Category: Social Causes

NEW STUDY SHEDS LIGHT ON SEXUAL ASSAULT AT UT

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 Find the full story here: https://texasnonosvamos.squarespace.com/

 

After Zoë was raped by her coworker, she went home to her empty apartment and cried for hours.

She felt confused. She didn’t think of the incident as rape until weeks later. She still doesn’t like to say the word aloud.

“It just sounds, like, so horrible,” Zoë, now 22, said. “I can’t bring myself to say even though I know that’s what it is.”

In the weeks following the incident, Zoë, who at the time was enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin, found herself calling UT’s crisis hotline.

I think I remember being like my room in my apartment and having a panic attack,”  Zoë said. “They were trying to talk to me, trying to calm me down and give me resources.”

With the hotline’s help, she scheduled an emergency meeting for the next day at UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center.

 

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Third year neuroscience major Jackie Roth was friends with Haruka Weiser prior to Weiser’s disappearance and death in April of 2016. Weiser’s murder shocked the UT community and jump started discussions about campus safety. Jackie says that Weiser’s death was not a reflection of holes in the UT’s safety policies, but rather a rare event that is a result of wider systemic issues facing the community.

 

 

The counseling center is one of many small pieces that make up a great puzzle of prevention programs, counseling, advocacy services and reporting options at UT. In addition to asking why students often choose not to report incidents of sexual assault or rape, our reporting team set out to make sense of this puzzle and ask whether these programs are effective.

Sexual assault and rape are not rare incidents among college students. In March, UT released a survey showing that 15 percent of undergraduate women at the university say they have been raped. The survey of 280,000 students found that 18 percent of students said they experienced “unwanted touching,” and 12 percent said they experienced attempted rape.

The lead researcher of the survey and many of the people interviewed for this article have stated the statistics provided by the report are unfortunately unsurprising. They are reflective of national data, both on college campuses and of the general population.

“UT is a microcosm of what’s happening around country, the world,” said Katy Redd, the associate director for prevention and outreach at the CMHC. “Gender based violence is all too common.”

The survey also says very few victims — 6 percent — disclosed incidents to someone involved with the university. Of the 32 percent of victims who said they told someone about the incident prior to taking the survey, 4 percent reported to the CMHC. Just one percent reported to the University of Texas at Austin Police Department.

“I think there’s a whole host of reasons [for non-reporting],” Redd said.

Breall Baccus is a Title IX prevention coordinator and confidential advocate at UT. She said students may feel hesitant to come forward “because they don’t know what the next steps would be.”

“They might also not realize what happened to them was assault,” Baccus said.

 

 

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The university hired Baccus in January to fill a gap in the Title IX office. By law, the university must comply with Title IX, which “prohibits sex discrimination in education,” according to UT’s Title IX information page. Unlike other members of UT’s compliance team, Baccus is not required by law to open incidents for investigation. When students come to her to disclose an incident, Baccus can explain their options, which could include filing an official report depending on how the student chooses to go forward.

The university amped up security and sexual assault prevention efforts following the on-campus sexual assault and killing of freshman Haruka Weiser last spring. In addition to increasing police presence, the university’s Be Safe campaign has used social media and student art to promote safety messages such as walking in well lit areas and not walking alone.

“It’s just a softer way of addressing things that are going on in campus and the way to increase their safety,” said UTPD Sgt. Samantha Stanford.

Stanford’s hire, like Baccus’s, was in part to address issues of interpersonal violence on campus. As a detective, she has received specialized training to help victims of sexual assault or rape. UTPD also offers free self-defense courses for women upon request, and Stanford said the department is looking into holding separate self-defense classes for men.

UTPD’s jurisdiction ends beyond the campus borders, and Stanford said that incidents in a private residence or in West Campus might be transferred to the Austin Police Department. Stanford also said sometimes the legal definition of sexual harassment or sexual assault differs from what the university or community may use. Despite these limitations, Stanford said she is available to meet with students to answer questions or explain the legal process.

“We’re trying to… brainstorm on how we can make the process a little bit easier for victims of sexual assault to come forward and feel comfortable with reporting to us,” Stanford said.

“I think that every student should have a right to feel safe and get the education that they want to get,” Breall said, “and not have a traumatic experience get in the way of that.”

 

 

Ian’s Giving Garden

Video by Alessandra Rey and Sydney Rubin

 

Written by Michaella Marshall and Sydney Rubin

When Ian McKenna was eight years old, he began building gardens.

He was inspired by a story his sister Addison told him one day after school.  

A girl began to cry one day in Addison’s first-grade class. The girl came from a low-income family and could not afford Christmas presents. She told Addison that Santa would never visit her home because she thought he hates poor people. The story upset McKenna, so he decided to take action.

“I decided to do something about that,” McKenna said.

At 5 a.m. on Christmas morning that year, McKenna and his family visited the girl in Addison’s class. They brought food and presents, which caused a flood of emotions from the girl’s parents. It was a reaction McKenna will never forget, a reaction that made him think about what else he could do to help others.

That’s when McKenna found out that many students at his elementary school only ate when the school provided a free meal. Ian decided to to build his own garden to grow produce and feed the hungry.

“I’m growing gardens to help feed people who can’t afford fresh and healthy meals,” McKenna said.

McKenna, who is now in eighth grade, has constructed four “Ian’s Giving Gardens” over the years. He currently houses gardens at Sunset Valley Elementary, Oakhill Elementary School, the Big Brother Big Sister mentoring center and his own home.

“Ian is an extremely thoughtful kid,”, Ian’s mother Sarah McKenna said. “He named his first garden his ‘Hacienda Garden’ and planted foods that are found in Hispanic dishes because he knew that the majority of the students at the school are Hispanic. For the garden he is planting today, he chose produce that is colorful because he said he wanted to help the preschoolers to learn their colors and for them to be excited.”

The garden at Sunset Valley has made its way into the elementary school’s curriculum. Emily Bush, the principal at Sunset Valley, is impressed with how many people in the community benefit from Ian’s Giving Gardens.

The produce from the gardens is sent to families in need, local farmer’s markets and food shelters across the city.

“We’re blown away with how much produce it’s yielding,” Bush said. “He’s been able to provide a whole dinner for the homeless.”

Students at Sunset Valley use the plants in the garden for research in science classes. Being able to go outside to the garden and look at the plants provides a great hands-on experience for the kids.

“It has had a major impact on the students,” Bush said.

The school has even created its own garden committee, including parents, faculty and other community members.

McKenna’s favorite plants to grow are scorpion peppers, Carolina reaper peppers, fruits and potatoes.

“Picking potatoes are like a scavenger hunt,” McKenna said. “Time to search.”

McKenna dreams of studying meteorology and astronautical engineering to help with his gardens in the future. He hopes to one day plant gardens across the U.S. and eventually around the world. His dream spot to grow a garden is Africa.


Photos by Michaella Marshall

By the numbers

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Infographics by Bella Tommey

Austin’s Inclusive Space for Women’s Organizations

Story by Selah Maya Zighelboim
Video by Elise Cardenas
Photos by Elise Cardenas and Yelitza Mandujano
Graphics by Yelitza Mandujano and Julie Gomez
Audio by Julie Gomez


In an Austin Community College classroom on a Saturday morning, a group of women gathered to learn about running for public office. The youngest was in elementary school, while the oldest had grandchildren. They varied in race, ethnicity and even nationality, but they had all shown up to “Preparing to Run,” a class put on by Annie’s List, a Texas-based organization that supports progressive women’s political campaigns.

“While women are less likely to run, women are as likely to win,” said Kimberly Caldwell, Annie’s List program director who led the session.

“Preparing to Run” was just one of the 18 sessions that made up the Women’s Empowerment Conference, or WE Con. On Saturday, April 22, the fourth annual WE Con took place at the Eastview campus of Austin Community College. The conference held workshops and discussions on issues such as intersectionality, self-care and civic engagement, with sessions like the “Reproductive Rights Panel,” “A Lion’s Voice: Creative Writing Workshop” and “Bilingual Yoga.” The conference also aimed at being inclusive and welcoming with Spanish-language programming and a childcare room.

Learn more about WE Con’s inclusive & bilingual programming

 

WE Con is put on by the Women’s Community Center of Central Texas, an organization that seeks to create a space for different feminist organizations to come together and connect.

“I love being able to go to a feminist conference that is built from the community and made up of people who are all interested in broadening their perspectives and talking with each other,” said Nora Greenstein Biondi, an attendee at the conference and Women’s and Gender Studies student at the University of Texas.

According to staff member Danea Johnson, the Center chooses organizations for the conference that engage and empower women. Johnson says she looks at organizations that help women get involved in activism, express themselves creatively or take care of their mental well-being.

“We were looking at different ways to get involved in the community,” Johnson said. “[We were] looking at different organizations that have been doing things for the past few years, different ways for women to plug into the community and get involved, whether it’s arts or activism or social justice.”

Civics 101: WE Con speaker, Amy Stansbury of the Austin EcoNetwork explains how to get involved in local government.

 

For Johnson, one particular group that encapsulates this idea of “plugging into the community” is Annie’s List, which participated in WE Con for the first time this year. This group encourages women to get involved with the political process, which the Center’s team sees as necessary for women’s needs to be met politically.

Annie’s List communication director Awo Eni said they saw the conference as a perfect fit for one of their “Preparing to run” classes. Eni says that women tend to need to be asked to run for office, so the program and its workshops aim to encourage that idea for women.

“In Texas, women make up the majority of the state’s population, but they only hold 20 percent of elected office in the state of Texas at both the state and local level,” Eni said. “When progressive women are put in office, they make life better for everyone. Representative democracy is very important to us, and that’s what we’re working towards.”

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Though Annie’s List doesn’t have plans to work with the Center in the future, Eni said they probably would if they had the opportunity.

Annie’s List spokesperson Marjorie Clifton says that more women are needed in public offices so that women’s needs are taken more seriously. For example, prostate cancer research used to receive significantly more funding than ovarian cancer research, but because there are more women in public office now, those numbers are more egalitarian.

“It’s natural that we consider things in our life experiences that are unique to us,” Clifton said. “One of the most important things about having parity in any kind of structure — whether it’s businesses or the legislature — what our legislature is designed to do is not only represent all the genders, but all the races and socioeconomic backgrounds and making sure that it’s truly reflective of the people we’re taking care of.”

Along with WE Con, the Center has a film series called Alt Girl Cinema and workshops throughout the year. Currently, the Women’s Community Center has office space at the PeopleFund, but its board would like to get the Center its own building. To do that, the team is gathering input from the community to hear what individuals would like from that space.

“There’s an interest in women’s issues, a tide that may have started with the Women’s March and a yearning to keep that momentum going,” interim executive director Susannah Erler said. “We want to help keep that momentum going.”

WeCon Demographics

The Pay gap

 

 

Local Coalition Provides Legal Aid to Austin’s Immigrant Community

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A sanctuary built by one of the residents sits outside Casa Marianella, a homeless shelter for immigrants and refugees in Austin. Casa Marianella is one of about a dozen organizations that help comprise Texas Here to Stay, a coalition of legal and community organizations that work to provide education and legal aid to Austin immigrants through free workshops and clinics.

 

 

Bells chimed at the San Jose Catholic Church. Signs announcing “Taller & Consulta Gratis de Inmigración” — which translates to “Free Immigration Workshop and Consultation” — adorned the building’s exterior. A crowd gathered, and though it was Sunday, the group did not consist of the usual congregation.

 

It was Jan. 29, nine days after President Donald Trump was sworn in, four days after he announced plans for a border wall and two days after he barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. This crowd of immigrants and their loved ones was there to find out what could happen to them in the future — and what they could do about it.

 

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At Wishes and Dishes, Hope is Served

By: Kate Bartick, Julia Bernstein, Anthony Green

Legos, dinosaurs and Disney are among 7-year-old Owen Sirmons’ favorite things, and this past March, Owen had the opportunity to experience his favorite things up close and in person. Thanks to the efforts of Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas, Owen, who has a rare genetic condition called Escobar Syndrome and scoliosis, was able to go to Legoland, Universal Studios and Disney World in Florida.

“He is the most adorable, creative, smart, funny, compassionate, strong, amazing little guy and I couldn’t think of a better person to get this Make-A-Wish experience. He loved every second of it,” said Erica Sirmons, Owen’s mother.

According to Sirmons, Owen’s favorite part of the trip was going to the Jurassic Park-themed area of Universal Studios.

“He got to have his picture taken with a raptor and that to him was like the best thing ever,” Sirmons said.

Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas is an organization dedicated to granting wishes to children, such as Owen, who are diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions. Fulfilling wishes would not be possible without the fundraising efforts of Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas and its supporters in the community.

According to Kathryn Draper, director of special events for Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas, there are two different types of events that raise funds for the organization. The first are internal events, which are put on by Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas.

“We fund them, we market them and we coordinate them,” Draper said. “Our biggest internal fundraiser is Over the Edge. The first 200 individuals who raise the minimum of $1,500 will get to rappel down the W Austin. That is this June 11 and 12.”

External events, which are hosted by outside entities, are the second way Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas makes money. Draper said the organization relies heavily on external events, such as Wishes and Dishes. Wishes and Dishes is an event fundraiser held for the past two years in which people buy tickets to dine on meals from around the world and participate in a silent auction with proceeds going to Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas. Early estimates put funds raised from this year’s Wishes and Dishes at $52,000.

The funds raised from both internal and external events go a long way in helping Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas grant wishes.

 

 

According to Draper, since the inception of Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas in 1984, the chapter has granted over 4,200 wishes, with a milestone of 238 wishes granted this past year.

“We’ve never granted that many wishes before which is great for us because we are starting to reach our goal of reaching every eligible child in our territory,” Draper said. “This year we are set to grant 260 wishes which is even better and it can only go up from there.”

According to Draper, the average wish costs approximately $5,000 but for top-tier wishes, such as international wishes and celebrity wishes, the cost can be a little bit more.

As for the most popular wish, a trip to Disney World is number one.

“Disney World makes up over half of all of our wishes. Our kids get to stay at a great place called Give Kids the World,” Draper said. “It really is a once in a lifetime opportunity and they get some very special treatment at Disney World.”

The ability to grant wishes for children and teens dealing with life-threatening illnesses leaves a remarkable impact on all persons involved in the wish experience.

Estela Bonacci, a Make-A-Wish Central & South Texas board member and organizer of the Wishes and Dishes event, said having the opportunity to actually meet the children and their families is what drew her to the organization.

“It truly puts perspective in your life and shows you where your priorities should be and it’s just a very rewarding, I can’t even describe it, experience. You really get a connection with the children, the siblings, the parents. It’s an amazing journey,” Bonacci said.

Draper said she believes one of the most rewarding parts about working for the organization is “hearing how much hope, strength, and joy [they’ve] brought not only the child, but the whole family.”

Sirmons said, for her, the best part of the wish experience was that Owen was celebrated by every person they met, whether the family was on the airplane traveling to Florida or at Give Kids the World or Disney World.

“The whole experience celebrated Owen every step of the way,” Sirmons said. “That, to me, was priceless.”

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Greeks Give Back

By Lauren Florence, Caroline Hall, & Jack Vrtis

The aromas of smelly crawfish and cheap beer wafted through the air, mixing with the sounds of country music and the lighthearted chatter of the hundreds of University of Texas students gathered at the Sigma Chi fraternity house in final celebration of Derby Days, a weeklong event that culminated in $31,000 raised for charity.

“It’s important for the Greek community to participate in philanthropy because with so many people and resources, we can really make a difference,” Tim Davis, the Derby Days Chairman, said.

Derby Days, which concluded festivities on April 23, is only one of a multitude of philanthropy events held annually at the University of Texas and put on by UT Greek organizations. There are 14 official sororities at UT, governed by the University Panhellenic Council, or UPC, and 28 official fraternities, governed by the Interfraternity Council, or IFC. Individually, these 42 Greek organizations hold various philanthropy events throughout the year, raising a combined hundreds of thousands of dollars for charity.

“In 2015 alone, all 14 sororities combined within UPC raised over $647,000 for their charities of choice,” McKenna Phillips, the UPC Vice President, said. “ These charities include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The Ronald McDonald House, and Prevent Child Abuse America, among others.”

Sororities raise money through events ranging from flag football tournaments to frozen yogurt profit shares. One popular event held year after year is Kappa Alpha Theta’s “Pancake Party.” Hosted at the Theta house, students line up for all you can eat sweet and savory pancakes, including flavors like sausage and Oreo, and the proceeds are donated to Theta’s philanthropy, Court Appointed Special Advocates, or CASA, which advocates for abused and neglected children in the legal system.

“Pancake Party is our most attended philanthropy event,” said Emily Johnson, a senior Theta. “It’s great because through events like this, we have the opportunity to impact the lives of people we’ve never met.”
Fraternities also do their part to give back. So far in 2016, the IFC has already raised $95,444 for the B+ Foundation.

In addition to fundraising events, the Greek community also plays an active role in volunteering with their specific charities.

“Aside from financial contributions, chapter members participate in a variety of volunteering efforts towards their charities, ranging from helping out with local Austin schools to working on national philanthropic endeavors,” Philips said.  Through these various events and contributions, the UT Greek community is able to use their resources to impact the Austin area and beyond.

“Philanthropy allows the Greek community to come together for the betterment of the community,” freshman Tri Delta member Megan Uhr said. “It has made my Greek experience such a positive one.”

 

Greek Philanthropy Infographic

Mental Health Week Seeks To Promote CMHC Services

Story Package By Will Cobb, Marysabel Cardozo, and Trisha Seelig

This spring, The University of Texas’ Counseling and Mental Health Center (CMHC) hosted their first Mental Health Promotion Week. The campus-wide event offered many activities to help create awareness for mental health issues and promote emotional well-being.

Last week’s events included: interactive tabling, documentary screening, a mobile mind body lab, glow-in-the-dark yoga, panel discussions, sports, sugar scrubs, and an unplug campaign. Students who attended these events received a T-shirt that read Be Kind to Your Mind, promoting the event.

In their panel discussion on diversity and mental health, Kimberly Burdine, a Diversity Coordinator and Psychologist for the CMHC, said that therapy is unique in that the focus is on you.

“What I really want to do is reduce any stigma associated with mental health,” she said.  

Every fall semester, CMHC hosts Suicide Prevention Week, but historically they have not done big events in the spring.

Linda Serna, a senior Women’s and Gender Studies major as well as a Voices Against Violence Peer Educator said that accessibility and safety are factors in students pursuing mental health services.

“You deserve to be in a place where you don’t feel like you have to justify your identity,” Serna said, “In a system that isn’t built for certain people, seeing yourself represented is so important because it also says, you belong here and you can make it.”

With the semester winding down, students’ feel more stressed over approaching finals. Alyssa Mastronardi, a junior psychology and Spanish major and CMHC Peer Educator, said that they decided to host Mental Health Promotion Week now to give students ways to cope with that stress.

Coping with stress looks different for everybody. For Mastronardi, it looks like Yoga and conversations with her mom.

Mastronardi said they’ve had good turn outs, especially to events like their play day and glow-in-the-dark yoga, but will be improving the times they host certain events next year.

UT’s Counseling and Mental Health Center has a record number of likes on Facebook right now from the promotion of this week’s events. Mastronardi feels they have met their goal of spreading awareness throughout campus.

Mental health is just as important as physical health, Mastronardi said, “It’s not just about preventing tragedy, but helping everyone live better.”

Israel Guerrero, a sophomore Psychology major, said that he has found the CMHC counselors to be relatable and that students have a voice in getting their needs met here at UT.  

“The staff [of CMHC] really care and would be more than happy to chat with you at any time,” said Mastronardi.

Going forward the CMHC plans to hold a Mental Health Promotion Week annually, with a different tagline each year, Mastronardi said.

 

Photographs by Trisha Seelig

 

Infographics by Will Cobb

 

UT White Rose Society Presents 10,000 Roses and Max Glauben

By: Ellen Gonzalez, Jayelyn Jackson, Rachael Pikulski and Taylor Villarreal

 

Earlier this month students carried white roses around campus as a means of promoting awareness of genocide and commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. This event was put on by the UT chapter of The White Rose Society, and led by co-presidents Leah Kashar and Sophie Jerwick.

 

The White Rose was a non-violent, intellectual resistance group in Nazi Germany consisting of students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor. The group became known for an anonymous leaflet and graffiti campaign, lasting from June 1942 until February 1943 that called for active opposition to Adolf Hitler’s regime. The original Society was executed by Gestapo, the secret state police of Nazi Germany.

 

The White Rose Society addresses growing concerns of “fascism and right-wing hate” spreading across Europe and North America. Currently, the group is calling particular attention to the human rights crisis in Syria and to the plight of over 11 million Syrian refugees. Today the UT branch also focuses on Holocaust remembrance and genocide prevention.

 

On April 5, the UT White Rose Society asked volunteers to help the group cut and de-thorn 10,000 white roses to distribute around campus the following day. The roses served as a commemoration of the 10,000 individuals who died every day in Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

 

“We think the event 10,000 roses is really great representation that people don’t always get from that textbook that you read in school,” Kashar said. “It’s a really great way to spread awareness and create change in awareness that is happening now.”

 

“The evil of genocide is like a disease. For a disease, you have to find a remedy. By making people aware of how cruel humanity can be, maybe this can be a cure for the illness. The moral of the story is to be nice to everybody and to never hate.”

 

 

 

White Rose Society presented a conversation with Holocaust survivor, Max Glauben at Texas Hillel on Wednesday, April 6 as a closing to the 10,000 Roses event. Humanities Honors senior, Elan Kogutt, says he has a personal connection with Glauben. Both his grandfather and Glauben shared Flossenberg, a concentration camp that Glauben spent time in, and which Kogutt’s grandfather’s division, the 97th Infantry Division of the US Army, liberated in WWII.

 

Later in life, Glauben began leading trips to Eastern Europe to teach Jewish youth about the Holocaust and share his experiences growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto and at five different concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Flassenberg.

 

“I had the privilege to travel to Poland and Israel with Max roughly 70 years after the Flossenburg liberation. I spoke to my grandfather today to corroborate the story— Poppop, who went on to boast about the amazing life that Max has led ever since,” Kogutt said. “In spite of all his experiences during the Holocaust, Max is an incredible source of light and wisdom.”

 

At 86 years old, Max Glauben is an upbeat, positive man who is described as someone who “laughs a lot” and “always sees the glass half full.” Glauben lived through six concentration camps during WWII, and on his arm is the constant reminder of a lost childhood and family – a tattoo of the letters “KL” (konzentrationslager), the German government’s identifying mark for the Jews who were imprisoned.

 

During his speech, Glauben said that he believed God spared his life for a reason: to tell his story. As one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors, he feels that sharing his story is a duty he owes to the millions who didn’t survive Hitler’s commitment to murder all the Jews.

 

“The evil of genocide is like a disease,” Glauben said. “For a disease, you have to find a remedy. By making people aware of how cruel humanity can be, maybe this can be a cure for the illness. The moral of the story is to be nice to everybody and to never hate.”

 

From Uganda with Love

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Steven, Adeline, Rachel & Asher Kehne. Photo: The Kehne Family Home

 

By: Selena Depaz, Caroline Hall & Anthony Green

What makes up a family is hard to explicitly define. Even Webster’s dictionary has seventeen different definitions for the word. But looking at the Kehne family one thing is clear; their family is a complete one.

Matt and Crystal Kehne have four children, two biological and two they adopted internationally from Uganda. While the Kehne’s chose to complete their family through international adoption, for those also considering adoption there are many different ways to adopt and various factors to consider.

There are two basic types of adoption in the United States, public adoption and private adoption. Public adoption, which is always domestic, is when children are adopted out of the foster care system. Private adoptions can be either domestic or international and are typically run through adoption agencies or directly through the birth parents. Private adoptions are financially much more expensive, with an average cost of $30,000, compared to the public adoption cost of around $5,000, according to the American Adoption Agency.

“Private adoptions are much more expensive, and there are other challenges with them as well,” Jillian Bonacquisti, the Adoption Program Specialist at the Texas CPS State Office said. “Internationally, cultural issues are probably the biggest challenge; they’re pulling that kid away from everything they’ve ever known.”

The Kehne family experienced this firsthand when they moved their family to the United States after ten years of living in Uganda.

“I’ve considered it similar to when someone has a stroke and they have to learn how to walk again,” Matt Kehne, the father of the family said. “Culturally that’s what you have to do; you have to learn how to walk again in a different way of life. We’re teaching the kids how to walk over here, and we’re learning again ourselves.”

Aside from cultural challenges, there are additional factors to consider with adoption as well. Especially internationally, because other countries do not have the same foster care system we do; it takes longer and requires more paperwork to adopt.

“One of the biggest parts of the challenge of adoption was the waiting,” Matt said. “Waiting for official documents and reports and court hearings.”

It took the Kehne’s four years to officially adopt their first adopted son, Stephen.
Despite the challenges, the Kehne’s are passionate that adoption is a good thing. There is such a need for adoptive families, not only internationally but domestically as well.

“Currently there are around 30,000-40,000 kids in the United States that need homes,” Bonacquisti said.

Although the Kehne’s chose to adopt from Uganda, they have some advice for others who are interested in adoption.

“I always ask families if they’ve considered domestic adoption first,” Crystal said. “If they know how many kids in their hometown, in their city, are waiting for a family too.”

University Fashion Group in their ‘Elements’ for upcoming fashion show


A feature on the University of Texas’ University Fashion Group. The UFG is putting on their annual fashion show,
titled Elements in 2016, on April 14.

By J.D. Harris, Lauren Florence and Fatima Puri

After four years of designing unique clothing and countless all-nighters spent sewing together their collections, 23 senior apparel designs students will display the culmination of all their hard work in front of an audience of thousands.

“Elements” is the title and theme of this year’s annual student fashion show which will premiere each student’s five-piece collection at the Frank Erwin Center on April 14. Last year, the show brought in an attendance of 5,000 people, but planners of the show estimate the audience to exceed that this year.

The annual fashion show, which is organized by students of the University Fashion Group, will feature 120 original designs to be judged in various categories, such as best evening wear or best active wear, by a panel of local industry professionals.

A model wearing an outfit designed by student Aaron Kuback. Photo courtesy of The Statesman/Ed Lehmann.

A model wearing an outfit designed by student Aaron Kuback. Photo courtesy of the Statesman/Ed Lehmann.

Ockhee Bego, professor of textiles and apparel who is supervising the senior collections and directing the show, said she teaches classes from the freshman to senior level and that the most difficult part of the fashion show for her students is time management.

“[When] they started out some of them never knew how to sew any garments to now they are designing and producing all the garments,” Bego said. “The main part is the time management because our students, they are not only learning for design but as you can imagine they do business, they do chemistry, they do biology and they do accounting—all those things, plus, they are creating and producing the garments.”

While the hair and makeup of the models will be kept consistent among all the designers to emphasize the clothing collections, Bego said designers could request models that had a certain type of look that complimented their collection.

Tré Miles, president of the University Fashion Group and a designer in the Elements show, said his collection stemmed from conversations on gender presentation and he requested both male and female models to wear his pieces.

Miles, who took 19 credit hours this semester and has a part-time job, said he’s not the first senior designer to take on the double duty of also being president of the University Fashion group, though it’s usually highly recommended that designers don’t.

Tasneem Saifee model

A model wearing a bridal gown designed by student Tasneem Saifee. Photo courtesy of the Statesman/Ed Lehmann.

“It’s definitely interesting how to balance it,” Miles said. “It came to a point where obviously better organizational skills—I’ve challenged myself so much on that, and being very open and accessible. One of the funniest things I think in learning to balance everything was learning to be as objective and straightforward as you can be—not allowing anyone to get too emotional, not allowing people to get angry at me.”

Mary Urban, marketing sophomore and assistant director of development of the University Fashion Group, said although she is not a textiles and apparel major she joined the University Fashion Group with the hope of pursuing a career in the fashion-tech industry.

“I definitely think it works very well because I’m a very creative mind but I’m also an analytical mind because I’m good at math, so it’s a really good balance, and honestly I think if I only did one I’d go crazy,” Urban said.

The fashion show will be held April 14 at 7:15 p.m. in the Frank Erwin Center, and admission is free and open to the public.