Archive | December, 2010

Commentary: A tradition of giving

By Kaley Consford/J-Line Writer ~

The sound of the cold brisk air rustling wrapping paper was all that could be heard on a recent Friday afternoon, as 73 “Patrielves” snuck silently into Lakeland Elementary School.

As we got closer to the cafeteria where we would surprise children with Christmas gifts, the chatter of small children grew from a faint murmur to an excited buzz.

During the holiday season, the Atascocita High School Patriettes dance team is transformed into the “Patrielves” as we splurge our money on presents that are greatly needed and wanted by a child who lives in poverty.

Every year, underprivileged children are chosen from Lakeland Elementary to receive what may be their only Christmas present.

Bikes are piled into truck beds. Clothes are wrapped and tightly fitted into cars. Toothbrushes, baby dolls, and car toys are stuffed into huge Santa bags. Each of these items is given just to see a child have a joyful Christmas.

“We do it for the kids,” said director Melissa Rayburn.” Just to be able to see them smile is what makes this experience worthwhile for the girls.”

That is exactly why the Patriettes participate in this charitable experience. To give joy to someone else is what truly makes Christmas the giving season.

It’s our opportunity to give a child not only a great present, but a Christmas they will never forget. It’s an opportunity to think not only about our own desires this holiday season, but about those who do not always have a Christmas to enjoy.

Perhaps, as the years go on, this tradition will influence others to give someone an unforgettable gift — the gift of realizing that someone out there cares for them.

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Fake trees aren’t all they’re cut out to be

By Alex Lance/J-Line Writer ~

More and more people are turning to artificial Christmas trees rather than live ones, but fake trees may be more naughty than nice – containing dangerous chemicals and produced in factories where working conditions are poor.

About 48 percent of United States households had artificial trees in 2002, according to the USDA Census of Agriculture. That number is growing as American consumers discover that the work of keeping up with a real tree just doesn’t fit into their busy schedules.

 Some people buy artificial trees because they have allergies to pine, but it’s not pine they should be worried about. Some fake trees have a warning label that says they contain lead and other chemicals. These chemicals can cause birth defects or other reproductive harm, according to the small print on the back of many artificial tree boxes. However, most people don’t pay attention to the little red square in the corner of boxes when they buy their holiday decorations.

Most fake Christmas trees are foreign-made, with about 85 percent of trees in the United States imported from China, according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

A 2003 Washington Post article offered this description of the conditions at a Chinese tree factory: “On the concrete floors of Zhang’s Shuitou Company factory, migrant workers, most earning about $100 a month, squat in front of hissing machinery as they melt chips into moldable plastic.”

Some fake trees claim that they are “fireproof,” but that isn’t always the case. In 2004, the Farmington Hills Fire Department of Detroit performed a test to see how artificial and real trees react in a house fire.

After conducting the experiment, the artificial tree resisted the flames for a certain amount of time, then caught fire and projected a significant amount of heat and toxic smoke into the air. On the other hand, a well-cared-for real tree remained mostly intact after the blaze.

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Stepping out, stepping proud

By Courtney Mayfield/J-Line Writer ~                      

Most step teams are all about the dance. But at Atascocita High School, the young Ladies with Positive Attitudes (YLPA) don’t just step in school, they step out and do community service.

At YLPA meetings, members gather around and share stories about their day. Since many members are seniors, the main topic is college. Food, drinks, and jokes spice up meetings and make it more fun until it’s time to get serious.YLPA is a community service organization for high school girls who maintain a 70 or above average and do not have any discipline problems. It’s meant to teach young girls how to be positive and carry themselves like young ladies.

To be accepted into the organization, one most go through an interview process. If a girl makes it into YLPA as a member, stepping is not a requirement.

In 2006, YPLA was named Ladies of Distinction (LOD). However, in order to attract more girls, sponsors LaQuietta Harden and Cynthia Colbert changed the name in spring 2010 to Young Ladies with Positive Attitudes.

Many middle schools in Humble ISD school district have started similar programs on campuses. They call themselves Rosebuds or Rosettes.

Sisterly Saturday, Super Kids Day for elementary schools, Helped with Step, food drive for HAAM, and the Breast Cancer Walk are some past events YLPA have sponsored.

Tatyana Clay, YLAP president and step captain, and the other 27 members also worked on the Hip Hop Talent Show.

“The girls that we have this year are a very dedicated group of girls,” said Harden. “They are always looking for things to stay active in the community and at school.”

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Learning to feel connected

By Lizzie Noxon/J-Line Writer ~

Advisory class is much more than just 28-minute class that Atascocita High School students are required to take twice a week.  It has a purpose.

Advisory is designed to connect the dots when it comes to each individual student’s classes, future plans, and relationships. Advisory teachers are there to guide each student to help make their high school experience more comfortable and beneficial by helping them improve their grades and finding areas of interest in extracurricular activities at school to become involved in.

One of the main focuses of Advisory is to help students better their experience in high school by becoming involved in extracurricular activities, according to Bobbie Rogina, the Atascocita High School teacher in charge of Advisory,

“I think they teach students skills they can’t learn in other classes like leadership, teamwork, and give students a chance to earn scholarships, and a chance to improve their college resumes,” said Traci Hendrix, an Atascocita High School FFA teacher.

However, one student, Jay Warren, an Atascocita High School ninth-grader, believes being involved in extracurricular activities can take away from learning the core classes.

“I think other school activities take time away from schoolwork and some kids use that as an advantage to get out of doing their schoolwork,” said Warren.

Andrea Trevino, a ninth-grade student in Atascocita High School Student Council, believes that having extracurricular involvement can also motivate students to do better in their studies.

“It keeps you on top of your grades.  If you’re failing, teachers make sure you can’t attend your favorite organizations,” said Trevino.                                                                                                                                                                 

Another purpose of Advisory is to better students’ relationships with teachers and other students, said Rogina. The purpose is to make every student feel connected to at least one teacher, as well as to other students.

        Rogina explained that Advisory was added to the school curriculum after the 1999 Columbine High School shooting where research showed that students who were connected to others in school and involved in school activities did better than those who were not.

In Advisory, high school students have class discussions, activities, and games to help self-esteem and set future goals, as well as the teacher’s advice in keeping up with each student’s grades and study habits.

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New district, new challenge for AHS soccer

By Ariel Reyna/J-Line Writer ~

A new year. A new season. A new district?

Every two years, the UIL decides what schools will be in what district. Sometimes a school will be in the same district, but this year, Atascocita High School was moved to a challenging new district, along with rival Kingwood High School.

A district is made up of schools that all have about the same amount of students, and which compete against each other in sporting events and academic contests.

Though this tough district affects all sports and other UIL programs, it will especially test this year’s soccer program.

“It’s gonna be the toughest district we’ve ever been in,” said boys head soccer coach Alex Rogina.

Some of the schools in this new district consist of some of the toughest soccer teams in the state: The Woodlands, The Woodlands College Park, and Lufkin.

The Woodlands High School girls soccer team became state champions last year after winning the state game 3-2 against McKinney Boyd High School. Lufkin High School advanced to the playoffs.

“It’s good for us,” said girls head coach Eric Nichols, explaining how playing tough teams “makes us play at our best… and have to become mentally prepared.”

Atascocita High School itself will be the underdog in this district. The previous year, both boys and girls varsity teams earned second place in district, behind Kingwood, and advanced to the playoffs. Oddly, they both were knocked out by losing 3-0 in the second round of playoffs, boys losing to eventual state runners-up.

The coaches and players know this season won’t be easy but many of them do believe if they work hard enough, they have a very good chance at making it to playoffs.

“It’s not gonna be pretty,” said Rykley Crowe, a student and soccer player on the boys team at Atascocita, “We have a tough conference, but we have strong devoted players, we’ll see how it goes.”

The new season starts in January, and both Atascocita boys and girls soccer programs have been preparing for this season all semester, hoping that this will be an exciting and successful season.

The new, and hopefully, exciting season is coming very soon, with tryouts starting November 30, 2010.

“I’m not sure what will happen this year because the new teams in this district will be a lot more challenging than the schools in the 2009-2010 school years,” said Alex Deeb, 2010 Atascocita high school graduate and soccer player. “It will definitely be more competitive.”

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The people behind the teachers

By Alex Rynearson/J-Line Writer ~

Pages folded, scribbling everywhere, sticky notes with added information of important dates, tiny handwriting crammed into every visible area of discolored paper.

That is a peek at the personal calendar of Jan Harris, a volunteer at Atascocita High School. It is so crammed with the important deadlines of the day, week, and month, that if she were to lose it she would go into a great panic.

By volunteering at AHS, people like Jan Harris and Stephanie Knapp help out not only teachers, but the students who go into the classrooms in which they teach.

“The job of a volunteer is no different from that of a paid employee,” said Knapp, another school volunteer at Atascocita. “You have to organize your day just as you would if you were paid to do that job.”

Volunteers work long hours every day.  So far, this year, AHS volunteers have worked almost 6,000 hours altogether, according to Matt Roser, Blue House 1 principal. At the end of last year, AHS only had 4,882 hours of volunteering. Principals plan to double that number this year.

When volunteers come to the school, they usually go to work in the copy room, library, or for a teacher who knows they are coming. They can also work at dances, club parties, carnivals, and other extracurricular activities that AHS has.

“I do mass emails asking teachers if they need volunteers for anything,” said Roser. “When they email me back, I forward that email to PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association), who then contacts volunteers to come and work.”

The mass email system has helped because it allows principals like Roser to keep track of who has done what for this school year, how long they have worked, and who they have worked for.

School volunteers do many things that students don’t know about. They organize DBAs the students take; they help out the cross country team by finishing the running path; they are turned into timers for swim season; and they can become concession stand attendants.

Like superheroes, volunteers can just do about do anything. However some students do not know that volunteers help out.

“The truth is that I didn’t know we had volunteers. I guess I always knew that we had to have some, but I don’t pay attention,” said Ashley Vance, a ninth grader at Atascocita High. “In the hallways, I really am too busy talking to my friends, that I’m not paying attention to people hanging signs or running around doing stuff for the teachers”

“I knew we had volunteers, because I sometimes am doing volunteer work for AHS myself,” said Tyler Marksberry, another ninth grader.

Without volunteers, many teachers say that they could not accomplish their goals in teaching.

“I remember last year when I was leaving AMS that one of my volunteers threw me a going away party after school,” said Kathleen Gregory, a ninth grade math teacher. “There were snacks and everything. It was really nice.”

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From their hearts to yours

By Alex Lance/J-Line Writer ~

Most people are feeding and changing diapers for their baby at eight weeks. But for Jennifer Guidroz and her husband Jake, it was a completely different story.

Just five weeks after being brought into this world, Nathan Guidroz was strangely silent, not eating, and having difficulty breathing. Guidroz, a communication applications teacher at Atascocita High School, knew something was wrong with her child, but his pediatrician thought nothing of it.

“His cry disappeared and he began to wheeze,” Guidroz said.

On August 7, 2008, Guidroz went to her son’s doctor and told them to do something about her son because Nathan did not seem well. They immediately took him to the emergency room, then to Memorial Herman Hospital.

That night, Nathan was diagnosed with Atrioventricular Canal Defect Complete (AV).

Almost all children with AV are diagnosed in the womb. AV is a congenital heart defect that causes the middle wall of the heart not to form. This then causes the chambers of the heart not to form. Most children would have surgery to rebuild the wall of the heart at four to six months.

After being released from Memorial Herman on August 21, Nathan went straight to Texas Children’s Hospital.

“I feel good when I am in Texas Children’s,” said Guidroz, “That probably sounds bad saying that you like being at a hospital, but I just feel good there.”

Just six days later, surgeon Charles Fraser performed surgery on Nathan to rebuild his middle wall of his heart. He was only eight weeks old.

“He was in so deep,” Guidroz said.

They had to perform surgery on the infant right away since he had been going without medicine or treatment for such a long time.

“We didn’t have a choice,” Guidroz said.

If Nathan did not have the surgery, he could have died. His surgery went “wonderful” and the baby had a quick recovery. After the surgery Fraser told the parents that their tiny son’s heart had been the size of a six-year-old heart, but went down 30 percent during the surgery.

Nathan was released from the hospital on September 5, 2008 — the day before Jennifer and Jake Guidroz’s birthday. They share the same birthday.

“I never left Nathan’s side,” said Guidroz, who stayed with her son through everything. The only time she did not sleep with him was when he had to stay in ICU over night.

Nathan is now two and a half years old. He is smiling and running around like a normal toddler. There is always the chance of another surgery, but for now the Guidroz family is enjoying their life as it is.

Guidroz and her husband also raised awareness for heart disease by participating in The Heart Walk on November 6, 2010. This was their first time doing the walk, but they raised $2,215 –$715 over their goal. A health Nathan toddled along the route with his parents.

Guidroz has also started a website called, where they share their story and give other families a forum to share their struggles.

Nathan “is alive and well today and truly a miracle,” Guidroz says on the website. “We cannot share his story enough!”

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“My life is bigger than myself”

By Alex Lance/J-Line Writer ~

This is Kap McWhorter’s philosophy: “Not simply to train young adults to be good students but to provide opportunities for them to become great people.”

McWhorter, whose philosophy is stated on his teacher web page, is a social action teacher at Atascocita High School. He and his students will be holding a toy drive at Atascocita High School to help local families during this Christmas season through Humble Area Assistance Ministries (HAAM).

HAAM is a non-profit organization that helps families in need. They started 20 years ago when many different churches and organizations came together to make their efforts go further. Last year, HAAM helped 3,700 children receive toys for Christmas.

The toy drive will be going on until Friday, December 10. On the last day of this semester, McWhorter and his social action students will go to the toy warehouse and help parents in need pick out toys for their kids.

“They get to put a face to an issue,” said McWhorter.

The social action class does a lot of talking about the issue of poverty, but when the students get to go to the warehouse they actually get to see their efforts in action. It’s truly a “life altering experience,” said McWhorter.

 The class started when McWhorter grew tired seeing how students were being taught. It was all about the students getting good grades and having above average test scores. McWhorter wanted to start a class that made the students think, “my life is bigger than myself.”

When students bring in toys for the toy drive, they can drop the gifts in big decorated boxes at the front of each house, and attach a slip on the toy saying who they are and who their advisory teacher is.

At the end of the toy drive, the advisory that brings in the most toys will be able to go with the social action class to the toy warehouse and help the parents shop. The PTSA will supply a pizza party to the advisory that brings in the most toys in each house.

“I would feel horrible not being able to provide my kids with presents this Christmas,” said McWhorter.

And that’s one of the reasons he does what he does — to help families eliminate the burden of not providing gifts for their children this holiday season.

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Teachers open lives to learning

By Kaley Consford/J-Line Writer ~

Most students dread the sound of their alarm clock in the morning. After hitting the snooze button numerous times, they finally drag themselves unwillingly from the warm oasis of their bed.

This is the typical start of a school day for an average Atascocita High School student.

But lately, instead of hitting the snooze button, students are jumping out of the bed anticipating the start of their school day, yearning for what classrooms have to offer.

 That may be because many teachers have been incorporating parts of their outside life into their teaching skills.

 In some students’ opinions, that makes it more enjoyable to learn. To other students and teachers, the idea of teachers sharing their outside life to help students learn is invading privacy of the teacher and should be kept unshared.

Some teachers believe that creating a better relationship with their students that it improves learning, so they show pictures, share stories, and use examples of their life to their students.

“I think students do better when they know I care,” said ninth grade World Geography teacher Jennifer Dunn.” I try to attend school events and ask my students about the activities they participate in because I understand that my subject may not be the most important thing in their teenage life.”

Over the years, a teacher’s role in a student’s life has changed. A teacher used to be just the educator and primary source for learning, but now a teacher may also be a friend, a confidant, and a role model.

Studies show that when a teacher is warm or more affectionate, learning becomes more natural for the student, because of the bond between the student and teacher is formed. The overall assumption is that if teachers create better relationships with their students, the result will be that the students’ class average will increase.

 Most students believe that if more teachers committed to friendlier interaction with their students, it could change the education statistics in most high schools.

 “Influencing your students is important, by relating to them, holding that ground of friendship, and setting fair expectations for them, you are creating a relationship that will make them more eager to learn,” said ninth grade English teacher Dusti Rhodes.

Teachers are often accused of trying to cram knowledge into the lives of students, which is said to be the main reason students find school so insufferable.

 “Most students feel a great deal of pressure by being in school,” said student Brittney Leone. “With honors classes, GPA they have to maintain, and tests to ace, students are looking for an escape from the anxiety of school.”

 An Indiana University study showed that there is a relationship between students’ perceptions of support from interpersonal relationships with teachers and academic motivation. The results of the study imply that students learn more when positive interpersonal relationships with teachers exist.

 “If it helped my child to learn and become more knowledgeable, then I would be more than encouraging towards my child’s teacher having a certain bond with them, as long it had certain boundaries,” said parent Tamara Williford.

 Many Atascocita students say they live complicated and problematic lives. All they want is to be shown that teachers care about them, which creates trust in the teacher.

 Atascocita student Gabby Cadena, with her history book in hand stated: “If teachers actually took the time to care about us, we might actually give them the key to our world which they already try so hard to unlock.”

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The sound of hope

By Jordan Anholt/J-Line Writer ~

Try to imagine what it’s like not to hear anything. Think of what it would be like if it was just completely quiet, all the time. Imagine being basically forced to speak another language that no one knows.

Terrell Brittan, a sign language teacher at Atascocita High School, says it’s good because he sleeps well, doesn’t have to hear loud fire alarms, and doesn’t have to hear students gossip and yell throughout the classroom.

Brittan has been deaf his whole life and is proud of it. He enjoys being different.

 “Teaching is my passion, I am proud of who I am,” said Brittan.

 At school, hearing-impaired students learn the same way as other students, only through their interpreter. They also participate in the same activities as the other students in the class.

“They have to depend a lot on the interpreter, and I have to give them more information than they might need to keep pace with the other students,” said Lori Dickard, a World Geography teacher at Atascocita High School who has two deaf students in her class.

 When the two students are in class, it can be difficult to for them to fit in with the other students, said Dickard. It’s like going to China speaking in English. Communication is difficult because they don’t speak the same language.

“They are slightly more secluded, and they don’t hear all of the funny things that go on in the classroom,” Dickard said. “The most difficult thing to teach them would be maps, because they are so detailed and deal with latitude and longitude lines.”

 Dickard feels that one way she is able to help her two students is through her experience as a mother. She understands how hard it must be for the two students to go through this. Dickard’s daughter, who is taking ASL (American Sign Language) and hopes to teach deaf students when she gets older, helps her mother learn a few ways to communicate with her students.

“They are both incredibly funny, laugh a lot and understand each other,” Dickard said, noting that the two deaf students in her class have each other for support.

There are a growing number of groups and organizations where deaf teens can find support, friendship and encouragement.

A Teen America beauty pageant, which started in Texas in 1999, is designed especially for the deaf. In this pageant, contestants compete in teams in categories such as state spirit, platform presentation, talent performance, and formal wear.

 “The goal of the pageant is to promote young deaf emerging leaders, leading to a strong deaf community,” a representative of 2010 Deaf Teen America Pageant said on the organization’s website. “The pageant gives students an opportunity to develop leadership qualities, learn teamwork and social skills enhance their self esteem, and appreciate diversity.”

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Heart to heart

 Jennifer Guidroz, a communications application teacher at AHS, shared the story of her son Nathan’s struggle with a congenital heart defect. After having heart surgery at just eight weeks old, Nathan has grown into a healthy toddler, and Guidroz is trying to spread awareness about heart disease.

Here is a peek at Nathan’s journey to health.

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