288 Express-Alvin Sun

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288 Express

Living in Alvin, Manvel and beyond

Service above self

AHS JROTC program shines in the community, across the nation Page 6

A publication of

August 2019 Volume 2, Issue 8


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288 Express Living in Alvin, Manvel and beyond Editor and Publisher David Rupkalvis publisher@alvinsun.net

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Writers and Photographers David Rupkalvis Joshua Truksa Stephen Collins Prentice C. James

Account Executives Brenda Groves ads@alvinsun.net Kobie Lee advertising@alvinsun.net Betty Crawford classifieds@alvinsun.net

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Dentistry 4 Children and Adults 2 offers a comprehensive suite of pediatric and general dental services including:

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288 Express Bringing History to life Page 11

Inside Cover Photo The Alvin High School Marine JROTC program has earned the reputation as one of the best in the nation by helping at home first.

6 11 16

Cover Story Sunday Drive Texas History

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Operation Backpack Chemistry Show


Cover Story

Honor Courage Commitment

Honor – Cadet Corporal Jonathan Allen does a uniform check to ensure his ranks are the same distance and that blousing is ready. Below, Cadet Elizabeth Hidalgo readies her gun for target practice during marksmanship work.


he Alvin High School Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, MCJROTC, is a premier organization designed to prepare its cadets to be successful citizens. The leaders of the program are Maj. Timothy Flynn and 1st Sgt. Stephen Garcia. Both of these retired Marines work diligently each day to help cadets achieve their goals and carry out the mission of the program. The MCJROTC is quite accomplished, as it has received numerous accolades over the years including a


Story and photos by Prentice C. James

national championship for physical fitness in 2019. Yet with all of the awards, the greatest impacts for this group have been in the lives of the cadets, the influence on their peers and service to the community. The Alvin High School MCJROTC has a strong presence in the surrounding area. The cadets and their leaders can be seen anywhere from local schools, to meal distribution centers, to activities beneficial to society in times of calm or crisis. This MCJROTC is definitely a beacon of light in the local community and beyond.



Cadet Aaryanna McKenzie and the physical fitness team train during summer workouts. Hard work has paid off as the physical fitness team placed best overall nationally in 2019.


Cadet Michael Aguirre completes chin lifts during physical fitness training. Right, in the midst of all if its other activities, Alvin’s MCJROTC finds time to serve the community.




A hallmark of MCJROTC, drill teams exude consistency and accuracy as the unit works as one.

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In preparation for incoming freshmen, the MCJROTC held a leadership camp to organize and lay the groundwork for the 2019-20 school year. Right, Cadet Rocio Sosa salutes during marching drills.


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Sunday Drive

Houston Museum of Natural Science

Throughout the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the dinosaur bones are put in real-life scenes, like this hunting scene. A temporary exhibit showcases the moon close to the celebration of the first lunar landding.


re you a history buff? Do you like being entertained and educated at the same time? Have you ever wanted to get a close-up look at dinosaurs? If you answered yes to any of those questions, I highly recommend a trip to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Home to some amazing artifacts and pieces of history, the museum allows guests to see complete dinosaurs, mummies direct from Egypt, real Faberge eggs and gems rarely seen anywhere else in the world. Best of all, from Alvin you can be inside in less than an hour. My family and I made the trip on a warm Sunday and spent hours caught up in the majesty and history inside.

The biggest attractions — in size and majesty — are the dinosaurs in the Morian Hall of Paleontology. The hall is filled with prehistoric beats, based on a timeline when they existed. But rather than just lining up bones and replicas, the Museum of Natural Science brings them to life, as they are chasing, eating and escaping as they struggle for life. From a layman’s perspective, the most awe-inspiring thing is just the sheer size of the beasts. We’ve all seen dinosaurs on TV and movies, but seeing their size in person puts things in perspective. If dinosaurs aren’t your thing and you want to get a taste of human history, the Hall of Ancient Egypt might be more to your liking. The

Story and photos by David Rupkalvis


hall has real artifacts dating back thousands and thousands of years, including multiple mummies. Real mummies — like dead people wrapped up and buried in Egypt. They even have a cat mummy on display. I think my favorite thing in the Egyptian display was the age of some of the artifacts. One gavel was listed as being 5,000 years old. Looking at something a man made 5,000 years ago is pretty amazing. While mummies and dinosaurs are cool, the most valuable items on display are elsewhere — in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals. On display, firmly behind glass counters, there are dozens and dozens of gems and minerals, most in their natural state. I couldn’t begin to guess the value of a 2,000 carat blue topaz or a crystallized gold cluster the museum claims is one of the most highly coveted

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objects in the mineral kingdom. But I bet someone could put a value on the Ausrox gold nugget. The nugget was discovered in Australia in 2010 and it weighed in at a stunning 740 troy ounces. “This enormous nugget was found by three prospectors working with a metal detector. Not a corporate mining operation with tons of equipment — three guys, out in the wilderness,” said Joel A. Bartsch, president of the Houston Museum of Natural Science. “Far beyond its value in gold bullion, and its rarity as a natural gold nugget, this is a piece that inspires both awe and a measure of gold fever in everyone who sees it — it makes you want to grab a metal detector and start looking for a treasure of your own — and you never know what you might find.” Another stunning exhibit is the Aurora Butterfly of Peace. This piece is made up of 240 naturally colored fancy diamonds. The total weight of the diamond collection

is 167 carats and was collected over a period of 12 years by Alan Bronstein and the late Harry Rodman. It includes pink and violet diamonds from Australia, purples from Russia, lime greens from Brazil and blues and oranges from South Africa. To keep with the historic and very valuable theme, check out The John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas. From a historic standpoint, the hall looks at the history of the Americas, mainly through Native American exhibits. But for value, gold is again at center stage with multiple displays of preColumbian gold pieces. And that is just the beginning. Multiple exhibits look at wildlife in Texas and throughout the world. The displays are, again, not static, but showcase the animals as they would be seen in real life. Another display that seems to enthrall visitors is the Foucault Pendulum, a visual demonstration of the Earth’s rotation. Throughout the day, the direction

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The Foucault Pendulum keeps crowds entertained all day as it moves with the rotation of the Earth.

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of the pendulum’s swing appears to change. Actually the Earth is turning under the pendulum as it swings. At Houston’s latitude, the pendulum will move through 180 degrees or halfway around each day. During this time, it will knock down pins set up to showcase the movement. My family, with three young children, spent four or five hours at the museum and certainly didn’t see everything. It was my oldest son’s second trip, and he would return tomorrow if he could. So if you like history, if you want to be awed by amazing things, both natural and manmade, give the Houston Museum of Natural Science a try. It’s in the museum district in Houston and well worth the visit.

A real mummy is one of the highlights in the Hall of Ancient Egypt.

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Texas History

Stephen F. Austin Historical Park

A statue of Stephen F. Austin towers over the entrance to Angleton and marks the home of the Stephen F. Austin-Munson Historical County Park.


raveling along Texas State Highway 288, drivers have been greeted by the familiar sight of the tall statue of Stephen F. Austin in Angleton. What is not immediately apparent is the entire park built around the statue. The statue itself was erected in 2006 with $500,000 of private funds collected by an organization named the Stephen F. Austin 500. Each of the 500 members donated $1,000 for the construction of the statue on land then still owned by the Munson family, who purchased the property


Story and photos by Joshua Truksa

from Stephen F. Austin with the intention of donating it to a governmental park system for maintenance and improvement. The organization hired David Adickes, the artist of the Sam Houston statue in Huntsville, to design the statue. The statue of Austin in Angleton is four feet taller than the statue of Houston in Huntsville because Adickes saw the perfect opportunity for intergenerational payback. “His ancestor was the postmaster general for the provisional government of the Republic of Texas. Now, Sam Houston being a Jackson man

following Jackson politics and such, when he come on to power, he fires everybody on his cabinet and he replaces them with his buddies. So one of his first actions in office is to fire David Adickes’ ancestor,” James Glover, park director for Stephen F. Austin-Munson Historical County Park, said. In 2016, the Brazoria County Parks Department accepted the statue and the land, and the park was born. It is the first and, to date, only historical park in the Brazoria County Parks system. If you want an answer about

Texas history, just ask Glover. He’s as close as one can get to meeting a time traveler. His family has lived in the area for generations. One thing to be found at the park is not only historical demonstrations, but the practical application of settler-era technology. Park staff use a bell of the type that would have been used for signals on plantations and in towns in the early days of the Anglo settlement of Texas, and Glover uses a sight mechanism from the same period to ensure that everyone is far enough away from the can-

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non before firing. The park’s goal is to act as an interactive learning center where history can come to life and be experienced, rather than a museum housing invaluable historical artifacts that can never be touched by visitors young and old. “Just about everything in here has to do with education and history, local history,” Glover said, explaining that the park concentrates on the historical period between 1811, when several of Austin’s original colonists participated in the filibusters that began the struggle to free Mexico from Spanish rule, to 1846, the first year of Texas statehood after being admitted to the union in 1845. The park’s namesake, Stephen F. Austin, died in 1836. The park’s historical focus includes 10 years after his death because his influence continued in a rather unfortunate situation with his estate being tied up in probate court for 10 years (including all nine years that Texas was an independent nation), leading to little investment taking place in the community of Quintana, which remains small to this day.

“If you can’t get clear title to land, you’re not going to do a business there, and that’s what happened to Quintana for 10 years after he died,” Glover said. The prototype of the statue that is now displayed in the museum area would under normal circumstances be lifesize, but it stands taller than Austin’s 5-10. This was so Adickes could keep it to scale and make the large statue taller than that of Sam Houston. When Glover mentioned that the statue appeared to tower above what Austin’s real-life height was reported to be, Adickes told him the story of why he would be making the statue taller. It is uncertain exactly what Austin looked like. Different portraits of the man in the museum show different facial features beyond what age would account for. Due to this, Adickes used a composite facial structure that included the different faces and that of a friend. What that ultimately means, Glover said, is that Brazoria County has a 76foot tall statue of George W. Bush. Much of the exposure and interaction the park has with the general public is

through outreach programs for both children and adults around Brazoria County and other parts of the state, where Glover and the park’s historical interpreter, Jennifer Parsley, can be seen in historical clothing with artifacts in tow, as they did for the Brazoria County City’s Association monthly banquet in Lake Jackson in July. The park will soon have much more to see on-site, however, with the upcoming installation of four buildings for a small settler’s-era village with a main house, a kitchen, a wood shop and a slave cabin. The hurdle being faced right now is that modern engineers, needed to ensure that the buildings comply with windstorm regulations, do not understand building structures with wood joinery. Stephen F. Austin-Munson Historical County Park is open to the public five days a week Wednesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and every second Sunday of the month features a History Talk with Parsley at 2 p.m. August’s topic was on the 1833 Texas cholera epidemic, and September’s topic will be dueling.

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Helping Out

Operation Backpack

Days before school started, Alvin ISD, Thelma Ley Anderson YMCA and the First Presbyterian Church of Alvin provided school supplies for 2,900 Alvin ISD students. The students were able to “shop” for their own backpack before volunteers loaded the backpacks with school supplies.

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Summer Reading

Smoke, fire and magic

Jim Pennington, associate professor at Texas A&M University, uses chemistry and fire to entertain and educate children at the Library of Alvin.


moke, fire and what seemed to be magic kept children and their parents enthralled as the Library of Alvin’s Summer Reading Program came to a dramatic conclusion when the Texas A&M Chemistry Road Show visited last month. Led by Texas A&M associate professor Jim Pennington, the chemistry road show travels the state introducing school-age children to the wonders of chemistry. By mixing chemicals together, Pennington kept the students engaged with tricks and treats full of surprise and awe. Pennington said the road show has been ongoing for 30 years in an attempt to show children how much fun chemistry and science can be. Sponsored by Dow Chemical and Shell Oil, Pennington explained the road show got

started all those years ago when Dow realized most of its scientists became interested in science as young children. The idea was that by making science seem fun, future scientists could be drawn in early. Pennington said his story started the same way as he fell in love with chemistry when his dad bought him a chemistry set in third grade. “Dow said, ‘Let’s prepare a pipeline for our future scientists that way,’” Pennington said. When the chemistry road show needed someone to take over 11 years ago, Pennington jumped at the opportunity. He explained that entertaining children while showcasing chemistry fits his personality well. “I wanted to do this,” he said. “We have a huge department and a lot of people are doing groundbreaking research. But that’s not how

Story and photos by David Rupkalvis

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God made me. A lot of my colleagues don’t want to embarrass themselves in front of kids.” At A&M, Pennington teaches non-chemistry majors — often doctors, veterinarians or engineers — two semesters of organic chemistry. But much of his time is showing off for children around the state. Every year, he puts on the show about 90 times, about half of those at libraries over the summer. And the program is growing every year. “The main thing I’ve contributed to this is broadening the region,” he said. “We’ve been east to Orange and west to El Paso.” While entertaining children

is the goal, teaching them is a positive byproduct. But most of all, safety is paramount. Last month, two representatives of the Alvin Fire Department were on hand for the performance — just in case. The spectators were kept back from the stage for their own safety as Pennington put on his show. “Hands-on is great, but that’s not what we do,” he said. Pennington said his goal is to have the road show return to communities every three or four years to reach a new group of students. He said he is fully booked for the school year shows and will begin accepting bookings for next summer soon.

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