AISD Awards Belated Diplomas to War Veterans

It’s a graduation that’s been years in the making.  On Veterans Day, the Austin Independent School District awarded 11 veterans with diplomas from their respective high schools.  It’s a ceremony that AISD has held since 2002, offering veterans who did not finish high school and who served in any formally declared war or military engagement a chance to don the cap and gown.  For some, it’s a chance they’ve waited years to take.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted,” said Air Force veteran Doyle Hobbs.  ”It seemed like a gift from heaven.”

“I completed my G.E.D.,” recalled U.S. Military veteran Eugenio Gaona.  ”But I always wished I could get it converted so I could have a diploma from my hometown.  Now I’m happy. I have a high school diploma from my high school.”

Click here for more information on the AISD Diploma Award Ceremony and eligibility requirements.

KLRU News Briefs air locally every Saturday and Sunday evening during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

 

American Graduate: TX Veterans Commission Kicks Off ‘Drop Your Rucksack, Grab a Backpack’ Campaign

Sunday during PBS NewsHour, KLRU’s News Brief is part of American Graduate, a focus on the Central Texas dropout crisis. This week we spoke to the Texas Veterans Commission about their new campaign “Drop Your Rucksack, Grab a Backpack,” which launches on Veteran’s Day. It is aimed at encouraging Texas veterans to use the education benefits available to them.

“Sometimes veterans coming out of the service feel like they don’t have time to go back to school and get an education but fortunately the military has set up the post 9/11 G.I. Bill that pays for their college education and gives them a stipend on top of that,” Bonnie Fletcher, Education Specialist at the Texas Veterans Commission said. “The State of Texas also has a state benefit, the Hazelwood Act. We offer up to a 150 credit hours of tuition paid at any public school in Texas. These are benefits that you’ve earned and they’re there for you to utilize.”

We spoke to Dan Hamilton, a Junior at the University of Texas, who served in the Marine Corps after high school and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. You can hear more about his story, and about the program, in the video above.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm. Do you have an American Graduate story idea? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at CivicSummit@klru.org, post a comment, or tweet at us using #amgradtx. 

KLRU News Briefs: Inside Esquina Tango and Thinkery Offers Bilingual Storytime

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On Saturday evening KLRU’s local news story during PBS NewsHour is an excerpt from Arts in Context Shorts’ With Panache, a look inside Esquina Tango in East Austin. Teachers Mickey Jacobs and Orazzio Loayza say tango is great for all people, regardless of fitness level.

“I think it’s important of people of all ages to be able to enjoy dance. We believe in health and well-being and dance offers that,” Jacobs said.

“We have people in their 40s, 50s, 60s. It’s good for their health because you’re not running, you’re walking and what is a better exercise than just walking,” Loayza said.

Some classes at the non-profit dance studio are free, some are donation only, and some cost between $12-$15 per class.

On Sunday our story is about The Thinkery’s Bilingual Storytime program. Storytime happens on Community Nights, twice per week, when the museum stays open late and the entrance fee is based upon a donation of any size.

Every Wednesday evening, children’s books are read in English and Spanish by volunteer bilingual students from the University of Texas. Museum staff say the premise came from a desire to bring different cultures together while fostering early literacy.

“The majority of the families are Spanish speaking, or just monolingual and just want their kid to learn Spanish. And to bring those two different communities together in one bilingual storytime is very important,” Sasha Ellington, The Thinkery’s Floor Supervisor said.

On Sunday evenings they offer bilingual storytime with English and American Sign Language.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm.

 

 

KLRU News Briefs: Revel in Old School Charm at the Drive-In and Voter Registration Deadline Nears

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Our Saturday news brief during PBS NewsHour Weekend comes from KLRU’s Arts in Context Shorts series. This week they go inside The Blue Starlite, a vintage drive-in which utilizes vintage speakers, trailers and the tarmac of the former airport.

A few nights every week cars gather just before sundown and line up in front of the screen, the distant city skyline appearing as a backdrop. What started as a stunt to impress his then girlfriend and now wife, owner Josh Frank’s drive-in has grown to accommodate up to 50 cars, a handful of walk-ins, and a Winnebago-housed concession stand.

“The whole combined experience, especially with being outside and under the stars – it’s just a very unique experience that’s totally outside of what you would get at a traditional theater,” Manager Gregg Wehmeier said.

The last day to register to vote in the November election is Monday, October 6. So, on Sunday, we take a look back at the final two debates for Lieutenant Governor and Governor, which both took place this week. Monday, in the race for Lt. Governor, Republican Nominee Dan Patrick and Democratic Nominee Leticia Van de Putte faced off in KLRU’s Studio 6A. On Tuesday, Gubernatorial candidates, Republican Nominee Greg Abbott and Democratic Nominee Wendy Davis, debated in the KERA studio in Dallas.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. 

KLRU News Brief: Lt. Governor Debate Preview

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On Sunday evening during PBS NewsHour Weekend we’ll preview the only scheduled debate in the race for Lieutenant Governor of Texas.

Republican nominee State Senator Dan Patrick and Democratic nominee State Senator Leticia Van de Putte will face off in KLRU’s Studio 6A Monday, September 29, at 7pm. Texas Lieutenant Governor Debate 2014 will be broadcast statewide on PBS stations, on radio and on some commercial TV stations.

You can also join the conversation on social media with the hashtag: #LtGovDebate.

KLRU News Briefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm. 

KLRU NewsBrief: Huston-Tillotson Launches First Master’s Program

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour, Austin’s oldest university is beginning a new chapter in its 140 year history.

Huston-Tillotson University will launch its first ever Master’s program in January. The degree is a Master’s in Educational Leadership with a principal certification. Principals in Texas are required to have Master’s degrees but most program offer the certification separately. Dr. Ruth Kane, Department of Educator Preparation Department Chair, said the program prepares graduates to fill a void in school administrations in our region.

“Research says that it’s important that students have a person who is their teacher or administrator or their counselor or even their librarian that looks like them, who they have an easier time relating to,” Dr. Kane said. “We have many wonderful Anglo principals out there but they can’t be everything to African-American and Hispanic students.”

Corey Wiggins, a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher at Kealing Middle School, is hoping to join the program in January. He’s been teaching for three years and said he does think students would benefit from more African-American or Hispanic principals in area schools.

“I think that just having that awareness of knowing how certain things work in certain families based on socioeconomic background and things like that, it really makes a really big impact,” Wiggins said.

The program is four semesters and is designed for working teachers.

This story airs Sunday evening at 6:30pm during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

 

 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Education Advocates Focus on Attendance, UT Program Supports Financially Independent Students

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The school year is now in full swing, and we have two education stories during PBS NewsHour this weekend to help ease you into things.

On Saturday, we hear from AISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz about why attendance is one of the district’s top priorities.

“We can tell from early on, as early as 5th grade, we can look at if a student is meeting promotion standards, if the student has a good attendance record and if a student is passing all of his or her classes,” Dr. Cruz said. “If that’s not happening, there’s a student who is at risk of not graduating on time with his or her class. [Our first step is] an immediate conversation with the parents to see what we can do to help out the student and the family.”

On Sunday, we hear about Horns Helping Horns, a group from New Student Services on the UT campus which offers emotional and financial support to students who are not receiving any financial help from family.

“I think students have challenges no matter what their background is and I think our students and our community a lot of times because they don’t have that emotional and financial support are dealing with a lot more stuff,” Esmer Bedia, the Horns Helping Horns Coordinator said. “But, the majority of our students are succeeding and graduating and I think that’s because we’re telling them, ya’ll can do it, you will do it and they do succeed.”

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday evening at 6:30. 

 

 

 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Drought impacts state’s freshwater supply

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we have two stories that’ll make you appreciate your local swimming hole over the holiday weekend. Both stories come from our partners at The Texas Tribune.

Labor Day tubers heading for the Guadalupe River may want to watch our story from the Tribune’s Alana Rocha on Saturday. Riders are seeing slower currents and at some spots they have to get out and walk.

“With the reduced spring flow, the speed of the current is so slow that what normally a float trip would require a six-pack – now will require a case,” Bill West of the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority quipped.

A longer version of this story is available on The Texas Tribune’s website.

On Sunday, our story travels further south from Austin, all the way to Matagorda Bay. The state’s second largest estuary is at the intersection of the inter-coastal waterway and the Colorado River. Less rain means less freshwater flowing into the area, which is harming seafood and the businesses that depend on it.

“For the Bay to recover we need several things: we need a lot of rain. Also we need to look for cooperative management of our freshwater inflows into the bay,” Leslie Hartman, Matagorda Bay Ecosystem Leader for Texas Parks and Wildlife said. “Certainly people in Austin need fresh water but our bays need fresh water as well.

You can see an extended version of that story here.

 KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Expanding Health Education in Austin and Harris County Jail program helps female inmates

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On Saturday during PBS NewsHour Weekend, we hear about an Austin based non-profit establishing innovative techniques in the realm of healthy living education.

KLRU intern Bria Lott brings us the story about WeViva, an organization dedicated to promoting healthy eating and regular fitness habits to adults living in Austin’s low income communities. They provide a team of traveling nutritionists and fitness instructors to people who might not have access to these resources otherwise.

“We bring it to locations that may not have that supportive environment built in. Maybe they’re typically unsafe neighborhoods or people don’t want to go outside, but by bringing something to them that’s fun and enjoyable and free they’ll want to come out for it,” Founder Carolyn Haney said.

In the beginning stages WeViva started in only one neighborhood. They now serve 14 communities across Austin with intentions for growth in the near future.

On Sunday, our story comes from our partners at The Texas Tribune. Reporter Alana Rocha went inside the Harris County Jail to talk to female inmates participating in the “We’ve Been There Done That” rehabilitation program.

Most of the women have been charged with prostitution and those sentenced to the program must serve a minimum of 90 days, time that counts toward their sentence. The program has been so successful that the 83rd state legislature passed a law to establish prostitution courts elsewhere in Texas.

You can learn more about the program in the Tribune’s story here.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30 on Saturday and Sunday evening. 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Austin’s Growing Muslim Community and a New Farm School

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On Saturday during PBS NewsHour we hear about Austin’s growing Muslim population. Muslims around the world marked the end of Ramadan this week with Eid al-Fitr. Thousands of worshipers gathered at the North Austin Event Center on Monday to pray and listen to a sermon. It was a huge turnout for the growing community in Austin, and next  year organizers are planning to move to an even bigger venue.

“Every year is more than we can handle,” Imam Islam Mossaad of the North Austin Community Center said Monday.

Imam Islam said that growth comes from immigrants from all over the world, as well as new converts.

“Muslims [are] spread out throughout the rest of the world, 1.5 billion Muslims, [and] in Austin that diversity is reflected. But also with the added touch of people who are Caucasian-American or African-American or Latino-American who are also coming into Islam,” Imam Islam said. “You have more than 80 different countries represented here today, probably more than that, but we are all also Americans at the same time and so we practice our faith here freely.”

On Sunday, our story is about Austin’s first ever farm school, opening this fall. Farmer Starter grew out of Farmshare Austin, a non-profit focused on educating Central Texans about farming and increasing access to organic, locally-grown food.

“It’s a very challenging business and this is a kind of challenging environment to do it in but we feel that local organic food is a human right and that people should have access to that kind of product and so we want to make sure that it’s widely available in our community,” Farmshare Austin Executive Director Taylor Cook said.

Enrolled students will live and work on the Farmer Starter farm, 10 miles east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, for six months. They will learn seed starting, harvesting, marketing, as well as financial and business planning, among other skills.

Farmshare Austin is currently trying to raise $50,000 in an Indiegogo campaign to fund construction and student scholarships. You can learn more about the school on their website.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally on Saturday and Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend starting at 6:30pm.