May 25, 2007


A long time ago, in a living room far, far away ...
a nine-year-old kid watched an episode of “The Midnight Special.”

By Miguel M. Morales

I wasn’t a fan of "The Special" because it usually featured artists like Alice Cooper but every once in a while they’d show Ike and Tina or Captain and Tennille.

On this particular Friday, my friend Jeremy Aleman asked me to spend the night. And since he liked guys like Alice Cooper and David Bowie, we watched. Usually, I’d get bored and fall asleep. However, this particular episode changed my life.

I remember distinctly when Wolfman Jack introduced his special guest -- Darth Vader.
Now, I didn’t know anything about this Darth Vader. I mean it was the 1970s for gosh sakes and there was a lot of stuff going on that a kid couldn’t understand. But I knew one thing, whatever this “Star Wars” movie was about, I had to see it.

I’d seen science fiction before and didn’t like it. 1970s movies sci-fi like “A Clockwork Orange,” “Soylent Green,” and “Stepford Wives” simply weren’t geared for children. Television is where most kids my age watched sci-fi but shows like “Lost in Space” “Star Trek,” and “Space 1999” came across as scary, boring, or just too fake.

When my parents dropped me off for the first Saturday matinee of “Star Wars” at the Granada Theater, which was the only theater in town that had two screens, I stayed until the last showing that evening. I must have seen “Star Wars” 8 times that day -- not just because of the amazing special effects, but because I was Luke Skywalker.

Plainview, Texas, was a dirty backwater town where my family and I spent our summers working as migrant farmworkers. And like Luke’s home planet of Tatooine, it was about as far, far away as one can get from civilization and adventure.

When Luke discovered the secret transmission from Princess Leia and his destiny, I discovered mine.

“Star Wars” opened my eyes to the grandness of world and made me realize that I lived in a small one.

For so many of my generation “Star Wars” gave us permission for self-discovery. It helped us understand that sometimes it really is as simple as good vs. evil. It helped us understand ethics and integrity, the value of friendships, the gift of loyalty and even spirituality.

Now after 30 years, I’m just now beginning to understand how profoundly this film affected my life.

Perhaps the real appeal of “Star Wars” comes in what it reveals and amplifies inside us -- hope, a new hope.

May 13, 2007


This article was originally published in The Campus Ledger May 8, 2003

I've Been Thinking About ... Mom

I still can't get over the impulse to call my mom when something good happens. Maybe I never will.
Miguel M. Morales
Managing Editor

It’s been 10 years since she died.

Breast cancer. She was 47.

I always want to talk to her, especially during this time of year -- Mother's Day.

I want to tell her about my classes, my job, and my friends.

I want her to know I am working hard to be a good person and that I love her and miss her.

With finals approaching, it's easy for students to forget about Mother's Day.

But those like me never do -- we remember and watch.

We watch those with mothers and envy them, even the ones with bad relationships. At least their mothers are still alive and there is always the chance to heal the relationship.

The world changes when a parent dies.

Our one pure source of unconditional love is gone.

It’s a love we took for granted. It urged our first step, helped us find our talents, and even now understands our struggle for education and to become more than what we are.

As we grow up, move out, and make our place in the world, we struggle to create a new role for ourselves that of an adult.

Sometimes, in order to succeed in the struggle we must break the family ties that bind by leaving. For some simply leaving the family home will do, while for others, it means leaving their community entirely.

However, independence does not mean isolation.

Using growing up as an excuse to escape our family is as childish as wanting to eat cookies for dinner.

Being an adult often means accepting our parents committed the unforgivable sin of being human and made mistakes raising us.

Learn from those mistakes together.

Parents, sit down and talk one-on-one with each of your children.

Let us ask the hard questions.

Take the time out from assigned roles to share feelings and experiences in a non-confrontational manner.

Don’t ignore this opportunity for understanding and growth.

Believe me, you may never get another chance.

At this time in our lives, we can easily forget about mothers, fathers, and those who raised us.

I struggle to recall the sound of my mom's voice with each passing year, but I will always remember dancing with her in the kitchen, as she cooked dinner.

We may have been related by birth but we became a family by choice.

Now, pick up the phone and call your mother.

May 12, 2007

NEWS: Interim Ends

Campus healer says 'goodbye'
Supporters say Interim President Larry Tyree restored trust in the community’s college

By Miguel M. Morales

Johnson County Community College will say, “Later, Gator!” to its president.
JCCC will mark the end of Tyree’s stint as interim president with a celebration.
Trustees named Larry Tyree to the position July 2006 following President Charles Carlsen’s abrupt resignation amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Since taking the position, Tyree has worked under a month-to-month contract and is credited with stabilizing the campus in the months that followed.
2-3:30 p.m., May 17
Carlsen Center Lobby
Johnson County Community College
Community members may place cards or mementos in a memory box to be presented to Larry Tyree
Tyree’s transition
“I came here thinking that I was going to take this job as if I’m going to be here forever,” Tyree said in an interview with The Lexicon last July, after only three days on the job. “I don’t know that you could have it any other way.
“If you look at in 30-day increments, you see yourself strictly as a short-timer. Short-timers typically don’t do very much. I wouldn’t be the least bit reticent to embark on a plan then handing it off the next leader of the college. Then she or he could continue or abandon it.”
Tyree vacates the position in June to Terry Calaway, president of Central Arizona College, Coolidge, Ariz., will serve as established president in July.
A May 17 campus gathering dubbed “Later, Gator!” honors Tyree’s contributions and his affinity for his alma mater, the University of Florida, where he serves as a professor emeritus.
In that same interview, Tyree pondered his impact on the campus and community in the months to come.
“I hope to look back and be able to say that there are some things better about Johnson County Community College than when I found them,” he said. “There’s some satisfaction in knowing you helped move the institution a little bit.”
Presidential impact
Sue Kuder, executive assistant to the president and the board, said she doesn’t know where to begin when trying to comprehend everything Tyree has done for the college.
“From his daily birthday phone calls to his open door policy to his attendance in numerous classes, Dr. Tyree has touched an incredible amount of people in his short time here on campus,” she said. “What an incredible healer he is.”
Kuder said she’s not only grateful for the opportunity to work with Tyree but that she’ll miss their interactions.
“I will miss his wonderful sense of humor and his calming influence,” she said. “In a word -- he's just Awesome.”
Rita Harsook, accounting clerk in Financial Services, was one of many who met with Tyree throughout the year.
“He told us he wanted to know of any injustices happening at JCCC,” she said. “He brought to our college a feeling of kindness and respect for individuals. I am so thankful Dr. Tyree passed our way.”
Betty Uko, admissions/registration clerk in Enrollment Services, said Tyree’s return to Florida is their gain and our loss.
“Dr Tyree has brought a renewed hope to our campus that was long overdue,” she said.
Uko recalled the first time she met Tyree in his office.
“We had a long conversation about what I do here at the college and what I would like to see changed,” she said. “I felt so comfortable speaking to him, just the way you feel when you speak to an old friend.”

Organized support
When trustees established the JCCC New President Screening Committee to aid in their search for a new president, employees mounted a grassroots effort for Tyree to serve permanently.
Uko served on the committee. She and other members of the committee openly supported the effort to keep Tyree.
Kami Day, professor of English, helped organize the campaign to keep Tyree.
Day, also an adviser for the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender Student Union, said one of her strongest memories of Tyree is when he came to the Pride Awareness Day drag show.
She said Tyree then surprised everyone.
“He read JCCC's diversity statement and told us JCCC is not doing enough to promote diversity,” she said.
Day said she knows some faculty, staff, and trustees complained to Tyree about the event he did not waver in his support of the students.
“He has a gift for connecting with people so they know he is interested in them, and he supports and values all students,” she said. “I wish he were not leaving,”
Frank Syracuse, professor of economics, said Tyree’s integrity-based leadership came when the college needed it most.
“His courage convinced many of us that a new atmosphere on campus was possible if we were just willing to work for it, and make some sacrifices,” he said. “I only wish I possessed a small portion of his not so common talent.
“Hopefully all future presidents will model much of his ideology regarding education leadership. He will be missed, but remembered for a very long time.”

NEWS: College Stops Providing Escorts

JCCC to graduates: 'take a walk'
Practice of faculty escorting graduating students ends

By Miguel M. Morales

They say graduating students walk alone.
At Johnson County Community College, they mean it.
Starting this year, JCCC faculty will no longer escort graduates making the walk to accept their diplomas.
“It’s a good thing,” said Vin Clark, president of the Faculty Association.
In an April 11 e-mail, Clark informed the Faculty Association members of the change.
“Yesterday afternoon Dr. Tyree informed me that the practice of faculty members’ escorting of students during graduation would be suspended,” he wrote.
Clark said that for several years the Faculty Association sought to end the tradition.
Two years ago, Betty Bullock, professor of Sociology, formed a committee to study graduation and propose changes in the procedure.
“I raised the issue at a Liberal Arts Division (LAD) meeting as well as in a Faculty Association meeting,” she said. “In the LAD meeting 90 percent of the faculty wanted the practice to stop. In the FA meeting, approximately 80 percent of the faculty wanted the practice to stop.”
Bullock said there are four reasons for the change:

  1. Usually grandparents or older adults who cannot climb the bleachers sit on the lowest seats in the gym. When faculty and students lined up for the walk, the view is blocked and proud relatives/friends cannot see the very person for whom they are in attendance.
  2. The purpose of the faculty escort was to congratulate the student and make him or her feel more comfortable. The conversation raises the noise level in the gym along with the noise generated by the motion of escorting. The increased noise gives the audience permission to talk and move around. Therefore, the dignity and decorum of the ceremony is lost. In addition, the increased noise level makes it difficult to hear student's name called.
  3. The faculty supports escorting students with whom they have a personal relationship, but the current pairing up is strictly random.
  4. Deaf students and instructors do not benefit from this practice because of the random pairing.

Clark’s e-mail says the confusion over whether to discontinue the procedure came to a head and forced him to appeal directly to Tyree.
“Once again, I am very grateful for his perceptiveness, good judgment, and decisive action,” Clark said. “This decision again displays Dr. Tyree’s perceptive and decisive leadership.”

OPINION: Decidedly Undecided

Undeciding our future
Rise in ‘undecided’ as educational goal leads to frustration for all
By Miguel M. Morales

I’m scared.
I’m scared I’ll never graduate.
I’m scared the greatest moment of my life already happened.
But what’s really scary is that I’m not the only person at Johnson County Community College who feels this way.
Clearly, JCCC has a dynamic campus with incredible students, staff and faculty.
I’d choose this college over almost any in the country -- I guess I actually did.
We have great success with students who graduate and move on to university and into the workforce.
But we also have an increasing number of undecided students.
According to the college’s Credit Enrolment Summary, in fall 2005, 18 percent of students declared their education goal as undecided. In fall 2006, that number increased 13.5 percent.
Spring enrollment figures also support this undecided growth.
This semester undecided students increased 8.7 percent from 17.2 percent last spring.
Yet goals educational goals like job training, transfer to university, and personal interest have all fallen. In fact, the only goal that’s increased is the undecided goal.
This means we have more students like me on campus.
And more of us undecided decide not to go to class.
Some of us make choices by not making them.
Perhaps we really don’t want to graduate and move on or maybe anything and everything is more interesting than sitting through a lecture.
I don’t know -- I can’t decide.
It’s easy to support students who declare a major, select a transfer university, and research the courses needed to fast track their chosen path.
But what about the rest of us?
Some of us make choices by not making them.
Yes, that’s flawed logic but for the undecided, having circumstances decide our fate is the easiest choice when we feel like don’t have support.
Our culture has done a great job of pressing the importance of going to college.
Therefore, the undecided can postpone life decisions for years by telling family, friends, and employers, “I’m going to college next semester.”
Then something unexpected happens like a boss who gives us the day off so we can register for classes because he wants to know our availability, which is exactly how I ended up at JCCC.
But for whatever reason, the undecided make it to campus. Then we’re confronted with the expectation of adhering to a predetermined timetable -- graduate or die.
We, the undecided, understand that life is full of hard choices and if anything is worth having its worth working for. We have that drive in other parts of our lives.
We just need help making the right choices succeeding in college.
Our fear is that even with so many people available to support us, we won’t get help.
Or worse -- that we’ll get it and still fail.