In 2021 the pandemic has made it clear that every American needs broadband to thrive. We need it for work, for school, for health. And we need it for accessing government services, for growing businesses and for building communities. If there is a silver lining to 2020, which was a hard year for so many, it’s that more people are now acutely aware of the essential nature of broadband services. The new year brought new challenges, many of them playing out at our Capitol, a building I’ve had the honor of visiting many times to talk to members of Congress about the need to support broadband for all of America. But I choose to have hope that better angels of our nature will guide us to rebuild, and I believe NTCA and our members have an opportunity to help that rebuild with the work that we do supporting broadband connectivity and other critical services for rural communities. The hard-working members of NTCA have made so much progress in the past decade toward solving the rural broadband challenge. There is much work yet to do, but I have hope in the progress they are making. Through federal and state funding programs, coupled with local investments by providers themselves, we are on our way as a country to connecting everyone. There is a day in our future when we can say that everyone who needs or wants a broadband connection has access. That day is coming, sooner than later. I have hope.
HCTC scholarship winners are thriving after college
HCTC believes education is the key to prosperity. As an engaged member of the communities it serves, the cooperative is proud to support local students through the HCTC scholarship program.
Each spring, HCTC awards scholarships to graduating high school seniors in its service area. Since 1996, the cooperative has given more than $748,000 to 470 recipients. Connection recently caught up with three of those scholarship winners to see where life has taken them and how HCTC’s support helped them achieve their goals.
After several years away, Brianna Fisher, a 2014 graduate of Ingram Tom Moore High School, is back in Kerr County. She’s now a registered nurse at Peterson Regional Medical Center. Returning home to launch her career was always her plan.
“Growing up, I was just always interested in health care,” she says. “Being in a rural community, health care is always a place where there’s a need for growth, and I wanted to be a helping hand. I love it! I learn something every day.”
Fisher graduated from Texas A&M with a bachelor’s degree in science and health in 2018. She earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing from the University of Texas Medical Branch last August. The HCTC scholarship helped Fisher cover the cost of her books and supplies during her first semester in College Station.
With a passion for women’s health, she has set her sights on a career as a labor and delivery nurse. “I want to do a year of the basics and then transfer to labor and delivery and work with women’s health,” she says.
When she’s not at the hospital, Fisher and her fiance, Nick Mocio, are remodeling their house in Hunt and preparing for their wedding in May.
Fisher offers advice for young students considering a nursing career: Put down the books every once in a while and have some fun. “You have the rest of your life to work, but there’s only a certain time in your life where you can grow and learn to be an adult before you actually have to be an adult,” she says. “I took time at A&M to go on study abroad trips, and I got involved in organizations. Those things teach you things that nursing school doesn’t. I’m very thankful that I got all that experience.”
Valerie Garcia, Ingram Tom Moore High School’s 2015 salutatorian, relocated to the Midwest. Garcia lives in Wisconsin with her partner, Evan Lope, a University of Wisconsin School of Law student. She works for Nexus Solutions, a facilities management company that specializes in building public schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Before relocating to the Badger State, Garcia graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, earning a Bachelor of Science and Arts in human development and family sciences, which examines how individuals grow intellectually, physically and emotionally.
Her grandmother’s experience with mental deterioration partially inspired Garcia’s choice of major. “It really pushed me to want to understand more,” Garcia says. “I hope that further down the line I might be able to go back to school to further my education to become something like a psychologist.”
Through a combination of scholarships, including one from HCTC, multiple part-time jobs and careful scheduling, Garcia completed her degree without any student loans.
“I managed to graduate college debt-free, which is probably my biggest accomplishment,” she says. “The scholarship from HCTC helped tremendously, and I also got a lot of other local scholarships. I worked four jobs during the summer just to earn enough money in order to pay off my following semester of school. In order to save money, I graduated in 3 1/2 years, rather than the traditional four.”
Miles Michel, a 2015 Ingram Tom Moore High School alumnus, lives in Uvalde and spends his workdays out in the fields. Michel has a lifelong appreciation for agriculture, which he traces back to his family raising cattle and goats in Mountain Home and his years in 4-H and Future Farmers of America.
Michel spent three semesters studying at Blinn College using his HCTC scholarship to help with tuition. He then transferred to Texas A&M, graduating last May with a degree in development and leadership of agriculture.
Today, he works as an agronomist for Gowan Seed, specializing in plant development. “I take the experimental varieties of plants and plant them in the farmer’s field. I document their growth — how many plants come up in each planting, how fast those plants grow and how fast they put on fruit,” Michel says. “I also document the weather patterns during their growing season.”
The volatile Texas weather provides a perfect real-world proving ground — if a plant can thrive in Texas, odds are it’ll do well anywhere. “Texas weather is day by day,” Michel says. “It tests the endurance and the durability of the plants.”
Michel’s truck serves as his mobile office these days. He spends roughly four hours a day behind the wheel driving from one farm to another. “Right now, I’m really familiarizing myself with the area, and I’m meeting all the farmers and getting to know them,” he says. “Gowan is offering me a lot of room to move up. So, I’m hoping to move my way into sales. I think that agriculture is an up-and-coming industry, and investment opportunities continue to grow. It’s going to be a good place to be in the near future.”
Local businessman shares his love of the past through his writing
Did you know that Louise Hays Park hosted waterskiing stunt shows in the 1950s or that Kerrville’s first library was built by George and Geraldena Walther in 1908? Joe Herring Jr. does, and he’s happy to tell you all about it.
The only thing Herring loves more than a good story is sharing what he’s learned, and that’s exactly what the former Kerrville mayor has been doing for more than 25 years with his column in the Kerrville Daily Times and more recently with his blog and books. “I’ve always had an interest in local history because I’m of this place and I feel connected to this place, and so I wanted to know its story,” he says.
Herring and his sister, Judy Alexander, own Herring Printing Co., a business started by their parents in 1964. In the mid-’90s he started writing a weekly history column for the local newspaper. “I think it helps, especially newcomers to our area, to know that there’s a unique history to this part of Texas,” Herring says. “I think it’s a cool story, and so I’ve been happy telling that story.”
PICTURES OF THE PAST
Herring also loves old photographs and has a collection of 15,000-20,000 images of Kerrville and the surrounding area. “I have cabinets full of prints, negatives and slides,” Herring says. “The sources of these photographs are everything from family albums to tourist photographs.”
Because he’s known as the town’s historian, people often bring Herring artifacts they discover in attics or garages. “Almost every week I get a new photo or a new something,” he says.
His personal photo archive often proves to be a valuable resource when he’s presented with a mystery, like when he received a ledger from an unnamed business that he was eventually able to identify as the Henke Brothers Meat Market. “That one took a while,” he says. “I get a little obsessed with it. It’s like a puzzle.”
GIVING HISTORY A HOME
Kerr County doesn’t have a local history museum — something Herring and the other members of Heart of the Hills Heritage Center are working to change. The organization partnered with the city last year to eventually open a museum in the A.C. Schreiner House. “This was the house of Charles Schreiner’s oldest son,” Herring says. “The building was donated to the city, and it’s empty. It’s a beautiful site.”
The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the organization’s efforts to raise funds to set up exhibits and staff the museum, but Herring hopes the campaign will gain momentum again in 2021. “This town has a deep appreciation for its history,” he says.
Herring sees his writing as a way to keep the stories of Kerrville’s past alive and easily accessible while the museum remains a work in progress. “I think that’s important, because a community is stronger when it knows its story,” he says. “I’ve believed that for a long time.”
Scientist George Washington Carver famously said, “There is no shortcut to achievement.” However, if you’re tired of using your mouse to hunt through menus looking for basic computer commands or you simply want to get your work done more efficiently, then keyboard shortcuts are, well, key.
Let’s start by looking at some essentials, move on to advanced shortcuts and then consider the much-forgotten keyboard itself.
For simplicity, let’s assume you’re using a Windows machine. That means you have a Win key, which is the key with the Windows logo on the left side of your spacebar. There is an Alt key. And you have a control key, which is labeled Ctrl on your keyboard.
Note that Macs also have a Ctrl key. But when using the following shortcuts, substitute the Mac Command key.
Specialized applications may have their own shortcuts, but the basics work the same, not only for text editing, but also across most programs. They are usually intuitive.
Hit Ctrl+B to make your text bold, Ctrl+U to underline or Ctrl+I for italics. Ctrl+C will copy any text selected, while Ctrl+X will cut it. You can select text with your mouse, of course, but you can also hold down the Shift key and then select text with the arrow keys. If you need to select a large block of text, you can use Ctrl+A to select all, and then Ctrl+V will paste the selected text.
If you’re wondering why “V” for paste and not Ctrl+P, which lets you print, it’s because the letter is similar to the proofreading mark for “insert.” Another useful shortcut is Ctrl+Z, which undoes whatever you did last, from typing the wrong word to accidentally erasing your entire document — just make sure you didn’t hit Ctrl+W and close your window before you saved with Ctrl+S.
Another shortcut that comes in handy is Alt+Tab, which cycles through open applications — Command+Tab on Mac. Ctrl+N opens a new window. Win+left arrow or Win+right arrow snaps windows to the side of your screen, which is great for quickly having two windows open side by side without fiddling with sizing them to fit your monitor.
Once you’ve mastered the essentials, show off some of these less-common Windows shortcuts to get your work done faster:
Ctrl+F will let you find words in a text or browser window.
Alt+F4 will shut down any application.
Win+D will minimize all open windows and show you a clean desktop.
HCTC was recently named a recipient of the prestigious Smart Rural Community designation by NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association. The Smart Rural Community program promotes rural broadband and its role in supporting innovative economic development, effective education, efficient energy distribution and use, state-of-the-art health care, and other important issues.
“We are committed to providing high-speed internet service to our customers in rural Texas,” HCTC CEO Craig Cook says. “Whether via DSL or fiber, we believe now, more than ever, it is important for our customers to be able to compete in business, succeed in online learning and to remain connected to family and friends.”
To learn more about the Smart Rural Community program, visit ntca.org.
Each year at this time, I usually find myself looking ahead at all of the promise of the new year. Many of us will consider resolutions we can make to improve ourselves as the calendar turns to 2021. After the year we’ve all just been through, I think we could likely use that fresh sense of optimism. But just as admirable as it is that we will resolve to lose a little weight or get organized this year, it’s also unfortunately predictable that many of us will drop those diets, exercise regimes or organizational systems by spring.
That’s why I have a suggested resolution for many of our members that can be accomplished from the couch.
If you’re one of the roughly 1 in 4 Americans who hasn’t tried streaming video service through platforms like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, I’d urge you to consider resolving to give it a try in 2021.
According to the researchers at Nielsen, many older TV watchers did just that in 2020. Spurred on in a hunt for programming while staying home during the pandemic, older viewers now account for 26% of all streaming minutes viewed, up from 19% a year ago, according to the Nielsen data.
While there is a little bit of a learning curve on the new platforms, the amount of shows and movies to watch at your command is astounding.
While Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu are the dominant providers, new streaming services like Disney+, Peacock and HBOMax have debuted in the last 18 months. Paramount+, due out this year, promises to offer an immense catalog of shows from CBS and other Viacom networks, as well as decades’ worth of hit movies produced in the Paramount Studios. The summer Olympics alone are expected to provide hundreds of hours of programming for NBC’s Peacock.
And thanks to our work building and maintaining the HCTC broadband network, this vast world of programming is available right in your living room.
Here are my suggestions for how to give it a try:
Start small. Most streaming platforms offer a free trial of up to 30 days. Beyond that, basic plans for Disney+, Hulu and Netflix are priced at under $10 per month so you can try the service without a huge financial commitment.
Pick the right box. Your TV may already have some streaming capabilities built in to get you started. If not, you’ll need a Roku device or Amazon’s Fire TV Stick connected to your Wi-Fi to get you started.
Ask for help. Whether it’s a friend, family member or one of our friendly staff, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for advice on navigating this exciting new world of streaming video.