Barbecue is a regional thing. In the South, it’s all about the butts. Head to the Midwest, and you’ll find brats on most every grill. But visit Texas, and you’ll find it’s all about the brisket, says master of the pit Jessie Miranda.
Miranda, general manager of Hays County Bar-B-Que, says it’s the cow that defines barbecue from the Lone Star State — not only the brisket, but ground beef, beef ribs and other bovine cuts. Just follow the smoke signals coming from the massive eatery’s four over-sized smokers, each measuring 30 feet long and 6 feet deep. They roar to life on Monday mornings and keep smoking all week long, producing briskets with the perfect bark, ribs that are fork-tender and sausages with an incredible, smoky/spicy bite.
Committing himself to a life of ’cue is a dream come true for Miranda, who hasn’t always been a full-time smoker. Before starting at Hays County Bar-B-Que, he worked in construction and indulged in his passion in his spare time, making barbecue for the masses on the competition barbecue circuit. His team, S&S Pit Crew, has competed in the San Antonio Rodeo barbecue event, the Houston Rodeo, the Laredo Big Bad BBQ Cook-Off and others around the state. They’ve brought home a few ribbons along the way, but now that Miranda’s been at the restaurant full time for six years, he competes “whenever there’s time.”
Miranda met Michael Hernandez while buying wood for S&S. Hernandez owns Hays County Bar-B-Que with his wife, Asenette, and before long they offered Miranda the job that now has him overseeing quality control, customer service and a team of three employees who are in the pit with him. Post oak is the wood of choice for both competition and in the restaurant. The fact that it grows best in dry soil makes it plentiful in Texas. “And it’s a mild wood that produces smoke that doesn’t overpower the meat,” Miranda notes.
Brisket is customers’ top choice of the meats served at Hays County Bar-B-Que, and it’s also Miranda’s favorite. The briskets smoke for 20 to 24 hours, and the cooks stay up all night with them. The results are obvious in appearance, taste and texture. The outside should have a crisp, blackened bark, while the inside should be tender enough to cut easily without shredding. And the taste? Heaven.
“The key to good brisket is low and slow — over low heat for a long time,” Miranda says. Like many pros and back-yard grillers, Miranda is self-taught, but he follows the example his fellow grillers set. Miranda says working for Hernandez has also increased his knowledge of barbecue. Hernandez put the restaurant on the map, making it one of Texas Monthly’s top 50 places for the best barbecue in Texas. And for a state the size of Texas — where the heat is on, ’cue is king and barbecue restaurants line the roads — that’s no small feat.
Growing Schreiner University offers opportunities for future
From its Texas Ranger roots to its Presbyterian bent, Schreiner University has always been a uniquely Texas institution, and it continues to be a monument to the state’s spirit.
To Schreiner University President Char-lie McCormick, at least part of that combination means judging potential students on grit as well as grades.
“We believe in the message that is carved into our front gate: ‘Enter with Hope.’ While there are thousands of higher education institutions in the U.S., most of them are caught up in a race to be the most prestigious,” McCormick says. “Each year, they are trying to recruit the most exclusive group of students based on standardized test scores and high school GPAs. Good scores and good grades are wonderful, and we are proud of the many Schreiner students who arrive on campus with very high marks. But Schreiner has long believed — and continues to believe — that things like grit and resilience and drive are even more important. We are looking for students with those qualities. We believe that in the educational environment that Schreiner provides, such students can thrive to such an extent that they will be competitive with any graduate from any college or university in the nation.”
Schreiner’s founder, Texas Ranger Capt. Charles Schreiner, began building the university in 1923 on land in Kerrville that he donated, along with an endowment. It’s home to about 1,400 undergraduates — a number school leadership expects to grow to more than 2,200 over the next four years. A majority of Schreiner’s student body comes from within a 150-mile radius of Kerrville. The school has been affiliated since its opening with the Presbyterian Church and the Presbytery of West Texas.
McCormick says the expected growth is part of the plan for the university’s future. “Schreiner intends to continue to grow its overall enrollment, and we will grow our staff and faculty,” he says. “Careful planning in the past has placed us in a position where our facilities can accommodate this growth for the next several years. Schreiner’s faculty and administration will continue to evaluate its curricular and cocurricular offerings to provide students with the wisdom, skills and experiences they need for their first job — and the third.”
Undergraduates at Schreiner can pursue any of 27 majors and 23 minors. The school also offers master’s degrees in business and education.
But many Schreiner students are pursuing more than just academic degrees, and they arrive at the Kerrville campus with hopes for a better life. U.S. News & World Report recently named Schreiner as one of the top five schools in the nation for social mobility. To school administrators, that means simply that Schreiner is living up to its mission as a beacon of hope for the Texas Hill Country. “Since its found-ing, Schreiner has always been a place of opportunity,” says Mark Tuschak, university vice president of student recruitment, external relations, marketing and communications. “Influencing social mobility is the latest manifestation of that value: By attending and graduating from Schreiner, our students have the opportunity to live a better life than their parents.”
McCormick says the unexpected rank-ing is confirmation for the direction Schreiner has always taken. “This was external validation for what many of us knew — the value of a Schreiner education is clear and present. It has been a part of the American dream that our children will have better lives than their parents had. At Schreiner, this dream is coming true for students — especially for students who come from low-income backgrounds.”
Diana Comuzzie, the university’s health professions program developer, says Schreiner is special because of the caring environment it creates for its students. “Every employee at Schreiner who has been here for any extended period of time knows deep in their heart that there is a student who walked across the stage at graduation because of something they did to help them in their journey,” Comuzzie says. “It could have been a connection to an employer. It could have been an intern-ship. It could have been an intriguing discussion in class, or it could have been a listening ear and a shoulder for crying. It could have simply been a kind word on a particularly hard day. The employee won’t brag about it, but they know they changed a life. That’s what we do — we transform lives. It is sacred and noble work, and it is our joy to do it.”
Schreiner operates freshman campuses in Brownsville, Mission and El Paso. Students who enroll at those campuses can complete their freshman years with 30 hours of credits debt free before arriving as sophomores at the Kerrville campus.
The university offers 27 four-year undergraduate majors and 23 minors as well as master’s programs in education and business.
The Mountaineers compete at the NCAA Division III level, fielding men’s and women’s teams in basketball, cross country, golf, soccer, track and field, and tennis. There’s also a men’s baseball team and women’s teams in volleyball and softball. Other sports include esports, bass fishing, cycling, competitive cheer, wrestling, riflery and shooting.
In 1923, what was then called Schreiner Institute became affiliated with the Presbyterian Church through the Presbytery of West Texas. Schreiner currently has an enrollment of just over 1,400 students. That number is expected to grow to more than 2,200 students by 2023. The student-to-faculty ratio is currently 13-to-1.
After opening as a male-only school, Schreiner became coeducational in 1932.
Broadband internet takes education to another level
Tomorrow’s workforce may appear very different from today’s due to an expected increase in the number of science, technology, engineering and math jobs. And the market for jobs requiring more education than a high school diploma but less than a college degree is also expected to grow.
But with the opportunities a changing workforce represents, challenges also appear. Fast broadband internet services, however, can help by providing rural communities access to the educational tools to make those career paths a reality.
A report by NTCA–The Rural Broad-band Association found that improved access to broadband internet allows communities to better provide critical training. Many small, rural communications providers offer fiber-based broadband services that can support distance education, and many also work closely with educators and industry to develop opportunities for students to acquire STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and middle-skills jobs.
Students like Nathaniel Treadaway develop skills that increase economic opportunities in rural areas through work-training programs, apprenticeships and classroom instruction. Treadaway grew up in Kuttawa, Kentucky, with aspirations to teach music. But after studying music education at the University of Kentucky for a short time, he quit. “I decided the teaching field wasn’t for me,” he says. So he started working at a bank.
He soon realized the need to combine technology and his job, and he decided to go back to college. He enrolled at West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah to pursue an internet technology degree. He got an internship at a major Paducah corporation that provides customer network support, and now he works there full time while continuing his education online. He expects to graduate this year.
At 29, Treadaway is part of a growing number of students attending college while continuing to work. “This is a rural area, and I’m thankful we have these opportunities,” he says. “It’s vital for those of us who want to stay here.”
West Kentucky Community and Technical College continues to address the problem of young people across rural America leaving for the bigger cities. “In the past, some of the younger generation felt like they had to leave the area to make a good living and raise their families, but they’re itching to come back,” says David Heflin, vice president of academic affairs at the college. “We want to find employment that can provide that opportunity for them. We can’t allow the ‘brain drain’ to continue taking our kids from this area. We have to provide opportunities so they have a reason to stay.”
Broadband internet leads the way in the industrial revolution, and it’s a driving force in education and jobs. Not only does broadband impact technology in jobs, but also manufacturing plants often rely on high-tech tools such as robots and cobots, which are computer-guided devices that assist a person. Partnerships among industry and educators are a growing trend to ensure that schools are offering courses that meet the requirements for these and other jobs.
Using technology to partner with other high schools and postsecondary institutions, high school administrators can create programs that help students prepare for guided postsecondary education, according to the report. Partnerships with other area institutions can help students prepare for regional job markets.
For rural community colleges, distance education plays a big role. Often, there’s not enough enrollment to support a local classroom, and online classes can fill a gap. It’s a growing trend. At Collin College in Texas — with locations in Frisco, McKinney and Plano — online classes now account for about 40% of the enrollment.
When Glenn Grimes, a Collin College professor of computer science, first started teaching 17 years ago, all the classes were face to face. “Back then, people didn’t have the bandwidth necessary to drive the audio and video needed to do online classes,” he says. Students now have the ability to pick and choose topics they wish to study from campuses all over the world. “It’s a huge benefit for students,” Grimes says. “It gives them so many more options.”
Rural broadband providers are playing vital roles, leveraging their networks and working closely with local educational institutions, the NTCA report states. Rainbow Communications of Hiawatha, Kansas, provides fiber connectivity to Highland Community College, the oldest college in the state.
The network allows the school to offer numerous courses at various sites. Career and technical education courses at HCC include building trades and medical coding. The college also supports the agricultural industry through such courses as precision agriculture and diesel mechanics, areas of study which are necessary as farms increasingly rely on precision agriculture that blends traditional mechanical equipment with analytical tech and GPS-guided systems.
In Brainerd, Minnesota, Consolidated Telecommunications Co. works with Bridges Career Academies & Workplace Connection, which brings together high schools, local colleges and businesses to provide career guidance and training. The effort focuses on building local career opportunities.
NexTech in Lenora, Kansas, works with local charitable foundations and public utilities to support high school and college internships. Students earn at least $10 per hour and are offered technical and nontechnical career experiences in areas like agriculture, economic development, automobile restoration, medical services, computer technology, art, banking, legal and others.
Broadband and its impact on education
Youth who live in areas with broadband are found to have earned higher scores on college entrance exams such as the SAT or ACT.
More than 70% of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association members can provide 25 Mbps and higher broadband to their customers.
A 2005 study found no significant difference between the writing skills of on-campus and off-campus students utilizing distance learning.
Distance education can help address the lack of specialization possible in small, rural schools that can’t provide as broad a range of courses as larger schools because of affordability or demand.
Distance education can also assist in early college attendance for high schoolers, particularly in rural areas that lack resources to support the increased expenses of college.
Broadband-enabled distance education allows all eligible students who have access to broadband to participate.
Distance education can also provide flexibility for working students and accommodate ongoing family obligations.
Source: Rural Broadband and the Next Generation of American Jobs, a report of NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association.
As second acts go, Ann Buck’s has proven to be as rewarding as her first. Buck, a former music and women’s pastor in Tulsa, retired to Kerrville, but the change didn’t take. After a short break, she became executive director of the Christian Women’s Job Corps of Kerr County, beginning a second career aimed at helping women with precious few places to turn.
The organization provides job and life skills training. “These women are in need,” Buck says. “Not only financially, but spiritually, professionally and person-ally.”
Buck, who took over as executive director nine years ago, says 430 women have completed the organization’s 12-week semesters, which take place twice a year for 12 to 14 “interns” in each session. The curriculum includes business ethics and etiquette, character development, parenting skills, women’s health, interview skills, Bible study and healthy relationships.
Buck says one in three girls in the state of Texas has been molested by the age of 10. “So many times, they begin self-medicating,” she says. “They don’t seek counseling, and they end up with legal issues.”
Others come out of abusive relation-ships, Buck says, and some simply find themselves divorced and entering the workforce for the first time without marketable job skills. But regardless of their pasts, all the women who enter the program are treated the same. “We have licensed counselors on call,” Buck says. “And we teach a life skills class each semester.”
The program is open to women over the age of 18, so it has served teens as well as women in their 50s and 60s. “Sometimes, we have a mother who graduates, and then a daughter wants to go through the course. We can see what we call the ripple effect,” Buck says. “We want them to find out where they can succeed. We ask them, ‘What did you dream about doing when you were a little girl?’ We want them to find that again.”
Technology can’t answer those age-old questions that come up this time of year — “Is it back-to-school time already?” and “What happened to summer?” — but it can make the transition from carefree idling to hit-ting the books a little easier.
Here are three software and portable hardware combinations students can use in their classwork and beyond.
ELEMENTARY OR MIDDLE SCHOOL
While younger students can benefit from a laptop, most of them are so familiar with mobile devices that a tablet with a little more power can offer the perfect choice. It’s hard to rival the Apple iPad for ease of use and a polished user experience. There are several models, ranging in size from the iPad mini’s 7.9-inch display to the iPad Pro’s impressive 12.9-inch screen. A traditional iPad, starting at $329, is a good choice for this age range.
With tablet in hand, kids can use a variety of age- and grade-appropriate apps, such as Libby. Available free from the App Store and on Google Play, Libby is a neat mix of old and new that allows kids to borrow any of the thousands of e-books and audiobooks avail-able at their local library. Students with a library card can sample any available books, download them for offline use and keep track of their reading history.
Much like in the tablet department, it’s hard to beat the ease of use offered by an Apple device. The new MacBook Air model pro-vides good computing power at a reasonable price, starting at $1,199 with a 13-inch Retina display and 128 GB of storage. Chromebooks, available at a range of prices and specifications, can also offer affordable options.
As for software, a must-have is Microsoft Office. Yes, Google offers a similar program suite on the cloud, but you can’t beat the style and functionality offered by the bundle of productivity applications. Office has you covered whether you’re writing an essay in Word, making advanced spreadsheets in Excel or preparing history presentations in Power-Point. A subscription to Office 365 for use by one account across a variety of devices — including Macs — PCs, tablets and phones, is $69.99 a year. Students are eligible for a fully functional free version. All they have to do is visit www.office.com and provide a school email address.
As students go away to college, they may not want to lug along the family PC. But if they miss the computing power of a desktop, and their game consoles, they can substitute both with a gaming laptop from Alienware. Fully loaded at $2,199, the R5 model comes with a 17-inch display, an Intel Core i9 pro-cessor, a GTX 1080 graphics card, 32 GB of RAM, a 256 GB solid-state drive and a 1 TB hard drive.
While the R5 can handle any game thrown at it, it’s also ideal for Adobe’s Creative Cloud membership. At $19.99 a month for the first year and $29.99 after that, subscribers have access to a suite of Adobe’s image and video editing tools, including Photoshop.
Since 2012, HCTC has participated in the CoBank Sharing Success program, which provides matching grants to deserving nonprofits in its service market. Through this program, HCTC has supported libraries, first responders and community programs. For 2019, the recipients of $5,000 each from the Sharing Success program and the projects funded were: Frio Canyon Emergency Medical Services, for a new ambulance; the Leakey Independent School District, for increased campus security; and the Hill Country Youth Ranch, for programs at the Big Springs Ranch for Children.
“HCTC is honored to help support these wonderful community organizations, and the CoBank Sharing Success program allows us to assist in greater ways than we could by ourselves,” HCTC CEO Craig Cook says.