Students ill-prepared for emergency

Source: Department of Homeland Security
Source: Department of Homeland Security Infographic by Suzann Clay/The Collegian

By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief

In the weeks following a high-profile school shooting in Florida, many TCC students say they feel safe on their respective campuses but not necessarily prepared to face an emergency situation.

As the school shooting has dominated headlines, many campuses across the country have evaluated their own preparedness.

At TCC, some students say they have never participated in an emergency drill or training while at TCC.

Kai Marion has been a student on NW and TR campuses for two years but has never participated in an emergency drill or training.

“No, I don’t feel prepared,” she said. “I don’t know what to do.”

She said doing drills, especially after the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, should be important for the college. At the same time, she said she doesn’t feel unsafe.

“I see lots of cops around, but it would be nice to know what to do in an emergency,” she said.

TCC conducts drills on every campus, every semester, according to emergency management director Kirk Driver.

In 2016, the college conducted 16 emergency drills across all five campuses and other properties, according to TCC police’s annual crime report.

“Those drills are conducted by TCC police and are a way to test some of our notification systems,” Driver said.

Campus police determine what drills to do, when and what campus building to evacuate because they can’t conduct a drill across the entire campus at one time, he said.

SE student Inez De La Cruz has also never participated in an emergency drill or training session. She is worried about not knowing TCC’s protocols, she said.

“If something bad were to happen, it would be chaotic if you didn’t know where to go or what to do,” she said.

Ricardo Guijosa, who’s been a student on TR and TR East for three years, has also never participated in an emergency drill or training, he said. For Guijosa, the only reason he feels prepared to face an emergency while on campus is because of the training he received in the Navy, but he would like to see more drills happen at TCC, he said.

“I think most people should know what to do in case of any form of emergency,” he said. “Drills help with that.”

SE student Jonathan Torres has attended the campus part time since 2014 and has also never participated in any drills. But he isn’t too worried about it, he said.

“We’ve been practicing that stuff since elementary school,” he said. “Depending on the emergency, I think I’d be OK.”

Both Torres and Guijosa said they feel safe on their campuses because of the high police presence and because they’ve never encountered anything bad or serious while there.

Assistant police chief Chanissa Dietrich said drills are up to each campus, and officials rotate which drills they choose to do each term.

“They won’t do a fire drill and then another fire drill or a lockdown drill and the next semester another lockdown drill,” she said. “They try and change it up so that they’re not doing the same thing, and we keep the different protocols on everybody’s mind.”

The information regarding the protocols, and informational videos like one called “Shots Fired,” which provides active shooter training, can be found at, and a districtwide email is sent out each semester, she said.

“Now whether anyone slows down and takes a look at it, I couldn’t say, but we get it out to everybody and we direct everybody back to the website,” she said. “Please come to the website. This is good information. We keep it updated. Please come and look at it.”

At a minimum, Dietrich said she would prefer people watch the “Shots Fired” video and read the information.

“The active shooter information is good, but there’s also other incidents that people need to be prepared for, and on that emergency management site, there’s a lot of good information for different scenarios,” she said.

The website has the most accurate information, Dietrich said.

“If there was a new best practice for how we want people to react, we would go in and update it,” she said.

According to the college’s website, the protocols were last updated in August 2016, but all of the protocols and drills are up to the national standard, Driver said.

“We constantly continue to assess to ensure the drills are effective and then that our protocols remain with what the national standard is,” he said. “Currently, the national standard is ‘Run, Hide and Fight,’ which is something you can take outside of an institution of learning.”

The important thing for students, faculty and staff to do is update their myTCC alert profiles, he said. All students, faculty and staff are automatically enrolled to receive myTCC alerts through email, but legally, the college can’t enroll anyone to receive the alerts via text.

“We would rather have students update their profile and opt into receive the text messages because texts are serviced much quicker through your cellphone provider, and most people are more apt to read their texts than an email or listen to a phone message,” he said.

Guijosa hasn’t set up his myTCC alerts yet but does remember getting the emails to do so.

“It usually catches me at the wrong time,” he said. “It’s more on the purpose and the person and I should really sit down and do it.”

To update profiles, students can go to TCC’s home page and under the emergency and safety section find the link that says “myTCC alerts” and it will walk them through how to do so, Driver said.

Everyone receives a welcome email that has the password to access their account.

“If you’ve lost that, we can reset the password and normally what we do is we just stay on the line and we walk the student or faculty member through the process to be sure that they don’t have any other issues,” he said.

MyTCC alerts are only one of the college’s systems used to notify people. Different systems are used depending on what’s going on and where, Driver said. One is Alertus, which has an app that is free to download, he said.

“This is useful for situations like for when people are in between their vehicles and a building and the app could alert them to not go into a particular building,” he said. “We would love for our staff, faculty and students to take advantage of that.”

None of the students interviewed knew about the app, but NW student Tasha Morrison said she likes the idea of it.

“I work full time, go to school full time and I’m a single mom so I don’t always check my email, so that would be good to have,” she said.


Alertus app
Alertus app

Alertus Login Information

1. Download the Alertus app
2. Sign up with your TCC email
3. Enter in the organizational code TCCD
4. Enter the PIN code 8911

When searching for the app in the Apple App Store or Google Play the results offer two options. Students, faculty and staff need to download the yellow “recipient” app.

He, too

TR instructor Sheldon Smart was born in Trinidad and Tobago and immigrated at 22 to continue his education.
TR instructor Sheldon Smart was born in Trinidad and Tobago and immigrated at 22 to continue his education. Photo by Lacey Phillips/The Collegian

By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief

TR instructor shares his story as sexual assault victim 

Sheldon Smart has battled poverty, homelessness and immigration and survived.

The Trinidad and Tobago native is the first in his family to attend college and has earned a doctorate. He’s been a full-time TR speech instructor since 2013, a mentor with the Men of Color mentoring program, a life coach and educational technician at a substance abuse rehabilitation clinic, a YouTuber and he’s hoping to publish a novel at the end of this year.

But it was a casual conversation with a friend while watching TV last fall that he realized he needed to speak up about something else — the fact that he was sexually assaulted.

“I was sitting there watching it, and me and my best friend were talking about it and he knew what I’d been through, and I’m watching it and we’re talking about it and I’m realizing, ‘Geez man, I fit into this category, but I’m not saying anything and they are,’” he said.

Smart is opening up about his life now because, in the wake of the #MeToo movement, he realized he could also use his story to show others that they too can overcome their struggles and to pursue their dreams.

Between the ages of 10 and 11, Smart was repeatedly sexually abused by the cousin of a man his grandmother was seeing at the time. The man watched him because Smart was too young to stay home alone. He vividly remembers the first time it happened.

The two were in a bunk bed, Smart on the top bunk with his abuser on the bottom.

“I remember him getting up and reaching under my shorts,” he said.

He was awake the whole time but feigned sleep. His abuser, Smart remembered, said things like, “It’s OK. This is natural,” and “No one will believe you if you say anything.”

The molestation went on until Smart was old enough to stop having to go there. He never confronted his abuser and always pretended to be asleep when it would happen, he said.

He battled shame, questioned his sexuality and feared what others would think if they found out. To cope, Smart did what he’d been taught to do, which was to pray and be strong.

He didn’t let it stop him and actually got better in school after the abuse started because he threw himself into his studies. His grandmother, the most influential person in his life, taught him that school would be his way out. Throughout his academic career, he’d lose himself in books and getting good grades.

“I used school as a means of dealing with pain,” he said.

Eventually, he told his grandmother and even a college roommate, but other family members and friends didn’t know, he said.

“One of the reasons I was hesitant to talk about it at first was people would say ‘Well, maybe if you let it happen several times, after that, maybe you wanted it,’” he said.

He remained hesitant to talk about it until the #MeToo movement last fall.

TR speech instructor Sheldon Smart lectures prior to his students presenting during his Thursday afternoon class March 1 on TR Campus.
TR speech instructor Sheldon Smart lectures prior to his students presenting during his Thursday afternoon class March 1 on TR Campus.
Photo by Lacey Phillips/The Collegian

“That was really, I think, the turning point when I saw famous people, wealthy people be able to put their business out there it was like, ‘Well, who am I? I can do it too,’” he said.

Smart said he’d like to see more men speak up about their strifes with sexual assault.

“We always get more stats where women are concerned, but I think there are a lot of men out there who are hurting and they don’t report it,” he said. “I think men a lot of times stay too silent because we think it’s not masculine if we do or say certain things, but men have emotions and men have feelings.”

Smart said he hopes by sharing his story, it will make it easier for others to share theirs.

“When you speak up and speak out, I think it’s easier to come to terms with what has happened to you and to really find yourself,” he said. “Then you empower others to do the same.”

Following the assaults, Smart continued to pursue his education. After high school, he worked for a few years to save money because his family didn’t have the funds to send him to college and he refused to let his grandmother take out a loan to help pay for it.

In addition to struggling financially, Smart also lacked support from other family members. Although they loved him, they didn’t believe in him and made jokes about his dreams.

“When you grow up in a family where no one has ever accomplished anything, their expectations for you match their expectations for themselves,” he said.

Smart wanted to prove them wrong, and he did. In fact, two weeks ago, he sent an uncle $1,000 to get his car fixed, he said.

“You’ve got to keep on dreaming, I think, even when people don’t believe in your dreams,” he said. “What’s most important is you believing in them.”

After being accepted to Clarendon College in Clarendon, Texas, Smart decided to chance it. He came to the U.S. in 1999 at 22 with only $300 in his pocket.

“Sometimes when you’re young, ignorance is good because I showed up thinking, ‘Well, I saw it on TV and other people can go to America and they could make it,’” he said.

When his flight landed in Miami, Smart purchased a $10 calling card and used it to let his family know he’d made it to the U.S.

In Clarendon, Smart worked several jobs off campus and tutored and mentored other students for free while taking classes.

“I came prepared to work because I’d always heard from everyone that lived in the U.S. and came back home, ‘America’s hard. You’ve got to work,’” he said. “One thing was for sure, I did not want to fail, and I was willing to work as hard as possible to do whatever to make sure I did not fail.”

Smart said even though he has his doctorate now, he most values his associate degree.

“For me, it meant confirmation and affirmation that I could do this and that I had accomplished something that no one ever thought that I would accomplish coming from the family that I came from,” he said.

While at Clarendon, Smart met Itai Chinhamo, who was born and raised in Zimbabwe before finishing high school in London and coming to Clarendon in 2000.

“It was a small town and a small school,” she said. “All the international students could sit at one table together.”

Though she doesn’t remember the first time they met, Smart is like an older brother to Chinhamo, and for 18 years has been a calming and grounding force in her life. He was one of the first people that empowered her, she said.

“I wish there were more Sheldons in the world,” she said. “I always knew he was going to do something great.”

When Smart became a full-time faculty member at TCC in 2013, he joined the Men of Color mentoring program at TR shortly after. Tre’Zjon Cothran attended TCC from 2013-2015 and found Smart to be a mentor.

“He always knew the answers and helped guide me and motivate me to do more than just pass a class,” he said.

Smart helped Cothran open up by sharing about himself and his journey including all of the hardships he faced, Cothran said.

“You don’t realize the journey he went through,” he said. “When he shared, I remember thinking, ‘Man, if he can make it, I can make it,’ and I wanted to know how he made it through.”

Today, Chinhamo describes Smart as a “world changer.” He uses YouTube and his classroom to share his stories to inspire others.

“I believe sharing stories empowers people and makes them feel less alone,” he said.

Kinesiology department chair on SE dies at 39

SE kinesiology department chair Danny Aguirre died Feb. 5 at age 39.
SE kinesiology department chair Danny Aguirre died Feb. 5 at age 39. Collegian file photo

By Jamil Oakford/managing editor

A month after the Feb. 5 death of SE kinesiology department chair Danny Lee Aguirre, officials still have not determined the cause. He was 39.

The cause of death is pending toxicology results, according to the Dallas County Medical Examiner’s office.

Aguirre, a Grand Prairie resident, is survived by his wife, his parents, two brothers and a niece and nephew. A funeral Mass was celebrated Feb. 10.

SE Campus administrators remembered Aguirre as a loyal and dedicated employee and colleague.

Campus president Bill Coppola said the campus feels the loss of his presence strongly.

“Danny was a very important member of the SE family,” he said. “He was the type of individual that any president would want on their campus.”

Coppola said he was always willing to go the distance if it meant someone received the help they needed.

“Danny was fun, loving and dedicated to helping others,” he said. “He never hesitated to jump in whenever needed.”

Aguirre began working at TCC 10 years ago as SE’s intramural sports director. After six and a half years, he became the kinesiology department chair.

Tommy Awtry, SE mathematics, engineering, science and HPE divisional dean, said his colleague was someone who looked at his work with purpose.

“He was serious about his job. He was serious about his responsibilities,” he said.

Aguirre served on the district’s kinesiology Academic Curriculum Team, representing the campus to discuss a standardized update to the degree program, Awtry said.

On top of the responsibilities of department chairs like building class schedules, Awtry said Aguirre was responsible for maintaining the gym, cardio and weight room.

Aguirre put students’ needs above his own, Awtry said.

“He was just a good guy,” he said. “No matter how busy he was, he devoted himself to kinesiology.”

Coding class offers more than technology

SE coding instructor Joe Charles sits with student Jordan Carter as he works. This class is offered through the campus’ Community & Industry Education office.
SE coding instructor Joe Charles sits with student Jordan Carter as he works. This class is offered through the campus’ Community & Industry Education office. Photo by Robert Burn/The Collegian

By Jamil Oakford/managing editor

Students with autism are learning a new language to prepare for the workforce, thanks to SE Campus’ Community & Industry Education office.

CIE is offering a Python coding class for students with autism to help prepare them for jobs. After working for years with students with special needs, CIE vice president Carrie Tunson said the most underserved group she saw was students with autism. While they’re highly proficient in many academic areas, they needed help in other areas.

“They go to college just like any other student, but they lack the interpersonal skills to keep a job,” Tunson said.

She said this class is designed to not only offer the students an edge in the practical skills area of their resumes but to give them guidance in an area where students with autism typically struggle.

“Most of the students who take these classes are highly skilled in mathematics,” CIE director Vickie Moss said. “So when they get into these classes, one of the ways they deal with social skills is by working in teams.”

In these teams, students will help develop code for various products, she said. The class can also effectively help students with autism work on their interpersonal skills by having a small, manageable class size.

Python, a coding language used for web programming and desktop applications, was chosen over other coding languages because of the need for Python-fluent coders in the workforce, Moss said.

“We were trying to meet the need of the Texas Workforce Commission to include and provide a service to the students that can be used in the workforce immediately after completing this class,” she said.

Some of the students are finding this coding language to be a breeze.

“This is my first coding class,” SE student Conor Tysinger said. “So far, this has been pretty easy. Nothing too complicated.”

SE instructor Katrina Brown aids coding student Xabe Cole with an assignment in the Python coding class on SE Campus.
SE instructor Katrina Brown aids coding student Xabe Cole with an assignment in the Python coding class on SE Campus.
Photo by Robert Burn/The Collegian

For SE student Ellen Clinton who is in her 50s and already a professional, she finds this class to be exciting.

“It’s so different from health care coding,” she said. “Every day, I’m learning something new, which is fun and a challenge.”

Coding student Xabe Cole, a sixth-grader who attends the class, isn’t finding it all that hard either.

“My father and I work on coding, but we stopped for a little,” he said. “It’s not too hard, but it’s challenging enough that you’re not always bored.”

The class has been a success in enrollment, according to Tunson.

“When we had a guest speaker from the technology field, the lightbulb went off for many of those students,” she said. “They’re enrolling in every class we offer.”

While the class is priced at $100 per student per class, it’s still cheaper than what the market offers for a person to be certified in basic Python coding. On average, these coding classes offered outside of TCC with an employee-recognized proficiency certificate could cost at most $2,000, she said

Tunson said this price is kept low for TCC students to ensure they can be a part of this class.

“We’re not in the business of making a lot of money, we’re in the business of breaking even,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons we can offer it at this price.”

SE’s CIE office has already slotted more technology-based classes for students with autism in the fall, Moss said. Web design, CAD3 printing and digital animation are just a few of those offerings. This month, they’ve also started a class in connection with Apple to have a Swift coding class open to the public, including students with autism.

She and Tunson said they are happy to see the students succeed.

“We feel we’ve accomplished our goal,” Tunson said. “They can leave here with one or two classes and still be able to get a job.”

Editorial – TCC’s lack of drills leaves glaring issues

Illustration by Aftin Gavin/The Collegian
Illustration by Aftin Gavin/The Collegian

TCC has emergency action plans in place, but many students are not prepared to face an emergency situation due to a lack of practice and effective communication.

This is particularly worrisome given the increase in mass shootings and, more specifically, school shootings like the one Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.

According to an article in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, the most common location of an active shooter incident is a business at 40 percent, followed by schools at 29 percent.

Other types of threats would also require students to know what to do in an emergency. After all, tornado season is getting ready to start, and North Texas sits right in Tornado Alley.

While TCC’s Safety and Emergency Management department has information on the college’s website about how to respond during an emergency, finding a student that knows where to go to access this information, and that’s taken the time to familiarize themselves with it, is rare. So is finding a student that’s actually set up their myTCC alerts.

But what’s even more difficult to find is a student who’s actually participated in any kind of emergency drill or training while on any of the TCC campuses.

Emergency plans are great if people are aware of them. If not, and no one has any experience practicing them, it increases the risk that the proper responses will not be adequately performed should an emergency arise.

Colleges should conduct drills regularly, even monthly, and include as many students, faculty and staff as possible because those that practice the protocols will be more equipped with tools to survive and more likely to remain calm. Less panic will equal less chaos.

All of TCC’s emergency protocols are up to date and meet the national standard, but each campus conducts only one drill each semester and often those drills only incorporate one building, according to Kirk Driver, the college’s safety and emergency management director.

We need to practice these emergency protocols regularly. Even if students take the time to familiarize themselves with the information online, conducting more than one drill more than once a semester in more than one building to involve as many as possible should be a priority, especially with the high turnover rate of community college students.

While much of the TCC community is unprepared to face an emergency situation because of this lack of practice, the lack of effective communication is also a problem.

Driver said an email is sent at the start of every semester to students encouraging them to set up their myTCC alerts and telling them where to access the college’s emergency protocol and other safety information and tips on the college’s website.

Few students know that information is online, and many of those who do know haven’t taken the time to familiarize themselves with the protocols or watched the informational videos.

The college also has an app students, faculty and staff can download for free to receive alerts if they don’t feel comfortable setting up texting with their myTCC alerts, but few know about it.

To an extent, the responsibility to set up the Alertus app and myTCC alerts and get familiar with the emergency plans is on students, but so many are completely out of the loop and if they don’t know the information is on TCC’s website or where to go on the site to access it, that shows flaws in TCC’s communication.

Should TCC ever face an emergency situation, this failure to effectively distribute the necessary information or practice the protocols will likely result in delays and chaos, putting the safety of more people at risk.

The college should make it more of a priority to effectively communicate the emergency plans and resources and implement more drills so more students can have experience executing the protocols.

All of our campus community should be as prepared as possible should anything ever go wrong because as the old saying goes: If we fail to prepare, we prepare to fail.

Viewpoint – Backdoor philanthropy shouldn’t be revered

The Collegian Logo
The Collegian Logo

By Jamil Oakford/managing editor

Toms wants people to buy a pair of shoes so they can provide a free pair to someone in need.

Thinx wants women to buy a pair of period-proof panties so they can provide menstrual pads to girls in Uganda.

WeWood makes wooden watches, and for every watch sold, it will plant a tree. That’s right: A company that kills trees to make WATCHES will plant one only if you buy their $200 watch.

Quite a few companies adhere to the Buy One, Give One (B1G1) model, and on the surface, this sounds like a great opportunity. People could feel better buying a pair of $40-$75 shoes from Toms if they knew an additional pair would be shipped off to someone in need.

Another way companies try to upsell consumers by couching their philanthropy is by asking people to donate at the grocery checkout line.

“Your total is $37.58. Would you like to donate $5 to St. Jude’s?”

Great. I’m paying $37.58 to find out I’m a trashy human being who’s too cheap to donate $5 to children battling cancer.

But these charity models can be highly deceiving. First, companies are often wrong in gauging what impoverished people need. In a 2012 New York Times piece, Sarika Bansal suggested that perhaps these B1G1 companies are guessing these people’s needs instead of knowing them. Bansal listed as an example that Toms provides shoes to children in developing areas of the world to help promote education because children cannot enter the school barefoot in these areas. In Ethiopia, one of the organizations that receives Toms donations distributes the donated shoes in schools, which means the kids receiving these donations already have shoes.

Another deceiving part of this model is that consumers are helping companies bolster their philanthropic image off of the backs of consumers. Instead of the company taking its own profits and doing some good with it, it relies on its customers to shell out dollars to prompt them to give generously. Customers are doing the heavy lifting while companies reap the benefits of a gleaming, socially-conscious image, which increases their profits.

Sadly, we cannot write off our $30 pair of period-proof underwear, the $85 pair of shoes or that $200 wooden watch.

Viewpoint – Stolen art reveals what modern world misses

The Collegian Logo
The Collegian Logo

By Edwardo Perez/NE English associate prof

Sometime between Jan. 19 and Feb. 12, NE art assistant professor Suzanne Perez, and art associate professors Cynthia Hurt and Richard Parker each had a painting stolen from a faculty exhibit held in the NSTU building.

The theft represented not just a loss of art, but a loss of the artists themselves, as if their children had been kidnapped. How do we understand this? How can we share their grief, especially in a world that seems to devalue art?

Perhaps it’s an effect of our digitized world. We’re so consumed by the hyper reality surrounding us, we no longer appreciate the beauty of something that’s actually real.

As Jean Baudrillard noted, our society is nothing more than a simulation or simulacra — a copy of a copy of a copy that no longer resembles the original. For Arthur Danto, thanks to pluralism, art has reached its end, existing in a void of post-historical meaninglessness. We could also posit that pluralism has become artificialism, with technology as art and artist — why paint when you can design an algorithm to do it?

Those who still wield a brush and mix paint are relegated to producing works capable of being stolen but not appreciated, their art reduced to nothing more than background accessories that we mock (“Which way are we supposed to hang it?”) or dismiss (“My three-year-old could paint that.”).

Thus, there’s a paradox to the stolen paintings. On one hand, someone thought enough about these works to actually steal them — and it couldn’t have been easy, because they’re large works, you’d be noticed walking around campus with one, let alone three. On the other hand, it took more than a week before anyone realized they were gone.

If Danto is right, then creative expression doesn’t matter anymore and we shouldn’t care about any painting, let alone three that were stolen.

But what if he’s wrong? What if art will ultimately rebirth itself in a post-historical renaissance to resume its position of marking the evolution of human expression as it has done for centuries? What if art finds itself again?

In an age where the aesthetics of assault weapons are worshiped (as the World Peace and Unification Sanctuary does with the AR-15) and emojis have become a main form of self-expression, perhaps finding art again is more important than it’s ever been.

Students come together for service

South students Stephanie Clements and Caitlin Lewis help give back to the community while working toward building a home for someone in need. NE students can volunteer to help out in the community during the campus’ Big Day of Service April 2.
South students Stephanie Clements and Caitlin Lewis help give back to the community while working toward building a home for someone in need. NE students can volunteer to help out in the community during the campus’ Big Day of Service April 2. Collegian file photo

By Michael Foster-Sanders/campus editor

NE student activities and the National Society of Leadership and Success will host the Big Day of Service event 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. March 31 on NE Campus.

In the Big Day of Service, students and faculty come together and volunteer their time in projects such as cleaning up the campus, helping at the campus food pantry and working on community service projects.

Phi Theta Kappa will provide community cleanup for the Hurst, Bedford and North Richland Hills areas.

NE National Society of Leadership and Success president Bianca Davidson wants the event to bring positivity on campus, a sense of pride through helping and understanding.

“Let’s come together as a campus and make change,” she said.

If students do not want to clean up but still want to help, there will be a blood drive, and they’ll also make art journals for children.

Free food, T-shirts and entertainment will be provided for volunteers who come out for the event, and no signup is required.

“It’s not only about giving back. This is an opportunity to have fellowship with other people, and it’s touching to see that,” David son said.

For more information, contact National Society of Leadership and Success president Bianca Davidson at