elementary school

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

On Sept. 11, 2001, I was as far removed as an American could possibly be — in more than one sense of the word. I was about 2,000 miles away from the attack, cheerfully working on a handout in my elementary school on the border. I was deeply entrenched in Mexican culture at school, and when class let out, I went home to an Asian household with two immigrant parents. Needless to say, my circumstances left me with a very fragile sense of patriotism. 

The day was a haze. My second-grade teacher directed the class’ attention to her and told us that we would be leaving a little early today — no other explanation. One by one, all of us went up to the teacher’s desk to call our parents to pick us up early. I remember my mom was one of the last parents to come, rolling the window down while balancing a cell phone on her shoulder and waving hello to my teacher, probably as unaware as I was of the monumental point in history we were living in. I got home and gleefully jumped on my bed to celebrate the unplanned half-day. I still cringe at the thought.

I found out what happened when I went to school the next day. I had only a vague understanding of the attack, but I did begin to grasp the concept of terrorism for the first time. I started to flip to news channels at home, watching horrifying coverage of the devastation 9/11 left behind. I grew up a little faster that year. 

I’ve visited Ground Zero twice since then, once when a mess of construction and yellow tape took its place in 2008 and again in 2012 when two commemorative deconstructivist pools were nestled there instead. The names of the fallen spanned the walls of the memorial as far as I could see, and I thought about how the people impacted were more than just the seemingly infinite number of names etched in front of me — not etched in the bronze were the names of their mothers, fathers, siblings, spouses, and friends. 

Though I didn’t personally know anyone directly impacted by the attack, September 11, 2001, marked a turning point in my sense of identity and cultural belonging. Thirteen years went by and I grew up, learned more about the history of this country and wandered away from the confines of my small border town. I have since reinterpreted my lack of the quintessentially “American” upbringing to define my own understanding of patriotism — one of unity in diversity, hope in devastation and resilience in chaos.

Huynh is a Plan II, business honors and supply chain management junior from Laredo.

Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole has spearheaded numerous projects since she was first elected to Austin City Council, but she said the moment that had the most impact on her political career came when she was PTA president of her sons’ elementary school.

“I always say that my start in politics began as PTA president,” Cole said. “When you’re balancing the interests of parents, teachers and the community at large, you learn how to bring people together.” 

After Cole became the PTA president, the school superintendent asked her to co-chair a school bond campaign. Cole said her two co-chairs encouraged her to visit school campuses to see their conditions.

“When I saw those schools, they were in such bad shape — leaky roofs, rodents, I mean rats everywhere,” Cole said.

Cole said many of the schools didn’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and needed restroom and gym repairs.

“I got really mad, so I started telling every person I knew, especially the PTA moms,” Cole said.

She said the school bond was not predicted to pass because similar bonds proposed in several other cities in the region had failed to pass.

“On the night of the bond election, when I saw the ticker go across the screen at 60 percent, that’s when the political bug hit me,” Cole said. “That’s what government is supposed to do — provide funding and solutions for people.”

As the first person in her family to graduate from college, Cole said education is an issue that is important to her. 

“I knew that education was the path for [my sons] to have a successful future, so I was determined to make sure that they had a good education,” Cole said.

Since Cole became the first African-American woman on Austin City Council in 2006, she has often paid particular attention to issues involving University students. In November 2013, Cole helped pass an affordable housing bond, and more recently, she contacted student groups to try to increase their involvement with the “stealth dorm” ordinance.

Cole said that when she first joined the council, she was concerned about how to balance the interests of the African-American community while also serving the needs of the greater Austin community.

“I remember that I carried a resolution for Barton Springs Pool and their master plan, and I remember that there was a write-up in a newspaper article that said, ‘She is showing that she will not be pigeonholed to the black issues.’”

Cole said she wondered if she was making everybody mad because she couldn’t do enough.

“You sort of wear two hats where you’re expected to handle the issues that affect the African-American community, but I’ve tried really hard not to limit myself to only those issues,” Cole said. “You want to show that an African-American can do both, but at the same time, you don’t want the African-American community to feel like you’re not representing them.”

Michael McGill, Cole’s policy director and chief of staff who has worked with her for about three years, said sometimes professionals who come by the office ask if they can get a “Sheryl Cole hug.”

“She’s definitely a hugger,” Nancy Cardenas, Cole’s executive assistant, said.

McGill said it’s apparent to him that Cole loves the part of her job that involves interacting with people.

“She’s a genuinely warm person, and that’s in short supply in a job that can wear you down,” McGill said.

Committed Caroline runs every Thursday evening in Life & Arts.

Photo Credit: Daily Texan Comics | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: In this weekly sex column, four columnists discuss their different sexual experiences relating to a common theme. Committed Caroline runs every Thursday evening. 

I’ve only kissed one boy. Ever.

There were no elementary school pecks or middle school make-outs in my childhood. In fact, by the time I had my first kiss I was 16 and downright impatient.

I had been dating this senior in high school for a few weeks. There had been three dates. There had been long, prolonged hugs on the sidewalk in front of my parents suburban home. There had even been forehead touching.

In some ways, our first kiss was as rom-com as they come. I was 16 and he was 17. He was my first real boyfriend, and our first kiss together was also each of our first kisses individually. He was sweet to me, and held open doors, and genuinely cared.

But our first kiss was sloppy and messy and bad.

Instead of the sweet passion I had expected, I felt way too much tongue. So I did what every teenage girl does and I called someone who could tell me if this was what kissing was.

“It was like he was eating my face,” I told my aunt over the phone.

She laughed, and I  internally panicked. Could a great first three dates be ruined by a bad kiss? Was this a deal breaker?

My aunt said no.

“You have to teach him what you want,” she said.

I wasn’t thrilled about the idea of teaching this boy to kiss when I barely knew how to kiss myself. That is, until we started practicing. Kissing became more fun. I started to understand what I wanted and was able to tell him.

That first kiss taught me that sometimes my partner wouldn't give me exactly what I wanted. But before I could tell him what to change, I had to figure out what I wanted.

Our kisses now are better. Much better.

Free Minds Project Director Viv Griffith leads her students on a tour of the Blanton poetry project on Thursday evening.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

Tari Jordan wants to teach elementary school English, and Free Minds, a program administrated out of UT, is helping her to do it.

“I thought I knew so much already,” Jordan said. “I don’t want it to end. I love the professors.”

Jordan, a mother of two, said the program should help her go to college and pursue her dream. Free Minds’ free humanities course, which she is enrolled in, took a field trip to UT this weekend in a bid to draw inspiration from the Blanton Museum’s collection. The seven-year-old program is a collaboration between the University’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Austin Community College and Foundation Communities. 

“We want them to become comfortable being on a college campus and to feel that they belong there,” program director Vive Griffith said. “The resources at UT are theirs to explore and use.”

Free Minds aims to help its students, some of whom have never been in a college class, advance themselves in their career paths and lives by using its lessons to potentially go on to education elsewhere. The group hosts a bi-weekly nine-month course at the M Station apartments in East Austin, where two UT professors, two ACC professors and one UT graduate writing student spend both semesters teaching literature, philosophy, history, creative writing and sometimes drama.

“We’re looking for motivation, and then we’re looking for need,” Griffith said. “We’re targeting the people who have barriers in front of them.”

To qualify, students must have a GED or high school diploma and be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. They must then write an essay and go through an interview for a shot at being a member of the 25-student course.

Griffith, who teaches creative writing in the course, said visiting the Blanton Museum is an opportunity to help with her lesson. Students were expected to write their own poetry on a piece of art after reading and seeing examples.

Teachers in the program say they have learned from their students.

Domino Perez, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies, associate English professor and a three-time teacher for the course’s literature unit, said she gets a different perspective from her students and admires how hard they work.

“Working with people who have not had equal access to education has been humbling. Their mindset is completely different,” Perez said. “They teach me how to see familiar literature in new and exciting ways.” 

Perez said she hopes students see themselves from a different perspective as well.

“I want them to think about themselves as students,” Perez said. “As critical thinkers engaging the world around them.”

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Low-income program increases opportunities". 

The release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part II marks the end of the Harry Potter film series. For a generation that has grown up with the franchise, this release might create nostalgia for an earlier time.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

For many UT students, the release of the final installment of the Harry Potter film series marks the end of an era that began when they were reading their first chapter books in elementary school.

What started as enjoyable reading soon became a worldwide phenomenon. As the series progressed, readers and viewers gleaned life lessons from a magical world that, in many ways, resembles this one. Plan II sophomore Maysie Ocera said growing up with Harry and his friends has been an important part of her life.

“Harry was always our age as we were reading [the novels],” Ocera said. “There’s definitely a feeling like with this last movie, that childhood is actually kind of coming to a close. It’s cheesy to say, but we’re all as grown up as Harry is.”

Ocera said she and six friends will be dressing up as the seven horcruxes of Voldemort’s soul during the midnight premiere of the grand finale.

“What I really hope about Harry Potter is that with the movies maybe kids who didn’t want to read the books before are reintroduced to this magical world that I grew up with,” Ocera said. “I hope this is something that kids can hold onto for generations to come.”

Dayton Berezoski, Ocera’s ten-year-old half-brother is also a Harry Potter fan. He said he feels the books have greatly impacted his generation, even though the books came out before kids his age were able to read them.

“The books have more details in them,” Berezoski said. “The seventh one is my favorite. It has a lot of great fights in it, and the main characters show how strong they are.”

Berezoski said most of his friends also enjoy the book and movie series. Ocera and Berezoski both said they hope they would be Gryffindors if they joined the wizarding world.

English graduate student Marjorie Foley said she believes the Harry Potter series will continue to impact readers and viewers for years to come. Foley teaches a summer rhetoric course on Harry Potter because it appeals to so many undergraduates and offers much fodder for literary discussion.

“Most people tend to think that I use this course as an excuse to talk about Harry Potter, but it’s actually the other way around, it’s an excuse to talk about rhetoric,” said Foley, 27, in an email interview.

Foley said the books cover deeper issues than the movies, but the films encompass some great rhetorical substance.

Psychology senior Chelsea Bourland said she realized just how popular her favorite series is when she was unable to purchase tickets to the midnight showings tonight. Although the quick sellout was frustrating, Bourland said she is even more upset the Harry Potter world is coming to an end. She said she will be re-watching all the movies to prepare for this last one.

“When I’m reading the books or watching the movies I feel like I?m at Hogwarts with all of them,” Bourland said. “They helped put stuff into perspective, and they made me realize that my problems aren?t that bad compared to facing Voldemort and losing my parents.”

Even those who aren’t fans of the books find it hard to escape the series. Radio-television-film senior Kyle Taylor said he refused to read the Harry Potter series when his sixth grade classmates did because he didn’t want to jump on the wizard bandwagon.

“I feel like reading the books ruins the movies for Harry Potter fans,” Taylor said. “People always complain that the movies have ruined key parts of the books, but the movies themselves are really good.”

Taylor said watching the movies allowed him to connect to the characters in a deeper way. He said the movies taught him about dealing with death for the first time and the power of friendship. And though he was skeptical of the series when he first encountered it, he will join many other UT students tonight as they bid farewell to a franchise that has been a presence for most of their lives.