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UHCL adds Pedro as associate dean

Written by staff. Posted in Schools

UHCL PedroPEDROUniversity of Houston-Clear Lake welcomes Professor of Curriculum and Instruction Joan Y. Pedro as the new associate dean in the College of Education. Pedro, originally from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, joins UH-Clear Lake’s leadership team after serving 15 years at the University of Hartford in Connecticut, where she was the associate dean for Academic Affairs for nine years in the College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions. She also served as the coordinator of Teacher Education/certification officer, and the accreditation coordinator for the Department of Education.

"We are delighted to have Dr. Pedro join our team," says College of Education Dean Mark Shermis. "Not only does she bring a wealth of expertise, but also a deep passion and total dedication to teacher education. Our university, our college, our students and faculty will all be served well by her."

Pedro arrived on campus in mid-July, assuming the role from Professor of Educational Leadership Larry Kajs who has been serving as the interim associate dean.

"I am really happy to be at UHCL," Pedro says. "It is a beautiful, scenic and very inviting place. I think, too, it is a place where you can do really innovative and creative things.

"Even though I've been here only a short while, I have seen the commitment of the faculty and staff. There is a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of passion, and that is what we need to be able to do our work. I want to be able to continue with them on this journey of building distinctive programs. I also want to ensure that our students’ needs, both at the undergraduate and the graduate level, are met, and that we are able to provide them with the best education possible."

Pedro confesses that from an early age she loved teaching, and although she was told that she would be good at many things — lawyer, politician — she chose the teaching profession. "I love to see people learn, and I believe that teaching is one of the most treasured professions —although not treated that way."

She first came to the United States on a scholarship from the Organization of the American States to complete a master degree in Special Education and Psychology at the University of Miami before returning to Trinidad. Several years later she was offered a fellowship at Virginia Tech, where she completed her Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction before accepting the position at the University of Hartford.

While in Trinidad and Tobago, Pedro was a pioneer and leader in the education system in the area of inclusive education. She says she was immersed in special education early in her career, working with hearing impaired children at a time when those with special needs were segregated. It was then that she became a strong advocate for inclusive education.

"I have an affinity for the less privileged, and people who are disempowered. I believe that it is important that there are advocates for people who need support," she says.

Pedro also served in collaboration with the University of Sheffield, England, as program director for one of the first distance learning initiative in Special and Inclusive Education in Trinidad and Tobago.

Today, her research is centered on teacher development, revolving around the themes of reflective practice, multicultural education, literacy practices, and online learning. She has published works in educational journals and has presented at National and International Education Conferences. She has also delivered national and regional workshops for educators in the Caribbean with support from CIDA, UNESCO and the University of Manitoba.

Popeyes awards scholarship for training of San Jac firefighter cadet

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SJC Popeyes Tanya Cleveland, lead coordinator for C.A.S.E.Y. Fire Ops; Tommy Scott, adjunct faculty with the fire protection technology program at San Jacinto College; Chelsea Sibrian, Popeyes scholarship recipient and cadet with the Firefighter Training Academy at San Jacinto College; Joseph Brysch, program director of the fire protection technology program at San Jacinto College; and Maria Hale, vice president of field brand marketing and media with Popeyes. Photo credit: Jeannie Peng Mansyur, San Jacinto College marketing, public relations and government affairs department.

In addition to its famous menu, Popeyes recently served up a portion of its Houston-area restaurant sales to fund scholarships for aspiring Houston firefighters like San Jacinto College Firefighter Training Academy cadet Chelsea Sibrian.

With her $1,500 Popeyes scholarship, Sibrian can focus on her fire protection training at San Jacinto College while also working as an emergency medical technician (EMT). She recently graduated this summer with an EMT certification.

"I want to go into this career because it’s something I am very passionate about," said Sibrian. "I decided to attend San Jacinto College because I heard that it's one of the best firefighter academies, and with the help of this scholarship, I can now train there."

Joseph Brysch, fire protection technology program director, said the scholarship will pay for most of the fire protection training portion at San Jacinto College. This is the first year that a San Jacinto College student has received a Popeyes scholarship. Recipients are selected through a process developed by the C.A.S.E.Y. Fire Ops program, which creates and fosters career paths for students who want to become firefighters and EMTs. C.A.S.E.Y. stands for cultivate, advise, support, empower and youth.

The San Jacinto College Firefighter Training Academy produces graduates who now work for fire departments across the state of Texas from Houston, Baytown, San Antonio, Austin, Sugarland, Woodlands, La Porte and Missouri City. For more information, visit

ExxonMobil awards scholarships to students pursuing petrochem careers

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SJC exxonmobileDr. Allatia Harris, San Jacinto College vice chancellor, strategic initiatives; Veronica Cortes, CCPI scholarship recipient and San Jacinto College process technology student; Woody Paul, plant manager for Baytown Olefins Plant; Victavia Owens, CCPI scholarship recipient and San Jacinto College process technology student; Jose Arias, CCPI scholarship recipient and San Jacinto College process technology student; and Martin Crichlow, San Jacinto College recruiter. Photo credit: Jeannie Peng Mansyur, San Jacinto College marketing,public relations and government affairs department.

San Jacinto College process technology student Victavia Owens said she’s aware of the need for more women in process technology, and with the help of a scholarship from ExxonMobil she’s well on her way to help meet that need.

"Working in process technology provides great opportunity for women," said Owens, who previously attended college and is coming back for a career change. "You can really move up in this field."

Thanks to ExxonMobil, $45,000 in scholarships were recently presented to 34 selected students from across the nine community colleges that make up the Texas Gulf Coast Consortium of Community Colleges and the Community College Petrochemical Initiative, now in its fourth year. With the Gulf Coast area petrochemical industry needing more than 50,000 new workers within the decade, CCPI has spread the word across the region that typical salaries in this expanding industry average nearly $100,000 and opportunities are available with those who possess the necessary skills.

"I started taking dual credit courses in process technology during my junior year of high school, and that’s what really inspired me to continue studies in this program at Brazosport College," said scholarship recipient Patrick Haynes. "I love learning about the different processes, and I really love the pay. I heard it’s really good."

ExxonMobil Chemical Company Senior Vice President Matt Aguiar congratulated the students and spoke to why ExxonMobil continues to invest in the program.

"We continue to see great progress as these colleges educate, train and develop candidates to fill the increasing number of jobs in the petrochemical industry," Aguiar said. "Because of the ongoing success, I’m proud to announce that ExxonMobil is providing another $300,000 for this important training program."

ExxonMobil has contributed more than $1.8 million toward training skilled new workers. This is the third consecutive year that the initiative and ExxonMobil have brought together new recipients to present scholarships and encourage them in their educational pursuits.

The following are the 2016 CCPI scholarship recipients of ExxonMobil scholarships:
* Alvin Community College: Jaecen Foytik, Andrew Flores, Mandi McLemore, Clarence Johnson
* Brazosport College: Rigoberto Cardenas, Patrick Haynes, Zackary Nieto, Yolanda Richo, Hong To
* College of the Mainland: Brandon Abshier, Richard Ahamba, Louis Maldonado, Cristina Tobias
* Galveston College: Zachary Davis, Jacob Mares, Fabian Urias
* Houston Community College: Cajetan Nwachukwu
* Lee College: Ellis Dorrance, Marisela Morales, Camrin Lynn, Gerardo Palominos, Estaban Sanchez
* Lone Star College: Benjamin A. Brown, Douglas Bragg, Baleriano V. Perez
* San Jacinto College: Robert Aquilera, Jose Arias, Veronica Cortes, Victavia Owens, Nghi Nguyen
* Wharton County Junior College: Al’lon Jones, Carl Jones, Johnathan Klotz, Rocio Salazar Yepez

Gonzalez interns with NASA, encourages other young women to pursue STEM fields

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SJC GonzalezGONZALEZYasmeen Gonzalez will represent San Jacinto College at the fall 2016 NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars workshop.

NCAS is a five-week online workshop consisting of discussions, live video chats with NASA experts and various mission design challenges. Students will then apply for the opportunity to spend four days at a NASA center, getting an inside look at NASA missions and science, networking with NASA scientists and engineers and developing a presentation to showcase their work to a panel of judges.

"I really wanted to apply for the NCAS program just for the chance to be placed in an internship at a NASA facility," said Gonzalez, who wants to major in computer engineering. She added that while she dreams of working at NASA one day, she also has an interest in designing video games if given the opportunity.

Although technology careers are growing in numbers, the growth rate of young women entering today’s tech industry is still in its infancy. While numbers of female graduates with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees in areas such as biology and chemistry continue to rise exponentially, areas like computer engineering are still experiencing low graduate numbers. According to Girls Who Code, a national non-profit organization dedicated to closing the gender gap in technology, by 2020 there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computing related fields. However, of the 29 percent of the qualified graduates on track to fill those jobs, women will only fill 3 percent.

Learning environments can also project barriers that educators may not be aware of. A 2015 study by the University of Washington surveyed 270 high school students with results showing that three times as many girls were interested in enrolling in a computer science class if the classroom itself was redesigned to be less "geeky" and more inviting and inclusive. Since identity and a sense of belonging are heightened during teenage years, girls are less likely to disengage from pursuing technology classes if non-traditional elements of design are incorporated into their learning spaces, thus eliminating any stereotypical assumptions about tech careers and professionals.

Gonzalez did have some encouraging words for students, especially other young women, who want to enter a STEM-related field. "Don't be afraid to take a step into what you want to do. People assume STEM programs are scary because of the science and math involved, and that fear prevents them from taking that first step forward. The faculty here want you to succeed, and they want to help you any way they can. San Jacinto College has been phenomenal in preparing and helping me achieve my academic and professional goals."

San Jac graduate builds impressive résumé

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SJC ValdiviaVALDIVIAAriana Montelongo de Valdivia started her studies at San Jacinto College with a choir scholarship and a passion for people. She later turned that passion into a 10-year career in public relations, experience as a television producer and her very own real estate business.

After graduating from San Jacinto College with an associate degree in communications, Montelongo de Valdivia went to the University of Houston to earn her bachelor’s degrees in art and public relations. It wasn’t long before she started working for the world’s largest public relations firm, Edelman Communications and Marketing Firm.

“I managed multiple clients with Edelman, but my primary account was the City of Houston,” said Montelongo de Valdivia, who worked as a senior account executive for the firm. “My biggest job was to launch the first ever social media campaign for the 2010 census.” The campaign she created and launched won a Gold Excalibur Award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Houston Chapter.

However, as she spent most of her years in public relations working with nonprofit organizations, Montelongo De Valdivia felt a calling of sorts.

“I spent most of my 10 years in public relations working with nonprofit organizations such as The American Heart Association, Life Gift, and Neighborhood Centers Inc.,” she said. In her role as senior account executive, Montelongo de Valdivia ran media and public relations, which involved writing speeches, press releases and managing press conferences. “I felt fulfilled working for these nonprofits, because I got to influence a lot of positive change in the community.”

Montelongo de Valdivia has always wanted to be an entrepreneur and start her own business. She felt that real estate was the perfect place to do this because of her love for people and because she is able to utilize her extensive public relations background. “Public relations is a skill that is needed in any job,” says Montelongo de Valdivia. “I think that working in public relations for so long has really helped me run my real estate business.”

San Jacinto College helped Montelongo de Valdivia realize her love for people could turn into a successful career. “I took a lot of mass communication classes at San Jacinto,” she said. “I just knew then that I wanted to work in public relations.”

“Don’t underestimate the power of a two-year community college,” Montelongo de Valdivia concluded. “I highly recommend going to a college like San Jacinto College, because it’s great way to transition from high school. I was able to really enjoy the classes in a smaller environment and get to know my professors.”

First day of school means caution on DP roads

Written by Bobby Vasquez. Posted in Schools

schoolsafetyIN SCHOOLS

Deer Park ISD welcomes students back for the 2016-17 school year Tuesday morning. Things get a little crazy on the roads during the school year: Buses are everywhere, students on foot and bikes are hurrying to get to school before the bell rings, parents are trying to drop off their students before work.