American Graduate Champion: Briana Lopez


KLRU shares the inspiring stories of the people that are making our community a success! As part of our American Graduate initiative, we’re honoring American Graduate Champions that have been submitted by the community.

briana-lopez-lifeworks-logoToday’s Champion is Briana Lopez! Briana is a mother of two and a full-time retail employee who recently obtained her GED through Lifeworks. Briana aspires to study pharmacy and plans on attending ACC and eventually Texas State or UT.

Jaime Rich, Briana’s nominator, says, “Briana’s story shows her determination to further her education, no matter how difficult or scary it seemed. She was driven to make a better life for herself and her girls. Despite the many roles and commitments in her life, she was able to carve a place in her daily routine for her education.”

Do you know someone in our community who is working to improve high school success for students throughout Central Texas? Recognize them as an American Graduate Champion! American Graduate Champions can be students who work as mentors, business leaders who serve as role models, school officials making changes to better the system, parent activists, and even struggling students who are overcoming obstacles in order to graduate.

American Graduate Champion: Libby Lucera


KLRU shares the inspiring stories of the people that are making our community a success! As part of our American Graduate initiative, we’re honoring American Graduate Champions that have been submitted by the community.

libby-luceraToday’s Champion is Libby Lucera! Libby is the French teacher and French club sponsor at Westlake High School. She teaches her students to love the language and culture, as well as how to be successful learners in her class and beyond.

Her nominator, Natalie Cannon, says, “She provides meaningful and valuable feedback on everything that her students do. It is so important that her students have immediate feedback that she spends many hours every night and weekend to make it happen. She also creates notes, guides, practice sheets and everything that she gives to them by herself. She is there to help them when they need it, and she does it with grace and enthusiasm.”

Do you know someone in our community who is working to improve high school success for students throughout Central Texas? Recognize them as an American Graduate Champion! American Graduate Champions can be students who work as mentors, business leaders who serve as role models, school officials making changes to better the system, parent activists, and even struggling students who are overcoming obstacles in order to graduate.

American Graduate Champion: Liz Conway Plachta


KLRU shares the inspiring stories of the people that are making our community a success! As part of our American Graduate initiative, we’re honoring American Graduate Champions that have been submitted by the community.

liz-conway-plachtaToday’s Champion is Liz Conway Plachta! Liz runs a nonprofit organization called Ruby’s Rainbow that grants scholarships to adults with Down syndrome who are seeking post-secondary educational opportunities.

Liz’s nominator, Galia Farber, says, “In 2010, Liz and her husband Tim had an adorable daughter Ruby – who was born with an extra chromosome. They knew they wanted to ensure that Ruby had all the opportunities possible for her success in education and in life, and this quickly expanded into Liz wanting to help others with Down syndrome be able to go on to college as well. Inspired by her daughter, Liz founded the organization Ruby’s Rainbow and started fundraising to help provide college scholarships to help individuals with Down syndrome.”

Do you know someone in our community who is working to improve high school success for students throughout Central Texas? Recognize them as an American Graduate Champion! American Graduate Champions can be students who work as mentors, business leaders who serve as role models, school officials making changes to better the system, parent activists, and even struggling students who are overcoming obstacles in order to graduate.

An Eastside Education: Behind the story

An Eastside Education tells the story of an Austin high school struggling to meet state standards. For years Eastside Memorial High School has been plagued by failing test scores and negative headlines. The story follows one semester as teachers, parents, administrators, and students fight to meet state accountability standards or watch their school be closed.

To see what it took to put the project together, we sat down with the KLRU minds behind the project, producer and writer Allison Sandza and videographer and editor Blair Waltman-Alexin.

Q: Where did the idea for the project come from?

A: KLRU was awarded a grant by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which made us an American Graduate station, which funded reporting on the dropout crisis in our region. So, we wanted to take a hyperlocal look at the dropout crisis in our region and we started talking about what schools we could use as a lens to talk about that issue, and we remembered Eastside Memorial. Everyone in Austin has heard about Eastside Memorial before. It’s had a lot of bad press for over 10 years. It hasn’t been able to meet state accountability, it’s been repurposed, renamed, all these different things, so we thought, “Hmm, let’s check in there.” We had recently met the dropout prevention specialist, or the graduation coach [at Eastside], and he mentioned to us just offhand that the dropout rate at Eastside had dropped from 6 percent to 1 percent in just a few years, so that kind of peaked our interest as well. We went over there, we started talking to them, and we realized there was so much more to the story, so we wanted to follow them for a whole semester and see what a school like Eastside was like for a whole semester. -A.S.

Q: What was it like spending an entire semester at Eastside?

A: It was interesting. It was very different from how you normally approach filming and producing a news-focused story, because if you’re doing a regular news piece on a school, you’re in a classroom for maybe 15 minutes, get a few shots, talk to a couple of people, and then that’s it, you kind of leave, you’re disassociated from the group, and there’s more distance between you and your subject. But with this, we were checking in with the principal all throughout the semester, checking in with the same teachers all throughout the semester, asking them, “How are things going? How do you feel like you’re doing with testing?” So you get a lot more involved than you normally do with a regular news story. Also, you’re trying so hard not to be obtrusive, but you have to be there so much more of the time. We spent a lot of time in one of the teacher’s English classes, so you’re hanging out for maybe, like, an hour, waiting for the class to end so you can interview her, and then you also want to get her teaching the class, so you’re trying to cover that as much as you can, but then also not distract the students, because they’re there to learn and you’re trying to not interfere with that, so it’s a little bit different. You’re trying to be there as much as you can, and also be invisible as much as you can. -B.W.

And so much of the story at Eastside relies on how they’re going to perform on the STAAR test, the state accountability exam, so much of the spring semester that we were there has to do with that test that happens in March and April. So it was interesting to be able to watch these students come back from winter break, you know, everyone’s still kind of on vacation mode, then buckle down, do mock testing, do the real test, deal with the emotional and physical exhaustion that goes into taking this five-hour exam, and then watch these administrators and the students and the teachers wait for test scores to come back. It was a really interesting thing to see, just the spectrum, and then you end with graduation, which again, is a celebratory thing, and people getting ready for vacation. I’m glad that we followed them during the spring semester, I think that was a really interesting thing to experience. -A.S.

Q: The media hasn’t been friendly to Eastside in recent years. What was your reception on campus from students and teachers who are concerned about bad press for their school?

A: It seemed like there was a little bit of unease, not everybody, but a few people. There would be a little bit of, you know, “What are you going to say about our school?” And I think that’s a well-deserved emotion for them to have, because they’ve had kind of a rough time in the media for several years, and you think, “Oh, someone else is going to come in and bash our kids, or our teachers, and we’re trying really hard.” Sometimes there would be a little bit of, “What are you doing?” And then we would explain what the project was, and then it was this very immediate, “Oh, okay, that’s cool,” and that seemed to kind of break the tension, once they understood it was a long-form project, that we wanted to talk about how much they’re fighting to stay open, and the history of the school, and it seemed like that put people at ease pretty quickly. -B.W.

I also thought it was interesting that you could tell that these kids had been on camera before, and that there had been cameras in their school before. I think if you went to some of the other high schools in the area, and maybe elsewhere in the state, maybe they would be waving at the camera, but these Eastside kids and their parents and the teachers have been through this before, and yes, there was that standoffishness because they wanted to know, is this another round of bad press that was on the way? But it was almost like they could get used to ignoring a camera in a classroom. It was sort of bizarre in that way, and sort of sad. -A.S.

Yeah, I was thinking about a couple of other shoots we’ve done at other high schools, and that does kind of seem to be a thing, you get this weird look from kids like, “Why are you here and what are you doing in my classroom?” And they’ll either get really nervous and giggly, or they’ll immediately just hide their face, but most of those kids at Eastside, they kind of had this familiarity with, “Oh, it’s a news crew in our school,” and then they just kind of go about their routine. -B.W. 

Q: What did you learn from this project and what should the public take away from the story?

A: I think the biggest takeaway was how many people it takes to keep a school afloat and successful. Everyone thinks of teachers right away, they might think of the principal, but Eastside’s a school with support staff, with outside organizations that help them. Some parents are super involved, some parents aren’t involved at all because they work multiple jobs. But they also have proud alumni who come back to the school, and Eastside’s actually a really small school. It’s probably one of the smallest high schools, if not the smallest high school, in the district. It was a major takeaway, just how many people put their everything into keeping this school alive, you know, even their own money to help these kids be successful. It was pretty inspiring, actually. -A.S.

Yeah, I would say it almost kind of felt like there was this small gravitational pull toward the school, where you have kids that graduated that wanted to come back and help out or do what they could to support the school and show that it’s a school worth fighting for and that there are success stories there. And you had teachers that would stay late every night to work on stuff. There are teachers that help students pay for their prom dresses. It was that type of staff, where they could go home and chill out, but they’re spending their time at the school. You have community members at the school, you have some people in the area that volunteer in their free time to help out with different extracurricular activities because they want to. It just seemed like there’s this pull to do something there and there’s a pride people have in that community for that school that they want to hold it up and see it survive. -B.W.

And I think the takeaway from that is that if this school does get shuttered, it’s more than just students that’ll be relocated and teachers that will get relocated. It’s an entire community that really is fighting to keep it open. When they all used the word to tell us that if the school gets shut down it’ll be “devastating” to this community, I think even a cynical journalist would hear that and learn about the school while reporting on it all semester and say, “Yeah, I think you’re right. I think it would be devastating.” -A.S.


An Eastside Education is part of KLRU’s American Graduate initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The American Graduate initiative seeks to establish a clearer understanding about why students drop out of high school and how drop out impacts our economy and society. An Eastside Education examines these issues up close by exploring how one school, in an at-risk community, is overcoming years of poor performance and trending toward success.

Click here to watch the full six-part digital news project, An Eastside Education.

POV: StoryCorps Shorts


POV continues to share Mike and Tim Rauch’s distinctive and delightful animations, bringing StoryCorps to a new audience. Since 2003, StoryCorps has been recording and preserving the voices of everyday people, one conversation at a time. For the past seven years, the producers have shared one of these stories each week on NPR. The StoryCorps collection is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

To watch all of the StoryCorps Shorts in partnership with POV, click here.

The Last Viewing 2015 PBS Online Film Festival Selection
Allen Hoe tells the story of a chance encounter with a stranger who knew his son, Army 1st Lt. Nainoa K. Hoe, who died in Iraq.

To R.P. Salazar, with Love
In January 2007, Rachel P. Salazar and Ruben P. Salazar were living 9,000 miles apart and completely unaware of each other’s existence. But when an email meant for Rachel accidentally went to Ruben, it wasn’t long before an ordinary mistake began to look like an extraordinary stroke of luck.

Me and You
In New York, 73-year-old Jackie Miller talks to her adopted son, Scott, revealing something about her early life that sheds new light on his adoption. As they express their profound love for one another, Scott touchingly recalls how he came out to her and expresses his trepidation about the future.

Marking the Distance
When Gweneviere Mann, a San Francisco native living in New York, lost her short-term memory following surgery to remove a brain tumor, she was forced to navigate life in a new way. Every day brought new puzzles: Where was she? Who was the person talking to her? With the support of her boyfriend, Yasir Salem, she found she could tackle the challenges her condition threw her way — and a few more.

July 2015 Family Choice

KLRU chooses three to four programs each month for your family to enjoy and view together. In July 2015, we have the following lined up:

Wednesday, July 1st at 7:00 pm: Operation Wild #1
This three-part BBC co-production series explores the pioneering work of vets around the world as they use cutting-edge techniques to try and save the lives of wild animals.In the first program, learn whether an ingenious idea could help save giant pandas, and if an operation deep in the jungle can transform the life of a young gorilla. Watch as an elephant with a gunshot wound makes an extraordinary journey.

Saturday, July 4 at 7pm: Capitol Fourth
Celebrate the country’s 239th birthday with an all-star musical extravaganza and the greatest display of fireworks anywhere in the nation. America’s favorite Independence Day celebration is broadcast live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

Wednesday, July 8th at 7pm: Operation Wild #2
In the second program, find out how pioneering medicine is transforming ways to tend to animals. See a rhino’s groundbreaking skin graft after poachers stole her horns and an orangutan’s micro-surgery to try to restore her sight – and her freedom.

Wednesday, July 15th at 7 pm: Operation Wild #3
In the final program, witness extreme dentistry on a five-ton elephant and keyhole surgery on a giant tortoise. Find out if a remarkable invention can help a dolphin swim again.



A Capitol Fourth 2015: 35th Anniversary

Celebrating 35 spectacular years on the air, 2015′s A Capitol Fourth will kick off the country’s 239th birthday with an all-star musical extravaganza that puts viewers front and center for the greatest display of fireworks anywhere in the nation.

America’s favorite Independence Day celebration is broadcast live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home and our troops watching around the world on the American Forces Network.

This year, a parade of superstars — Barry Manilow, Nicole Scherzinger, Hunter Hayes, Meghan Linsey, KC and the Sunshine Band, The Alabama Band, Lang Lang, Ronan Tynan, Robert Davi, Bradley Whitford, Jack Everly, The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Band “Perishing’s Own,” The U.S. Army Presidential Salute Battery, the Choral Arts Society of Washington and the Military District of Washington — will offer the best in American entertainment and help set the tone for a spectacular American birthday party.

A Capitol Fourth premieres on KLRU at 7 pm on July 4, with repeat airings at 8:30 pm, 11 pm, and 3 am on July 5. For more information, check out the show’s official website here!

Host your own Fourth of July cookout with these recipes!

Fourth of July means fireworks, the outdoors, family, friends and FOOD. If you’re planning on hosting guests at a cookout, we’ve gathered some recipes and how-to videos to help you whip up something your family and friends will love this Fourth of July.


What’s a cookout without barbecue?  Our friend Aaron Franklin is here to help you make your grilled goods outstanding. Watch episode one of BBQ with Franklin for a step-by-step brisket cook experiment using three different methods and learn more about brisket in the process.

Not a brisket fan? Franklin can also show you tips on cooking ribs and pulled pork. Follow the links below to watch the videos or go here for all videos from BBQ with Franklin!


No Texas cookout is complete without guacamole. Try this easy Foodphiles recipe, and don’t forget to grab a bag of your favorite tortilla chips so your friends and family can snack while the barbecue’s on the grill.

Another healthy, delicious snack your cookout attendees will love: Sweet potato fries. Fry ‘em up in the oven and whip up a homemade chipotle mayo as a dipping sauce. Try this recipe from Fresh Tastes (and don’t forget to double or triple the recipe, depending on how many people you’re entertaining).


Strawberry lemonade (Image courtesy Fresh Tastes)

Strawberry lemonade (Image courtesy Fresh Tastes)

For your adult friends, check out these garden cocktail recipes from Central Texas Gardener. Get tips from Trisha on whipping up a cool cucumber, tomato tonic or peach bourbon cocktail.

For a tasty non-alcoholic refresher, serve strawberry lemonade with fresh fruit. Go here for a recipe from Fresh Tastes featuring tips on how to tone down the sweetness if you don’t have a sweet tooth.

And, of course, it is Texas…so it’s always good to have a pitcher or two of sweet tea on hand.


What’s a good barbecue meal without coleslaw? Go here for a recipe for Fresh Tastes’ no-mayo coleslaw, a healthier alternative to store-bought slaw, with a touch of honey, olive oil and lemon juice.

Courtesy Fresh Tastes

Watermelon feta salad (Image courtesy Fresh Tastes)

For a refreshing summer salad, try Fresh Tastes’ savory-sweet watermelon feta salad recipe, courtesy of food blogger Alice Currah. Click here for the recipe, and you can find more of Alice’s recipes here.

Courtesy Fresh Tastes

Grilled asparagus raclette (Image courtesy Fresh Tastes)

For another healthy side, toss some asparagus on the grill. Asparagus is a superfood and contains folate, a B vitamin that serves as an excellent mood booster. This grilled asparagus recipe from Fresh Tastes incorporates an American twist on raclette, a cheese served melted in many parts of Switzerland, but feel free to use any cheese you want. You can’t go wrong with grilled veggies and melted cheese.


Courtesy Martha Bakes

Pecan tassies (Image courtesy Martha Bakes)

For easy-to-eat dessert bites, try Martha Stewart’s pecan tassies recipe. Martha takes you step-by-step through making your own dough and filling for these tiny pecan bites.

Does any food scream “Fourth of July” more than apple pie? Check out this simple recipe, or if apple’s not your game, try this raspberry pie recipe from Fresh Tastes.

Peach cobbler may not be “as American as apple pie,” but it’s pretty close. Try this recipe to make individual peach cobbler cups for your guests — and don’t forget to buy a gallon of vanilla ice cream for peach cobbler a la mode!

Courtesy Everyday Baking PBS

Individual peach cobbler (Image courtesy Everyday Baking)

What’s your favorite Fourth of July food? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Click here for more Fourth of July-themed recipes from PBS Food.

Arts in Context: Somos Krudas

Having survived under a totalitarian regime, Cuban hip-hop duo Krudas Cubensi refuses to compromise. Lyrically, nothing is off limits as they spit fiery lines about politics and sexuality with a frankness and openness that is seldom seen. With a persistent Afro-Cuban rhythm, Odaymara Cuesta and Olivia Prendes use their art as a weapon “to fight against oppression, for justice, for balance, for our rights, to celebrate the life.” Now based out of Austin, Texas, Krudas Cubensi continues their fight for social justice through their incendiary, original hip-hop.

Austin City Limits Hall of Fame 2015

Austin City Limits

The Austin City Limits Hall of Fame recognizes both performing artists and special individuals who have been instrumental in making the long-running show a music institution. The second induction ceremony took place June 18, 2015. The Austin City Limits Hall of Fame is located at The Moody Theater. This year’s ceremony inducted Asleep at the Wheel, Loretta Lynn, Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Flaco Jiménez, and the ACL Crew of Season 1.

Asleep at the Wheel
A national as well as Texas institution, the Grammy-winning Austin band Asleep at the Wheel has kept the Western swing flame burning with “Boogie Back toTexas,” “Choo Choo Ch’boogie” and “The Letter That Johnny Walker Read.” Still led by Ray Benson, the band taped the first regular episode (following the pilot) of Austin City Limits in 1975, going on to appear eleven times, including an episode in our upcoming 41st season.

Loretta Lynn
With over 70 chart hits, including “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’,” “She’s Got You” and the immortal “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta Lynn is a living legend of country music. The Kentucky-born singer and songwriter is also a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and performer on two classic episodes of Austin City Limits.

Guy Clark
Texas native and songwriter’s songwriter Guy Clark owns a huge catalog of standards, including “L.A. Freeway,” “Desperados Waiting For a Train,” “Heartbroke,” “The Randall Knife” and “Dublin Blues.” His songs have been recorded by Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Jimmy Buffett, Steve Wariner and many more. He’s also made seven appearances on Austin City Limits.

Townes Van Zandt
Fort Worth native Townes Van Zandt is a songwriting legend who set the standard for legions of Texas troubadours with songs like “Pancho & Lefty,” “If I Needed You,” “To Live is to Fly” and “Tecumseh Valley.” His songs have been recorded by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Guy Clark, Robert Plant and more, and continue to be an inspiration to modern-day singer/songwriters like Laura Marling. Van Zandt made two memorable appearances on Austin City Limits, including in the first season in 1975.

Flaco Jiménez
Legendary Tex-Mex Tejano accordionist Flaco Jiménez has been performing for over six decades and is the recipient of a 2015 Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award. The son of conjunto pioneer Santiago Jiménez, the San Antonio native has made eight appearances on Austin City Limits, including guest spots with Dwight Yoakam and Los Lobos.

ACL Crew – Season 1
Camera operators, grips, sound engineers, floor managers, makeup, lighting and technical directors – the men and woman that comprised the first crew of Austin City Limits are the unsung heroes of the show. The crew all worked on various other productions for KLRU and didn’t realize at the time they were making history. In fact, no photos exist of the crew themselves – the best the Austin City Limits archives can offer is images of the empty set.