Eastfield Et Cetera June 9, 2021

Page 1

Etera Dallas College Eastfield Campus

Transition amid change After the move to one college, Joe May announces an early retirement with Justin Lonon named his successor. See page 2

Graduate Tatiana Clark uses education to pursue her dreams. See page 5 Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Volume 52, Issue 8



Wednesday, June 9, 2021


The Et Cetera

Chancellor set to retire, board names successor By HARRIET RAMOS Editor in Chief @HarrietRamosETC

Chancellor Joe May will retire Aug. 31, 2022, and Executive Vice Chancellor Justin Lonon is the sole finalist to take his position. May announced his intent to retire at a special session of the Dallas College Board of Trustees on May 14, and on June 1 the board named Lonon as the sole finalist to succeed May. The nomination will be finalized with a formal vote June 22. Trustee Diana Flores said they could have done an outside search for May’s successor, but Lonon would provide continuity an outsider could not. “Candidates are going to tell you yes, they will follow the direction the trustees have set,” Flores said. “However, a leader always wants to make their own mark, and would probably want to take us somewhat off that



path. … Dr. Lonon has been involved step-by-step with the board and the chancellor in moving us in the direction the board has set, and we expect that to continue.” Lonon has served at Dallas College for more than 15 years. Previously he was press secretary for former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk. “Dallas College is a beacon of hope in Dallas County, and I’m excited to work with students, faculty

and staff to expand opportunities for those we serve,” Lonon said in a statement to The Et Cetera. “I look forward to working with Dr. May during the transition.” Matt Hinckley, history faculty and president of Eastfield’s Faculty Association, said he is pleased with Lonon’s nomination but disappointed to see May retire. “I have enjoyed a productive working relationship with him, and I believe he has the best interests of students at heart,” Hinckley said. Over the long term, Hinckley said he is looking forward to working with Lonon to expand programs that focus on food security and housing affordability, sustainability and social justice. Hinckley said the most pressing issue he sees going forward is addressing low enrollment in the career and technical education programs. “During the pandemic, many of our CTE programs, where good pay-

ing jobs are plentiful, have not been able to recruit new cohorts of entering students,” Hinckley said. “[This is] because the high schools also have been closed and because many of our dean and department chair positions remain unfilled. We need rapidly to develop and deploy a program to draw both graduating high school students and adults … into programs that will prepare them.” May came on board as the seventh chancellor of the former Dallas County Community College District in February 2014. “To say that I’m proud of the work we have accomplished here together would be an enormous understatement,” May said in an email announcing his plans for retirement. “As I look back at my time here, I can clearly see how, together, we have innovated, connected, built, learned and grown, all in the name of transforming lives through higher education.”

Under his leadership the seven colleges in the district merged in 2020 to become the singly accredited institution of Dallas College. May also sought authorization for Dallas College’s first bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and teaching. The program was approved by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and is set to begin this fall. In 2018 May helped with the creation of the Dallas County Promise, a partnership of colleges and high schools that helps students graduating from participating high schools pay for tuition not covered by federal and state financial aid. “It has truly been an honor to serve and lead this institution as chancellor for the past seven years,” May said. “Though the journey hasn’t always been easy, the chance to serve our students, especially through our transition to Dallas College, has been the opportunity of a lifetime.”

U.S. Malls: A bygone culture shuttered by COVID By JOHNSON TRAN Contributor @TheEtCetera

Mall closures have ramped up during the pandemic as customers have switched to online shopping or big-box stores like Walmart. Malls have gradually closed many of their retail stores in the past few years, and with the pandemic, those numbers have increased. An August 2020 report from Coresight Research estimates 25% of the approximately 1,000 malls in the U.S. are expected to close over the next three to five years. Aura Hoque, 20, a Dallas College marketing major, said she believes malls will gradually regain popularity, but not as much as the past. “It’s kind of sad, to be honest,” Hoque said. “It’s not good because I don’t think people can rely on online shopping for everything.” As retail stores located in malls struggle, many are finding it difficult to pay rent. According to Coresight Research, Simon Property Group, the largest shopping mall owner in the U.S., received only 51% of the rent they were owed for April and May 2020. Other stores have had a hard time keeping their shelves stocked. Champs Sports, a brand-name athletic footwear store at the Music City Mall in Lewisville, faced product shortages during the pandemic, according to employee Jalen Woods. “COVID really messed up … how much shipment we were receiving,” Woods said. “We used to get a lot more [shipments], but when


Malls across the country, like Town East in Mesquite, have struggled over the past few years as more people shop online or at big-box stores.

COVID hit, there [were fewer] people working in the warehouse.” Now that the vaccine is readily available and summer is getting underway, Wood said he thinks customers will feel more comfortable going out.

He has also been told more products will be available for the summer. “Corporate let us know [by] late June or early July that all of our shipments will be back to normal,” Woods said. “So, there is going to be a lot more product in the store and I feel like that

will make the traffic go up.” Some lower end malls tend to rely on stores like Macy’s or JCPenney to keep their tenants afloat, but more and more of these anchor stores are closing or going bankrupt. Earlier this year, Macy’s announced two locations were closing in Dallas-Fort Worth as a part of the department retailer’s plan to shut down 125 stores nationwide by 2023, according to Macy’s Inc. Not all stores in malls are struggling, however. Celltech, a cellphone repair and accessory kiosk located on level one of Town East Mall, has been getting an average amount of customers, according to shopkeeper Prashant Kumar. Kumar said he believes customers still want to come to a physical store so they can use their senses to pick out goods, which makes them more confident with their purchases. “Even though there are many online retailers, there are still people who want to see, feel and try [products], making them want to buy it,” Kumar said. Joni Daniel, the manager of Town East perfume shop Heaven Scent, was positive about her store’s future. She said she is confident customers will return and their store will thrive as more people begin returning to pre-pandemic life. “Malls will continue to decline because of online shopping,” Daniel said. “[But] people still like to come to the mall [for the] experience, to go together with family to shop, even if they have to pay a little bit more.”



The Et Cetera


Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Oak Cliff garden provides resource for community By LIZET VELASQUEZ, HANNAH CHITTY and HARRIET RAMOS Reporters @TheEtCetera

Mike Luster didn’t know when he started the Sankofa Community Garden in Oak Cliff three years ago that his passion for gardening would inspire others. Luster, who is finishing up his entrepreneur certificate at El Centro, is the executive of operations for The Oak Cliff Veggie Project, a nonprofit organization that distributes food and educates the community in nutrition, food preparation and gardening. Sankofa Garden is one of five community gardens, all in North Texas, operated by the organization. “In my opinion, the role of a [community garden] is to, one, bring people together,” Luster said. “[And] two, to help people get back to their roots. Before life became fast paced, we all, in some way or another, had our hand in the dirt growing our food.” A community garden is grown and taken care of by local volunteers. The gardens are located in a public space, such as a school or a church,


Bethany Salva helps at one of the Oak Cliff Veggie Project garden’s on May 8.

where neighbors are encouraged to work together and take care of the garden as their own.

The Sankofa Garden is located at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Oak Cliff on West Kiest Boulevard.

Anyone who wants to be involved in a community garden can be, as there are plenty of jobs to go around, Luster said. “You find out what they would like to do,” Luster said. “Where someone [might] like to prune the leaves, they might not like to dig in the dirt.” For those who want to be involved but can’t do strenuous work, Ples Montgomery, Luster’s brother-in-law and the executive director of the Oak Cliff Veggie Project, suggests projects that don’t require a lot of physical effort. “You can start the seeds for us,” Montgomery said. “Help them germinate and grow to the right level and strength that they need to be at in order to transplant them in.” Montgomery said the collaboration that goes into caring for a community garden creates unity. “The community garden benefit is empowering,” Montgomery said. “It brings us together in a more neighborly space.” Luster said some other benefits are being out in the fresh air and talking to and learning from those who have similar interests. Another benefit is being able to eat what you have grown, and Luster

said people are surprised when they find out how good home-grown veggies are. One of his jobs is educating people about how to cook with fresh vegetables. “One of the things I also get a lot of is ‘What is this?’” Luster said. “And when we tell them it’s a beet or squash or whatever the case is, they look thoroughly shocked, like they’ve never seen it before in the raw form.” For those who want to start their own garden, Luster recommends to start off slowly and not “bite off more than you can chew.” He said starting a community garden requires a dedicated team and a good location with the right amount of shade and sunlight. Finding out the zone you are in and learning what plants grow best there is a good place to start. Luster said his community garden has inspired people to start their own gardens at home, and he regularly shares photos and videos on social media. “I have some [Instagram followers] that message me and give me updates on how their kids are doing with their gardens and ask me for tips,” he said. “I get a lot of great reviews.”

Local nonprofit educates about importance of recycling By ALEJANDRO CONTRERAS Contributor @TheEtCetera

It’s 9 a.m. on May 8, and Charles Haggard is manning the eyeglass station at Poteet High School for Mesquite Recycles Day. It’s a busy day for the retired high school coach and counselor, who can see cars snaking through the parking lot all the way out to North Galloway Avenue. A couple of cars have pulled up to his station to drop off donations. “Do you take the cases too?” a woman asked Haggard in reference to an eyeglass case. “We do save the cases,” Haggard replied. “We normally give them out to somebody in a shelter or somewhere that will give them to people who need them.” By the end of the day, Haggard had collected almost a full box of eyeglasses. Haggard has been volunteering for Keep Mesquite Beautiful, Inc. for eight years. Keep Mesquite Beautiful, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that educates the community about recycling and keeping the environment clean. The organization is funded by public donations but also receives some funding from the


city of Mesquite. They also hold Trash Bash events to get the community to participate in a clean-up event. Volunteers like Haggard are the heart of the organization. They’re motivated to see change happen in Mesquite by reusing resources and preventing littering. Mesquite Recycles Day is one of the organization’s most popular events. Residents can

drop off recyclable items to be reused or disposed of properly. The event is held twice a year, with the second one being in November. People can drop off items such as clothes, books, paper, household goods, electronics, tires, batteries, ink cartridges, toys and lightbulbs. “99% of people [who donate] are really personable and friendly,” Haggard said. “[They’re] easy going and appreciative of what everyone

is doing,” Selket Daese, executive director of Keep Mesquite Beautiful, Inc. said she wants to educate young people about the importance of caring for the environment. “We’re just constantly consuming,” Daese said. “Recycling helps us keep a renewed society because there’s no way you can get rid of all the trash. The goal we want is to have zero waste, so trying to move it into a zero-waste society is a constant fight.” Anna Barry, who has lived in Mesquite for 41 years, became aware of Keep Mesquite Beautiful, Inc. from her water bill. Barry has been donating for seven years. She said she donates clothes and books, and disposes of ink batteries and shredded paper. “Some of the stuff I have are in a box where I put things that I want to donate,” Barry said. “Yesterday, and the day before I was going through sorting things like clothing and papers.” Haggard said he just wants to help and provide for the Mesquite residents so they can have access to different resources if needed. “We’re all just wanting to be successful and the people that need stuff get stuff,” Haggard said. “Our part of it is encouraging people to take advantage of opportunities that they have.”



Wednesday, June 9, 2021


The Et Cetera

Digital divide seminar stresses empathy, communication By JOHNSON TRAN and LEAH SALINAS Contributors @TheEtCetera

As a father of four children, psychology and sociology professor Elgrie Hurd III has experienced the challenges of transitioning to a virtual learning environment for instructors, students and parents. “It has taught me that empathy is really important,” Hurd said. “That the willingness to not use my perspective to understand someone else, but to use someone else’s perspective to understand them is what a lot of people are lacking.” Hurd, who teaches at the Brookhaven campus, hosted a virtual seminar April 6 on “Closing the Digital Divide” to discuss issues related to the inaccessibility of internet and technology during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said this divide can put people at a disadvantage in their learning environment. “We had to actually purchase devices at our house,” Hurd said. “We had the privilege to do that. That’s not everyone else’s experience. Some students were sharing devices among three kids and a parent who needed it for work.” While empathy allows faculty to be understanding of students’ situations and for students to understand the challenges facing faculty, communication also plays an important part in closing the digital divide, Hurd said.


After the transition to online-only classes at Dallas College, some faculty members struggled to find ways to help their students and often didn’t realize the challenges they were facing with students who were new to online courses. “I had a student email that said, ‘I don’t know how to upload my assignment,’” Hurd said. “I didn’t think that would be something we had to cover because I was assuming a whole lot of what my students had [done] already.” Some students also don’t have regular access to technology or internet at home.

Jacqueline Rea, a criminal justice major, used library computers and resources to complete her assignments before the pandemic. Since those places have closed because of COVID-19, she has had to use her cell phone or borrow a neighbor’s computer to complete her assignments. There is only one computer in her home and it’s used by three family members. “There are times where I have things that are due and they do too, so it’s kind of stressful when that happens because they’ll need it and then I’ll need it,” Rea said.

Duc Anh, an international studies major, faced other technology issues during the pandemic when an instructor uploaded assignments via a scanner, making the text and format difficult to read. “Some can be very old and scanned in a blurry format,” Anh said. “It makes it impossible to highlight, take notes or bookmark ideas.” Huan Cong, a computer science major, said he remembers an instance where he had trouble with his online textbook. The code Cong received did not work, and he was unable to reach his instructor. “At the end of that course is when I

realized I was provided a digital book but never got access to it,” Cong said. Alexis Godinez, a veterinary technology major, said she does have access to technology and the internet at home, but she has still experienced the stress of virtual learning. Because labs do not take place on campus anymore, Godinez said the work that used to be split between classroom and online is now all online. She said the workload is affecting her sleep schedule, work life and personal life, and it is easier to get distracted and fall behind in online classes. “My major is pretty much medicine for animals, and it was all handson before,” Godinez said. “Now that classes are online, it takes away the hands-on experience. Teachers are wanting students to read the book and learn from what they read, but I am a visual and hands-on learner, so it is not easy to retain.” During the virtual event, Hurd discussed strategies that faculty can use to help struggling online students, including having consistent office hours and thoughtful communication. But he said students must also communicate their needs to their instructors. “Accountability goes two ways,” Hurd said. “Be consistent when communicating … and the student shouldn’t look for the instructor to fix everything.” — Alejandro Contreras and Blake Strickland also contributed to this report.

Dallas College switches to renewable energy plan By HARRIET RAMOS Editor in Chief @HarrietRamosETC

Dallas College has moved to a renewable energy plan through Gexa Energy that is expected to save $750,000 annually. The five-year contract went into effect June 1. “These initiatives protect the environment, promote equity and improve the economy,” Georgeann Moss, Dallas College’s executive administrator of sustainability, said in a press release. “It is our social responsibility to ensure that future generations have the same or better quality of life as what we now enjoy. This purchase is a big step toward achieving that goal.” The plan is based on renewable energy certificates purchased by Dallas College, according to board member Cliff Boyd. The certificates allow the college to support the renewable energy market without having to supply the electricity themselves through solar panels or wind turbines. Boyd said the electricity delivered to the facilities will come


Dallas College has made a deal with Gexa energy to invest 100% of its five-year contract in renewable energy.

from the grid and include a hybrid of renewable and non-re-

newable sources, but the certificates guarantee that Gexa will purchase or invest in renewable energy equal to the amount of the Dallas College contract. “The risk is all on Gexa and not on us,” Boyd said at the May 4 board meeting. The contract was unanimously approved at the May 4 meeting. Boyd said the contract has a fixed rate which will allow the college to avoid the wildly fluctuating rates some consumers faced after February’s winter storm. “It’s on Gexa to be able to deliver,” Boyd said. “Our bill won’t fluctuate.” Chancellor Joe May said at the meeting that the plan meets both the economic and sustainability goals of the college. “We must be a community leader both in operations and in academic programs as relates to sustainability,” May said. “At the same time, we have to be aware of our fiscal responsibility and stewardship in these areas. So what I believe the committee has done and the group has done on this one is a great balance of keeping all of these in perspective.”

Life &Arts Wednesday, June 9, 2021



A graduate’s journey

The Et Cetera

From high school dropout to college graduate, Tatiana Clark pushes forward By HARRIET RAMOS Editor in Chief @HarrietRamosETC

The air conditioner was broken at the call center where Tatiana Clark worked during the summer of 2019. She had to ask permission to use the bathroom and eat lunch. And the pay was $11.50 an hour. She knew it was time for a change. “I just got tired of it,” Clark said. “I was like, ‘you know, I’m better than this.’” She quit her job in August 2019 and enrolled in Eastfield’s nursing program. A week later she was a fulltime student. Clark, 26, will graduate with an Associate of Science degree on June 26. “I’ve been looking up cap decorations so I can decorate my cap and gown, and then I’ve been looking at places where I can take pictures,” Clark said. “I’m just so excited. … This will be my first time ever walking the stage. [I’ve gone from] high school dropout to college graduate.” Clark found out she was pregnant her senior year of high school. When she heard the news, she said she cried and cried, but she knew the unborn child was a blessing from God. When her son Jeremy was born shortly before the end of the school year, Clark, who had been an honor roll student, made the difficult decision to drop out to take care of him. Clark’s mother, Tabitha Riverson, said her daughter dreamed of working in the medical field ever since she was a little girl. “She always said she wanted to take care of kids, she wanted to be a pediatrician,” Riverson said. Clark put the dream on hold to focus on her family. Four years later her second son, Kameron, was born. Clark said her children are her greatest motivators and the reason she chose to go back to school. She also realized no matter how much job experience she acquired she would need a college degree. She earned her GED before she left the call center and threw herself into her nursing studies.


Tatiana Clark stands with her two sons Kameron Clark, left, and Jeremy Johnson Jr. at a Christmas light display in December 2020.

“I’ve never wanted my kids to know that I was a quitter,” she said. “Because if I dropped out and I just gave up, then I’m giving them the example that it’s OK.” Riverson said she was surprised but supportive when Clark decided to go back to school. “I’m very proud of her,” Riverson said. “She has come a long ways.” Clark said she didn’t just slide by during her time at Eastfield.

She took a maximum load of classes every semester and was invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa honor society. PTK students have to maintain a 3.5 grade point average and be committed to the four principles of scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship. PTK adviser Sharon Cook said she was impressed with Clark’s involvement, even though there were a lim-

ited number of in-person activities for members to participate in due to the pandemic. Clark was one of two students who showed up to help the PTK leadership team with a resource drive to restock Eastfield’s Honeycomb Cupboard food pantry with personal hygiene items and cleaning products last November. “The fact that I had students like Tatiana who gave up their Saturday

afternoon to volunteer meant a lot to us,” Cook said. Clark worked a few hours each week as a home health care assistant. Evenings and weekends were for her family, and the rest of her time was spent working toward her degree. Clark wanted the satisfaction of walking across the stage to receive her diploma, but she heard graduation would be virtual due to COVID-19. Then as COVID-19 vaccinations became widely available in Texas, Chancellor Joe May announced in-person ceremonies were being planned. “For our students, college graduation is a defining moment in their lives,” May said in an April 28 email. “The pomp and circumstance, the well-earned payoff after years of hard work and the impending first step on life’s next journey.” Clark signed up for the in-person ceremony as soon as she received the email invitation. Her parents, fiancé and Jeremy will accompany her to the ceremony. She said Jeremy is looking forward to her graduation more than she is. “When I showed my son my cap and gown, he got so excited,” Clark said. “He’s my biggest fan.” Cook said she and the other PTK advisers are so proud of what their students have accomplished during this pandemic year, especially knowing their stories and the challenges they face. “I think all of our hearts will be swelling, just emotional … to see them walk across the stage,” Cook said. Clark said she is not planning to stop learning any time soon. In the fall she will study nursing at the University of Texas at Arlington. Eventually, she would like to further her education and become a pediatrician with her own practice. But more than anything, she said she hopes her educational achievements will inspire her sons. “I just want them to know that you can do anything in life,” Clark said. “If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will.”



Wednesday, June 9, 2021


The Et Cetera

Hidden gem: Rowlett arcade lets good times roll By LIZET VELASQUEZ and HARRIET RAMOS Reporters @TheEtCetera

It is shortly before 11 a.m. on May 29, and a line of customers is waiting outside the mirrored glass doors of Rowlett’s retro video arcade. The name RetroCade is emblazoned in blue capital letters on the building’s stone façade. Stepping inside the dim interior feels like going back to a different era. Dozens of brightly lit consoles invite visitors to play Xybots and Asteroids and other classic games from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Prince’s 1984 hit “When Doves Cry” competes with the beeps and pings coming from the game machines that fill the room. Classic games are making a comeback, and RetroCade owners Danny and Veronica Miller are helping keep the genre alive by turning a hobby into a small business. “I was always interested in arcades,” Danny said. “I started collecting [games] and accumulating a lot … in the house. I decided to do something with them.” RetroCade, located on Dalrock


Patrons of RetroCade in Rowlett play various arcade games. RetroCade is celebrating its one-year anniversary on June 12.

Road in Rowlett, opened its doors on June 12, 2020. The business is preparing to celebrate its one-year anniversary with a balloon drop and costume party. Despite the dream and the drive, starting a small business during the COVID-19 pandemic was hard. Danny said people were scared to come out and the business didn’t grow at first. Instead of making money, “it was sucking cash out of the bank quick.”

“We were barely surviving,” Veronica said. “We were in survival mode from day one.” In January, a member of the community heard about RetroCade and created a Facebook post that turned things around for the struggling business. “It was shared like 10,000 times,” Veronica said. “That’s how everybody … found out that we were here and that we were open.” Thanks to that one post, they saw

a big shift in crowd size. Business doubled. They had visitors coming from San Antonio, Louisiana and Oklahoma. RetroCade features some more recent games like Guitar Hero. There are also games for all ages. They range from easy ones like Pac-Man to more demanding ones like Galaga. The menu boasts beef street tacos, quesadillas and cheeseburgers, also known as RetroBurgers. More than 150 drink options, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, are available at the bar. A different craft beer goes on special every day. The business is open from noon to 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and from noon to 1 a.m. on the weekend. Danny said they wanted to create an experience that would be affordable as well as fun. “The average that a person spends in here is between $14 and $15 and that’s including the entry fee,” Danny said. “We’re always running specials.” Unlimited daily play is currently $10 and a monthly pass is $20, according to the website. As RetroCade continues to grow and expand, there are a few improve-

ments the Millers hope to make. The couple’s daughter, Elizabeth Palacios, has worked at the arcade since its grand opening. She said the business is still small and needs something to put it more in the public eye. “Probably our social media presence,” Palacios said. “That would really improve [business] a lot.” The Millers expected different age ranges when they first opened, but a number of customers are young adults who come to play games that are older than they are. Axel Yanez, 18, was a first-time customer on a recent Friday night. He was on a date with his girlfriend, who enjoys playing video games also. “You get the original feeling here,” Yanez said. “You know, the good feeling.” The arcade was recommended by a friend, and Yanez said he enjoyed being able to bond while still being on a budget. “This is a perfect place for you to come, have fun, and not spend a lot of money,” Veronica said. “If you bring a date, it’s a cheap date.” — Chantilette Franklin contributed to this report.


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Sports The Et Cetera

7 eastfieldnews.com

Giving an assist

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Eastfield alum JJ Murray gives back to community, helps UNT get to March Madness By ANTHONY HERNANDEZ Contributor @TheEtCetera

Rowlett native JJ Murray has gone from Eastfield to the University of North Texas and is now living his dream of playing NCAA Division I college basketball. Eastfield athletic director Anthony Fletcher said Murray led by his actions in the classroom and on the court. He earned All-American honors while leading the Harvesters to a conference championship, but he was also a two-time Academic AllAmerican. “He was great to work with,” Fletcher said. “He was a ‘yes sir’ type of guy who did everything he was asked to do. He was awesome in the classroom. ... He just went out and busted his tail on the books and the court as well.” Fletcher said he and his family have enjoyed following Murray’s career “It’s been a fun experience to watch,” Fletcher said. “My 12-year-old is always cheering for him, so it is always exciting to see what he does after Eastfield.” Murray grew up playing everything from basketball to football. Once he got to high school, he decided to focus fully on basketball to give himself the best opportunity to play at the collegiate level. During his junior season at Rowlett High School, he broke his ankle and was forced into rehab until his senior year. Murray said the injury was one of the most important moments of his life. “It was kind of a setback and what I had to go through to get to where I am,” Murray said. “It challenged me and tested my dream and if I wanted to continue playing. Those situations shaped me to who I am and I wouldn’t be in this position without those opportunities that I had.” During his senior year, Murray averaged 10 points per game and helped his team advance to the 3rd round of the 2015-2016 UIL Boys State Basketball Championships. But even after having a comeback season, Murray felt unsatisfied with his recruitment opportunities. Still, that brought him to the JucoRoute recruitment program that offered him the option to play for some colleges and subdivision teams. After talking to some former players and Fletcher, Murray ultimately landed on the decision to play at Eastfield his first two years of



Clockwise from top, JJ Murray waves while cutting down the basketball net after the University of North Texas men’s basketball team won their conference championship on March 13 and secured a spot in the 2021 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. Murray goes for a layup against Brookhaven on Jan. 27, 2018, while he was still a point guard to Eastfield. Murray shoots against Temple College on Nov. 11, 2016.

college. Murray said his two years at Eastfield were

a crucial point in his career and led him to his current position at UNT.

“I was able to accomplish some great things at Eastfield,” Murray said. “My sophomore year we won a conference championship as first team All-Conference and All-American. Individually I was an academic All-American, so I applaud those years.” After his career at Eastfield, Murray transferred to UNT. He began as a redshirt his first year for UNT’s basketball team, slowly earning his time and worth on and off the court. “This year I was put on scholarship,” Murray said. “I was able to play a good amount of 19 minutes a game this year on a team who made history and went to March Madness.” His contribution also earned him the UNT Spirit of Service Award. One of his role models was the late Kobe Bryant, who influenced Murray to give back to his community. Murray said he tries to pattern his work ethic after Bryant. Murray is a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, National Society of Black Engineers and president of the UNT chapter of the American Society of Engineering Management. He has set on a journey of giving back the community he grew up in and made him the person he is today. “I’ve always wanted to be in a position to just help other people,” he said. “I realized that I received help and wouldn’t be in this position without the help of others. I feel like it’s only right that I give back and reciprocate that into the community.” Through his contributions, Murray can assist younger students in the engineering department by passing down his knowledge and experience. One of Murray’s latest contributions in the past year has been through organizing service events to raise funds for the Salvation Army. “Usually, a lot of those are nonprofits that don’t make a lot of money, so they need hands and bodies to help,” he said. Apart from earning his C-USA Spirit of Service Award, Murray and the UNT basketball team were able to get into the NCAA tournament and make history as their first appearance in the tournament. “It was a dream come true,” Murray said. “I’ve always dreamed of playing in the tournament. That was one of my reasons to come here is to get to that point, and for that to come true was a surreal feeling. I just really thank God we got to that point, and we were able to win a game.”

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