Archive for: February 2016


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Flood Insurance: Students in West Campus prepare for spring

A New Stage For Hidden Talent: TILT Performance Group

Bikes Across Borders: Transcending the invisible line

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A group of bikers from the social organization Bikes Across Borders. Photo courtesy of Bikes Across Borders.
Multimedia package by Caroline Hall, Isabella Bejar and Fatima Puri
AUSTIN—“It’s not about charity, it’s about solidarity,” Joshua Collier said.

Collier, a veteran rider for the organization Bikes Across Borders, is referring to the organization’s yearly bike ride from Texas to Mexico, at the end of which the ride participants donate their bikes to local Mexican citizens. Bikes Across Borders does this to fulfill their mission of annual migration to Mexico for the purpose of developing relationships of solidarity and donating recycled bikes.

“In charity, a person is in a place of power, whereas we are donating to equals and also learning so much in the process from our neighbors in Mexico,” Collier said.

This May, Bikes Across Borders will make their 16th annual trip to Mexico since the organization’s establishment in 2000. Starting in Austin, the group of riders, which has traditionally ranged from as few as eight people to as many as 35, travel on recycled bikes through Texas and across the Mexican border, camping along the way.

“I don’t want us to look like we’re locust descending on a place; I want it to look like we’re butterflies migrating through.” Katie Jo Dixon, an original member of Bikes Across Borders, said. “Our intention is to make an impact with our presence in the communities we are passing through.”

Stopping and camping in various Texas communities, which includes the cities of Fredericksburg, Kerrville, Hunt, Leakey and Del Rio, gives Bikes Across Borders the opportunity to spread word of their mission.

“We talk with the communities we stay in about the movement and establish a community connection,” Dixon said.

Another aspect of the ride important to the organization is that all bikes that are used for the ride are donated and are made from recycled bikes and bike parts.

“Bikes are refurbished or made form scratch by the frame at Yellow Bike Project,” Collier said.

Located in East Austin, Yellow Bike Project is a shop open free to the public, in which anyone can come and fix up or rebuild a bike from recycled bike parts.

“We have a lot of charities that come in and fix bikes to donate,” Pete Wall, a Yellow Bike Project employee, said. “Bikes Across Borders is one of the organizations that regularly uses our facilities and parts to fix bikes for donation.”

A Bikes Across Borders member working on her bicycle for the upcoming bike ride from Texas to Mexico. Photo courtesy of Bikes Across Borders.

A Bikes Across Borders member working on her bicycle for the upcoming bike ride from Texas to Mexico.
Photo courtesy of Bikes Across Borders.

Since 2000, Bikes Across Borders has donated over 700 of these recycled bikes to various communities in Mexico and Latin America, through the annual rides as well as bike delivery caravans. The bikes have a large impact on their recipients as they provide free transportation that is usually unavailable in these areas of Mexico, said the organization.

“The bikes are given to Mexican factory workers for transportation to and from work,” Collier said. “Without the bikes, these workers are largely forced to use a huge percentage of their paycheck to pay for the high bus fare required to get to their factory jobs.”

Bikes Across Borders is currently gearing up for its sixteenth ride to Mexico this May and will donate even more bikes to workers in need. The organization said it is always accepting new participants, regardless of cycling experience.

“If anyone wants to join the ride, they should do it,” Dixon said. “We’re all about do it yourself, keep it simple and have a good time.”


“I don’t want us to look like we’re locust descending on a place; I want it to look like we’re butterflies migrating through.”


Social Media

Bikes Across Borders Facebook
Yellow Bike Project Facebook


Photo Gallery

Photos courtesy of BXB

Interactive map of the Bikes Across Borders route from Texas to the Mexican border

View route map for Bikes Across Borders Route on


BXB: The Who and The Why

Learn about two people who will be taking the yearly ride with Bikes Across Borders. Juan Belman heard about the trip through a friend and will start training soon for the long trek to Mexico. Joshua Collier is a veteran rider who recently got back from a cycling trip through South America and looks forward to meeting the new cyclists in the coming weeks.
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The Road to SXSW: Wande Isola



By: Kate Bartick, Selena Depaz, Shannon Smith

Create a Powerpoint, write an essay or make a rap.

These were three options Wande Isola’s biology teacher gave her to explain the process of cellular transport. Isola had never pictured herself as a musician—never mind a rapper, but she saw an easy A in the third option. And so she wrote her first rap, an educational A+.

Three years later, 19-year-old Isola has graduated from rapping about biology and switched her musical focus to her faith, society and political unrest. She has performed at talent shows, church conventions and showcases.

To say the least, she’s grateful she didn’t choose the Powerpoint option. Today, that decision translates into an opportunity to perform at South By Southwest (SXSW).

Isola had long dreamed of being a featured act in SXSW. So much, that it was in fact her deciding factor in choosing to stay local and attend the University of Texas in Austin.

“I was like I’m gonna use this opportunity, I’m gonna figure it out, and I’m gonna be in that showcase,” said Isola.

Applications for artists open a year in advance. Aware of this, Isola took time last March to prepare her tape, write a biography and answer the supplementary questions. However, one day past the deadline, she realized she forgot to submit her package.

Taking a chance, she emailed her late application to a SXSW contact. Ten minutes later, she received a call.

“Okay we’re gonna give you a chance; I don’t know why, but we’re gonna give you a chance,” said the SXSW organizer.

In Isola’s words:


Within the hour, she was enthusiastically placed as an artist into The Kingdom Experience the premiere Christian Gospel music showcase.

But her work isn’t over yet. Unlike many other performers, Isola won’t be recycling her old work. She is working on an original five-song project that will be released at her show.

While Isola struggles with the balance of show preparation and life as a student, she remains excited to be part of such a diverse music festival and expand her network. She hopes to gain respect as an artist, while also connecting with a new fan base.

As for her already loyal fans… they seem just as excited as Isola.

“I can’t wait to see Wande’s music reach that next level. I really believe in her talent and her as a person. South By is gonna be a great platform for her,” said fan, Darien Younce, who was quick to add that “of course [she’s] gonna be right there supporting her.”

Isola is scheduled to perform on Friday, March 18, at 7:40 p.m. and chances are—you won’t hear her rapping about cellular transport.

UT Microfarm: Sustainable Vegetables by Students for Students

By: Julia Bernstein, J.D. Harris, and Jessica Jones

The UT Microfarm table located in the West Mall plaza on campus last Monday afternoon.

The UT Microfarm table located in the West Mall plaza on campus last Monday afternoon.

Fast food restaurants dominate the University of Texas area. Whether it’s on campus itself or right across Guadalupe, it’s not difficult to eat poorly while in college. A healthy alternative is now available every Monday afternoon on the West Mall plaza right in the heart of campus.

This Microfarm is the first of its kind on the University of Texas. They rotate crops throughout the year so there is always something fresh and in season to try. In the current season of winter, greens and root vegetables are most easily grown and available. As spring and summer approaches, a greater variety of fruits and vegetables will be up for sale.

This practice of sustainable farming is not information solely kept by the farm’s staff. The farm hosts open workdays every Thursday and Sunday. With no RSVP or experience required, this allows anyone to work as a volunteer and learn about the farming practices used at the UT Mircrofarm.

Candice Lu, a UT student, spent a Thursday afternoon at the farm with her Greek life leadership class giving back to the community. The Microfarm staff focuses on educating volunteers on the practices that takes place on the farm in order to grow sustainable crops.

“I think it’s important that we came out here today because living in a big city where we sometimes don’t even have an easy way to recycle, it’s very informative to find out about all these different processes especially composting,” Lu said.

The UT microfarm has a goal to “grow food for our local community, while creating and facilitating a number of opportunities pursuing innovation, education, sustainable systems, and interdisciplinary collaboration,” as stated by their website. This is what gives the farm its unique mission- not only to grow organic and sustainable crops, but to educate the surrounding community about these processes as well.

“We hope to connect the community to their food by emphasizing what is in season, including giving out recipe cards using in season produce,” Mircrofarm co-director Stephanie Hamborsky said. “This really draws people in and shows them that it is not difficult to eat seasonally and to buy local.”

Hamborsky also mentions water conversation and healthy soil structure through composting as key factors when it comes to sustainable farming. These are the two processes that are usually taught to volunteers in hopes that they will take this knowledge and make it better known amongst the community.

The UT Microfarm also works closely with the University Food & Housing Services (UFHS). According to Hamborsky, when the farm produces large quantities of vegetables, they sell them to UFHS. This partnership not only benefits the Microfarm, but also allows locally grown produce to be made more widely available to students on campus.

Kinsolving Food Service General Manager, Christine Jenner, believes that this partnership is one of the things that makes UT’s food service an educational experience. Locally grown produce is not only used in food preparation for the Kinsolving Dining Hall, but it’s also available in a fresh produce section within Kin’s Market, a small store right inside the doors of the residence hall.

“At a University as big as ours, attempting to feed tens of thousands of people a day, the fact that we can have locally grown options really sets us apart,” Jenner said. “My goal for Kinsolving is to move toward all of our produce being locally grown, and we are helping the cause with our own mini garden on the patio outside the dining hall.”

The Microfarm doesn’t seek to be profitable. As a grant-based program through the university, the goal is not to make money. Community outreach and education prevail as the number one goal for the Mircrofarm.

“I would encourage everyone to come out to volunteer on work days and gain a deeper connection with the food you eat,” Hamborsky said.

**NOTE: To learn more about the UT Microfarm, visit their website at:

Map of Organic Grocery Stores & Farmers Markets in Austin, Texas

UT Microfarm

The Changing Room: Stories of Gender Transitions

By Brian Lee, Felicia Rodriguez and Amanda Voeller

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The number of transgender people in the U.S. increases yearly, and in this story, two transgender students in Austin discuss their journeys. One student prepares for medical school while transitioning from male to female, and the other prepares to transfer to UT-Austin while transitioning from female to male. Additionally, Nancy Daley, an educational psychology assistant professor who teaches Human Sexuality at UT-Austin, explains why society often reacts negatively to transgender people and how women’s and men’s gender roles differ.

Click here for the story.

It’s a Ruff Life

By: Faria Akram, Stephanie Rothman, Amayeli Arnal-Reveles

Two puppy siblings look wary of their new home at The Lockhart Animal Shelter.

Two puppy siblings look wary of their new home at The Lockhart Animal Shelter.

Tiny puppies, dressed up as players and cheerleaders, wiggle or sleep in their pens. They’re carefully held, petted and soothed by a variety of people, who coo as they struggle to contain their excitement. The possibility of being able to take a little one home fuels their hours of standing in a long line.

“I grew up with dogs, and I haven’t had anything since I left home,” potential adopter Phillip Christy said. “So I’m looking for a forever friend.”

Christy was one of dozens of Austinites who showed up to the annual Puppy Bowl on Feb. 6. Put on by the Austin Humane Society, the event was held the day before the Super Bowl and allowed community members to engage with and even adopt puppies.

Though the Humane Society strives to get all the puppies adopted, the goal is not a matter of life or death. Austin has been a no-kill city since 2011, according to the Austin Department of Animal Services. Animal shelters in Austin do not euthanize healthy or treatable dogs, even when there is no room to hold them.

Though Austin is also the largest no-kill city in the nation, according to the Huffington Post, the fate of dogs is different just less than an hour drive away. The city of Lockhart, Texas resides outside the no-kill limitations, both geographically and in policy. If any animal is sick, injured or aggressive, it may be euthanized depending on the situation.

“Any animal that bites a person and is captured…if it’s not a “claimed animal” it’s euthanized automatically,” Lockhart animal control officer Cheryl Bertram said “Because there’s not anybody that’s going to pay for their quarantine fee.”

An estimated 700,000 animals are euthanized in Texas shelters every year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Reasons behind euthanizing include illness, aggression, and overpopulation.

According to Bertram, the animal shelter is the least funded program in the city and the city’s financial breakdown of funds towards the animal shelter could be managed in a better fashion. What the city sees as “quality spending money” she finds as “ridiculous,” she said.

“I pick up things that get hit by cars all the time, the city is not going to pay for everything to go to the vet and see if its fixable,” Bertram said. “And then it might never get adopted. And all that money the considered spending is for nothing.”

UT government major and dog owner Kristen Gundermann also believes that money can be a prominent concern in making decisions regarding euthanasia.

“A lot of times it’s probably an owner surrender or a dog that has been in and out of homes and or ill and no one can afford to pay for it’s vet care,” Gundermann said. “But unfortunately, in a lot of areas, that’s just a reality because not everyone can afford to be a no-kill shelter.” Gundermann said.

The size of the county that Lockhart resides in, Caldwell County, is also an issue. According to the Animal Shelter Act, shelters must properly house and humanely treat animals in their custody. However, this law does not apply to counties with populations of 75,000 or less. Caldwell County has approximately 40,000 people.

For this reason, the Lockhart shelter is unable to have a veterinarian on staff, instead taking animals to an animal health professional in only the most dire of circumstances, according to Bertram.

“[The animal shelter] is the least attended to, it takes a long time to get something going as progress,” Bertram said.

However, Austin Humane Society shelter manager Sarah Hammel is hopeful that counties like Lockhart can make strides toward becoming named no-kill as well.

“I think especially cities and counties that are right around Austin are able to use what we’ve learned, the victories and defeats that we’ve had here to sort of implement it in their own county and I think really we’ll see sort of like a ripple effect from Austin to the surrounding counties hopefully in the future, to where maybe one day Texas everyone could be no kill,” Hammel said.






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Neighborhoods Forever Young – Youthification in Austin


By Charlotte Carpenter, Dahlia Dandashi and Johana Guerra

With the largest concentration of millennials in the nation, Austin is on the front lines of the latest demographic phenomenon known as “youthification.” Neighborhoods such as Hyde Park, North Loop and South Austin are home to young adults between ages 18 and 34.  We spoke to the leading expert on the topic, Markus Moos, to learn how youthification is impacting the city. For the full story, click here.



Soireé: Yay or Nay?

Racial Tensions

by Zara Mirza, Megan Mikaelian, Stacy Rickard