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Election day is November 3rd! Go vote!

Voting can be scary, but do not let that stop you from casting your ballot! No matter who you decide to vote for, have your vote counted. (cartoon by Austin Pena)

AC instructor Grimes named president of TADE

By Gary Stallard, AC sports information

Angelina College’s Aaron Grimes was selected recently as president of the Texas Association of Developmental Education, which is the Texas chapter of the National Organization for Student Success.

 The Lufkin native, an instructor in AC’s School of Arts and Education, said TADE “exists to provide useful tools, resources and support to all college faculty and employees.”

“One of the most beneficial opportunities we provide is our state College Academic Support Programs conference,” Grimes said. “We work with the Texas chapter of the College Reading and Learning Association to bring this quality conference to Texas every year.

“The element of developmental education, as any educator well knows, is in a constant state of flux and change, and the CASP conference addresses many of these changing issues in developmental education. We are proud to be the Texas state chapter of NOSS, and we are also proud of the fact that we are one of the largest chapters in the organization, serving a vast array of colleges across our state.” 

Grimes said his organization recently launched a new website ( in an effort to establish a web presence to “unify our processes and communicate more efficiently.”

“My main focus for TADE is to strengthen what we already have in place,” Grimes said. “We will substantially improve our conference and what it offers.”

NOSS, according to information located on its website, “exists to assist educational professionals in making a positive difference in the lives of students.”

“The Texas chapter of NOSS pledges to do the same,” Grimes said. “TADE helps provide a quality professional conference that offers professionals the latest in research and tremendous opportunities to network with colleagues regarding what works best in post-secondary developmental education.”

 Grimes earned his associate of applied science degree from AC and his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stephen F. Austin State University. Prior to arriving at AC as an instructor, Grimes was an English teacher at Nacogdoches High School for 10 years.

“I am following some extremely talented and innovative leaders,” Grimes said. “I consider it a great honor to have the confidence of the CASP board and membership in my leadership. This is a great opportunity to help provide direction and support to those involved in developmental education. Struggling students need support and guidance. “I am reminded of something John Andrew Holmes said: ‘There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.’ We help get students to the next level.” 

Angelina College School of Arts and Education instructor Aaron Grimes recently was named president of the Texas Association of Developmental Education, which is the Texas chapter of the National Organization for Student Success. (Gary Stallard/AC Press photo)

Film and graphic design instructor describes teaching during pandemic

By Guillermo Gutierrez, graphic arts student

Angelina College graphic arts instructor Reg Reynolds has found adapting to teaching virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic a challenge but also stimulating.

He said, “Learning to teach online was an exercise in flexibility. Working from home, I found I had long stretches of time to write and produce content for all my classes.

“I have been shooting video programs that present the principles and elements of design, lighting for film, history of art for Art Appreciation and various graphic arts assignments. I also made several commercials about AC.”

According to Reynolds, the challenge was in presenting “design concepts to students who are all home-bound, but most students accepted the challenge.”

With AC’s enrollment figures down for the fall semester, Reynolds was surprised that the graphic arts classes were filled. He said, “I never thought that online classes would be so popular.”

Reynolds believes that many people think one does not have to go to college to learn design because everything you need to know is on YouTube; however, he believes they are wrong. He said, “This approach lacks the input and guidance of seasoned instructors who are passionate about their areas of study.”

While online learning has its challenges, Reynolds said, “We have learned that we can in fact learn to thrive in online classes. No, there are no in-person critiques, but we can still meet in our Collaborate space and share our ideas and learn from each other. And here is an interesting discovery: Some students do well working remotely.”

However, Reynolds believes that more learning happens when the students are working together with their peers and the instructors in a studio or lab setting. He said, “Exciting things happen that would not happen when working alone. The personal dynamic that develops between students and professors in the lab, the studio and on-location is so very valuable. In the virtual classroom students cannot interact with fellow students or exchange ideas in real time or engage with a crew to solve design problems. Plato said, ‘There is always something ponderous and one-sided about the learning of the self-taught.’ ”

Reynolds does not know when everyone can return to the classroom, but he said, “I know that our college administration is doing an exemplary job of keeping students and faculty safe.”

When face-to-face classes do resume, he believes the way design classes are taught will be evolving away from the “formula” and go more toward artificial intelligence, which will “build an algorithm incorporating all of the principles and elements of design and stylistic nuances into a work. The client will go to a website and machine learning will design a logo, a build-board, a magazine cover or a page layout in just a few seconds. You might think this would make a college degree obsolete. This is wrong thinking.”

At Angelina College, the design instructors are trying “to differentiate the student from the unremarkable, typical designer,” according to Reynolds. “We believe that trying various methods to achieve new visual impact often results in an uncommon outcome. Those of us who teach design believe that everything a student will encounter in their career, from the most mundane and ordinary assignment to the extraordinary client who wants something exceptional, should always work to transform their designs into something surprising and magical.

“We believe that the student will always discover inspiration from within in their quest for the uncommon.”

Demee Martinez, AC graphic arts student, mans the video camera with Michael Gollot, right, as assistant director on one of the teams for an assignment in Reg Reynolds’ TV/video class the week of Oct. 12. (Photo by Guillermo Gutierrez)
Adjunct instructor Steve Paul, left, plays the part of the scientist during one of Reg Reynolds’ TV/video classes the week of Oct. 12. Hunter Cruz, middle, is on sound while Michael Gollot, right, directs. Not shown is Audrey Romo on lights. (Photo by Guillermo Gutierrez)

Struggles of an immigrant

By Ra’Nese Canada, graphic arts student

Angelina College’s Student Life department honored Hispanic Heritage Month on Tuesday, Oct. 13 by presenting a Ted Talk by Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez titled “What’s Missing from the American Immigrant Narrative?”

Gutierrez talked about her personal story of immigrating to the United States as well as the flaws in narratives that idealize the immigrant experience.

The first narrative she talked about is the idea of the immigrant worker. She discussed how immigrants come to the United States to search for any good opportunities for work and how the news media made America’s relationship with immigrants complicated.

The second narrative she talked about is the idea of the super immigrant. She discussed how America idolizes super immigrants as the ideal symbols of American success and that America thinks of immigrants who fail to succeed or do not succeed in the same way as less than good.

Gutierrez also discussed the struggles she faced when immigrating to the United States. Her parents and younger brother were forced to go back to Mexico while she stayed behind. Once she graduated from college, she flew her brother to the United states to live with her, so he could pursue his education. She has also pursued a career that helped her family find financial stability.

Watching this presentation helped me learn more about immigration and the struggles that come along with it from someone’s personal perspective. Gutierrez’s story was inspiring, and it left an amazing message about strength and perseverance.

Ted Talk by Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez on Oct 13th

AC staff and students gathered via Zoom on Friday, October 13th to discuss political issues, ask questions and voice their own opinions. (Screenshot by Matthew Gresham)

AC Student Life celebrated Hispanic heritage month with Armando Palomino, the assistant director of academic success, presenting My Story. My Superpower. He shared his empowering story with AC students virtually for the first time. (Screenshot by Josh Giles)

The Pacer’s own Matthew Gresham is halloween-ready dressed in his movie accurate Indiana Jones outfit (leather whip included). (photo contributed)

AC’s new website is up and running

Angelina College has announced a brand new look to its website (

The site has the ability to change from English to Spanish with a click of a button. Also, it is ADA compliant. 

Krista Brown, executive director of marketing and strategic enrollment, said, “Our goal is to make the website as simple as possible while using the portal to compliment the site for our current students and faculty. We are excited about the opportunities this new website will bring to our community.”

Angelina College has rolled out a new look to its website at

AC instructor Larry Greer shares his views on virtual learning

“How has your teaching changed with most classes being online because of the pandemic?”

As it has been for many, the changes brought on by the pandemic have created formidable challenges for Larry Greer, music instructor at Angelina College.

Greer said, “The transition to teaching online was a bit rocky getting started. The good news is my knowledge of technology has increased considerably, and I have been steadily discovering new ways of teaching.

“I enjoy the classes I live stream more than the classes that are all online. They are almost as good as face-to-face for live interaction between students and instructor.

“For the all online classes, it is difficult to just put content out there and have email conversations. I think humans need a degree of social interaction to add meaning and depth to learning. “This is especially true in the world of music. In reference to music, technology is a little behind; however, the tech world seems to have a way to create and adapt where there is a need.”

Larry Greer

Roadrunner athletes deal with pandemic problems

By Ra’Nese Canada, graphic arts student

 As most people in the Angelina College community and the surrounding area know, AC suspended all sports until the fall semester of 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, people have been wondering how the coaches and athletes have reacted to this suspension.

 As far as the coaches are concerned, Gary Stallard, AC sports information director, said,
“What I am seeing the coaches do now is getting ready for next year. They are still on the recruiting trail.”

When the suspension was announced, the coaches approached the players and asked them if they wanted to stay at AC and wait to be able to play, save their eligibility, and play when the suspension is lifted or did they feel it was important to them to leave and find somewhere else to play.

 The coaches helped the athletes who decided to leave the school to find other schools where they could play this year.

The time off from playing sports has given the coaches time to find the players they want for the 2021-2022 year. Stallard said, “Our coaches’ reputations and attitude about their program is going to bring a lot of people into play. As far as recruiting, anything like this is going to affect it in a way, but I think these coaches have figured out how to overcome it, and they are finding players who want to play for this program.”

Approximately 35 of AC’s student athletes decided to stay in school here for the academics this year. Stallard said, “The way the NJCAA does things as far as your eligibility is an eligibility clock that starts during a season. If you take a specific number of [credit] hours, then your eligibility runs on that clock. If you take fewer hours, then your clock doesn’t start. I think some of the athletes . . . stayed here to focus on their academics, build up their eligibility, and not lose playing eligibility before that next season starts.”

The AC administration has said the sports activities will be back in play next fall; however, whether AC’s sports are able to actually begin again is still unknown. With East Texas’s COVID-19 numbers continuing to rise, no one knows.

“If it is not safe at that time,” Stallard said, “then we will have to decide again whether to play. But right now, I think we will be on the field and ready to go in August.”

If the pandemic is still around next summer, Stallard said that the coaches “will follow the guidelines and protocols set forth by the NJCAA at that time.”

Gary Stallard, AC sports information director (photo from

AC student’s journey from southeast Asia to east Texas

By Austin Pena, graphic arts student

Two years have passed since my family and I left the Philippines to live in Texas. A lot has happened in those few years, and while the first year felt rough and terrifying, that sense of dread eventually transformed to looking forward to actually making it here in the United States.

We were hit with a significant barrier in culture that I had to wrap my head around during the first few months here. I had lived for 18 years in the small Filipino town of Indang, Cavite, and we had public transportation in the form of tricycles and jeepneys. We had no pressure to learn to drive since these are cheap ways to commute to school and workplaces. Here in Texas, though, I have not seen any kind of public transportation outside of the big cities. It is as if it is a prerequisite to learn how to drive as early as you can.

Another thing I noticed was the emphasis on using credit cards. Unlike in the Philippines where almost everything is paid in cash and just the occasional use of a credit card (if you are a normal middle-class citizen anyway), here in the States, your shopping goes down to the swipe of a card. We had to learn that as quickly as we could, and it was honestly nerve-wracking to see all those numbers and have to check monthly if something’s due. This is just the mundane, everyday stuff that I found odd, and that is not even touching the culture and politics here.

Surprisingly enough, the people in Texas have been very pleasant to be around. Almost everyone seems so alive, carefree and fun to talk to that it made me really doubt the whole “Filipino hospitality” thing we were known for. I am pretty sure the materialistic culture back in our country is the real reason why we are polite to foreigners but not to our fellow Filipinos. But Texans have felt more genuine now that I have spent a lot of time around them, and I honestly could not be happier about that. It is such a breath of fresh air.

And the big one that I have really noticed is how the education system works here. I know American students have it rough with the student loan stuff and side jobs, but coming from someone exposed to Asian work ethic, I can say I had been stressed out for the majority of my time as a student back home.

There was real pressure to excel, and parents would expect nothing less than the highest grades from you and talk about saving money for a better future. After all, we had a tough time financially back then, and every time I got home from our 12-hour school days that started at 6:30 a.m. from junior to senior high school, I had to do homework while selling stuff in the family store—even during the weekends.

We did not have an Internet connection then, so I had to rent computers at net cafés to do projects. And the teachers and higher ups in the educational department of the government did not seem to mind that this was a common occurrence with middle class students. It is the norm, and they say it is to build up resistance to adult life, which raises that stress to higher levels as the pay is so low you have to work overtime for most office jobs. It is nuts back there.

So, imagine my surprise when I finally started college in a foreign land. I was expecting more stress, and instead I was actually learning things that I wanted to learn. No big dumps of homework, no strict scheduling, just be on time for class, take it all in, do a bit of homework, do your side job or hobby afterwards, and then you are free.

That has been my experience so far and even if things do get gradually more stressful because of the COVID pandemic, I do not think I will be facing as much stress as I used to just because the general approach in work and education here is far more forgiving than back home, and they pay you more for any kind of labor you do here in a day than you would ever earn in a week back home. I guess that is the capitalist spirit at work here—fair compensation for your work even if it is not the most exciting job.

My current goal as a student at Angelina College is to try to learn as much as I can and make the most out of the opportunity that I have been lucky to have been given. I want to be versatile in different disciplines of art, which I only really learned how to do properly in the short time I have spent in the graphic arts program, and I want to be able to make a living out of something that I really love doing. It is an opportunity I never would have gotten back home, and I am grateful for that. 

Austin Pena and his family originated from the Philippines, an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. (photo from

Filmmaker reflects on her Angelina College experience

By Esmeralda Ramos, graphic arts student

My family and I moved to the United States 10 years ago for a better life. I grew up in a small town just outside of San Luis Potosi, Mexico, so this was the biggest move of my life and the biggest struggle of it as well. 

Throughout my years of being in the U.S., I have noticed significant differences in the culture and the people.

Here in the U.S., many more opportunities exist for people than in Mexico. One of the biggest differences I have noticed is most people cannot attend college in Mexico because it is too expensive and too far away. But here in the United States, you can get financial help in the way of scholarships or grants to pay for college.

Of course, when you do not speak English, people are going to treat you differently, and it can suck sometimes, but you have to be willing to take it and move on because those people are not going to be around you your whole life.

I am just a semester away from graduating college, and I am hoping to go to a university to continue working on my career. I would like to own a filmmaking and photography company and, hopefully, give back to my parents a little of what they have given me.

Esmeralda Ramos and her family are originally from San Luis Potosi, Mexico. (photo from

Question this issue:

“How do you feel about Angelina College’s decision to postpone any sports until fall of 2021?”

Blaze Steptoe

I personally don’t have any feelings at all about the school’s decision to cancel all sporting events until the fall semester of 2021, but with that being said, I do realize that other students, faculty members and community members may feel differently about it than I do. So I do sympathize with those who are just a little bit upset about it. 

Major: General studies

Hometown: Lufkin

Kendall Cole

I personally think it’s a smart idea to postpone events, especially sporting ones, until 2021. It keeps everyone safe instead of having to deal with a lot of precautions with people being there for an event. It’s better to cancel everything now instead of running the risk of people getting infected. I also think it’s smart that they are waiting until fall of 2021 since we don’t know how long the pandemic will last.

Major: Journalism

Hometown: Riverside, CA


Times are changing

By Josh Giles, Pacer editor

To say the least, this year has not been what we were expecting. As a full-time student and the father of child who recently started kindergarten, this pandemic has changed the way my family looks at everything from how we attend classes to what we should expect for Halloween. No matter how we feel about them, many of these changes do not look like they are going away any time in 2020.

In-person gatherings are still on hold all around the United States. Concerts, stand-up comedy shows, award shows and even the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop celebration have changed to virtual formats to adhere to social distancing requirements.   

Locally, cancellations are commonplace this year. This fall semester, schools are canceling events such as pep rallies, sporting events, theater productions, agricultural club events and most lectures.

According the city of Lufkin website, our zoo has cancelled the Zoo Boo that was planned for later this month. Normally a very successful fundraiser for the Ellen Trout Zoo, this year it was deemed unsafe because of the current COVID-19 numbers.

With the downtown Lufkin and Kurth Memorial Library trick-or-treat events rumored to be cancelled as well, Halloween is not looking good for children or their parents in 2020.  

Fall started with schools meeting in-person again (and some are succeeding), but since the pandemic kindergarten through college classes are much different than what we have known in the past. Masks—as frustrating as they can be to some—are common in all K-12 schools now and required on the Angelina College campus for faculty and students alike.

Physical contact like hugs, high-fives and handshakes are still questionable and not recommended for the time being, and Angelina College students are becoming well versed in doing the majority of our coursework via Blackboard online.

Some positive things can be said about the way people have been coping with the “new norm.” Hand washing and sanitizing is at an all-time high, most restaurants will now deliver food and face masks now come in many colors and styles—giving the covering at least a bit of fashion. We are adapting to this seemingly ruthless year and continuing to press forward to the better days ahead. Contact your friends and family members as much as you can, keep a positive attitude and stay safe.

Josh Giles and his family at last year’s downtown Lufkin Halloween trick-or-treat event. This year’s festivities will look much different because of social distancing requirements. (Photo contributed)

Roadrunner basketball sending eight players to next level

By Gary Stallard, AC Athletics

After missing out on an opportunity to compete for a national championship back in March, the Angelina College men’s basketball team nevertheless is finding reasons to celebrate.

Eight good reasons, in fact.

With the pandemic ending the Roadrunners’ dream season early, head coach Nick Wade and assistant coach Zac Kircher nevertheless worked to ensure their players would find a home at the next level. Their efforts resulted in a total of eight Runners from the 2019-2020 squad moving up to play basketball for a university.

Gwarren Douglass of Cleveland, Ohio, has signed with Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas; Tayvion Johnson of Houston has signed with the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff; Emmanuel Adeoye has signed with Texas A&M University-Commerce; Braxton Foreman of Frederick, Maryland, signed with Tiffin University in Ohio; Cameron Hart of Lufkin has signed with Houston Baptist University; Dralyn Brown of Houston has signed with York College in York, Nebraska; Travis Henson of Oxon Hill, Maryland, has signed with California State University, Bakersfield; and Dwight Simon of Alexandria, Louisiana, has signed with Avila University in Kansas City, Missouri.

Seven of those players were on the AC roster in 2019-2020 and contributed to the team’s 24-9 record overall and 16-3 record in Region XIV play. Adeoye redshirted in 2019-2020 and did not see game action.

Wade and Kircher have said all along their main goal is to get incoming players to buy into the importance of both academics and athletics once they reach the collegiate level.

 “We make sure we let the players know you can’t have one without the other,” Wade said. “We really hold them to that. We tell them if they’re not going to take care of business in the classroom, then to be honest, they can’t play for us. To be a champion on and off the court is something we strive to instill, and I couldn’t be any prouder of this batch of guys. They held to their end of the deal, and now they’re able to continue both their academic and athletic careers.”

Wade added that while losing out on a national tournament opportunity and missing a full season because of the pandemic has been painful, seeing his players continue living their dreams is a pretty big morale boost.

“It hurts that we aren’t able to finish the deal with some of them, just because we’re a family here,” Wade said. “It was just as tough on those players as it was on us. That’s what hurts, is bringing guys in hoping to get to spend the full two years with them, but because of the situation we’re in, we didn’t get to do that. But I feel we and they did a good enough job to set them up in a position to take that next big step.

“It’s rewarding, and it’s a blessing.”

Eight Roadrunners from the 2019-2020 squad are moving up to play basketball for a university. (photo contributed)

AC police, fire cadets join retired firefighter on ‘Ernie’s Journey’

By Gary Stallard, AC News Service

Future first responders from the Angelina College Fire and Police academies were up and moving at “dark thirty” on Thursday morning, Sept. 17 to help a guy out for a walk.

The cadets joined retired firefighter John Martin on part of “Ernie’s Journey.” The coast-to-coast walk first began with nonagenarian and World War II veteran Ernest Andrus and made its way through East Texas recently with Martin picking up the flag earlier when Andrus grew ill and was not able to continue for now.

Martin credited the cadets not only with their walking efforts but also their willingness to make time in their busy schedules for such a worthy cause.

“As a retired firefighter myself, it’s awesome to see all this new blood coming into service as first responders,” Martin said. “Not only that, it’s that they have the will and desire to support something like this even with all the training and everything else they have going on right now. It’s amazing, but it doesn’t surprise me. It’s what first responders do.”

Ernest “Ernie” Andrus gained national attention when he set out in 2013 to run from the west coast to the east coast of the United States – and back again. Andrus’ original goal was to raise funds to help restore the ship on which he served as a member of the U.S. Navy during World War II, a ship involved with the D-Day landings at Normandy. Andrus served as a hospital corpsman at the time on the LST 325 Memorial, and he hoped to generate enough interest and funds for the vessel to return to Normandy for the 75th D-Day Anniversary ceremony held in 2019. When the original plan fell through, Andrus continued his journey with a new plan for restoring the old ship.

When illness stopped Andrus’ progress, his travel buddy, Martin, continued in Andrus’ name. Now, the goal for Martin is to make it to the Pacific Ocean on Andrus’ 100th birthday in August 2023. 

AC instructor Sabrina Collins has met Andrus and has participated in Martin’s travels; she helped coordinate this week’s meeting between Martin and the AC cadets.

My sister and I ‘ran’ with Ernie several times on his first coast-to-coast run, and we got to run with him again this time just before he returned to California,” Collins said. “We’ve continued with John since he returned [to East Texas], but our schedules don’t always allow us to join him. John records some of the events and posts them for Ernie to see on social media. “I know it will make Ernie super happy to see the cadets out here.”

Cadets from the Angelina College Fire and Police academies pose with John Martin (yellow vest) prior to the leg of “Ernie’s Journey” on Thursday, Sept. 17. Martin, a retired firefighter, is continuing a coast-to-coast walk World War II veteran Ernest Andrus began in 2013. (Gary Stallard/Angelina College photo)
Cadets from the Angelina College Fire and Police academies stroll north on Kurth Drive in Lufkin during the leg of “Ernie’s Journey” on Thursday, Sept. 17. The cadets joined John Martin, a retired firefighter, who is continuing a coast-to-coast walk World War II veteran Ernest Andrus began in 2013. (Gary Stallard/Angelina College photo)
Cadets from the Angelina College Fire and Police academies join John Martin (yellow vest) during the leg of “Ernie’s Journey” on Thursday, Sept. 17. Martin, a retired firefighter, is continuing a coast-to-coast walk World War II veteran Ernest Andrus began in 2013. (Gary Stallard/Angelina College photo)

Question this issue:

How do you feel about wearing a mask to grocery stores, restaurants and other areas, because of the coronavirus?

James Terry

I personally find it kind of annoying that I have to wear a mask everywhere I go. The fact that I have to put it on and take it off every time I get out of the car can be pretty annoying as well as having to remember to take the mask with you wherever you go. I am personally ready for the coronavirus to be over with and done, so people around the world can go back to talking to each other without a voice muffler on their face and also go back to conversations between people in society that feel normal again. Now I understand why we as a society have to wear masks in this current time during this pandemic. It is because we all obviously do not want to get other people infected with the coronavirus, and I completely understand that especially where the elderly are involved. But I honestly feel that while yes, the mask provides some protection to the individual, the virus is still going to spread and infect people regardless of whether that person does or does not wear a mask. The mask may protect the individuals slightly from the virus, but it will not protect the individual or society overall.

Major: General Studies

Hometown: Nacogdoches

Brent Barber

I feel as if wearing a mask into places of businesses is much needed. Wearing a mask ensures safety in our community and helps prevent the spread of Covid-19. Sometimes it might get tedious wearing a mask, but I have learned to deal with the fact that everyone needs to wear one. 

Major: General Studies

Hometown: Pollock

Hector Castillo

I feel like wearing a face mask is useful to not spread the virus but, at the same time, is not because not all masks will protect you 100 percent, and most of the masks are uncomfortable to wear all day. So, I feel that wearing a face mask should be a choice, but it will be on your own risk.

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Nacogdoches

Edith Barrera

I think it’s necessary, and if you don’t have one, it’s good to cover your mouth and nose with a cloth to cover your face when you’re around others. Everyone should wear a cloth mask in public places and around people who do not live in their home, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

Major: Pharmacy Tech

Hometown: Lufkin

McKaya Lucas

 I feel it is important to wear a mask to any crowded area to avoid spreading the virus. I think that people should be more educated on how masks actually work, so maybe they would better understand and actually wear one. It’s not so you don’t get it, it’s so your breath is constrained by the mask and does not spread as far. As for restaurants, I feel it is important to wear it while waiting in line or walking to your table.

Major: Mass Communications/Journalism

Hometown: Lufkin

Kayla Bergeron

Wearing a mask in a store is kind of annoying, but I understand why it’s needed though. For me, it makes it hard to breathe.

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Lufkin

Pandemic affecting mental health

By Ra’Nese Canada and Hanna Eddings

The2020 global pandemic has forced everyone to adopt to new changes and safety precautions. Social distancing, quarantine, having to wear a mask, canceled /postponed events and having to be screened at work are just some of the many changes we had to endure.

The pandemic has negatively impacted people in many ways. Mental health is one of the major factors that has been affected. Although the precautions and changes are enforced for our safety, it has caused many people to lose some control over their mental health.

Because of COVID-19, many people have lost their jobs, are struggling financially, and have even lost their homes. Having a lack of control of the situation can be stressful and can easily deteriorate mental health.

Taking care of mental health during these hard times is crucial. It is important to have positive coping mechanisms.

Angelina College’s Director of Student Access and Inclusion Annie Allen said, “On top of people being scared for their health and the health of their loved ones, we have parents who are having to navigate whether their kids should go back to school. If they made the decision to not send them back to school, then they are having to deal with online learning which is difficult. We also have students who have lost their jobs and are struggling to make ends meet.”

Allen went on to comment about students who might be positively changed because they are sometimes too depressed or anxious to sit in a face-to-face setting.

She said, “If their reason for their anxiety and their struggle with depression is due to social interaction, then the online aspect is good for them. On the other hand, there are a lot of students who thrive with face-to-face classes and the online component is very difficult. It really depends.”

She added how she and her family have adapted to the changes by saying, “It was a lot to deal with because I suddenly had to work from home, and I deal with a lot of student affairs functions. We’re the ones handling student emergency aid requests. We had over 200 requests since we launched in June…On top of that, we have student accommodations, so a lot of students’ needs are having to be evaluated because they are now in online classes.

“As for my family, we made the difficult decision to let the kids go back to school, and they seem to be doing well right now. It has been an adjustment. We could not go on a summer vacation like we normally do, and we are at home 85 percent of the time. When we do go out, we are constantly making sure that it is as safe as possible.”

In order to take care of her own mental health, she said, “I do a lot of things. Watch TV shows that I already know the endings to; I have been reading a lot; I limit how much I am on social media and how much news I am taking in; and I exercise and make sure I eat as healthy as possible.”

Commenting on whether she has worried about her family’s mental health, she said, “Yeah, one of the reasons that we decided to let the kids go back to school was because they were too isolated from their friends. It was important to have a routine for them. I work all year long, so for me it was impossible to have a real routine for them. Going back to school has helped us get back into a routine and that has been really helpful for their mental health.”

            Allen also shared some helpful tips on how to maintain one’s mental health. “I definitely recommend having check-ins with yourself,” she said, “making sure you have a routine that you are comfortable with that gives you purpose throughout the day, and making sure that every day you are doing at least one thing that gives you joy. It can be doing a puzzle, binging on Netflix, calling your best friend—whatever it is that brings you joy.”

Whether one has new anxieties from the COVID-19 lifestyle or even seasonal depression, addressing and coping is always easier if the one suffering is more aware of himself or herself and what he or she is really going through.

Most counselors would tell someone with an addiction that the first step to fixing his or her problem is admitting he or she has a problem. The same could be said for anxiety and depression.

Some people may be unaware of what is triggering these possible thoughts of nervousness, inadequacy or sadness, and they can go into a downward spiral of self blame. That is why it is important to take the time to evaluate oneself and try to find the root of your emotions that negatively affect you.

Depression is a slippery slope, and if one were to internalize these pains and not find a way to treat them, the depression could go emotionally deeper and get more rooted in his or her life.

For those people dealing with social anxieties, maybe now is a time to take online classes to your advantage. Or if you have ever been a student who misses a lot of class because of  emotional episodes or even if you simply do not have a ride, find the silver lining in online classes right now and take all of the classes that you can before this rare opportunity is over. While plenty of variables are in the world today that may cause mental strain, finding the parts that bring joy are a great way to help. As Allen said, if you are struggling to see the joys in your life, then maybe you can intentionally do something every day that sparks joy. Get a head start on your mental health now by simply making a list of what you are going to do to spark joy each day this next week.

AC staff is keeping campus corona-free

Luisa Flores cleans Hudgins Hall thoroughly to help to keep the coronavirus at bay. (photo by Audrey Romo)
Student amenities like water fountains are currently unavailable during the pandemic. (photo by Audrey Romo)

Nursing students learn the code in heath careers

Tonya Laforge, right, AC nursing instructor, conducts a session on responding to a code with second-year nursing students in the lab on the second floor of the Patricia McKenzie Health Careers Building on September 3. (photo by Austin Pena)
Second-year AC nursing students respond to a code in an exercise supervised by Tonya Laforge, left, AC nursing instructor, during a class on September 3. (photo by Austin Pena)
AC nursing student Kenya Sanchez, left, performs chest compressions while Kyla Espina, right, supports respiration with an Ambu bag during a lab class on September 3in the Patricia McKenzie Health Careers Building. (photo by Austin Pena)

First year students keep them breathing in the respiratory health lab

Health career students practice using an endotracheal tube to assist in breathing. (photo by Austin Pena)
Students throughly check the “patient” to practice emergency room scenarios. (photo by Austin Pena)
Hard work, extensive studying and strong dedication makes the health careers students at Angelina College some of the best in Texas. (photo by Austin Pena)

Angelina College students and staff share quarantine recipes

Indian Butter Chicken by Jordan LaCaille (AC staff)


 -6 tablespoons butter, divided

-2 lbs boneless/skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1” chunks

-1 yellow onion, diced

-3 garlic cloves, minced

-1 Tbsp garam masala

-1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger

-1 tsp chili powder

-1 tsp ground cumin

-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

-1 1/2 cups tomato sauce(or one 14 oz can would work)

-2 cups cream

-salt & pepper

-lime & cilantro, for garnish

-naan & rice for serving


  1. Using 2 Tbsp of butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat, brown the pieces of the chicken so each side is browned. They do not need to be fully cooked all the way through. Work in batches, and set aside when you’re done.
  2. Melt another 2 Tbsp of butter in the pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until beginning to soften — about three minutes. Add the garlic, garam masala, ginger, chili powder, cumin, and cayenne. Stir to combine, and cook for about 45 seconds before adding the tomato sauce.
  3. Bring the mixture to a simmer and let cook for five minutes before adding the cream. Bring the mixture back to a simmer, add the browned chicken, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. Keep the heat low here — not a rolling boil.
  4. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve garnished with lime and cilantro, alongside rice and naan.

Peanut butter and banana smoothie by Ra’nese Canada (AC student)


-5 scoops of peanut butter

-one banana

-a cup of milk

-half cup of ice


-blend well 


Peanut butter cookies by Matthew Gresham (AC student)


-1 cup peanut butter

-1 cup sugar

-1 egg


-mix together 

-scoop into tablespoon sized pieces on a baking sheet

-bake at 350° 

-wait 8-11 minutes until fully cooked

Morning smoothie by Michael Gollott (AC student)


-handful of blueberries 

-one banana 

-1 scoop of protein powder 


-blend until well mixed

Angelina College Police Academy graduates 27 cadets

By Gary Stallard, AC News Service

The Angelina College Police Academy Class 104 may have set a record for the length of time it took to graduate.

The cadets began training in AC’s Regional Law Enforcement Academy back in March of this year and were supposed to graduate in July; however, the COVID-19 crisis suspended all activities until the fall. Toss in the recent hurricane and its difficulties, and those students were forced to wait longer than any other class to receive their rewards.

On Thursday, Sept. 3, those future peace officers finally were able to walk the stage.

“Your perseverance throughout this entire process proves you’re determined to answer your calling,” AC Police Chief Doug Conn told the cadets during his address.

Along with the earned certifications, several cadets received other recognition such as Valedictorian, Top Gun, Best Driver and the Survivor Award.

The graduating cadets of Class 104 include Danny Arce, Jeremiah Baker, Brent Baldwin, Heather Barry, Darin Brooks, Billy Davis, Frank Erimias, Malachi Frazier, Keenan Hadnot, Steve Hollingsworth, Elizabeth Johnson, Nicholas LeBlanc, Felipe Lopez, Lynnzee Lyons, Joshua Manchack, Dakota Martinez, Michael McKnight, Jonathan Perez, Nickolous Pope, Colton Reeves, Brian Reeves, Brian Rivas, Perry Shaw, LaQuinta Simmons, Daniel Tinajero, Juan Tovar, Mikayla Westmoreland and Jim Williams.

Academy staff members include Doug Conn, chief of police; Lt. Jason Burrous, training manager; Lt. Randy Holland, training manager; Officer Jack Stephenson, training specialist; and Kim Capps, administrative assistant.

Cadet Oath: Members of the Angelina College Police Academy Class 104 raise their hands to take the Peace Officer’s Oath following a graduation ceremony Thursday, Sept. 3 at AC’s Hudgins Hall Auditorium. A total of 27 future peace officers received their recognition following months of waiting out the current pandemic. (Gary Stallard/AC News Service)
Police academy graduates (from the left) Jim Williams, Elizabeth Johnson, Brent Baldwin, and Billy Davis proudly display their accomplishments. (photo credit- Esmeralda Ramos)  
Lufkin’s finest (from the left) Dale Lowery – ACPD, Officer J. Stephenson- Train Specialist, Doug Conn- Chief of Police, and Lt. Jason Burrous- Training Manager are proud to welcome this year’s academy graduates. (photo credit- Esmeralda Ramos)

Georgia-Pacific contributes $10,000 to Angelina College Technology and Workforce Development programs

Georgia-Pacific’s partnership with Angelina College continues to assist AC in developing both talent and opportunities for future and current employees through the East Texas area.

Last week, GP’s Charitable Foundation continued its generosity by donating another $10,000 to AC’s Technology and Workforce Development Center. Those funds provided equipment and training for maintenance technicians in AC’s Technology and Workforce Development Center.

The training and education received through AC’s programs have helped trainees advance in their current employment situations and in future career choices. Georgia Pacific officials have explained that AC has helped prepare “ready-made employees” who are fully prepared to begin working in various manufacturing positions.

The partnership also helps cultivate home-grown talent, which aids the entire community in what GP officials have called a “highly competitive work environment.”

In 2019, GP’s donation led to the purchase of such key items as electrical cabinets for motor control projects, but the pandemic and subsequent campus shutdowns delayed implementation, according to AC technology instructor David Turbeville. This year, Turbeville said, the funds provided will allow the purchase of material handling equipment “to provide a realistic learning environment that will be tied in with the motor control and programmable logic controller systems.

“Our students are benefiting from the use of standard industrial equipment and from having a system which can be modified and rewired as needed,” Turbeville said.

 AC President Dr. Michael Simon lauded the continued support from area industries.

“I’m thankful for the ongoing support from Georgia Pacific,” Simon said. “The AC team works diligently to meet the workforce development needs of regional employees such as GP. We’re happy to be on a ‘winning team’ with GP.”

Angelina College President Dr. Michael Simon, left, and Krista Brown, executive director of marketing and strategic enrollment, display the ceremonial check representing the recent $10,000 donation from the Georgia Pacific Charitable Foundation. The partnership between AC and GP has provided numerous equipment and training opportunities for area students. (Contributed photo)

AC, during COVID-19, looks a bit different

With the bulk of classes at Angelina College being converted to online this fall, the Lufkin campus is missing the crowds of students meeting each other in the halls, getting help at Roadrunner Central and rushing to get to class on time. Reporters Ra’Nese Canada and Matthew Gresham try to capture what Angelina College looks like during the year of the Coronavirus.

The testing center, usually bustling, sits unused upstairs in the Student Center. (photo credit- Ra’Nese Canada)
There is a noticeable absence of students, usually crowded in the halls, waiting to get assistance at Roadrunner Central. (photo credit- Ra’Nese Canada)
Earlier this year students filled the AC library, but now the building’s activity is very limited. (photo credit- Ra’Nese Canada)
Fighting for a parking spot is currently not an issue on Angelina College campus. (photo credit- Matthew Gresham)
Much less foot traffic is happening in front of the Student Center this fall semester. (photo credit- Matthew Gresham)
The hallways of Hudgins Hall remain dark as the college tries to conserve power in unused buildings. (photo credit- Matthew Gresham)

Rangers call up former Roadrunner pitcher

By Gary Stallard, AC Athletics

John King spent two years as part of Angelina College head baseball coach Jeff Livin’s pitching staff, taking the mound at Roadrunner Field in 2014 and 2015. King cemented his AC legacy during the 2015 regional tournament when he tossed a complete-game shutout over a high-powered San Jacinto team, helping send the Runners to the tournament final.

From there, King signed with the University of Houston where he continued his reputation as a big-game pitcher. As the Cougars’ lone senior in 2017, King was the winning pitcher on both the regular-season title game against Cincinnati and in the American Championship tournament title game against East Carolina.

Drafted in the 10th round by the Texas Rangers, King received the phone call every baseball player dreams of hearing the week of August 30. The Rangers called up King to join the big squad.

Livin said King’s path to the majors held its share of bumps and bruises, but the lefty’s determination played a massive role in achieving his dream.

“John did a great job at the University of Houston,” Livin said. “I talked with his coaches, and they commented on John’s work ethic and his focus in that area.”

 Livin described King as a player who arrived at AC “pretty much under the radar.” Some arm issues during King’s freshman season left the Laredo product with little to show for his efforts. However, those issues helped King realize how much harder he would need to work to achieve success.

“I think that’s when his work ethic really kicked in,” Livin said. “John decided he was going to work his way through this thing. He really got into things such as his diet and training as we went along, and he added quite a bit of velocity while he was here. He came on strong toward the end of his sophomore season and pitched us into the regional tournament. His career just took off from there.”

As for seeing King’s potential as a future major leaguer, Livin said, “I don’t think there’s ever an indication for any player that he’s going to make it to the big leagues. Did I think he’d have a chance to play pro baseball? Yeah, I did. He didn’t have a ton of velocity coming out of high school, but he had a big-time curve ball. The ability to make the ball spin is such a big deal for any pitcher, and he’s had that from the beginning.”

Livin also mentioned how King’s path led him to having the right people see his big-game mentality and overall ability to get hitters out.

“It’s a small world for sure,” Livin laughed. “Bob Laurie, who was my assistant last season, was actually the scout who led to John getting drafted by the Rangers out of the University of Houston. Bob had John on his radar years ago.

“John had some arm troubles his last year at U of H and was scheduled for surgery after the season, and the Rangers still thought enough of him to draft him fairly high. I have no doubt John’s stock would have been even higher had he been completely healthy at the time. The Rangers and Bob took a chance on him, and it looks like it’s paying off for John very well.”

Former Angelina College pitcher John King received the call from the Texas Rangers and has joined the club as it faced the Houston Astros over two games. King led the Roadrunners to the 2015 regional tournament championship game. (Gary Stallard/AC Athletics photo)

AC soccer adds Murillo as assistant coach

By Gary Stallard, AC Athletics

The Angelina College soccer program has added Paul Murillo to serve as an assistant coach with Murillo joining first-year head coach Nataki Stewart to guide both the women’s and men’s teams.

Murillo brings a wealth of both coaching and playing experience, having spent the past three years as the director of coaching for the Sereno Academy Program in Arizona. He also served as the club’s goalkeeper coach for two years. The Sereno Academy is recognized as one of many strong affiliates to Major League Soccer, providing a developmental process for the Utah Royals (Women’s Premier Soccer League) and Real Salt Lake (Major League Soccer).

From 2013-2016, Murillo served as goalkeeper and conditioning coach with FC Dallas Academy’s program. Murillo was a volunteer assistant coach at El Dorado High School from 2010-2012, working with both the girls’ and boys’ programs.

Before entering the coaching ranks, Murillo played for the SoCal Seahorses, a soccer club based in La Mirada, California. He also spent time with Chivas USA Academy and the Whitter Soccer Club.

Under Murillo’s guidance, more than 16 athletes have advanced to the Division I collegiate ranks; nine of his former players currently are playing professionally in the MLS, Liga MX and A-League.

Stewart said the addition of Murillo will provide a boost for every Angelina College player.

“I am very excited to welcome Paul to our coaching staff and the Lufkin community,” Stewart said. “He is of high character and brings extensive championship experience at the club level to AC. In addition, he is passionate about player development, commitment to excellence along with his ability to mentor young people will aid in developing our culture. He is also a top goalkeeper trainer and an elite recruiter.”

Murillo and his fiancé Rhiannon live in Lufkin.

Paul Murillo has joined the Angelina College soccer program, bringing extensive experience as both a player, coach and recruiter to both the Lady Roadrunner and Roadrunner teams. (Gary Stallard/AC Press photo)

Six AC softball players earn Academic All-American honors

By Gary Stallard, AC Athletics

The National Junior College Athletic Association in July released its All-Academic honors list, and once again the Angelina College softball team landed among those mentioned.

The Lady Roadrunner team finished with an overall GPA of 3.28, qualifying for the NJCAA’s Academic Teams of the Year honors.

Twelve AC players finished with a 3.0 GPA or higher while six players earned Academic All-American status.

Named to the First-Team Academic All-American (4.0 GPA) list were Hannah Smart from Melbourne, Australia, and Alexa von Gontard from Montgomery, Texas.

Madison Murdock from Orange earned Second-Team Academic All-American (3.80-3.99 GPA); Kaylee Berdoll from Utley, Texas; Kaitlyn Odom from Woodville; and Hannah Scoggin from Diboll were named Third-Team Academic All-American (3.60-3.79 GPA).

First-year head softball coach Josh Barnes said the Lady Roadrunners adapted to the challenges they faced in the spring, including a mid-season cancellation and the shift to fully online courses for most colleges and universities.

“I’m proud of the way the girls finished, especially considering the way things unfolded with classes moving online,” Barnes said. “That’s not an easy transition for any student, but our players responded very well.

“We shifted gears from the fall and changed our mentality and overall team pride, and it showed up well in the spring.”

The Lady Runners’ performance in the classroom served as a continuation of sorts for Barnes, who while serving as head coach at McCook Community College in Nebraska saw his student athletes average eight Academic All-Americans during his three years there.

Hannah Smart is one of the six in Lady Runners softball to earn Academic All-American honors. (Gary Stallard/AC Press photo)

Nightmarish scenes in cyclone’s aftermath  

By Nylan Holifield

The morning of April 22, 2020, started off as any other morning during the COVID-19 pandemic. I was home from college because all in-person classes had been canceled in the wake of the spreading pandemic. My wife, Kim, and my mother-in-law, Donna, were also home that day. Donna had recently been to a doctor’s appointment, and a few days later she was notified that her doctor had tested positive for the dreaded coronavirus. Since my wife works in an assisted living home and since she lives in close contact with her mother, she was forced to self-quarantine at home for two weeks before she could return to work. So, as fate would have it, we were all at home that Wednesday afternoon. Little did we know that our lives would soon be turned upside down when an EF3 tornado swept through our small East Texas town and left a trail of devastation in its wake unlike anything we had ever seen.

The sky was somewhat overcast that afternoon with frequent bursts of bright sunlight peeking through the clouds, and it was very warm and quite breezy. My wife and I were spending some time out in the backyard entertaining our two small dogs, Morton and Maggie, and our mallard duck, Plucky. During these COVID lockdowns, it was important to get out and find different ways to exercise and stay active since we were not going about our usual busy routines. While tossing around a Frisbee with the animals, we began to notice how windy it was getting. Playing Frisbee in the wind is a pointless endeavor as we soon discovered. After a while, we decided to go back inside to bathe the dogs and take showers before making dinner and watching a movie.

Not long after we were all done with our showers, I received a weather alert on my phone. It informed me of a tornado warning in the Riverside/Huntsville area, which is not very far from where my mom lives, so I sent her a text warning her to be on the lookout for bad weather. At the time, we lived in Onalaska, which is about 30 minutes away from the Riverside/Huntsville area, so I did not think it would affect us too much. It was during these moments that my wife noticed how dark the clouds were getting in our own area, and she decided to go ahead and bring Plucky inside to let him swim in the bathtub. We both walked out into the front yard and stood by the tailgate of our truck while we watched the darkening sky. I contemplated moving the truck underneath the overhang of the shed that sat next to the house but ultimately decided against it. This turned out to be a wise decision.

As we were gazing across the road into the sky above the tree line, two giant dark clouds began to move toward each other, and I commented on how strange it appeared. Just seconds later, Kim noticed some debris swirling about between the clouds in the distance, and she said, “That’s a tornado! We need to get inside right now!” The sound of the wind grew steadily louder, and we hurried to our front door. Right before I went inside, I looked back and saw trees whipping and bending. My mind was racing as we got inside, and I slammed and locked the door. My mother-in-law Donna did not know what was happening, and she went to open the door to have a look outside when my wife said, “Don’t open that door! There’s a tornado!”

They each went into the hallway to take shelter away from any windows, and as a last thought, I grabbed two couch cushions to use as shields against any falling objects or flying debris. During our panic, the electricity shut off, and everything went dark. The sounds of the house were silenced and replaced by the hair-raising screams of ravaging winds. Fear filled my stomach, and I heard the terror in my wife’s voice when she asked for a flashlight. I looked around the kitchen for a few seconds, but I could not find anything, so I ran into the hall, tossed the cushions to the side, and crouched down on the floor as low as I could get. I wrapped my arms around my wife’s waist and locked my hands together, and she held onto her mom on the other side. The wind outside became a thunderous, deafening roar, almost as if a freight train was plowing toward us. My wife was screaming, and I was praying silently as the foundations of the house began to shake. Things began to crash and shatter, and glass and drywall began to rain down on the top of my head. I was holding on so tight that I had forgotten the couch cushions. Projectiles began to slam into the sides of the house, and we could hear the walls creaking and bending, challenged by some unseen monster. In my peripheral vision, I was suddenly aware of daylight pouring into the house where there was none before. My wife’s glasses were sucked off of her face in a vacuum. I remember thinking that I would die before I let this tornado take my angel away from me. I grasped her body with all of my strength, and I could feel a terrible suction. The wind whipped and shrieked, and it was the sound of Death. The roof was being peeled off of our house! At that moment, some gargantuan object crashed down on top of our home and stifled the unwelcome daylight. It felt as if the walls were crumbling down around us, and I thought this was how our lives would surely end.

Kim and her mother were still shouting, and I was silently asking God to spare our lives. A whirlwind of random fragments danced through the house in some apocalyptic ballet as we awaited our judgment in this casket of destruction. A million different thoughts plagued my mind at once, and it finally occurred to me that I still had not used the cushions, so I reached out, grabbed one and attempted to hold it over my wife’s head to protect her while clutching her body with my other arm. I was not aware of Donna’s well-being at this point as she was crouched down on the other side of Kim and I could not see her.

Ever so slightly, the volume of this dreadful symphony began to dissolve. I became aware of insulation and drywall powder caked inside my mouth. As unpleasant as the taste was, my awareness of this detail comforted me because it told me that I was still alive and breathing. All of a sudden, my wife called out for the dogs, and it occurred to me with great terror that through all of the mayhem I had lost track of them. She called their names frantically in a shaky, panicked voice. I looked down and saw that Maggie had been with us through the encounter, but Morton was nowhere to be seen. We both called his name, and when he did not come right away, my imagination ran wild with thoughts of what tragedy had befallen him. We continued to call out his name, and soon the rubble began to shift around in the front of the house as he came around the corner and found his way to us. We rose to our feet and tried to avoid stepping on the shattered glass that surrounded us and covered the tile floor. My wife went into the bathroom to check to see if Plucky was all right. Besides some fallen shampoo bottles and drywall debris, he was untouched. My next goal was getting us outside of these collapsing walls.

The back door sits at the end of the short hallway we cowered in, and I tried the door handle, but it would not budge. Something from the outside was jamming it shut. We looked toward the front of the house, but the wreckage was too great to tread. I glanced into my bedroom on the left to perhaps find an exit, but the rubble and the shattered glass barred the way. I looked to the right into Donna’s bedroom, and it was left almost untouched. This would be our pathway to freedom.

I entered the bedroom and began to climb out of the window. What I found when I crawled out was shocking. It was not the same world that had been there before. It appeared as if a bomb had been detonated in the middle of our yard, and before me was a wasteland of rubble and ruin. Trees were felled, power lines lay like dark serpents twisting through the grass waiting to strike, light poles were splintered and splayed out across the road and giant, jagged slabs of once-livable homes decorated this strange new landscape. A stranger’s mattress rested right outside the eve of the window from which I crawled, and I stepped across it.

I made my way through the remnants, and I instantly impaled the bottom of my shoe on several stabbing nails. I had to use more caution. As my foot throbbed, I slowly tiptoed around the side of the house. What I found in the front yard was like some gigantic destructive ruin from an abandoned war zone. A massive flat slab of iron was draped completely over the top of our roof and suspended outward over the crushed cab of our truck. It was as if some mythical giant was attempting to build a great primitive structure with wood and steel.

I could not venture far because of the fallen power lines, but as I gazed down the hill at the road, I noticed that complete houses were missing. They had been standing there before, and now they were completely gone like the subjects of some evil magician’s sinister disappearing act. I walked around to the backyard and looked over toward the small little storage building with the overhang where we park our car. Another giant iron beam lay across the roof of the building and pinned our car underneath. It was then that I realized what these giant beams were: the bottom of our neighbor’s double-wide mobile home!

Strangers’ belongings were strewn throughout our yard, fence posts were uprooted and it was as if wreckage was all that remained. People were running down the road and screaming, and the sound of distant sirens filled the air. Unfortunately, the roads were impassable. Citizens with shocked faces and empty eyes began to slowly move fallen trees and light poles out of the roadway so that emergency vehicles could eventually get through.

We were still in shock, and we did not know exactly what to do. The only escape route was on foot. This was not going to be easy with so many dangerous obstacles to step over while carrying two dogs and a duck. My phone was ringing off the hook, and people were offering to help, but there was no way for anyone to get into the subdivision. Outsiders did not seem to understand the magnitude of this situation. First responders were entering the subdivision on foot and asking if anyone was hurt. Apparently, a lady had been inside the double-wide mobile home next door when it toppled through the air like a tumbleweed and landed on our house. She miraculously crawled out of the remnants of her destroyed home. I do not know how she survived.

At one point we began to smell gas. A leak was somewhere close by that sent us into another panic. I saw a first responder running down the hill shouting “Gas Leak!” We thought we were going to have to leave on foot right then without any supplies, but fortunately, they were able to get the gas lines shut off quickly.

Eventually, rescue vehicles and more first responders were able to make their way into the subdivision at a snail’s pace. The road became jammed with emergency vehicles and flashing lights lit up the dusk. Kim was able to retrieve some essential items like clothing and flashlights from the accessible parts of our destroyed bedroom. Nightfall was coming swiftly, and we had to get moving. Many fine people were calling and texting, offering to give us rides and shelter, but it would be hours and hours before anyone could actually get to us. Without any other options, we decided to walk out. Our dogs would be placed into a baby stroller, and my wife would carry the duck. We also had bags of supplies to take with us, so this was not going to be an easy trek. An emergency responder informed us that some of the fallen power lines were still live and that we should make sure not to step on any of them. So adding to the rubble, nails, metal and glass obstacles that we had to overcome, deadly live wire were also threats that we had to look out for in the darkening night. This did not include the challenge of the crowded roadway and hundreds of vehicles that we would have to weave between.

I was in charge of the dogs and led the way, so every time we came upon a live wire, I had to lift the stroller up and place it down on the other side. This became almost impossible because I was also carrying bags of supplies and trying to shine a flashlight onto the darkened path. My mother-in-law quickly became exhausted and out of breath before we were very far out of the driveway, and it was clear that she would not be able to make the journey. We stopped in a stranger’s front yard to let Donna rest and catch her breath while we desperately tried to get her some kind of transportation to the nearest convenience store in town. Finally, thanks to the kindness of a Good Samaritan, we were able to get her a ride out of the subdivision in an already packed truck with no room for my wife and me. The plan was to meet her later.

We trudged on. It was like strolling through pure chaos that became virtually unmanageable, and we eventually came to a standstill where low hanging power lines blocked our passage. We stopped on the side of the road in an effort to construct a better plan for getting out of this nightmare. After a few minutes, my wife crossed to the other side of the road, and I was held up as more vehicles inched their way in and out of the ruins. Kim was eventually able to secure a ride for us in the bed of a stranger’s truck. We were filled with gratitude and relief just to be able to exit the dreaded obstacle course and sit down.

Even though we were now secure with our pets in the refuge of this truck, it was a painstakingly slow process getting out of the subdivision. The drivers were forced to dodge hanging power lines and splintered trees, and in some cases, we were plowing through front lawns and ditches as they had become the only drivable paths. The journey out of the devastation took hours, and we were never able to make it to the convenience store where Donna waited for us. We had to settle for being dropped off in front of a hardware store in town, and some good friends were able to pick up my mother-in-law and finally make their way over to us. We were free at last, and some wonderful people opened up their beautiful home to us for a few nights until we were able to get on our feet.

The next day, we were going to try to salvage our surviving belongings from our house, but the subdivision was only open to emergency vehicles as they searched for missing persons and began the long process of clearing the roads. Not until two days later were we able to get into our house to get our things. The kitchen and the bathroom were completely destroyed. The oven and refrigerator had been thrown across the room, and the wall where the cabinets and sink once stood was obliterated. Jagged wooden planks and beams jutted out like teeth from the hungry maw of some towering beast. The outer wall of the bathroom had collapsed inward and a long piece of wood had literally impaled the wall. If any one of us had been standing in the kitchen or the bathroom when the mobile home struck, we would not have made it. We are all extremely fortunate.

Most of our things would have to be moved out of the house in a day, and on top of that, I had somehow managed to severely injure my back sometime during this whole terrifying ordeal, so this was no easy feat. Luckily, we had many great human beings helping us during this hectic and confusing time. Our wonderful landlords had an older model mobile home that they were getting ready to remodel, but they were gracious enough to let us move into it so that we had somewhere to stay, and they spent days helping us transport and situate our things.

The tornado destroyed both of our family vehicles, but we were able to get our car replaced with our full coverage insurance and the generous donations from our church and community. Since we only had liability insurance on the truck, we were not able to get it replaced. It is still sitting in an auto wreck yard right now along with many other tornado damaged vehicles. Most of the damage to the truck was to the crushed cab where the steel beam landed, so hopefully there is a chance that it can be restored. If there is a possibility that it can be saved, I am sure it will not be cheap. I reached out to the Angelina College Foundation Student Emergency Aid Fund, and we even had an interview, but I must have been passed over in the end because I never heard back from their office. Luckily for me, college classes are still online this semester, or I may not be able to attend. If they were held on campus, I would not have transportation to Lufkin every day since my family is down to one car, and my wife uses that one for work.

Even now, in late August as I am writing this, mounds of rubble and ruins of homes remain in the Yaupon Cove subdivision of Onalaska, Texas, and the path of the tornado can still be seen while driving over Lake Livingston. Many places in town are utterly unrecognizable. Some people were not as fortunate as my family, and sadly, the tornado claimed their lives. The town has forever changed, and we are eternally thankful that we made it out alive. I was reminded of the fragility of human existence, and it helps me to understand that I should appreciate every breath and never take my short time on this earth for granted because it can be over in the blink of an eye.   

Ruins of the home Nylan Holifield and his family were in during a devastating tornado that ripped through his east Texas neighborhood. (Photo by Nylan Holifield)
Huge debris lay everywhere disabling vehicles and blocking roads. (Photo by Nylan Holifield)
The powerful tornado easily removed the tops of houses and splintered walls. (Photo by Nylan Holifield)
Holifield’s family, dogs and duck are devastated by the storm’s damage but happy to be safe and together. (photo contributed)

Question this issue:

How have you, or your family, been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?

Demee Martinez

Unfortunately, yes, we have been affected. I have lost two family members. One of my uncles passed away, and about two days later, his daughter passed. My oldest brother tested positive as well, but he’s all right now! It was hard in the beginning because of all the unknowns. My mom owns rentals, so some renters could not make payments because of being laid-off, hours being cut, etc., and it caused an economic impact. It has all worked out now, thankfully.

Major: Journalism/Mass Communication

Hometown: Lufkin

Michael Gollott

My family was affected by the coronavirus due to having restrictions and delays when seeing doctors. Also, we had reduced hours at work so a reduction of revenue. The overall effect of the virus has really just become an inconvenience.

Major: Graphic Arts

Hometown: Biloxi, Mississippi

Kayla Bergeon

It’s been hard but I am not letting it beat me down.

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Lufkin

Andrew Kraemer

The coronavirus has affected my family and me in good and negative ways. My sister was unable to finish her high school career in person like she always wanted to. I lost my job and had to file for unemployment, but the benefits have been very rewarding. I was able to do more classes with my free time.

Major: General Studies

Hometown: Lufkin

Ivan Guerrero

Since the pandemic has begun, my activities outside of the city have been decreased immensely. I find myself worrying about the world’s outcome and the health of those around me. At certain points, the panic of the virus has tightened the love between my family and friends, but occasionally, I’m still very concerned for what’s to come for the next decade.

Major: Graphic Design

Hometown: Lufkin

Molly Clifton

The pandemic hasn’t affected my family directly, which I am very fortunate for, but it has affected my job tremendously. I work in retail and am known as an “essential worker.” I has been very difficult working in the public during times like this simply because it’s dangerous putting myself at risk working with the public. Yet I work and go home to my whole family, which puts them at risk , too. Another trial you face while working with the public during a pandemic is the fear your customers experience. Customers come in and panic, often taking several items that aren’t necessarily needed. They are rude to the staff and other customers and act irrationally. So health-wise, I haven’t been affected by COVID-19, but my everyday normal job has turned into a complete nightmare.

Major: Journalism and Mass Communication

Hometown: Zavalla

Caitlyn Hutson

I graduated Angelina College this past spring semester of 2020. I had been there for three years. You can only imagine how badly I wanted to walk across that stage with all my family and friends watching. Because of COVID, there was no graduation ceremony. I was very disappointed and felt like my hard work the past three years had been all for nothing. I wanted to celebrate my accomplishments because I was proud of how far I came. I know AC did this not to harm us but to keep us safe and healthy. Though I wish things could have been different, I know that everything happens for a reason and God has a plan for my life!

Major: Former AC student, Elementary Education at SFA

Hometown: Kennard

Josh Weeks

At the start of the pandemic, my grandpa was dealing with treatments for cancer and with my parents’ ages, I didn’t want to put them at risk since I was still going to work and possibly exposed. I had to pack up my things and stay with a friend and then later ended up just living on my own. It caused me to take a big leap in my life but also kept me from seeing my family.

Major: Former AC student, Graphic Design

Hometown: Jasper

Aubriana Huggins

Due to the coronavirus, I started working with DoorDash. It has also caused my family to stay indoors much more.

Major: Special Education Teaching

Hometown: Lufkin

Ross Jones Jr.

My family has been affected by the coronavirus because work hours have been cut for my mother, which causes her financial problems. It’s also making it hard to find a job that’s hiring.

Major: Nursing

Hometown: Lufkin