San Jacinto College opening new additions

October 1st, 2019

New SJC Center for Petrochemical, Energy and Technology

By Sophia Primera

Construction is nearing completion on new additions to San Jacinto College Central, North and South Campuses. Funded by the college’s 2015 bond referendum of $450 million, the campuses also are receiving general site and infrastructure upgrades including increased WiFi accessibility and bringing building access points up to ADA code.

Newest addition to the Central Campus is the Center for Petrochemical Energy, and Technology. The $60 million, 151,000 square-foot instructional complex with a separate Process Training Unit opened for the fall 2019 semester with the official grand opening ceremony Sept. 18.

Built for and designed by industry, the facility features 35 custom interior labs, 20 interactive classrooms, and 3 computer labs. The building houses the air conditioning technology, electrical technology, electronics, engineering design graphics (drafting), environmental health and safety technology, instrumentation/analyzer technology, nondestructive testing, pipefitting/fabricator, process technology and welding programs.

“These new vocational facilities definitely provide realistic workplace experiences for our students,” Charles Smith, San Jacinto College associate vice chancellor of fiscal initiatives and capital projects, said. “This has been a strength of the college for some time. Now, students studying process technology can learn a variety of skilled trades in a real operating environment with our Glycol Distillation Unit and the myriad of specialized process labs that support that family of programs.”

The Central Campus is also gaining a 43,000-square-foot Welcome Center. The $16.6 million facility will serve as a “one-stop” student support services building for admissions, financial aid, tutoring, testing centers, education planning and counseling.

Construction at the San Jacinto College North Campus continues for its brand-new Cosmetology and Culinary Center. Scheduled to open in spring of 2020, the 57,000-square-foot, $22.3 million facility will provide the latest state-of-the-art facilities for students to get real-world, industry-standard training.

The culinary wing will consist of a bakery, kitchens with multiple food prep stations, ovens, stoves and walk-in refrigerators and freezers. The facility will also feature a bistro dining area available to the public with capabilities of hosting catered events with meals prepared by culinary students.

The cosmetology wing will feature a full-service salon and spa where students, faculty and the community can experience services such as massages, facials, haircuts, colors, manicures and pedicures.

The San Jacinto College South Campus will gain two new buildings, the largest being the new Engineering and Technology Center. The 74,000 square-foot, $27.7 million facility will feature new computer labs complete with industry-standard software, a MakerSpace will feature a 3D print shop, metal shop, and a woodshop to allow students to build their designs. The Engineering and Technology Center will house engineering technology, biomedical equipment repair technology, engineering design graphics, electronics, and computer information technology programs.

The South Campus is also adding a new 39,300 square-foot Cosmetology Center. The $15.8 million facility will feature student lounge areas, a full-service salon, and updated labs and classrooms to enhance the workforce training for those interested in a cosmetology career. The Engineering and Technology Center and the Cosmetology Center are scheduled to be open in fall 2020.

“The Board of Trustees and the chancellor take their commitment to stewardship of taxpayer dollars extremely seriously,” Smith added. “Only about half of the money raised by the bond is being spent on new construction. The remainder is being deployed to strategically improve the life or efficiency of existing buildings and infrastructure. During a time of relentless cost escalation, the college has done everything in our power to keep a tight rein on scope and schedule, while meeting community expectations.

“Whether through high school dual enrollment, participation in our academic programs, or our Continuing and Professional Development offerings, there simply is no better return on educational investment in the greater Houston area than what we offer at San Jac,” Smith said.

For more information on the San Jacinto College South Campus bond construction projects and bond construction updates college-wide, visit

San Jacinto College again in top 10 community colleges

May 1st, 2019

By Amanda Fenwick

The Aspen Institute for Community College Excellence has named San Jacinto College as one of the top 10 community colleges in the nation. The announcement was made at a luncheon in Washington, D.C.

“I am honored and humbled to accept this award on behalf of the entire San Jacinto College community,” said Chancellor Dr. Brenda Hellyer. “This award reflects the achievements and commitment of our faculty, staff, and administration who are focused on helping our diverse student population pursue and accomplish their goals. As a college, we hold ourselves to the ultimate measure of student success, and being recognized as one of the top 10 community colleges in the nation is proof that our mission to provide innovative, accessible education is being accomplished.”

Launched in 2011, the $1 million Aspen Prize is awarded every two years to a community college achieving high marks in student learning, certificate and degree completion, employment and earnings for graduates, and access and success for minority and low-income students. From the more than 1,100 community colleges nationwide, San Jacinto College was first selected among the top 150 last spring. A selection committee then narrowed down those institutions to the top 10, and today named two Aspen Prize winners and three Rising Star recipients. San Jacinto College was a Rising Star Award recipient in 2017, placing the College among the nation’s top 5 community colleges.

“San Jacinto College offers strong workforce programs that are directly aligned to employer needs and job opportunities in the region—especially in health care, maritime, and petrochemical industries,” said Joshua Wyner, executive director of the Aspen Institute’s College Excellence Program. “The college has also made significant investments in guided pathways reforms, ensuring that students receive strong, consistent advising to help them stay on track to completion.»

Over the last 10 years, San Jacinto College has increased the number of certificates and associate degrees awarded by 169 percent. Last academic year, 7,019 students earned a certificate or degree from San Jacinto College. This increase is due to a laser focus on student success and the support students receive along their paths from when they first arrive at San Jacinto College through graduation. The college concentrates its efforts on initiatives that show results in student achievement and progress.

2019 Aspen Prize Winners
Indian River State College (Fort Pierce, FL)
Miami Dade College (Miami, FL)

Rising Star Award
Odessa College (Odessa, TX)
Pierce College at Fort Steilacoom (Lakewood, WA)
Alamo Colleges District – Palo Alto College (San Antonio, TX)

Broward College (Fort Lauderdale, FL)
CUNY Kingsborough Community College (Brooklyn, NY)
Mitchell Technical Institute (Mitchell, SD)
Pasadena City College (Pasadena, CA)
San Jacinto College (Pasadena, TX)

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership honors George P. Bush

March 4th, 2019

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush holds the Quasar Award he was presented at the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership’s 26th annual Quasar Banquet at South Shore Harbour Resort. With him are, from left, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell, 2019 BAHEP Board Chairman Todd Caliva and the 2018 Board Chairman Dr. Brenda Hellyer.

THE BAY AREA’S Movers and Shakers were out in force as the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership honored Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush with its Quasar Award for all his help on the proposed coastal barrier system to protect coastal communities and businesses from storm surge.

San Jacinto College Chancellor and 2018 BAHEP Board Chairman Dr. Brenda Hellyer introduced him to the black-tie crowd of nearly 600 that filled up South Shore Harbour Resort’s Crystal Ballroom, after which Bush called the coastal barrier system, or Ike Dike, “a project that is long past due” and one that will need the backing of everyone. “I’m committed to this project,” he promised the crowd.

Afterwards, BAHEP President Bob Mitchell joined them on stage to introduce the 2019 BAHEP Board Chairman Todd Caliva, CEO of HCA Houston Healthcare Clear Lake, which started out life as Clear Lake Hospital.

But there was quite a number of missing faces from the Johnson Space Center, which was closed due to the government shutdown. “This is the first time in 25 years,” Mitchell said, “that the JSC center director has not attended this event,” adding that JSC Director Mark Geyer sent his best wishes.

Dozens of elected officials were in the crowd including Congressman Randy Weber, State Sen. Carol Avarado, State Reps. Dr. Greg Bonnen, Ed Thompson, Mayes Middleton and Dennis Paul, Harris County Judge Lina Hildago and Constable Phil Sandlin and Galveston County Commissioner Ken Clark and their mates.

Plus, a number of mayors – Pat Hallisey of League City, Julie Masters of Dickinson, Michel Bechtel of Morgan’s Point, Mark Denman of Nassau Bay, Louis Rigby of La Porte and Jon Kenney of Taylor Lake Village – and mayor pro-tems – Andrea Wilson of Webster, Don Matter of Nassau Bay, Todd Kinsey of League City, Jay Martin of La Porte and Teresa Vazquez Evans of Kemah – and their spouses.

City councilors joining the celebration included Dave Martin, David Robinson and Jack Christi of Houston, William King III, Bruce Henderson and Wally Deats of Dickinson, Steve Rockey and Carl Gustafson of Friendswood, Laura Davis and Jeff Larson of Seabrook, Robin Collins of Kemah, Steve Gillett of La Porte, Greg Gripon, Andy Mann and Larry Millican of League City, Thomas Schoenbein of Pasadena, Jonathan Amdur, Ashley Graves, Bryce Klug, John Mahon and Matt Prior of Nassau Bay, and Martin Graves, Beverly Gaines and Edward Lapear of Webster, along with City Managers John Baumgartner of League City, Wayne Sabo of Webster, Jason Reynolds of Nassau Bay and Gayle Cook of Seabrook.

Others introduced included UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Ira Blake, Texas A&M Galveston Vice President Col. Michael Fossum, San Jac Board Chairman Marie Flickinger, CCISD and DISD Superintendents Dr. Greg Smith and Carla Voelkel, Pasadena ISD Vice President Nelda Sullivan and Port Houston Commissioners John Kennedy and Clyde Fitzgerald.

The aerospace industry was well represented with Lockheed Martin VP and Orion Program Manager Dr. Mike Hawes, Boeing Space Station Program Manager Mark Mulqueen, MEI Technologies CEO David Cazes, Barrios President Robert McAfoos, Jacobs VP and GM Lon Miller, GB Tech President Gale Burkett, Leidos Division Manager Nan Hardin, Cimarron Software CEO Jeannie Crowell and President Darren Crowell, MRI Technologies President and VP Debbie and Tim Kropp, KBRwyle President Vernon McDonald and VP Genie Bopp, Oceaneering VP and GM Mike Bloomfield and astronaut Bonnie Dunbar in the mix.

League City Chamber President Steve Paterson and Chairman Rebecca Lilley were in the crowd as were Clear Lake Chamber President Cindy DeWease and Chairman Brian Freedman, Amoco Credit Union President Shawn Bailey, attorneys Joe Barlow, Craig Saunders, Chris Gregg, Dick Gregg Jr. and Dick Gregg III, Space City Films President Marc Havican, Moody Bank CEO Vic Pierson and VPs Brent Cockerham and Craig Barker, MaximGroup CEO Ron Masters, Norman Frede Chevrolet GM Joan McKinney, San Jac Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford, My Flooring America President Mike Furin, Col. Len Waterworth of Texas A&M Galveston and BayTran President Theresa Rodriguez.

Other well known faces spotted mingling in the crowd were Emmeline Dodd and Gene Hollier, Jack and Marcy Fryday, John Martinec, Carol and Bob Robinson, Harv Hartman, Beth and TJ Aulds, Amy and Paul Dunphey, Lynda Guidry, Karen and Mark Keesler, Jeannie Kranz, Harriet and Jon Pilgrim, Debbie and Dr. Peter Wuenschel, Al Saylor and Gwen Griffin, Jim and Jane Sweeney, and John Wilkins, whose pretty wife, Shari, sang the most beautiful rendition of the National Anthem we have probably ever heard.

Business Buzz

March 4th, 2019

Space test flights are delayed again
The first crewless test flights have been delayed again, NASA has announced. The space agency said the first uncrewed test flight by SpaceX’s Crew Dragon – previously planned for around Feb. 23 – is now scheduled for no earlier than March 2, with its second test flight with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken now scheduled for July.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s uncrewed test flight of the CTS-100 Starliner in March is now scheduled for no sooner than April, and its crewed test flight with Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson and NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke scheduled for no sooner than August.

NASA awards $2.9B contract to Leidos
NASA has awarded Leidos of Reston, Va., a contract for information technology (IT) end-user services to support the agency’s headquarters, centers and other performance sites.
NASA End-user Services & Technologies (NEST) is a firm-fixed-price, indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract that has a maximum value of $2.9 billion and includes a two-year, three-month base period followed by a two-year option, one-year option, and five one-year award term options that would extend the period of performance to May 31, 2029.
NASA personnel use IT to support the agency’s core business, scientific, research and computational activities. Leidos will provide, manage, secure and maintain these essential IT services for the agency.

Two firms donate $500,000 to SJC
As the building of the new San Jacinto College Center for Petrochemical, Energy and Technology nears completion, two companies have donated a total of $500,000 for an analyzer lab and for education and training.

Siemens has donated $250,000 to add an analyzer lab to the new center that is expected to open this fall while Dow Chemical has donated another $250,000 to ensure that training and the education curriculum in the center will align with the needs of petrochemical manufacturing employers.

Siemens, a global powerhouse focusing on electrification, automation and digitalization, has been among the college’s industry partners providing input and donations toward the project since the start of discussions about the San Jacinto College petrochemical training center.

San Jac broke ground for the $60 million center in September 2017. In addition to an associate degree and certificates, the college is pursuing the approval and development of a bachelor’s degree in applied technology.

Besides being an industry partner and member of the College’s Petrochemical Advisory Council, Dow Chemical Deer Park has hired 25 SJC graduates as operators in the past four years – or 23 percent of the site’s new hires. Dow also has established an apprenticeship program at the college.

Port has another outstanding year
In highlighting a host of achievements this past year, Port Houston Executive Director Roger Guenther announced several records were broken in 2018, including that total tonnage at the port set a record of 35.7 million tons – an increase of 9 percent from 2017.

“The strength of cargo activity helped drive operating revenue to $366 million for the year, shattering the previous record set in 2017 of $333 million.” Guenther said as he delivered his 2018 year-end report to the Port Commission of the Port of Houston Authority during its first monthly meeting of 2019.

Combined business through the port’s public facilities also generated a total cash flow of $162 million, surpassing the previous record of $151 million set in 2017.

Presenting AMOCO Federal Credit Union’s sponsorship check for the Keep Kids in School Golf Tournament is (right) Stacey Malbrough with Communities In Schools-Bay Area’s Hillary Gramm, resource development director, and Dr. Peter Wunschel, executive director.

Amoco FCU gives $5,000 to CIS-BA
Since 2006, Amoco Federal Credit Union has supported at-risk students through the annual Keep Kids in School Golf Tournament sponsorships totaling $109,000. The golf tournament benefits Communities in Schools-Bay Area, a dropout prevention program serving 26 campuses in Clear Creek and Dickinson ISDs.

This year’ shamble tournament will be Monday, April 15 at Bay Oaks Country Club in Clear Lake.

In addition to sponsoring the tournament, Amoco staffers serve the students in different ways. Amoco’s Stacey Malbrough, culture and communications manager, mentors a League City Elementary School student in the program and works on the Raise Your Glass to CIS wine tasting event committee. Josh Ryding, Friendswood branch manager, works on the Keep Kids in School Golf Tournament Committee.

For sponsorships or golf tournament information, contact Hillary Gramm at [email protected] or 281-486-6698.

Clear Lake Chatter: Assistance League Passes Out Awards

August 1st, 2018

Assistance League officers for 2018 line up for their installation at the luncheon at South Shore Harbour Country Club. They are, from left, Assisteens Coordinator Valerie Piercy, Treasurer Sandra Kelver, President Sarah Foulds and Secretary Betty Stoub. President-elect Lisa Holbrook was unable to attend.

ASSISTANCE LEAGUE members gathered at South Shore Harbour Country Club this year for their annual meeting, which includes the installation of officers and presentation of awards to their hard-working members.

And, after many long hours of service to the Bay Area community, outgoing President Ann Marie Doolin installed new President Sarah Foulds and the other new officers who will lead the organization as it celebrates its 30th anniversary.

Other new officers include President-elect Lisa Holbrook, Treasurer Sandra Kelver, Secretary Betty Stoub, Vice Presidents Karen Douglas, Brooks Cima, Kim Barker and Cathy Wolfe, Marketing Chairman Sharon Klumb, Strategic Planning Chairman Marie Keener, Education Chairman Mavis Irvan and Assisteens Coordinator Valerie Piercy.

The year-end luncheon is also a time to honor some of the hardest working members. Winner of the Sue Brady Award was Kathleen Courville with Marie Keener presented the Sue Holstein Award and Yvonne Perrin, Mary Pergande and Betty Suagee winners of the ABCD Award.

Merrill Crawford was named recipient of the H.O.P.E. Award, the Paul Mitchell Academy won the Glass Slipper Award and Sandra Sellers received the Ada Edwards Laughlin Award.

New Clear Lake Panhellenic officers line up for a photo at their year-end luncheon at the Bay Area Museum. They are, from right, President D’Lisa Johnston, 1st Vice President Cheryl Williams, 2nd Vice President Kathryn Vernau, 3rd Vice President Greta Mae, Secretary Darla McKitrick, Treasurer Kim Barker, Corporation Karen Douglass and Parliamentarian Michelle Richardson. Photo by Jill Reason

C.L.Panhellenic gets new officers
D’LISA JOHNSTON is the new president of Clear Lake Area Panhellenic, which held its year-end luncheon at Bay Area Museum in Clear Lake Park.
Others elected to serve with her include First Vice President Cheryl Williams, Second Vice President Kathryn Vernau, Third Vice President Greta Mae, Secretary Darla McKitrick, Treasurer Kim Barker, Corporation Karen Douglass and Parliamentarian Michelle Richardson.

Also, Sally Jordan was honored with the Citation Award.

But the announcement of the scholarship winners got the biggest smiles from the recipients. Jacy Murdock, Karissa Murdock, Madeleine Pomes and Amie Le were the lucky winners of $8,000 college scholarships.

Bay Area Museum Guild officers get together for a photo after being installed at their May luncheon at the home of Carole Murphy. They are, from left, standing, Co-President Carole Murphy, First Vice Presidents Louise Russell and Gail Devens, Recording Secretary Lois Costin and Corresponding Secretary Sally Jordan; seated, Parliamentarian Kandy Johnson and Co-President Ava Galt. Brandie Corrao and Diana Dornak were unable to attend.

Museum Guild installs officers
BAY AREA Museum Guild members who re-elected Co-Presidents Ava Galt and Carole Murphy to serve another term gathered for their installation at the Guild’s May luncheon at Carole’s lovely Brook Forest home.

Elected to serve with her are First Vice Presidents Gail Devins and Louise Russell; Second Vice President Brandie Corrao, Recording Secretary Lois Costin, Corresponding Secretary Sally Jordan, Treasurer Diana Dornak and Parliamentarian Kandy Johnson,
Others in the luncheon crowd you might have spotted included Cindy Kuenneke, Sandi Allbritton, Barb Spencer, Nina McGlashan, Jan Larson, Donnie Johnson, Angie Weinman, Pat Biddle, Elizabeth Quigley, Terri Monnett and Peggy Clause.


EDUCATION is growing all around the Bay Area, Clear Lake Area Chamber members learned at their June luncheon. More students and more buildings.

Speakers were Dr. Greg Smith, superintendent of the Clear Creek School District, Dr. Laurel Williamson, deputy chancellor and president of San Jacinto College; and Dr. Mark Shermis, UHCL dean of education – each of whom have new buildings going up.

Clear Creek ISD, Dr. Smith said, is currently rebuilding League City Elementary and completing construction of a new school, Florence Campbell Elementary, also in League City, with money from the $487 million bond passed in 2017. Work on both should be completed next year. And, while building, they are working to improve school safety.

“The climate in our schools is strong and healthy. Our focus today is on teaching kids how to have kind hearts, not just smart minds. It is simply not enough to teach and assess…We must model and teach a set of core values of caring, respect, trustworthiness and citizenship.”

That’s the good news. But he also had some not-so-good news: Along with thousands of families in recovery mode, the school district is still feeling the effects of Harvey, “with more than $19 million in damages to our facilities, and we have not received reimbursements yet on those damages.With little or no funding. . .from the Legislature, we are facing a significant budget deficit for the 2018-19 school year” and are hopeful the district can negotiate a tax swap with the school board to keep operating at optimal level.


New SJC Buildings
Over at San Jacinto College, which was recently named a Top Five Community College nationally by the Aspen Institute for Community College Excellence, three new buildings are going up and some nine older buildings are being renovated with money from its recent $425 million bond package, Dr. Williamson told the chamber crowd at the Nassau Bay Hilton.

The Center for Industrial Technology, which focuses on welding, pipefitting, diesel, electrical technology, plus heating, air conditioning and refrigeration, opened on the North Campus in March 2017, she said, while the Center for Petrochemical, Energy and Technology on the Central Campus and the Center for Engineering and Technology on the South Campus are both expected to open next spring.

And, for many local industries that have jobs to fill and the 42,000 students San Jac serves annually, the sooner, the better.


New UHCL facilities
Dr. Shermis also had some good news for the crowd. The UHCL College of Education dean said the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Classroom Building was opening this fall and the university is working with Clear Creek ISD on STEM classes at both the university and the school district.

The 121,575-square-foot building, being built at a cost of $65.7 million is one of two under construction on the Clear Lake campus.

UHCL also is building a new $38.2 million Recreation and Wellness Center that will serve as the home for the Exercise and Health Sciences program and Fitness and Human Performance program, as well as a host of general instruction classrooms and recreational activities for students, faculty and staff.

A new $24 million Health Sciences and Classroom Building is also expected to open in the spring on UHCL’s Pearland campus, Dr. Shermis said.
Chamber Chairman Bryan Bogle welcomed the crowd and introduced special guests and Dr. Peter Wuenschel, chamber Education Division chairman, provided the invocation.

Amanda Fenwick named winner of Athena Award

June 4th, 2018

Athena Award recipient Amanda Fenwick proudly shows off the award after the luncheon at Lakewood Yacht Club. With her are, from left, League City Chamber President Steve Paterson, keynote speaker Doreen Hughes and Chamber Chairman Rebecca Lilley.

By Mary Alys Cherry

Amanda Fenwick, San Jacinto College vice president and mayor pro tem of Clear Lake Shores is the recipient of the 2018 Athena Award, presented annually by the League City Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“I was so shocked when my name was called as the Athena Bay Area recipient,” she said afterwards. “To be among that group of nominees was truly an honor.”

She was honored for her professional excellence, community service and for working to improve the quality of life for others in the community. The presentation came during a luncheon at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.

Amanda who serves as vice president of marketing and public relations at San Jacinto College, has 15 years of experience in leadership and public relations and currently oversees a staff of 12.

That includes a public relations and event team, a digital and website team, and a design team responsible for the advertising, marketing, communications, media and public relations, social media, website content, publications, events, and crisis communications for the entire San Jacinto College district, which includes 45,000 credit and 10,000 continuing education students each year, and 2,500 employees.

Prior to joining San Jac in 2007, she was an event coordinator in the Houston mayor’s Office of Special Events, planning parades, special events and a variety of celebrations.

She began her career in public relations at Rice University as an assistant sports information director. As such, she was responsible for the daily public and media relations for several Owls teams, including women’s basketball, men’s and women’s tennis and women’s volleyball.

In addition to her role at the college, she serves on the Clear Lake Shores City Council. She was first elected to office in 2012, and is currently in her fourth term, serving as mayor pro-tem.

Amanda holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., and a Master of Education in Physical Education from the University of Houston. She and her husband, Jay, have lived in Clear Lake Shores for more than 17 years, and they have a 5-year-old daughter, Peyton.

Others nominated for the award were Trisha Barita, Barita & Keough Law Firm; Deborah Bly, Re/Max Space Center, The Bly Team; Penny Brockway, Brockway Realty; Kirsten Cavaness, Green Window Group, LLC; Kathy Cruse, Texas First Bank; Wendy Ghormley, Texas First Bank; Janice Hallisey, League City Proud; Kristi Koncaba, Texan Bank; Ashlea Quinonez, Memorial Hermann Health System; Jill Reason, Bay Area Houston Ballet & Theatre; Jenny Senter, Texas City – La Marque Chamber of Commerce; Amy Smith, Dickinson ISD; and Peggy
Zahler, PZ Consulting.

The Athena Program, named for Athena, the goddess of wisdom, honors females in leadership roles that make them effective, admirable and successful leaders and who have also contributed to the development and empowerment of women. These individuals have strong values that emulate the eight principles of Athena: Live authentically, learn constantly, advocate fiercely, act courageously, foster collaboration, build relationships, give back and celebrate.

Athena leaders are fierce advocates for what they believe and committed to enriching their communities.

Ike Dike at the top of Mayor Turner’s to do list

August 1st, 2017

There was no shortage of folks on hand to greet Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner when he arrived at Bay Oaks Country Club in Clear Lake for the Clear Lake Chamber Government Affairs Committee meeting. With him are, from left, League City Mayor Pat Hallisey, Chamber President Cindy DeWease, Kemah Mayor Carl Joiner, Miss Texas USA Nancy Gonzalez and State Rep. Dennis Paul.

Jordan McGinty, right, of Councilman Dave Martin’s office, stops to chat with Dawn McDonald of State Rep. Dennis Paul’s office at the Clear Lake Area Chamber Government Affairs Committee meeting.

THE CLEAR LAKE Area Chamber’s Government Affairs Division drew quite a crowd when members held their quarterly meeting at Bay Oaks Country Club.

Little wonder they did. They had Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as their speaker and invited Miss Texas USA Nancy Gonzalez to introduce the mayor.

Early arrivals included State Rep. Dennis Paul, League City Mayor Pat Hallisey, Kemah Mayor Carl Joiner, who is also the chamber chairman, Houston City Councilman Dave Martin, Chamber President Cindy DeWease and Vice Chairman Brian Freedman.

The mayor discussed a variety of subjects, initially letting the crowd know how lucky this area is to be represented by Councilman Martin and Representative Paul and how he has enjoyed working with them in the past and how he looks forward to working with them in the future.
Especially so on the Coastal Spine – commonly referred to as the Ike Dike – which he said “is at the top of my to do list.”

After praising San Jacinto College for its workforce readiness programs and all it has been doing to put students in jobs and help industry fill jobs, he noted that there are six million jobs in the U.S. that cannot be filled because applicants do not have the proper training.

That led into a hot topic for Clear Lake City, where a woman wants to put a homeless shelter on El Camino Real in the heart of its downtown area and only two blocks from homes. The mayor, who first heard about it from TV, wanted his audience to know that the city had nothing to do with it, that no permits had been obtained and it is not a simple process.

“It is not a city deal,” he said, adding the he did not think shelters were the answer. “The best way to respond to homelessness is to put people in housing, not shelters. Please, please know that is not something that is on the drawing board, and there is no funding for it,” he cautioned.

Turning to the national infrastructure program proposed by President Trump, the mayor thought the Coastal Spine project should be included. Meanwhile he said, he had learned that Washington is toying with ideas on how to pay for all the proposed projects.

Among a number of thoughts he shared with the crowd, he said he thinks we need a theme park that is uniquely us — a fun and amusing park but unique to our region.

Splashdown Party draws happy crowd

Dr. Mike Romanko and his wife, Mitzi, give the peace sign so popular in the 60s at the Lunar Rendezvous Splashdown Party.

BACK IN THE SIXTIES, a coveted invitation got one into a Splashdown Party when friends and neighbors welcomed astronauts back from journeys into space.

Fifty years later, the tradition goes on. Except this time it was, well, a little different. Co-Chairmen Kristy Tankersley, Renee Ditta and Linda DeMasie wanted this Lunar Rendezvous Splashdown Party to be a night of fun – a night to remember. And, that it was. It also kicked off the Festival’s string of July activities, which include a 5K fun run and walk, fashion show, religious service and the Coronation Ball.

Festival Chairman Dinah Matthews, right, and Vice Chairman Tisa Foster prepare to greet guests.

Most dressed in 60s attire and flashed peace signs as they danced to the music of Phil Pampolina with the co-chairmen and their husbands – Jon Tankersley, Judge Louie Ditta and Michael DeMasie — leading the way as Mercedes-Benz dealer Jerry Foyt and his wife, Kate, hosted the event at the dealership in League City.

Both Festival Chairman Dinah Matthews and Vice Chairman Tisa Foster were there to welcome Michael and Ann Wismer Landolt, Tom and Gloria Wong, Ann and Dr. Jim O’Malley, Ron and Pat Biddle Karl, Angie and Matthew Weinman, Gene Hollier, Phil and Ginger Pampolina, Alice and Lou Marinos, Mary Ann Shallberg and Mitzi and Dr. Mike Romanko, to name a few.

Special guests were Ch. 13 ABC News Anchor Tom Koch and his wife, Brenda.

Great way to kick off the string of festival events.

Clear Lake Area Chamber gets update on education

August 1st, 2017

Dr. Greg Smith, Clear Creek ISD superintendent, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Bill Staples, from left, presented an update on education when they addressed the Clear Lake Area Chamber luncheon at Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook.

By Mary Alys Cherry

We try not to brag but how many communities have education facilities on a level of those in the Clear Lake Chamber’s membership area?

Not many, we all know, and each year when education officials update the chamber membership, the news just gets better and better.

UH-Clear Lake President Dr. Bill Staples, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Dr. Greg Smith were back for the second year in a row with some of the year’s highlights and what’s ahead at the chamber luncheon at Lakewood Yacht Club.

As he nears retirement, Dr. Staples reported that UHCL’s two new buildings on the Clear Lake campus will open in Fall 2018 with the new classroom building on the Pearland campus to open in Spring 2019, going on to praise Dr. Smith and San Jac President Dr. Brenda Hellyer. “You should be proud to have them heading their respective institutions,” he said.

And, as UHCL thrives as a four-year university and he completes his final year there, he said he got quite a thrill to see the students who initially started the bilingual classes years ago at McWhirter Elementary School – a UHCL/CCISD joint venture — graduate this past June.

He also took time to remind the community that “we must address the number of economically disadvantaged students. In 1995, 11 percent of the students were economically disadvantaged. Today that total is 27 percent.”

Teri Crawford proudly told the crowd that San Jac had recently been awarded a $100,000 prize as it was recognized as a Top Five Community College in the Nation and was a finalist for the third time for the coveted Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence for “achieving strong student success outcomes in learning, marketing and equity.”

This year, San Jac has 30,741 students enrolled – 6,598 full time and 22,400 part time – and awarded 4,139 degrees and 2,881 certificates.

And, UHCL is not the only one undergoing new construction. Seven new buildings are underway at San Jac, she said, including a Engineering and Technology Center, a Cosmetology Center and expansion of the Fire House on the South Campus and a classroom building, Welcome Center and Center for Petrochemical, Energy and Technology on the Central Campus with the North Campus getting a Cosmetology and Culinary Center.

Dr. Smith opened his comments by praising Dr. Staples for all his work and noting that he was instrumental in launching and Dual Language Immersion Program at McWhirter Elementary and how proud all were as the first bilingual class graduated. “The program continues to thrive and has expanded to four other schools.”

After noting that a record number of seniors had graduated this past June, and reporting on remodeling work at both Clear Lake and Clear Creek High Schools, he went on to tell of several students who had overcome incredible problems to become a success. “We work to instill a set of core values in our students. To be respectful, trustworthy and understand what it means to roll up your sleeves and give back.”

In his closing remarks, he had some very good news for taxpayers: Instead of a 4.5 cent tax increase for the year because of the recently passed school bond, “due to property value growth, it looks like we will not need to increase the tax rate for the year.”
That brought smiles all around the ballroom.

Schools open doors to variety of careers for today’s students

April 1st, 2017

On the road to a career in Pharmacy.

By Mary Alys Cherry

Little do today’s high school students realize just how lucky they are as they begin planning their future.

Whereas their parents and grandparents had to work a number of jobs before they stumbled on to their dream – and many never did — today’s students can begin sampling various fields while just a high school freshman.

Clear Creek ISD, for example, offers students 14 different pathways, with each combining academic courses with career-related classes – helping students understand the relationship between education and careers so they can make informed decisions on what courses they need to learn its various aspects, what type of work they can expect and what education is necessary.

Its Career and Technical Education program reinforces state and national academic standards by providing students training in career areas of interest to them.

They can take a look at being a chef, an electrician, a dentist or dental assistant, automobile technician, actor, graphic designer, interior decorator, computer programmer, nurse, an air conditioning technician, cosmotologist or architect and more, and then follow their dream at one of the nearby colleges such as San Jacinto College, College of the Mainland, Alvin Community College or at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Some of the other subjects are veterinary medical applications, communications, livestock production, food technology, wildlife fisheries and ecology management, audio/video production, animation, construction technology, civil engineering and video game design.

Learning about Broadcasting.

In fact, Clear Creek ISD is building a career technology wing at Clear Creek High School which will provide students with an opportunity to explore careers such as the dentistry profession and prepare them to become registered dental assistants.

It’s almost mind boggling how many career paths are available for today’s students, who can even graduate from high school and earn a college associate degree at the same time through the Early College High School at both CCISD and Pasadena ISD.

Think about that. Students can earn a high school diploma and complete two years of college while in high school, saving two years of college costs for their parents – thousands of dollars.

However, many students do not want a four-year degree. They may want to be an auto mechanic, a truck driver or hair dresser and hope to find one with a minimum of training.

Years ago if a young man wanted to be an electrician, a mechanic or air conditioning technician, he had to find someone who would take him in and see him through several years of training before he could be certified. Today he can learn most of the essentials in a community college classroom before becoming a trainee.

In addition to the multitude of programs leading to degrees colleges have offered for generations such as education, engineering, history, math, journalism, business, physics, accounting and languages, local community colleges offer a variety of additional associate degree programs that can put the student on a path to success. Some can be completed in less time than degree programs.

And, employers are pleased as they want employees with the right education and certifications as these employees will most likely have the proper training and safety knowledge, are open to change and have up-to-date credentials.

San Jacinto College, for example, offers certificate programs in paralegal, welding, maritime technology, auto repair, interior design, process technology, culinary arts, environmental safety technology, cosmetology, medical billing, multimedia computer animation, eye care technology, criminal justice, diesel technology and many more. Some are longer than others.

A student in a course on trucking, for example, spends two hours of his daily classroom study learning federal laws, securing loads, etc., and the rest of the day driving different vehicles in varying road conditions. That can be completed in six weeks with entry-level drivers earning $35,000 to $45,000 the first year.

College of the Mainland also helps prepare students with courses in photography, air conditioning technology, nursing, mechanical maintenance technology, art, welding, electrician helper, process technology, construction, project management and design, to name a few of the hands-on ways the school is helping bring the students and the job market together.

Alvin Community College also offers a wide variety of courses, along with a number for the student who is not interested in a four-year degree, including culinary arts management, helicopter pilot training, nursing assistant, pipefitting, machinist, computer training, radio/TV, crime scene technician, real estate (online), pharmacy technology, court reporting, veterinary assistant, emergency medical technology, electronic diagnostics and criminal justice.

San Jac Vice Chancellor Allatia Harris said area businesses are proponents of short-term workforce programs as they need employees immediately and those who can contribute on their first day on the job.

“The construction sector and the health care industry need workers right now,” she added.

Expanding Horizons

February 1st, 2016

Photo: San Jacinto College

Photo: San Jacinto College

San Jacinto College’s new maritime training center boosts emerging program

By Rod Evans

Teaching someone how to moor a tanker or guide a tug boat through a narrow space between two hulking barges is considerably more difficult when the instruction is being done on dry land and the closest body of water is the hotel swimming pool across the street.

But for students enrolled in San Jacinto College’s Maritime Education program, the heavily traveled waters of the Houston Ship Channel serve as both laboratory and classroom after the opening of the new Maritime Technology and Training Center in La Porte. The $18 million, 45,000-square-foot facility, which officially opened on Jan. 4 of this year, is located practically on the docks and represents a remarkable upgrade over the previous building, which was basically a converted warehouse.

“There is lots of excitement because the building is brand new and because of its location,” said Amy Arrowood, a maritime instructor at San Jacinto College. “It’s right on the turning basin, so we can be talking about a specific topic and it could be happening right outside our windows.”

The building houses three ship simulators, an engineering room, a swimming pool and nearly triple the classroom space as the old building. Arrowood said the college was limited in both the number of classes it could offer and the number of students in each class due to the cramped quarters of the previous facility, which had a total of five classrooms. With 17 classrooms now, officials hope to increase class offerings, which could result in a spike in enrollment.

“We wanted to hold additional classes and the industry needed additional classes, but we couldn’t hold them from a logistical standpoint because we just didn’t have the classroom space. Now we’ve got more classrooms and a variety of those rooms, too. For example, before we had five radar simulators and could teach up to 10 people in the room. Now, we have two (radar) rooms of 24 (students) each,” Arrowood said.

Tellepsen Builders served as the general contractor on the project, while Texas IBI Group was the architect. Brooks & Sparks was the civil engineer and Rizzo & Associates filled the program manager role.

According to Port of Houston Authority figures, the 25-mile Port of Houston generates $178.5 billion in statewide economic impact and another $4.5 billion in state and local tax revenues each year. The complex also creates over one million ship channel related jobs statewide, and the demand for skilled and educated workers shows no signs of abating. San Jacinto College, through its maritime program, is helping industries doing business along the ship channel find the qualified employees they need to meet the demands of the 21st century. Launched in the fall semester of 2012, the program offers continuing education courses and an associate degree in maritime transportation that combines United States Coast Guard and Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW)-approved training with the college level academics required of an associate degree.

“All of our classes on the continuing education side are Coast Guard-approved classes that exist because they are required by the Coast Guard for mariners in order to maintain or upgrade their licenses and certification,” Arrowood said. “Right now, we don’t offer every Coast Guard approved course, but our goal is to increase from 35 (courses) to closer to 90 to 100.”

Courses offered run the gamut from Able Bodied Seaman to Radar Observer to Basic Fire Fighting to Leadership and Managerial Skills. Arrowood says the program includes continuing education and professional development courses for current maritime employees looking to advance their careers or earn required certifications, in addition to the two-year associates program. She says the new facility will allow administrators to offer more flexible course schedules for maritime employees who work non-traditional schedules.

“We can now hold classes more frequently. A lot of mariners work four weeks on, four weeks off, so if we’re running a class every four weeks, some mariners could never catch certain classes. The new building allows us to increase the availability of classes, so we should see our enrollment numbers increase,” Arrowood said.

Arrowood said the continuing education program has issued over 3,500 certifications since its inception and there are currently 42 students enrolled in the associates degree program and officials are hoping to see huge gains in both numbers as early as this fall thanks to the increased classroom capacity offered by the new facility. The program’s staff is comprised of Coast Guard-approved ship masters, chief engineers, former U.S. Navy and Merchant Marine officers, as well as skilled technicians, who will be able to impart their wisdom in a center that has no equal in the region.

“The gulf coast was missing a one-stop shop for all maritime training. You could get radar training at a certain place or a different class here or there, but there wasn’t one place you could go for all of your maritime training,” Arrowood said. “We will offer that eventually once we get all of the Coast Guard courses here. We will be that one-stop shop, whether it’s for a tow boat captain, tankerman or cruise ship captain; we will be offering classes for the inland industry, the near coastal industry and the large, blue water industry.”

Arrowood said local industry leaders have been demanding more skilled maritime workers for years now, and the new facility should help position San Jac to help meet the demand that’s been fueled by increases in imports and exports and the rapid growth in the production of plastics by manufacturers along the ship channel.

“We work closely with our advisory committee on what we can do in our program and classes in order to turn out the best mariners. We couldn’t do what we do without them,” Arrowood said.

She says in addition to providing a launching point for young students hoping to land entry level positions in the maritime industry, administrators are hopeful the expanded facility will be a boon to workers looking to enhance their ability to move up to higher paying, more rewarding positions through the continuing education program. By offering open enrollment, workers eyeing a change in their career path will be afforded fast-track curriculum options, while contract training programs are also offered that are designed in partnership with companies to address specific needs to keep workers competitive in their respective field. For more information on the maritime program at San Jacinto College, visit

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