreign awards in the U.S. military, and it is one of the most sought after awards to achieve.

There are several events throughout the competition that assessed the Service Member’s basic fitness level and military training over the course of three days. One of the events during the first day was the pistol competition, which the participant is given five rounds and must get a minimum of three rounds into three different targets. The competitor will attain bronze-level for getting three rounds into the three separate targets, silver-level for four rounds and gold-level for hitting the targets with all five rounds.

Day one also captured the rest of the unit-driven military training events such as the first aid test and the Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical (NBC). The first day concluded with the 100-meter swim while wearing their military service utility work uniform. Swimmers had a time constraint of four minutes and upon completion of the swim had to tread water and remove their uniform. The second day continued with the basic fitness test consisting of an 11x10m sprint, a flex arm hang (chin-up test) and a 1,000-meter run.

“I have never been tested on this kind of variety of events at one time,” said Army Cadet Corporal David T. Forrest, Army Reserve Officer Training Corps Cadet from Northwest Vista College, and also currently serving in the Texas Army National Guard with his unit, the 1st Battalion (Airborne), 143rd Infantry Regiment.

The last day of competition was the 12-kilometer ruck march. Each competitor rucked the distance carrying a 35-pound ruck sack with the goal of completing the course in two hours.

In the end, only 161 out of 385 U.S. Service Members earned the GAFPB – whether it’s a gold, silver, or bronze. Their achievement was recognized at an award’s ceremony held on Oct. 28. Cadet Forrest earned the Gold GAFPB.

“The event is a fascinating experience. It’s not every day that I get the opportunity to earn a badge from a foreign nation so I did my very best to soak in every minute of the event,” Forrest added. “Earning the badge was an honor and something I will proudly wear for the rest of my time in service.”

German Army Sergeant Major Ronald Schiller, Liaison Officer to Combined Arms Support Command, congratulated all the award recipients.

“It’s a good feeling to be able to work and train with my U.S. comrades. I have been doing this for about 30 years and I love it. I am proud of these dedicated men and women’s achievement today,” Schiller remarked.

NVC Students Present at Annual Geography Meeting

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Three Northwest Vista Geography and Environmental Sustainability students, along with NVC’s Dr. Scott Walker, presented at the 2018 Southwest Division of the American Association of Geographers annual meeting from Oct. 3-6, at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

“Established in 1949, SWAAG exists to further professional investigations in geography, to encourage the application of geographic findings in education, government, and business, and to improve and elevate the public image of geography.”

Students Farhana Khan and Allie Sanchez presented their research on Community College Student Climate Change Knowledge alongside professors and PhD students from large, state research universities from Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Farhana Khan and Marcella Palaferri presented their research on the Taghia-Ahansal River Profile in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Their adventure science investigation was conducted during their Geography and Environmental Sustainability Fieldwork Project last summer in Morocco.

In addition to the students presenting, Scott Walker, professor of Geography and Environmental Sustainability presented his research on Marketable Skills and Geography Fieldwork in Higher Education.

Marcella, who will graduate in December, said, “the conference was such an awesome experience, it allowed us to present our research papers and was an excellent opportunity to learn from the other presenters.” Allie stated, “I still can’t believe how fast our time went by. I am so grateful to have been a part of this team and truly enjoyed our time together.”

Farhana, the lead author on both student papers said, “This event will indelibly be written in our memories as we further our education.”

Allie, who wants to go on to study wildlife management, and Scott are currently conceptualizing a new research project using digital camera traps and geographic information system (GIS) mapping to study urban mammals on the Northwest Vista College campus.

The NVC research team also had the opportunity to partake in some of Louisiana’s cultural geography with a side trip to the LSU Rural Life Museum. Northwest Vista College is affiliated with the Community College Undergraduate Research Initiative that is supported by the National Science Foundation.

NVC Runners Get into Fiesta Spirit

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The Wildcat Cross Country running team represented NVC at the Fiesta Flambeau parade, running in front of 500,000 plus parade spectators. The run was the start of the parade and ran through the streets of downtown San Antonio.

NVC was represented by eight runners. Omar Martinez finished first for the wildcats, then Briana Salazar, Rebecca Castor, Linda Castro, Robert Dreamkowski and Anna Alfaro finished together, followed by Natalie Guerra and finishing up for the Wildcats was Andrea Vazquez.

The team raced really well! Now we start preparing for the last race of the season, District 4 Heroes 5K!

Contributed by NVC Cross Country Coach Staci Krueger

Summer International Internship Experience

Summer of 2016 was not an average summer for me. After hearing a presentation from a former NVC student, Marcus Nejera, in Dr. Zhou’s Introduction to Engineering course that talked about the importance of searching for internships.

I felt inspired to search for one myself. In that process I applied to various companies, including some located in Asia. To my surprise, I was accepted to intern over the summer with an EPC company by the name of Toyo-Thai Corporation Limited (TTCL). TTCL is in Bangkok, Thailand. They also have an American division that goes by the name of Toyo-Thai United States (TTUS).

In this internship, I was chosen to be the first western student to train with the company. I was offered compensation for my work as well. So, I accepted and immediately following the end of the spring semester, I flew to Thailand where I would spend the next three months. I worked with the instrument department of the company, and was given two projects to work on. The two projects I worked on were for PPG chemicals, and two chemical plants they are building in Southern Thailand.

As a computer engineering major, I learned a lot of valuable things, involving control systems, and instrumentation. The projects I worked on were real projects the company was doing for customers, so I got the full experience.

Aside from the learning aspect of the internship, I also made many new friends and got the opportunity to travel across southeast Asia, and throughout Thailand itself. The opportunity I got was a great eye opener for me, and has given me more motivation to continue my education, and to search for more opportunities. It taught me that putting yourself out there is important if you want to find opportunity, and success. If you don’t try, then you can never succeed.

Bobby Reyes—Current Engineering Student at NVC

Internship Group Photo

Time Management: Keep a Calendar!

20131225142344It’s the last few weeks of school before summer and I took on a lot of new opportunities this semester, and I’ve already agreed to take on a few more next semester, but that’s kind of the point isn’t it? Well, for me it is.

This is where that growth from living life on my own terms and paycheck to paycheck becomes full of meetings, classes, fundraisers, more meetings, New Student Orientations, homework, presentations, more meetings, and so forth. You can’t always do your first choice, even if it’s your favorite thing in the world. Instead you have to set very specific goals, because in the end this is where all the skills required for that dream career are built.

Trust me, there is no satisfaction to be gained from living paycheck to paycheck. Or I should say, no long-term satisfaction. It’s fine for a little while, but then you’ll wake up when you’re 29, like I did, and realize this is not what you had in mind.

Fortunately I figured it out real quick, and am now in a situation where every minute of my day must be accounted. Time management is the only way this works, and the best advice I can give is keep a calendar. Also, make sure you use it not just every day, but throughout the day. Whenever you’re presented with a choice, choose very carefully, and make absolutely certain it is the right choice. Once the decision’s been made that’s it; you’ve committed.

By NVC Student Bryan McCluggage