AAS students create nonprofit Pencil Project to aid Ghana youth

Today, a story I wrote was published on the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences website about two African American Studies students who have created a new non-profit organization to benefit schoolchildren in Ghana.

The story is part of the ongoing Student Spotlight series. I also took the photo that accompanies the story.

I interviewed Hannah McConn and Randryia Houston, two African American Studies students who started a non-profit group called The Pencil Project, for an article that appears on the college website.

Here are the first three graphs from the article:

It was a comment made by a school administrator in Ghana to a studying abroad group of UH African American Studies students that started it — the revelation that elementary school students in the African country drop out at an early age as a result of something as little as not having a pencil to do their work.

That single complaint frustrated Randryia Houston and Hannah McConn, two of the students who participated in the AAS Summer Study Abroad in Ghana trip that summer in 2009. A friend of theirs, Tiffany Lester — an English major and former president of the Resident Hall Association — came up with the idea that they should start a big school supply drive.

“When we got back, we were really frustrated,” McConn said. “We knew that we wanted to help the Ghanaian people in some way, but we didn’t really know how, and we kind of felt that as students, we didn’t have the means or revenue to do so in a huge way. So, she (Lester) suggested we just start with pencils.”

Five CLASS staff members win UH Staff Excellence Awards

Recently, I wrote an article that was published on the college website and its online newsletter about awards won by five staff members in various departments around the college.

The story I wrote about CLASS staff members winning UH Staff Excellence awards.

Here is an excerpt:

On Wednesday, May 5, the Human Resources Department at the University of Houston surprised the eight recipients of this year’s Staff Excellence Awards and the one recipient of the Charles F. McElhinney Distinguished Service Award, which is the highest award given for exemplary staff contribution to the university.

“I was caught off guard,” Staff Excellence Award winner Pat Sayles said. “The staff in the Dean’s Office knew, but somehow kept it quiet. I didn’t even know I had been nominated.”

Read the rest of the article in the May 2010 issue of Graffit-e.

Professor joins ranks of fellows at prestigious psychological association

One of the best things about working for the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences is that I get to use a lot of my communication skills to fill the needs of departments.

Recently, I launched a new website for the Developmental Psychology graduate program, and one of it’s new features is a place to publish news about students and faculty.

Yesterday, I wrote a brief news article about Professor Bruno Breitmeyer.

An article I wrote about Psychology Professor Bruno Breitmeyer.

Here is an excerpt:

University of Houston Developmental Psychology Professor Bruno Breitmeyer was recently named a Fellow in the Association for Psychological Science for his “sustained and outstanding distinguished contributions” to the field.

Breitmeyer joins seven other University of Houston faculty on the esteemed fellows list at the Association for Psychological Science: Richard Evans, Donald Foss, Merrill Hiscock, Richard Kasschau, Gordon Paul, Lynn Rehm and L.A. Witt.

See the rest of the article on the Developmental Psychology website.

Spring resident captures video of power line explosion

Today, an article I wrote appeared on Tropical Storms / Hurricanes blog on Chron.com.

For the article, I interviewed Spring resident Steve Guthrie, who was in the right place at the right time with a video camera to capture a power line explosion following Hurricane Ike.

Storm blog post
This story was published on the Chron.com Hurricanes blog following Hurricane Ike.

Here are the first few graphs of the article:

When the lights flickered on last Wednesday evening, and then began to dim, Steve Guthrie began to realize what was wrong.

After Hurricane Ike knocked out power to his house in the Oaks of Devonshire neighborhood in Spring, a pecan tree in his backyard lost a limb that became entangled with a power line. With no power, that was no big deal.

But when power was restored to his neighborhood, Steve was ready with his camera to capture sparks and explosions that nearly shocked him off his feet. He later posted his videos on YouTube.

7 Questions with Tonja Jones: Houston Alumni Organization director of Operation School Supplies

Today, an article I wrote appeared on the East End neighborhood news section of the Houston Chronicle’s chron.com website.

For the article, I interviewed Tonja Jones, the UH alumni director of a project that benefits local schoolchildren.

Chron article about Operation School Supplies
This story I wrote appeared on Chron.com.

This story was part of our ongoing series titled “7 Questions,” where we interviewed local leaders and wrote a story for the website that we advertised in the print edition.

Here is the first four graphs of the story:

Every year, Houstonians have the opportunity to make a difference in a young person’s life by donating to a project called Operation School Supplies.

We chatted with Tonja Jones, Vice President for Alumni and Student Programs at the Houston Alumni Organization who also organized the annual drive. For more information, please visit http://www.houstonalumni.com.

Q. Can a pencil change the world?

A. I believe in the concept of each life affecting another. Everybody’s affected by people who have the things they need to succeed. The project only serves the youngest students, K-5th grade. But it’s a building block. You have to build from the basic time of their lives. Having self confidence starts from a very small age.

Boy, 10, could face felony charges for messing with fire alarm

A story I wrote about a fifth grade student who was arrested on facing felony charges after a neighborhood friend dared him to touch a fire alarm at school appears in today’s Tomball Potpourri.

First Casey Harmeier story
I wrote a story about Casey Harmeier, 10, who was arrested on the orders of a Tomball principal.

Before my story ran, we shared it with ABC Channel 13, who covered the story. Houston Community Newspapers has a partnership with the local television news station. After my story ran, local Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey also began writing about the case.

Here is the first four paragraphs of the story.

A Tomball student was arrested Oct. 25 for allegedly setting off a fire alarm at his intermediate school.

“I need you to teach these boys a lesson,” is what 10-year-old Beckendorf Intermediate School student Casey Harmeier said he heard his principal tell a Tomball Police Department officer after the boy admitted to pulling a fire alarm at the school. The boy said he did it after being dared to remove the plastic cover of the
alarm by a neighborhood friend.

Tomball Independent School District spokesperson Staci Stanfield confirmed the boy was arrested, but speaking on behalf of Beckendorf Intermediate School Principal Delores Guidry, she said Guidry told her she did not make the remarks Harmeier alleges.

After questioning the fifth grade student and others who were present when the incident happened Oct. 25, TPD Officer Paul Overcast arrested Harmeier and took him to the Tomball jail where his parents later picked him up.

Download a PDF of the story.

School official arrested in sting

Today, the Tomball Potpourri published an article I wrote about my former high school principal, Michael McWhirter, who was arrested during an undercover sting operation at a local park for trying to pay for sex.

My photo of the bird-watching enclosure where McWhirter was arrested accompanies the story.

This article ran in the March 29, 2006 issue of The Tomball Potpourri.

Here is the first three paragraphs of the story:

An administrative employee and former high school principal in the Tomball Independent School District has resigned after being arrested for soliciting prostitution on March 15. The arrest was part of an undercover sex sting conducted during Spring Break by the Tomball Police Department at a city park in an effort to reduce reported public sex acts.

Spring resident Michael McWhirter, 57, was arrested at Theis Attaway Park in Tomball after striking up a conversation with a male undercover officer. McWhirter allegedly solicited sexual favors in exchange for a “small amount of money,” according to TPD Sgt. Gary Hammond. The undercover officer was wearing a wire and the conversation was captured on audio tape, but Hammond would not reveal the amount of money McWhirter offered the undercover officer.

McWhirter was arrested at 3:12 p.m. March 15 and shortly after being booked at the department, a $500 bail was posted on his behalf. According to a TPD press release, McWhirter was charged with solicitation of prostitution, a Class B misdemeanor, and charges were accepted by the office of Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal. If convicted, McWhirter faces a maximum of six months in the county jail.