AUSTIN – Taming rattlesnakes and a mechanical bull was easy compared to navigating the hallways of The Texas State Capitol for the group of students who traveled to Austin for Community College Day.
Eight students loaded up in vans around noon on Monday, Feb. 6 and hit the highway to speak to their senator and inform him and others of the benefits of community college.
According to Dr. Brenda Kays in a meeting held the week before leaving, community college funding was cut back four percent last year.
The group of students consisted of Adan Aguinaga, Jeremy Binion, Tyreick Lewis, Macy McAnally, Meaghan Morton, Toby Palmer, Tina Reed and Da’Jah Thompson. Each of these students represent different organizations from KC ranging from athletic to academic.
“[The cut] will provide fewer options for students, and to students, the more funding, the better,” Aguinaga said. “Most students do not have the opportunity to go on to a four-year school right out of high school. The more the school provides, the more successful they will become. Even though community college is not the same as a four-year school, it can still touch students’ hearts by focusing and engaging them to learn.”
The trip truly began after the group went out to eat. The students walked along Sixth Street in downtown visiting shops, riding a mechanical bull and scarfing down Voodoo Donuts. Afterward, everyone fell asleep to get ready for the next day.
The next day students from community colleges across Texas made the trek to the capitol to represent their cause. People working for the government seemed surprised the students were there and the building was filled with hundreds of people and even more confusion.
First, the students also met with Bryan Hughes, member of the Texas State Senate of District 1.
Hughes offered the students his business card and said to call him if they ever need a letter of recommendation or someone to pray for them.
Next, the group met Representative Jay Dean, formerly the mayor of Longview.
After commenting on how rattlesnake is “pretty good eating,” he touched on the economy.
“When it comes to community college funding, it is difficult due to the economy,” Dean said.
Prior to this he said Texas had the tenth largest economy in the world and around 80,000 people a year move to Texas because of the economy.
He then remembered his time visiting Kilgore when he noticed a pumpjack in one of the cemeteries in town.
“You know people are serious about their oil when they pump up dead people,” he said, laughing.
The staff in his office were welcoming and asked the students their majors and what year they were in at KC. One of the staff members was interested in Lewis’ major.
“It felt good due to the fact that not many people find a major in history interesting,” Lewis said.
The students also found a pit of snakes in the capitol. Men from Sweetwater Jaycees Rattlesnake Round-up held rattlesnakes in an area with Miss Texas, Caroline Carothers, watching. The snakes struck at the men, but the men seemed to be calm. The students held the snakes around their shoulders and took photos.
At the end of the day, the students left Austin exhausted, falling asleep in the vans on the way home or listening to their music, making it back to KC around 9:30 p.m.
“I felt that it benefited me as and American and Texan to learn how our government works and to take part in it in a small way,” Palmer said.