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Main Point: Students must vote for better representatives

'Adapt and overcome': Cheer team somersaults through pandemic changes

Pop-up shop celebrates life, legacy of San Marcos music legend

Texas State researchers identify cancer gene in laboratory fish






Valentine's Day 2021: How businesses are celebrating love, relationships By Andie Mau Life & Arts Contributor Chocolates, stuffed animals and roses have returned to the bank statements of San Marcos residents as the season of love kicks in. While spreading Valentine's Day love and joy comes with health risks this year, local businesses are exploring creative and safe ways to make it happen. Singles or couples can start their day by visiting Stellar Coffee Co., a local San Marcos coffee shop that offers a relaxing study environment along with Valentine's Day specials. "We are a place where a lot of new couples can have their first date," says Jamie Dehart, general manager at Stellar Coffee and Texas State women's psychology junior. "We're a big family back here...and we can

express that through our art." Stellar has released three specialty drinks for the month of February, including “Everything but the date,” a cold brew with frothy rose-flavored foam and crumbled Teddy Grahams on top, “Secret Admirer, ” a creamy red velvet latte with a mystery ingredient and “Stupid Cupid,” a sweet white chocolate drink with a dash of tart raspberry. "I'm a big art person. I like making very pretty drinks pleasing to the eye... it is nice to have this time of year where we can show that," Dehart says. "We all can [design a heart on drinks] back here and other people, myself included, can do other designs. It's mainly whatever we are feeling in the moment but, with our Valentine's Day drinks, we are focusing on hearts."

Floral designer Elizabeth Valdez arranges a Valentine's Day bouquet, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021, at The Floral Studio. PHOTO BY HANNAH THOMPSON

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LA SIRENA DEL RIO Indigenous mermaid spreads joy, culture to children through river education

By Tatiana Torres News Contributor Texas State will petition the Board of Regents to extend its “test-optional” stance to the high school class of 2022, allowing students to decide whether to submit their SAT/ACT scores as part of their admissions packet. The COVID-19 pandemic severely limited the ability of College Board and ACT Inc. to distribute SAT and ACT exams to high school seniors looking to further their education. This intrusion potentially aided in motivating colleges and universities to reevaluate the hefty role admission tests play in determining who gets accepted into higher education. In March 2020, Texas State adopted a test-optional stance for 2021 admissions, meaning if applicants

By Brooklyn Solis Life & Arts Contributor With her long black hair, signature red lipstick and gold-gilled swimsuit tail, Jessica Mejía, better known as Sirena del Rio, the Indigenous Mermaid of the San Marcos River, is bringing the serene waters of the river to children in a virtual setting. Recognizing the socially-distanced reality some children are now accustomed to, Mejía, a Texas State alumna, hopes to alleviate mental health struggles of isolation by bringing back a sense of wonder to the children of San Marcos. “Children that struggle with mental health and even children that don’t struggle with mental health, when you’re cooped up all day long you need an outlet,” Mejía says. “So my idea is if they can’t go to the river I’ll bring the river to them.” Mejía says experiencing nature amid the pandemic, where social interaction has been minimal for some, is a great way to gain a sense of relief and tranquility. “The five minutes they can see the water, or the mermaid, or the trees and the birds, that’s still five minutes of nothingness, of being just present with the universe and just being at peace in the midst of all of the chaos,” Mejía says. Inspired by the television series "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood," in Mejia's virtual storytime she enters as ‘Jess’, a certified master naturalist sharing facts about Hays County and its ecosystem. Once the children enter the magical land of the San Marcos River, Mejía transforms into the beautiful Sirena, sharing stories of her life obstacles and culture. As a Latina teen mom, Mejia struggled with mental health while working to make ends meet and balance

Texas State evaluates future of admissions tests


Jessica Mejía, pictured in her Sirena del Rio costume, sits by a mural of an Indigenous woman. PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSICA MEJÍA

the pressures of both work and school. Now, Mejía is a proud 2009 graduate of Texas State, where her son, Air Force second Lt. Jonis Nava, would later follow and serve as Texas State’s ROTC wing commander.

“I think it’s important because it gives inspiration to children to go to college; it gives inspiration to moms to not give up and especially to our Latino community,” Mejía says.


BLACK STUDIES OFFERED AGAIN AFTER INITIAL DISAPPOINTMENT The Star reports three Black studies courses would be offered spring 1972 within the Departments of English and Government. "Literature of Black America," the English course offered fall 1971 which failed to "make" because of a lack of enrollment, will be offered again. Numbered 3331 in the catalog, the literature course was set to cover the full spectrum of genres - prose, poetry, novels, drama and essays in treating the heritage of Black people in America. "Politics of Ethnic Minorities and Majorities" and "Government and Politics of Africa" were also planned to be offered.

Texas State junior Christian Martinez studies while he maintains social distancing procedures, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, at Alkek Library. PHOTO BY JEFFREY HALFEN

Community reflects on first full semester during COVID-19 By Ricardo Delgado News Reporter Health officials in Hays County and at Texas State are reflecting on the lessons learned and challenges faced after the university's first full semester operating under COVID-19 protocols.


The University Star

2 | Tuesday, February 9, 2021


Brianna Benitez News Editor starnews@txstate.edu

FROM FRONT COVID-19 Trinity Building 203 Pleasant St. San Marcos, TX 78666 (512) 245 - 3487

Editorial Staff Editor-in-Chief: Jaden Edison stareditor@txstate.edu Managing Editor: Gabriella Ybarra starmanagingeditor@txstate.edu News Editor: Brianna Benitez starnews@txstate.edu Life & Arts Editor: Cristela Jones starlifeandarts@txstate.edu Opinion Editor: Valeria Torrealba staropinion@txstate.edu Sports Editor: Aidan Bea starsports@txstate.edu Design Editor: Molly Gonzales stardesign@txstate.edu Multimedia Editor: Hannah Thompson starmultimedia@txstate.edu Engagement Editor: Haley Brand starsengagement@txstate.edu Podcast Editor: Kim Davis Jr. starpodcast@txstate.edu

Public & Internal Relations Bianca Landry PIR Director Nadia Gonzales Assistant PIR Director

Full-Time Staff Director: Laura Krantz, laurakrantz@txstate.edu Student Publications Coordinator: Mayra Mejia, mm1894@txstate.edu

Students practice social distancing while they work and study, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, at Alkek Library. PHOTO BY JEFFREY HALFEN

Student Health Center Director Emilio Carranco believes Texas State’s COVID-19 response, although planned with many uncertainties surrounding infection rates, treatments and vaccines, was effective in limiting community spread. “I have to say that I'm very pleased,” Carranco says. “We weren't quite sure how effective the prevention measures would be. We thought they would be, but until we actually implemented them and tested them, we couldn't be absolutely sure.” Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra praises the university’s response to the virus and believes it has played an instrumental role in preventing the spread of COVID-19 throughout the county.


-RUBEN BECERRA, About Us History: The University Star is the student newspaper of Texas State University and is published every Tuesday of the spring and fall and once a month in the summer semesters. It is distributed on campus and throughout San Marcos at 8 a.m. on publication days with a distribution of 4,500. Printing and distribution is by the New Braunfels HeraldZeitung. Copyright: Copyright Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. All copy, photographs and graphics appearing in The University Star are the exclusive property of The University Star and may not be reproduced without the expressed written consent of the editor-in-chief. Deadlines: Letters to the Editor or any contributed articles are due on Monday the week prior to publication. Corrections: Any errors that are in the pages of The University Star and brought to our attention will be corrected as soon as possible. Visit The Star at universitystar.com

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“I have no problem speaking truth to power, and I'm going to tell you that I'm really impressed with the university's effort on [COVID-19] response,” Becerra says. “The overall response of Texas State's leadership [and] students [has] been good. You can find anywhere examples where that's not the case, but I will call those exceptions, not the rule.” Carranco says the data provided by the university’s tracing and testing practices indicated its preventative measures were working and that some cases of “spread” within departments were coincidences. “As we gathered all of that information during the course of the fall semester, what we discovered is that our prevention measures really were effective,” Carranco says. “We didn't have any transmission in classrooms, in department or in the residence hall. In the residence halls, I think the biggest challenge was just roommateto-roommate spread. We did see some of that in the residence halls, but we never saw evidence that infection was spreading across a residence hall.” Carranco says cases would appear on the same floor, but the university's investigations revealed cases could be attributed to social activity outside the residence halls, not within them. Haley Sutton, who graduated from Texas State in December 2020, served as a resident assistant at San Gabriel since August 2018. She says the university's health and safety protocols were thorough in theory but not in practice. Sutton says not all residence halls were enforcing the safety measures as thoroughly as hers, causing friction between the residential assistant staff and residents. She says many residents argued that the barring of guests in some dorms was incongruous with residents eating maskless in dining halls or leaving the halls to party. "[I] believe President Trauth [said] that they noticed that everyone was on campus following guidelines and that

everything was going well on campus in terms of transmission," Sutton says. "And that's probably true for the most part, although I can say I saw a lot of people not following guidelines all the time, so they must have just not been around often. I'm satisfied with what they said was going to happen, but it was inconsistently applied and then there was nothing for us to do when we found out that it wasn't really working for the students or the [resident assistants]." The increased access to testing on campus assisted in the success of reduced infection rates, Carranco says. When Curative Inc. set up its testing station in collaboration with the Texas Department of Emergency Management on Sept. 28, the testing significantly increased from what the Student Health Center alone could provide, which was 200 to 300 tests per week. “On average [after Curative’s arrival], we were probably testing about 1,200 people a week,” Carranco says. “Toward the end of the semester, we were starting to test about 1,500 people a week. [That] was really powerful data. We could look at the data and make good decisions about what we needed to do on our campus, given the prevalence of the infection in our community.” The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test administered by Curative was the subject of a Jan. 4 warning by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stating a risk of “false results, particularly false-negative results.” Carranco believes the nature of the PCR test, as a method, is solid. He recognizes it as the “gold standard” of testing and says all PCR tests look for viral ribonucleic acid (RNA), meaning one could “assume” that the Curative tests perform as well as other PCR tests. Carranco says the FDA is looking for Curative’s data on asymptomatic cases. According to the aforementioned FDA statement, the use of the test is “limited to individuals who have shown symptoms of COVID-19 within 14 days of onset of the symptoms.” The university is prepared and approved to roll out any variant of the vaccine, according to Carranco, although it would prefer to avoid “two or three different vaccines” in the rollout to steer clear of potential logistical problems. However, all that is missing are the vaccines themselves. The university submitted a request for the vaccine, which was not allowed until the week of Jan. 18, Carranco says. When vaccinations are ready to be administered, they will take place in the ballrooms of the LBJ Student Center on multiple dates due to the likely piecemeal nature of the vaccine distribution, as well as to reduce the possibility of overcrowding. One of the changes to COVID-19 efforts Carranco says he would have implemented earlier was the creation of the Texas State COVID-19 Dashboard, which was driven by a desire for more information by the university community early in the fall semester. He says the university could have anticipated the need for more details and transparency. He also wishes the university could have better conveyed its adaptability and willingness to make changes. Carranco says he understands the desire for information about positive cases in classes. He says providing details over positive cases is a legally and morally gray area for Texas State. “Ultimately, the only reason to share information was if it was important to do so and if there was something that you needed to do in response to that information,” Carranco says.

Texas State junior Blake Wade studies while she maintains social distancing, Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021, at Alkek Library. PHOTO BY JEFFREY HALFEN

“If positive cases thought that their privacy wasn't going to be protected, that their information was going to be shared broadly, then the risk was that they would not report. And then we wouldn't know at all.” Carranco believes the rural setting of San Marcos helped limit transmission of COVID-19, as neighboring communities like San Antonio and Austin have naturally higher infection rates because of their density. Though, when calculating infection rates by using confirmed cases as of Jan. 25 via the Texas Department of State Health Services, as a percentage of total county population estimates in 2019 by the U.S. Census Bureau, Hays County is in the middle of its two largest neighbors, Travis and Bexar County. Hays County registers a 6.04% infection rate, while Travis and Bexar register at 5.10% and 6.67%, respectively. Students living off campus and who do not report positive COVID-19 tests outside the university’s parameters are not factored into the count, which could create a margin of error. Carranco is uncertain whether the university helped lower conditions. However, he says he does not believe gatherings in San Marcos and around the Texas State community were the fault of the university. “[Coming] to class, living on our campus, working on our campus doesn't increase your risk of getting COVID-19,” Carranco says. “What I'm challenging is this idea that just because we bring students together here [is somehow] leading to a much higher level of transmission than if those very same students were back home in Houston, or Dallas, or the Valley or wherever they live.” Sutton thinks while on-campus activities may not have increased COVID-19 rates directly, having students on campus and attending classes was not a smart move. "I think, well, you brought the kids back to school and campus life might have not spread it as much on campus; it was probably not helpful at all," Sutton says. Becerra agrees with the sentiment that Texas State was not largely responsible for the actions of students off-campus but did admit to a degree of nervousness whenever students arrived at the beginning of semesters or breaks. He adds he was aware of the difficulties students faced while being socially restricted. “Every time we have the influx of Bobcats coming back we were always like, ‘Gasp, what's gonna happen?',” Becerra says. “As a father of two 25-year-old [former Bobcats], I'm very cognizant of the difficulties [of ] what it's like to shut down youth for a year and say, 'You can't. You can't. No, you can't do that either. Nope, not that either.'” When looking back on the lessons learned, Carranco expresses gratitude for the cooperation of students in adapting to what the university asked of them and for university leadership being flexible enough to implement changes. He says spreading knowledge over the effectiveness and safety of vaccines is key to a return to normality, citing other medical experts who state a vaccination rate of at least 70% would be necessary to develop herd immunity. “We're assessing the situation every week,” Carranco says. “There's so much going on right now; I think the vaccination effort is so key to our recovery that a lot of it depends on how well the state and the country does and getting people vaccinated.”

The University Star

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 | 3


Brianna Benitez News Editor starnews@txstate.edu


Texas State researchers identify cancer gene in laboratory fish By Kiana Burks News Contributor Texas State's Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center has identified a long-sought-out gene in laboratory fish that provides a new understanding of cancer formation and speciation. The research that led to the discovery of the gene, in November 2020, stemmed from an extensive and long-established program that focused on hybridizing (cross breeding) the southern platyfish Xiphophorus maculatus and the green swordtail Xiphophorus hellerii. A number of hybrid offspring developed cancer due to the two species’ genetic incompatibility. The hybrids became a valuable model system for cancer research and for studying the genetics of hybridization. The gene responsible for the development of cancer in southern platyfish, EGFR, was identified by previous researchers. But its counterpart, R(Diff), the gene that regulates tumor creation, was not recognized until recently. The study into R(Diff) was led by Texas State’s coprincipal investigator, Yuan Lu, for the Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center. Despite the monumental discovery, Lu says without the many years of previous research on the topic, identifying the gene would have been nearly impossible. “This is almost a 100-year project,” Lu says. “What I do is nothing new. It is not a new idea; it’s just new technology. By leveraging all those resources, we were able to make the discovery. You know, standing on the shoulder of giants.” Lu, his two students, Angel Sandoval and Sarah Voss, along with Will Boswell, Mikki Boswell, Markita Savage and Ronald Walter of the Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center, Manfred Schartl and Susanne Kneitz of the University of Würzburg in Würzburg, Germany, Zhao Lai and Christi Walter of UT Health San Antonio, as well as Wes Warren of the University of Missouri, Columbia, make up the research team that made the identification. Their findings are published in the journal titled Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) as “Oncogenic allelic interaction in Xiphophorus highlights hybrid incompatibility.” Lu began his work with the project in 2018 after receiving a research grant, 100 animals from the Nevada stock center and 200 animals from Schartl collected over the last 10 years which he and his two students, Voss and Sandoval, used as the basis of a genetic map. By early 2019, Lu and his students identified a region that was about 100 kilometers long and was considered a good candidate for the EGFR locus. The EGFR gene found in southern platyfish normally triggers the formation of their tumors due to tumor regulators that the species co-evolved. However, the defense mechanism against the cancer is diminished once hybridization with the green swordtail is performed. The platyfish EGFR gene is a similar form of EGFR that has been a propulsive oncogene for human cancer for over 40 years — an area of interest to Lu and other researchers. “EGFR is related to 70% of human cancer,” Lu says. “Either mutated genes in human cancer or overexpressed and somehow dysregulated, the driving gene for tumors being an EGFR just makes perfect sense.” EGFR was first identified by Schartl’s team in




THE UNIVERISTY OF WÜRZBURG Germany in 1989. “It's a gene which is also in humans that regulates certain signaling processes in the cell, which we know occurs [in] human cancer,” Schartl says. “It even predicted findings which were made 10-15 years later in human melanoma because it's the same cancer pathway.” Although Schartl’s main institution is in Germany, because of his status as a professor, he gained the ability to travel to other places for research and decided working with Texas State’s Xiphophorus Genetic Stock Center would be beneficial to the project. “In science, it’s a lot about competition, but we decided that it’s better to join forces and work together,” Schartl says. “And it ended up being really wonderful people at Texas State [that] have this collegial appreciation of science.” After the identification of EGFR, Lu and other researchers began to theorize the different possibilities with the identification of its counterpart — the gene that was responsible for the suppression of tumors. “If we can know what the tumor suppressor was and combine it with the knowledge we learn from the fish to human, because cancer researchers have studied with EGFR mutation for 40 years, yet, we still cannot control tumor using EGFR antagonists,” Lu says, which was the reason locating the tumor suppressor

gene, R(Diff), became the main focus. “Although 70% of human tumors are related to EGFR, only three types of cancer were responsive to EGFR antagonists,” Lu adds. The search to find the suppressor gene was previously centered in New York at the genetic stock center, but when the last of the researchers at the center retired, all of the genetic material and research was transferred to Texas State, an action Schartl says placed a focus on San Marcos. “The finding of this gene has put San Marcos on the map for cancer research,” Schartl says. “I was the guy who discovered the bad gene, and they were the guys looking for the good gene, so we have collaborated since then.” Even with the identification of the tumor-suppressing gene, there is still an air of mystery surrounding the specific ways the gene can be used for future cancer research in humans. However, because of the research structure, Schartl says the door is left open for a multitude of possibilities. “You’ll see there are still a lot of questions, more things to do, but it's a wonderful system because tumors are so variable, especially most tumors in humans because they arise by extra genius events like exposure to carcinogens and so on,” Schartl says. “But even though these are all random events, here in this genetic system, we have a very reproducible situation; we can always do the same crossing, and the fish that we get today are the same that we got in our crossings 20 or 30 years ago. So, it has the advantage of being a defined genetic system, which makes it very attractive for a scientist.” Schartl says the identification of R(Diff) to cancer research is invaluable as it provides new insight into the different ways researchers can approach the disease. “There are many ways that this could be used for cancer research,” Schartl says. “There are therapeutically strategies, small molecules, immunotherapy and it also might open a way for diagnostics.” Sandoval, a biochemistry senior, has been involved with the project for over two years and was first inspired to participate in the study due to his passion for cancer research. “Since before my freshman year, I knew I wanted to do research in cancer and when you say that it's very broad [you are] right because there's a million types of cancers,” Sandoval says. “Each one arises from a million different reasons, so if you come into research saying you want to research cancer, people are going to look at you like this kid who doesn't know what research is.” With the identification of R(Diff), Sandoval is enthusiastic about the future and what it means for cancer patients but is also aware of the time innovations will take, as well as the reality that it will not likely be the end-all cure for all cancers. “Now we can use CRISPR [Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats] to start inserting this gene, potentially in humans, which I think will take about 20 years,” Sandoval says. “And that's the tricky part. There are many different types of cancers caused by many different factors, so I'm not saying that if we inserted this gene into humans that they won't get cancer anymore. It might help like 40% of people not get cancer but [not that] other 60%.” Schartl and researchers are still hopeful their findings will lead to great success in the future of cancer research. “It’s a breakthrough,” Schartl says. “Now we know all the players, and now that we know the players, we can begin to understand how they play.”

FROM FRONT ADMISSION graduate in the top 75% of their high school class, they can choose whether to submit their test scores to the university. Gary Ray, Texas State's associate vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing, says applicants who opt out of submitting their scores will not be placed at a disadvantage against those who do; rather, all elements of their application will be reviewed holistically before a decision is made. “We’re not going to wait for them to send in test scores; by not submitting it they’ve indicated they want to be test-optional,” Ray says. “For a student who does submit that test score then we certainly will use that in the process because they have elected to send it to us.” Ray says the university will petition the Board of Regents this month to extend the test-optional stance to the 2022 admissions cycle. Talent Search, a college preparation program, works with underrepresented groups to help ease and encourage students to explore what is available to them beyond high school. Because of the age inclusiveness of the program, Chelsea Moore, the grant director for Talent Search San Marcos, has been able to see students who joined as early as middle school graduate from the program and eventually go to college. Moore believes this opportunity has allowed her to see what students are truly capable of in the classroom and

that test scores are not always the best indicator of success.



“I don’t think it says anything about their actual ability to be a student, because I’ve seen so many students do so well, regardless of what scores they receive," Moore says. However, Moore says the usage of SAT and ACT scores in higher education go far beyond admissions. “I think for those not actively working with students at the secondary school

level, particularly high school, they’re not realizing how much this test plays a role in the student’s life,” Moore says. Students’ scores are now used to determine financial aid and scholarship eligibility. For some students, exam scores dictate whether a remedial college class is needed before moving on to core subjects like math and English. Moore says high schools even use the scores in their academic performance reports sent to the Texas Education Agency to gauge the college readiness of the campus as a whole. Marco Keller, a senior at San Marcos High School, says colleges going testoptional was somewhat of a relief for students who were worried about getting admitted into their top-choice universities. “You don’t have that extreme pressure that you have to get these scores, because before I felt like you had to get like a certain score on the SAT test to be able to get into certain colleges because they’d just reject you based off of if you didn’t get a high enough score," Keller says. Keller says the change in the admissions process encouraged him to expand his horizons and apply to schools he would not have otherwise considered an option due to the competitive nature of their test score admission standards. "I actually wasn't sure which colleges I was going to be applying for, and as the colleges began going test-optional, I was

like, 'okay so if I don't need an SAT, I can at least submit my application and see if like maybe I'll get in', like just shoot my shot, why not?" Keller says. Though this is a step toward deemphasizing the role tests play in the admissions process, Moore says there is still work to be done. “I think what I would prefer to happen is continue to make the SAT and ACT less of a major factor in multiple aspects of the college-going process,” Moore says. At its Jan. 24 meeting, the Texas State Student Government Senate voted to indefinitely table a resolution that would call on the university to gradually phase out the use of SAT/ACT scores used for admission purposes over the next four years. The two planned years of test-optional admissions will give the university time to determine whether the stance is viable for long-term usage. “Going the two years of test-optional, it gives us the real luxury to really evaluate the system and make sure that we can deliver. It allows us time to think through how do the students do in our system that are test-optional without submitting test scores,” Ray says. “So, no decision has been made... but certainly nothing is off the table.”

The University Star

4 | Tuesday, February 9, 2021


Cristela Jones Life & Arts Editor starlifeandarts@txstate.edu


Employee Abby Vasquez scans tickets for customers, Friday, May 8, 2020, at Stars and Stripes Drive-In Theatre. PHOTO COURTESY OF HERALD ZEITUNG

Stellar prides itself on having a welcoming and laid-back atmosphere but has taken proper safety precautions since re-opening during the pandemic. The coffee shop offers limited seating, practices frequent sanitization and requires masks for both its staff and customers. Stellar will soon announce an event on its Instagram page for couples interested in celebrating at the shop on Valentine's Day. Palmer's Restaurant, an awardwinning San Marcos neighborhood favorite, also hopes to create a romantic setting for new and mature relationships. Palmer's takes delight in its locally sourced, high-quality ingredients and specialized menu. "The Beef Wellington is so unique and creative," says Monte Sheffield, who has owned and operated Palmer's for 10 years with his wife, Kristin Sheffield. "A lot of people may not try that at home. That's the good thing about this restaurant; [it] shows what San Marcos restaurants are capable of doing." Palmer's, which is known for its wide selection of domestic wines, will host a myriad of festive events available now for reservation, including a Tuesday wine night, exclusive Valentine's weekend menu and Saturday Galentine's night. "We were a Texas wine ambassador for the way we promote Texas wines," Sheffield says. "On [Valentine's Day] night, we are doing discounts on bottles of house wines to choose from at $18 a bottle." Palmer's has a scenic view with its Spanish-style architecture and toasty fireplaces. Its indoor and outdoor seating delivers both a warm and safe atmosphere by following capacity limits,

social distancing and mask regulations. "We are always wanting to paint a picture of what the plate is going to look like and the way the servers describe it is salivating," Sheffield says. "[Palmer's] atmosphere exudes a wonderful experience, especially for a night like Valentine's Day." For couples willing to venture out, Stars and Stripes, a drive-in movie theater in New Braunfels, will screen RomCom movies like "50 First Dates” and “Sleepless in Seattle” this February. Advanced tickets, $8 per person, will soon become available on its website. The theater works to provide a comfortable and retro-style film viewing experience for its new and returning customers. “We have a motto here: ‘Do what's best, do what's right and show our customers we care,’” says Brooke BandaSegura, staff manager at Stars and Stripes. “Everyone here lives by that motto to show our customers the fivestar experience here so they can come back and expect it every time.” Stars and Stripes has taken extra precautions since the start of the pandemic by implementing zero-contact transactions. Cars are well distanced, outside food and drinks are permitted and advanced booking is available for contactless purchases. Masks, as well as social distancing rules, are enforced for both staff and customers when walking outside vehicles. “We are a lot more popular now because of COVID,” Brooke says. “I feel like people feel safe here, especially because they do not have to get out of the car if they don't want to. But we still make it safe, like going to the restroom or coming inside to get a drink…we still

try to make our customers comfortable here.”

friends and loved ones. Diana Armes, owner of The Floral Studio in San Marcos, says Valentine's Day is one of the busiest times of the "WE HAVE A MOTTO year for her business. "[The pandemic's] changed HERE: 'DO WHAT'S everything, but it's better than it was BEST, DO WHAT'S the year before, which is surprising, but we're kind of playing everything out," RIGHT AND SHOW Armes says. "I've made projections for OUR CUSTOMERS WE Valentine's Day and at the trend it is going, I think it'll be better than last CARE.' EVERYONE years, but we won't know until the end result." HERE LIVES BY THAT Armes believes more people are buying MOTTO TO SHOW OUR specialty bouquets and trinkets because want to bring joy and happiness to CUSTOMERS THE FIVE- they the ones they love during a time of stress and isolation. STAR EXPERIENCE "I think everybody's kind of scaled HERE SO THEY CAN it back slightly," Armes says. "They are tending to do more add-ons now which COME BACK AND they didn't usually do...most people just EXPECT IT EVERY do a dozen roses and be done, but [they will add a] box of chocolates, add on the TIME." balloon, add on a bear, so it's different." Along with its signature red roses, Armes says most of the bouquets the -BROOKE BANDA- studio does are custom-designed. "We do balloon bouquets, and SEGURA, we have [Lamme's] chocolates from STAFF MANAGER, Austin," Armes says. "Then we're doing combinations where it's a bear in a STARS AND STRIPES little bag, and then we have another one that's flowers and a succulent garden as well as Movie-goers have the option to enjoy flowers and chocolates with a candle." snacks from the concession stand or Various Valentine's Day specials and bring their own food or drink into the combinations are available through The theater. Either way, couples or singles Floral Studio's website. Armes urges alone can wrap up in blankets inside the public to "order now" and send or outside their vehicles to experience a something thoughtful to celebrate this romantic evening under the stars. non-traditional season of love. Like dates, another romantic gesture Cristela Jones contributed to this story. on Valentine's Day is gifting flowers to

FROM FRONT MERMAID Along with hosting virtual storytime sessions, Mejía has also created the first and only bilingual mermaid program where children of English and Spanish language are encouraged to help one another in an inclusive environment. Deborah Carter, a librarian at the San Marcos Public Library, says Mejía's collaboration in the library's bilingual story hour has encouraged a new crowd of Spanish-speaking families to integrate into the library. “I really loved the program because it brought families into the library who had not ever previously stepped through our doors,” Carter says. “So that was incredible to me, to see her be able to bring in a totally different set of families that don’t normally come to even our bilingual story hour. And then she helped them get library cards and helped them become comfortable library users.” A big part of Mejía's role as Sirena is the mermaid costume, leaving children enticed by her whimsical appearance and stories.

“She definitely has a presence, and people recognize her, her mermaid outfit is of course beautiful, and she’s so beautiful,” Carter says. “So it’s kind of like when kids are struck when they see a real-life princess or something.” Hollis West, Mejía’s former communication studies professor and now close friend, says she still remembers the "bright light" Mejía was back when she attended Texas State. “She was [so eager] and so happy to be there and grateful for the college experience," West says. "She made friends with everyone in the class almost instantly." West's first time seeing Mejía in action was when she did a socially-distanced "Storytime with Sirena" at her niece's birthday party in summer 2020, and "it was really a neat experience to see how she connects with kids and teaches them," West says. Working with children for over 18 years, Mejía's current goal is to find ways to help mitigate the mental

stress children have endured due to COVID-19 protocols. “Child and adolescent depression has been on a rise, and I feel that my program can alleviate some of the challenges they are facing,” Mejía says. In addition to bringing the San Marcos River to life, Mejía is currently working to publish bilingual children's books such as, "Leyendas de Sirena del Rio/ Legends of Sirena del Rio: The Indigenous Mermaid of The San Marcos River," in hopes of continuing to inspire and educate children for years to come. “I hope to teach children mindfulness, that’s my number one, to teach children mindfulness because if we can teach children mindfulness and self-care when they’re young, they’ll have these coping mechanisms when they’re older,” Mejía says. “That is my heart.” For more information about Sirena del Rio, visit her Facebook page.

The University Star

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 | 5


Cristela Jones Life & Arts Editor starlifeandarts@txstate.edu


Bobby Barnard and his wife Nancy Barnard work behind the front desk during the early years of Sundance Records. PHOTO COURTESY OF TOMAS ESCALANTE

Pop-up shop celebrates life, legacy of San Marcos music legend By Sofia Psolka Life & Arts Contributor Records once dangled from the ceiling as music memorabilia lined the walls, while the smell of incense filled the room and melancholy tunes of blues drew customers in. Recognized as a true haven for music fans in San Marcos, Bobby Barnard's Sundance Records and Tapes rocked the city's soul. Since the record shop’s closing in 2012, the San Marcos music community has been without its staple music pit-stop. However, former Sundance frequents will have the chance to relive the shop’s legacy and pay homage to the late Barnard, former owner and manager of Sundance, with a new pop-up shop set to open in San Marcos. Named Sundance Records & Vintage Memorabilia, the shop will possess memorabilia Barnard collected throughout his life. The passing of Barnard in August 2020 struck a chord in the hearts of longtime Sundance staff and community members. When rumors of the shop's reopening began circulating earlier this year, the public response shocked the store's former employees. Tomas Escalante, owner of Sig’s Lagoon, a record shop in Houston, was a former employee and long-time friend of Barnard. Escalante was caught off guard by the public's reaction when news of Sundance began to spread. "[Barnard's] visual impact is immense," Escalante says."That really affects a lot of people and kind of surprises us and probably would have surprised him too." Rachel Akins, a persuasive communication sophomore who frequently thrifts for old trinkets, clothes and art, appreciates the repurposing of historical mementos from the music industry and sees the shop as a step back in time.



"I think it's really cool to preserve [memorabilia] because it's like what we now call vintage; it's a piece of history," Akins says. "[Sundance Records & Vintage Memorabilia] is a cool reminder of what life was like before technology." Liv Wilkins, an elementary education sophomore who collects vintage records and cassettes, is also looking forward to the shop's opening.

"Records, specifically right now, are super trendy in the media," Wilkins says. "With college students, I think [a record shop] would do really well in San Marcos, even for aesthetic purposes." Escalante is working with Nancy Barnard, Bobby Barnard's wife and former co-owner of Sundance, to organize a time and place for the limited opening of Sundance Records & Vintage Memorabilia. During the shop's run, vinyl will not be for sale, but posters, vintage shirts and other souvenirs will. Once the shop closes, leftover items will be sold online. "There's promo posters through the years, like 40 plus years of posters," Escalante says. "I think there's gonna be some of [Barnard's] stuff that might even be framed." Escalante and Greg Ellis, owners of Groover's Paradise, a record store in Austin, both worked closely with Barnard when they attended Southwest Texas State University. During their time under Barnard's wing, the two men learned how to run a record shop effectively thanks to Barnard's "watch and learn" managerial style. "He really wouldn't tell you that 'this is a valuable standard to run a record shop,'" Ellis says. "'Just watch and learn about it.'" Both Ellis and Escalante have gone on to open their own respective record shops after working at Sundance. Although Ellis was employed before Escalante, both men saw Barnard as their mentor and friend. "[Barnard] ran a tight ship," Escalante says. "He was the guy that told you what you didn't want to hear, but he was right, and sometimes it rubbed people the wrong way." After Sundance's initial shut down in 2012, Escalante asked Barnard to decorate the walls of Sig's Lagoon as a nod to the shop that inspired it all. Barnard would spend weeks organizing newspaper articles and posters into small shrine-like collages, tinged with reminiscent incense. The decoration of Sig's Lagoon keeps Barnard's creative spark fresh in his friends' minds. "[The article clippings] are something I really haven't kept up with," Escalante says. "On one hand, I want to keep doing it, but on the other, it's almost like a timestamp of when he was there." Barnard was able to manage a popular record store in San Marcos despite the demographics changing every four years due to students graduating. "You have to learn how to serve different folks [in] different ways that will appeal to everyone and keep them happy and respected. You have to win back [college students'] interest every four years," Ellis says. "[Barnard] was an extraordinary guy... a successful record store in a small college town." Ellis and Escalante loved Barnard for his tenacity, passion and influence. His mark in the San Marcos music community is not one that can be phased by death. "[Barnard's] probably the most charmed, lucky guys you would have ever met," Escalante says. "One of the mottos I've had to tell every person in [Texas State] is the people you meet now, you don't know what kind of impact they're going to have later in life." For more information and updates on Sundance Records & Vintage Memorabilia and to check out Tomas Escalante's store, visit the Sig's Lagoon website. To check out Greg Ellis' store, visit the Groover's Paradise website.

"Polymorpha" by Texas State graduate Lauren Riojas-Fitzpatrick, Feb. 4, 2021, at Texas State Galleries. This work is in the FLEX space. PHOTO BY NATALIE RYAN

The Texas State women's basketball team dances together before they begin their game against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, at Strahan Arena. The Bobcats won 51-44. PHOTO BY KATE CONNORS

Professor Bryan Poyser instructs students on camera basics, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, in the Texas State Theatre Center. Poyser's course, Film Production Practices, allows prospective film students the chance to practice manual shooting on dslr cameras. PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH

Meadows Center grant specialist Collin Garoutte removes watercress from the San Marcos River, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, near Sewell Park. Watercress is considered to be invasive to the river, as it can outperform and kill Texas wildrice in the right conditions. PHOTO BY DOUGLAS SMITH

Texas State first year graduate student Gracie Singer poses for a picture, Monday, Feb. 1, 2020, in the LBJ Student Center. On the first day of February, the Office of Retention Management and Planning at Texas State put up a stall to invite students to write a letter to their loved ones. PHOTO BY RASIKA GASTI

The University Star

6 | Tuesday, February 9, 2021


Valeria Torrealba Opinion Editor staropinion@txstate.edu

Opinions in The University Star are not necessarily those of our entire publication, Texas State University’s administration, Board of Regents, School of Journalism and Mass Communication or Student Publications Board.


We must vote for better student representatives By The Editorial Board Student Government serves to convey the needs of and represent the Texas State student body to the university administration, but its latest meetings have shown that the organization, as it currently stands, is nothing more than a performative mouthpiece present to skirt around legislation that can improve student life on campus. With elections on the horizon Feb. 1517, it is imperative we vote for change. The lack of student voting in the previous Student Government elections came back to haunt us this year. The student body has been left with a Student Government administration that cares more about playing dress up and bringing personal disputes into official business — getting nothing meaningful done as a result and making previous inept administrations look competent. Meetings have not consisted of how to best accommodate students during a pandemic that has altered lives for the worst, nor has there been much conversation about what needs to happen to make students of color feel like they belong on this campus. Instead, the focus has been placed on back-and-forth disputes. The recent tabling of seven resolutions with intentions to better the lives of students on campus, including the Adopting of Trans-friendly Preferred Naming and Pronoun Policies, was absolutely disgraceful to the student body.

But it was not surprising, nor was it the first time this school year that Student Government has spent more time on ridiculous internal disputes than fighting for students. Last semester’s drama between Vice President Andrew Florence and Parliamentarian Cody DeSalvo was the start. DeSalvo accused Florence of neglecting to consistently send meeting attendance records to the parliamentarian and senate leader, as required. Florence argued that meeting records had always been available through Canvas. Senator Matthew Smith thought DeSalvo’s complaint was wrongful, and he drafted a vote-of-no-confidence resolution for the removal of DeSalvo. The vote-of-no-confidence resolution eventually passed by a vote of 14-13-2, with Florence breaking the original 13-13 tie in the vote. (Yes, the person accused of wrongdoing was able to cast a vote against his accuser.) However, DeSalvo argued that the passage of the resolution was unconstitutional since the Student Government Constitution states that a two-thirds vote is needed to remove the parliamentarian and the senate leader. DeSalvo was then ordered back into office. We highlight that fiasco to convey that a large sum of Student Government representatives only participate in the organization to re-enact reality television. We previously hesitated writing this editorial in fear of giving an illegitimate administration our attention, but we now realize there is too much at stake.

A dispute about attendance records is just outright ridiculous; there is no other way to put it. Tabling issues that affect the LGBTQIA+ community at Texas State demonstrates a lack of care and representation for students who have every right to feel included on this campus. Shifting the focus instead to extending Thanksgiving break (amid an ongoing pandemic) and advocating for more freedom regarding mask-wearing (as more contagious variants of COVID-19 make their way through the U.S.) shows blatant ignorance and disregard for public safety measures. Having a governing body in place to represent the student body but instead uses its time to focus on itself serves no purpose at all, which is why it is important that we vote. Especially when voting is accessible through our mobile devices. We are not without fault. As an editorial board, we also carry the responsibility to vote for those who represent the student body in an adequate manner — and some of us, too, have failed to do so. Truthfully, many of us have not voted in previous Student Government elections. We can assure you that will change this time around. Student Government is an organization put in place to voice our concerns to administrators, strive to make a change and enhance the quality of life on campus for students. More effort should go toward electing representatives who actually care about all students. We all owe it to ourselves to not have to deal with this mess any longer.





SLAC needs individualized peer mentorship programs By Christopher Roberts Opinion Contributor The Student Learning Assistance Center (SLAC) has numerous programs to help students, ranging from public or private tutoring and in-class assistance with various student-assistant teacher programs to outside class assistance with Supplemental Instructor (SI) sessions and subject-focused labs. Personalized Academic and Career Exploration (PACE) has a peer mentorship program that helps freshmen, assigning them an upperclassman for the one-hour credit semester course University Seminar (US 1100) or the Peer Mentorship program. For secondyear, transfers and first-generation students, PACE also offers the Bobcat Bond program which serves a similar role without the semester course. All of these programs are helpful to the student body. However, they are geared toward teaching large groups of students instead of prioritizing individual students. Texas State should implement a peer mentorship program similar to that of other universities, such as Texas A&M. In Texas A&M's honors program, highachieving undergraduates can join their Peer Mentor program where they help younger students adapt to college life. Although similar to US 1100, the A&M program is not a mandatory course. Instead, the A&M program allows for students to work with an upperclassman who can mentor them and help them adjust to a university setting. In their first year, students have an approximately 30% dropout rate nationwide. Texas State has a high retention rate with 77% of freshmen making it to their sophomore year. Freshmen are most likely to drop out because freshman year is a significant transition phase for them, one in which they have just moved from the comfort of their homes with their families to dorms with little to no private space and have an overwhelming amount of work from professors. Freshmen have also been ripped away from their high school friends who they have known for years and find themselves crowded in rooms full




of strangers, if not a Zoom call where everyone is muted and has their cameras turned off. Social events and activities are canceled for the foreseeable future, all of which compound the loneliness freshmen are currently experiencing. A peer mentorship program would serve to counteract these issues and increase the

retention rate. By having a more individualized program, students would have a mentor who could focus on them. Having upperclassmen assigned to a small group of students no larger than five would call for a sense of community, which is sorely lacking at the beginning of a student's

college education. To help incoming freshmen establish a small community of peers, groups should not be randomly assigned; rather, they should be specific to one's major. This would allow for a group of people with the same major to have an upperclassman in the same program to show them the ropes of the university, classes and what to expect further down the road. The coordinator for the SI program, Victor M. Capellan, believes that peer mentoring serves a very important purpose in helping students at all levels. The programs and services offered by SLAC provide opportunities to students who would otherwise not have them, which puts those students at a disadvantage before the game even starts. "I find peer mentoring programs essential to the university experience for many students, first-time college students and continued education students alike," Capellan says. "Not everyone has family members or friends who can provide guidance or support throughout their college years. So, for many students, having the opportunity to connect with an experienced peer may significantly help them adjust and find meaningful connections at their institution." The national average retention rate is 69%, with a 65% retention rate in the state of Texas. Having a peer mentorship program could help increase the retention rate by providing students with a small community of like-minded peers and allow for strong connections and friendships on a professional level, if not a personal one as well. Having a more individualized approach to mentorship programs could help freshmen feel a part of a community and ease them into college life. Students need guidance and mentorship through their entire college experience, not just a semester class or a variety of smaller programs. Upperclassmen serving as resources to freshmen is the perfect solution. All parties involved gain the skills, knowledge and experience needed for success in the labor force after graduation. - Christopher Roberts is an accounting sophomore

The University Star

Tuesday, February 9, 2021 | 7


Aidan Bea Sports Editor starsports@txstate.edu


Asberry takes non-traditional route to Division I success By Damien Bartonek Sports Reporter Following a rough patch in the early stages of the men's basketball season in which it lost three of four games after starting undefeated, junior guard Caleb Asberry has emerged as a rising star for the Bobcats since he was inserted into the starting lineup. Boasting a 10-3 record since the insertion of Asberry, the Bobcats are now building serious momentum while in the thick of in-conference play. In his 13 starts this season, Asberry is averaging 15.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game, all of which are above his season averages on the year. After leading the Bobcats to back-to-back wins against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Asberry was named Sun Belt Conference Player of the Week on Jan. 18. "I feel like I bring a high level of energy on the court, and I play with a lot of emotion," Asberry says. "I bring scoring; I can get guys going. I was putting in work extra this year, and I never put my head down." Before the Bobcats were jockeying for first place in the West Division of the Sun Belt Conference, they hit a rough patch to begin the year. Starting 2-0, the Bobcats followed that up with losses in three out of their next four games by an average margin of 13 points. It was in the following game, on Dec. 15 against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, where Asberry was put into the starting lineup to replace the injured graduate guard Marlin Davis. He went on to play 30 minutes for the 'Cats, scoring 15 points on 58.3% shooting and grabbing three rebounds. It was the first start of the season for Asberry, which paid dividends for the Bobcats as he has emerged as one of the top role players and impactful scorers on the floor on a night-to-night basis. Since Asberry's first start, the team has gone 10-3, catapulting the program to an overall record of 13-6 and a first-place standing in the West Division of the Sun Belt. As a senior in high school, Asberry stood 6 feet and 155 pounds. Playing on the varsity team as a freshman, his versatility and willingness to embrace a role that was foreign to him was appreciated by coaches and teammates. David Raigosa, head basketball coach at Pflugerville High School, says Asberry's athleticism allowed him to play multiple positions on the court. "He was very thin, but he was very bouncy,” Raigosa says. “Even in his junior year, that year we had a lot of guards and there were times he played the four for

Texas State junior guard Caleb Asberry (2) takes a contested jumper against the Trojans' senior center Admir Besovic (52) in a game against the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021, at Strahan Arena. The Bobcats won in overtime 77-67. PHOTO BY VANESSA BUENTELLO

us. He spent a lot of time defending players that were much bigger than he was and took that task without question. He was so versatile for us. Willing to play anything and everything.” In high school, Asberry averaged double digits in points since his sophomore season. As a senior, Asberry averaged 19.7 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and was named the District 13-6A Offensive MVP for the 2017-18 season. Despite a productive senior campaign, Asberry did not receive as many scholarship offers as he hoped for. Instead, he would play his freshman season at Ranger College, a junior college in Ranger, Texas. Regardless of the setback, Asberry believed he had the ability and the resources to eventually play at a Division I program. “I felt like I was a D1 athlete; I’ve always felt that way," Asberry says. "But going to JUCO, going to Ranger, I knew my coach, [Billy Gillispie], would get me ready to go D1. It gave me a chance to get looked at, and I took it very seriously. I was never going to settle.” In his lone-season at Ranger College, Asberry averaged 10.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and shot 43.6% from beyond the arc. He parlayed his performance into a commitment at Texas State. In his sophomore season and first as a Bobcat, Asberry did not see consistent minutes on the floor. With players like eventual all-time leading scorer Nijal Pearson locking down the guard spots, Asberry had to fight his way into receiving consistent playing time that year.

“Keeping my focus was tough at times because I’m used to playing a lot, but seeing us win encouraged me to keep trying harder," Asberry says. "That’s why I didn’t get down on myself. I realized I had a chance to do something at Texas State, and I always felt like I was going to make an impact at this school.” To begin this season, Asberry continued to play inconsistent minutes. There was not a true outline for what his role would be, but Interim Head Coach Terrence Johnson was not reluctant to give Asberry a shot. “The starting lineup gives Caleb confidence; I think him being in the starting lineup gives him clarity and trust," Johnson says. "He gives us playmaking ability and finds ways to make plays. He gives us a weapon offensively, and he’s really important for what we’re trying to do. We want him to continue to grow and develop and be apart of this process.” Johnson believes Asberry's acceptance of his role, despite uncertain playing time, has benefited the team atmosphere. “I think right now, for this team buying into your role is most important for this team," Johnson says. "We spoke with Caleb and went over his role and he agreed to it. That’s been the most important part for this team and stuff like that can feed into your locker room.” With a .769 winning percentage since the Pflugerville native entered the starting lineup, the locker room, as well as the on-court product, has improved. What has been deemed the “Asberry effect”, the Bobcats' numbers have spiked since his arrival into the starting-five. His shooting efficiency has not regressed despite the increase of volume; he is collectively shooting 52.4% from the field, 46.5% from beyond the arc and 79.4% from the charity stripe since becoming a starter. In the five games before the insertion of Asberry, the Bobcats averaged 61.8 points per game. The Bobcats are now averaging 66.3 points per game while holding opposing teams to 61.2 points per game, 1.2 points less than their season average. Asberry’s play coupled with the team's success has been something he always believed he had in him. He says he is still set on working to improve the program throughout the remainder of his time at Texas State. “I will never feel complacent, I’ll always feel like I have to do better," Asberry says. "I’m going to do my best to continue to put it that work and grind it out. I know we’re going to do something big this year and I’m super ready.”



Cheer team somersaults through pandemic changes By Skylar Williams Sports Reporter In relation to the team's goal to bring energy to sporting events and competitions through passionate battle chants and high-flying maneuvers, Texas State cheer has been tasked with maintaining high morale for Bobcat teams and fans while overcoming changes all too familiar due to COVID-19. “I [used to do this thing] in my first two and a half years, every time I was on the bus, probably once a week, I would try to talk to somebody new on the bus,” says Sarah Killian, a cheer senior. “[The pandemic], socially, it has affected me; I miss the interactions and the new relationships.” The cheer team's contributions do not show up on game-night stat sheets and it often is not credited when teams experience success on the courts or fields. Regardless of how much or little it gets recognized, the team still aims to serve as a positive presence for the university community. For seniors, like Killian, their last season marks the last time they will experience team camaraderie as active Bobcats. The pandemic, compared to previous years, has made that experience harsh to swallow. “Usually, we’ll wake up and we have to get there 30 minutes before for screening and protocol, so we get there 30 minutes before which is at 7:00 [a.m.]. By 7:15, we have our mats rolled out and masks on ready to start with standing tucks,” Killian says. Then, on game days, the changes really begin to settle in, Killian says. “Something that I really miss in football is getting thrown up in a stunt and making eye contact with your parents or making eye contact with your friend that came to see you,” Killian says. “It’s just a small feeling like you came to see me, or you came to support our school, and I can make this little

connection with you.” “For basketball," Killian adds, "something that the basketball players would do at the end of their games is they would thank us, they thank the Strutters, marketing, and cheerleaders too...I miss having that connection with the players…sometimes they would say the cheers with us or when we’re [cheering] 'defense', they’d slap their legs or stomp their feet.” Rituals are a big part of cheer's routines while supporting various teams, but with the team located in the stands instead of the sidelines this year, some of its mostbeloved traditions were placed on pause — to very few members' enjoyment, including Killian. “Before last year, we would be doing standing back tucks whenever our team would make free throws,” Killian says. “If they made it, we would have to tuck right then and there in front of everybody on the court and the fans liked that too. When we stopped doing that they noticed it, and now we miss it even more because that was just another opportunity for us to be seen,” Killian says. For younger team members, like sophomore Devan Duran, that interaction is an integral part of growing comfortable with teammates, especially freshmen. Duran says the conditions the last year has brought forth have challenged the team to remain bonded. “We do try to keep within our team, even like you’re in college and you go out, but we hold each other accountable and responsible,” Duran says. “We just try to hang out with each other and be there for each other, especially the rookies — they’re not getting their full college experience, so we try to include them more and do more team bonding and team activities." Duran says the pandemic has also pushed the team to get more creative which, in return, has also allowed members to stay connected.

"We have learned how to incorporate different things into being in the stands and different game day props we didn't think of just because we were throwing stunts, so now we know how to do more with our signs and with different spirit props," Duran says. Like most sports teams, the cheer team entered the season knowing it would have to adapt, but it was difficult to imagine what changes would feel like before actually embarking upon the journey. The team even had to adjust to a change to its big competition — the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) College Nationals — which usually takes place in January. The competition was pushed to April 27-28 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. But Head Coach Jocelyn Stephens has relished the challenge to think outside the box, stay involved and keep fans engaged while adhering to social distancing guidelines, while also keeping her athletes in high spirits. “We’re in the stands and our formations are socially distant, and we all keep our masks on,” Stephens said. “We get to keep a majority of our traditions that you know the crowd gets involved with, but it has forced us to get really creative. Just kind of going through any other sports team protocol to make sure that we’re keeping the experience alive for the team but trying to create the [safest] environment for them.” Morale has been down among all sports teams all season, and coaches and players recognize it has been a challenge to remain positive. Stephens says the message to her team has been to "adapt and overcome." “It’s been really awesome to have the upperclassmen within the team take that mantra into this COVID season," Stephens says. "We’re going to adapt and overcome and make the best of what we get to have because that’s the best thing here at Texas State... we are able to have game day and be a part of it in some

way, so we’re just fortunate enough to have that level of involvement whatever it may be.”



Killian praises her coach's efforts to keep the team on an upward trend and hopes her farewell season can end on a high note. "It's really hard especially being a senior to not be able to be down there on the court or on the field," Killian says. "It's a little bit harder to engage with fans, but Jocelyn's been very creative about our formations and working around rules."

8 | Tuesday, February 9, 2021

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