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Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program
Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston (IMGH) is kicking off a new initiative called “Serve Houston” geared at getting young college-aged leaders involved in social impact work in the Houston community. Serve Houston is a PAID summer/fall service opportunity of 20 hours per week beginning May 31st. Serve Houston Ambassadors will be working with Interfaith Ministries staff to complete projects in Refugee Services, Volunteer Houston, Meals on Wheels, and Interfaith Relations.
Interested students can apply at imgh.org/servehouston.
Along with helping to expand the pool of applicants within the teaching field, UHD’s primary goal is to support Houston schools with diverse and qualified men to teach in grades K-12.
Kemonta Jackson is originally from Nashville, TN. He came to Houston to pursue an opportunity with UHD to lead the Call Me Mister program. “Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the country. It’s a perfect platform to develop and help others.” When asked what led him to his area of interest, Kemonta responded by saying that “people in my life have helped me fall in love with putting myself second. I simply love helping others.”
Kemonta moved to Houston with his girlfriend, Diamond, and their dog Tuscan. Diamond, who hails from Chicago, works as a nurse at Memorial Hermann Hospital. And, according to her, Chicago has the best food in the world!
Kemonta attended an HBCU and what he calls, ‘THE REAL TSU’: Tennessee State University, where he obtained his master's degree after completion of undergraduate course work at Kentucky Wesleyan College. He was a lettered Football and Basketball athlete at KWC. He then served as a graduate and teaching assistant with the TSU department of Human Performance and Sport Science. While in graduate school, Kemonta had the opportunity to work with his former high school football coach and current professor at TSU on an article assessing successful high school football coaches. Smith J, Hamido E, Cochrum R, Dickson P, & Jackson K. “Assessment of High School Football Coaches in Tennessee.” Sports Med Rehabil J. 2018; 3(3): 1040.
Prior to coming to UHD, Kemonta worked in several different fields: non-profit, corporate wellness, and public schools, recreation, university/college, and diversity/inclusion. However, if he had to pick another career it would be as a chef or food critic. “I can eat! I am a firm believer food will bring this world together one day. It’s the one thing we all can agree on regardless of race, culture, etc. Food is the key to togetherness!”
Kemonta enjoys working out, playing basketball, coaching football and listening to podcasts or music. His top three musical artists are Drake, Daft Punk and Bob Marley. He is a BIG Dragonball Z guy (“It’s the kid in me. I can talk about it all day!”). He enjoys sports and superhero movies. His favorite is “Friday Night Lights.”
As for his bucket list, he wants to live long enough to dunk a basketball again. "Hopefully, there will be technology that will turn back time enough for me to slam one down in the rim again! "
In January 2020, the Department of Urban Education began its work with US PREP (University-School Partnerships for the Renewal of Educator Preparation). The US Prep coalition is comprised of numerous Education Preparation Programs nationwide that seek to serve historically underserved populations in PK-12th grade school settings. The EPPs involved in the coalition share similar goals in attracting and retaining high-quality, diverse teacher candidates to serve local schools.
Once Urban Ed joined US Prep, we began to receive support in attaining our department’s goals as well as coalition goals in working toward:
Ms. Brown is the Director of the Center for the Professional Development of Teachers in the Urban Education Department. The goal of the Center is the professional development of the next generation of public educators. Ms. Brown helps Urban Education Students get through the program. She processes the applications of potential Urban Education students; once they have entered the program, she is responsible for placing them in schools for their field experience. She manages the Field Experience Instructors (FEI) who supervise the student teachers in their field placements. While previously working as a Field Experience Instructor herself, Mrs. Brown saw what student teachers could accomplish with her encouragement. In her current role, she is able to help shape the program and influence students.
Ms. Brown's mother was a speech pathologist, which led to her interest in languages. Growing up in Houston, Ms. Brown also noticed that students who spoke different languages became discouraged at the lack of assistance they received from their English-speaking teachers. She enjoyed Spanish in high school, and she wanted to help change the treatment of students who spoke English as a second language. As a result, she studied Spanish literature and language at Howard University in Washington, DC.
Ms. Brown has a graduate degree in English as a Second Language from Regent University and a second Master's degree from Harvard University in School Development and Educational Leadership. She is currently working towards her Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Houston. She has taught at all levels from elementary through the college level and has also worked as a charter school administrator and in charter school community relations.
When she was seven years old, Ms. Brown’s mother passed away after a long battle with an illness. An avid reader, she turned to books to get through her grief and loss, but she was discouraged to find that none of the main characters in any of the books she read looked like her. As a teenager, Cynae committed to writing a book about grief and loss representing African American children, such as herself. Years later, she did this with Pineapple Sugar, a fictional account of an African American preteen facing her mother's terminal illness. Ms. Brown hopes that the narrative format gives caregivers a way to help grieving children process their loss. The book has allowed her to speak to book groups and schools about loss. She also blogs about various topics including grief. Ms. Brown would like to write more books that empower people to talk about other difficult topics.
Ms. Brown is a creator. As well as being an author, she is a singer, songwriter, musician, and poet. She grew up singing and playing music in church. She now writes and records, and she produces music with her husband. They enjoy singing with their three young children. Ms. Brown has a website, "I Speak. I Write. I Inspire"(www.cynaepunchbrown.com), where she publishes her blogs, music, and poetry.
The Department of Urban Education is excited to bring the science of teaching reading (SoTR) to our university and to the community at large. Thanks to the project and partnership development of Dr. Laura Link, the design and organization of Dr. Diane Miller, the deep content expertise of Dr. Eve Zehavi, and valuable assistance from UHD’s Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, the Department of Urban Education has unveiled a collaboratively- produced, multi-purpose project to serve UHD students, community partners, and teachers across the state of Texas.
This project addresses the need for test preparation resources for the newest state-mandated certification test, the “Science of Teaching Reading” (TExES exam #293). Essentially, SoTR is a body of knowledge informed by cognitive and neurological science about how the brain learns to read and the pedagogical considerations best aligned to promote successful reading in all children. In March of 2019, the Texas Legislature introduced House Bill 3, a transformative bill on educational reform in the state of Texas. Among the bill’s initiatives, two were related to SoTR. The consensus of reading research was reflected in a new assessment* as well as in accompanying curricular changes for Educator Preparation Programs.
Although such sweeping changes impacted all teacher education programs, the University of Houston-Downtown embraced this challenge without delay. This project will serve a broad audience, comprised of UHD’s own upper-level students, more than 300 of whom are already enrolled in the course, nearby community partners, who will register via UHD’s Community Education platform, and—potentially—a wide range of educators from across the state. Dr. Laura Link, Associate Dean of the College of Public Service, has already secured a sizable commitment from the Yes Prep Charter Schools to enroll all of their Teaching Excellence alternative certification candidates who need this exam to become certified teachers. Additionally, all those who successfully complete the SoTR course gain the opportunity to enroll as UE post-baccalaureate graduate students—amplifying department enrollment. This exciting, innovative approach serves our UE students’ needs while also increasing our presence in and service to our local and state-wide educational community.
In order to write the interactive SoTR curriculum, Dr. Eve Zehavi, Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, underwent a full year of training to gain a close understanding of the content. In the summer of 2019, she attended a weeklong conference at MIT on the Neuroscience of Reading, followed by the LETRS (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading) training, an in-depth course of study on the foundational concepts, principles, and best practice in reading assessment and instruction. Dr. Zehavi continued her professional development by enrolling in the Reading Academies provided through the TEA (Texas Education Agency) and Comprehensive Dyslexia Training through the IMSE (Institute for Multi-Sensory Education).
Dr. Zehavi interpreted and synthesized her in-depth foundational knowledge and collaborated with Dr. Diane Miller, Assistant Professor of Literacy Education, whose expertise in pedagogy and instructional design helped to create a learning product that is easy to use and aesthetically beautiful. Beyond mere practice test questions, this BlackBoard-based course includes “a story in eight chapters” that comprehensively leads students through five steps:
Understanding the role of motivation in the learning process, Dr. Miller gamified the content by implementing badges for each chapter and two levels of certification, the “Certificate of Completion,” earned after finishing the eight chapters of content, and the “Certificate of Learning,” earned after finishing the Epilogue.
“The Science of Teaching Reading: A Story in Eight Chapters” is now being marketed by the College of Public Service and can be accessed through UHD’s Continuing Education platform for any Texas educator seeking a deeper understanding of the Science of Teaching Reading content and greater state exam readiness.
Dr. Kasi Bundoc was born in Alexandria, VA. However, soon after her birth, her parents – both of whom worked for the FBI – decided to move back to their home state of Texas so Kasi would know her extended family. Fortunately for us, she has been here ever since!
Dr. Bundoc grew up in the Houston area graduating from Katy ISD. Her undergraduate degree is a BS in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State. “When I went away to school, I declared my major in social work. Over time, I felt I would better serve children as an educator. Specializing in literacy was a no-brainer. I have always been a bookworm and longed for a chance to share my content knowledge and passion with students. My undergraduate years were okay. I enjoyed my studies, but I did not enjoy being at the university. It felt like an extension of high school.”
After college, she came back to the Houston area to begin her teaching career in Cy-Fair ISD. Her classroom experience was in general education, special education, Gifted and Talented, and English as a Second Language. At this same time, she started work on her M.Ed. with a focus as a Reading Specialist. It was then she began working at the University of Houston as an adjunct professor. “It was when I came back home to begin graduate work at UH that I grew wings. I was surrounded by people that were passionate about being educators that had so many varied experiences and perspectives. I found my niche.” When working in Cy-Fair, Katy, and Spring Branch ISDs as well as moving on to complete her Ed. D at the University of Houston, she was drawn to employment that served Title 1 campuses in the greater Houston area. The population of those schools was continually underserved. She hoped she could support the students and campus teachers through her work.
Dr. Bundoc has been married to her husband, Robert for 21 years. They have two beautiful children together, Addison is in the eighth grade, and Evan is in the sixth grade in Katy ISD. They spend their evenings and weekends enjoying their children’s volleyball games, track meets, lacrosse tournaments, and basketball games. “My children tell me that Lucy, our Chihuahua, is my favorite child. That may or may not be true.”
Dr. Bundoc’s hobbies are reading fantasy and science fiction, hiking, and swimming/tubing. She enjoys watching sci-fi series and movies with her family. She is currently binge-watching “Criminal Minds” with her daughter. As for her bucket list? A South American trip to Machu Picchu, the Galapagos Islands, and the Nazca lines are in view. Since that won’t be happening any time soon, she will be happy just to get back to campus and see her students!
Dr. Goins is a Geriatric Social Worker. She is also a Lecturer of Social Work and the Director and Co-founder of the Collaboratory for Aging Resources and Education (CARE) under the College of Public Service. A proud first-generation college graduate, Dr. Goins earned a Bachelor of Arts- Communications from the University of St. Thomas, Houston, a Masters of Social Work-Gerontology from University of Houston-Central, and a Doctorate of Social Work-Education as Practice from St. Catherine University - University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Dr. Goins was born in Houston into a “big, nurturing Polish family with five brothers and a sister.” They were taught the value of religion, education, and service to others. At one point, her father worked three jobs to send all of them to private catholic school from 1st grade through high school. Dr. Goins is the youngest in her family and her parents were forty-one when she was born. Being exposed to her parent’s stories of the Depression / World War II era that they grew up in gave Dr. Goins an “old soul” and a particular affinity for older adults.
Dr. Goins loves being a Geriatric Social Worker and cannot think of any more rewarding career. She is proud of her work with the State of Texas for over twenty-seven years. Before coming to UHD, Dr. Goins spent almost twenty years in full-time practice combined as both an investigative supervisor and investigator with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services under Adult Protective Services. In addition to teaching at UHD, Dr. Goins currently works as a part-time medical social worker with Home Health Care Network and as a part-time clinician doing therapy with clients at Shaunty Healing Center, both in Houston.
Last year, Dr. Goins presented a co-authored paper about inequities with older inmates in correction facilities at an aging conference at the University of Vienna, in Vienna, Austria. The Journal of Human Rights and Social Work recently accepted a paper discussing the financial costs related to field placements for social work students and related social justice issues. Dr. Goins co-authored this paper with Dr. Smith and Dr. Savani, her colleagues in the Social Work department.
Dr. Goins would like to write a book about her experiences and memoirs with her Adult Protective Services’ clients. On her bucket list, other things include dancing the Samba in Brazil, hiking in New Zealand, and seeing the Aurora Borealis with her “own eyes one day.” Dr. Goins’ hobbies include reading, traveling, dancing, and listening to all music types, especially Big Band. She enjoys having dinner and enjoying a good bottle of wine with friends and family. She likes watching old movies with her favorite actor Gregory Peck, as well as Madea movies by Tyler Perry. She is currently enjoying watching Cobra Kai on Netflix. Her pet peeve is “those cars on the highway that must have been built before the turn indicator was invented; the ones that cut in front of you with no warning.”
Each year, U.S. News & World Report performs as the standard bearer in its annual assessment of online higher education programs.
The College of Public Service MSCJ degree ranked No. 30 in the publication's Best Online Programs in Graduate Criminal Justice. This is the third consecutive year that UHD has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report – the gold standard of University rankings – for excellence in its academic offerings.
Additionally, the University ranked well among programs for Veterans. Making its debut on the list, UHD ranked No. 54 among Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for former service members. The University ranked No. 16 for Best Online Master’s Criminal Justice Programs among this group.
Based in UHD’s College of Public Service, the Master of Science in Criminal Justice (MSCJ) helps develop students’ knowledge of criminological theory, program evaluation and criminal justice administration. The 36-hour program includes courses focused on the most pertinent issues in the field and offers the skills needed for students in their careers or to continue on to a doctoral program. The degree program also requires a capstone graduate project or thesis. The MSCJ U.S. News & World Report ranking places it among the top five online criminal justice programs in the state.
Dr. Ashley Blackburn, Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, spoke to the honor this ranking brings UHD.
“The Department of Criminal Justice and Social Work is proud to have its Online Master of Science degree in Criminal Justice continue to be ranked among the top in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. We offer exceptional educational programs that prepare students for success in future careers or opportunities for promotion for those students who are already employed in the criminal justice field,” she said.
Read the full article as it appears on UHD News.
Chris Hollins made history as the youngest person to serve as Harris County Clerk, as well as the first African American in that role. During his time in this critical position, he led efforts to make voting safe and accessible during the peak of the pandemic in Houston. As a result, Harris County set voter turnout records during the November 2020 election.
Hollins served as County Clerk on an interim basis and made an immediate impact. Although he has since stepped out of the Harris County Clerk’s office, Houstonians remain grateful for Hollins’ commitment to ensure they would have the opportunity to vote. On Monday, March 22, he received further accolades for his time as County Clerk as he was named UHD’s Social Work Person of the Year.
According to Dana Smith, Assistant Professor of Social Work and Director of Field Studies, Hollins demonstrated social work’s core values of service and social justice as he fought opposition to his expansion of polls throughout the county and worked diligently to protect citizens’ voting rights.
Hollins joins an elite group of Houstonians who have earned the honor of Social Work Person of the Year. Previous honorees include restaurateur Russell Ybarra, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Pulitzer Prize-winning Houston Chronicle columnist Lisa Falkenberg, and BakerRipley President Emerita, Angela Blanchard.
Dr. Threadcraft is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice. She is a UHD alumnus, having earned her Bachelor of Science- Sociology, and Masters of Science - Criminal Justice from the University. She earned her Doctorate of Philosophy-Administration of Justice from Texas Southern University.
Dr. Threadcraft's mother is also a Criminal Justice professor who graduated from UHD. Hearing her mother speak about various policies and their impact on people, families, and communities "ignited a spark" in Threadcraft and she became interested in understanding why things in the criminal justice system were so broken and began to try to identify solutions. She was particularly interested in why Black and Latinx communities were over-represented in the criminal justice system while simultaneously being severely underrepresented in terms of being criminal justice decision-makers, policymakers, evaluators, and researchers. She is committed to training a cadre of diverse and innovative criminal justice professionals.
Dr. Threadcraft's research interest is de-incarceration, which is the movement of people out of the criminal justice system. She is currently a Fellow in the Government Innovation Fellowship program at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. The project Dr. Threadcraft is working on involves changing how police officers respond to individuals with mental illness. In the program, which is taking place in rural areas in Texas, EMTs accompany the police on calls involving individuals experiencing mental health issues and divert the individual to a mental health setting for treatment instead of into the criminal justice system.
Dr. Threadcraft is also interested in applied research. She would love to write a book for criminal justice practitioners about translating research into policy and procedures. Her previous work with Harris County reflects her interest in applied research. At the Pre-Trial Services Agency, which supports defendants from the time of their arrest to the resolution of their case, she developed the research agenda to help identify supervision practices that negatively affect defendants and better understand how to help defendants be successful. She was the research manager at the Office of Budget Management, evaluating programs and policies to determine if they were a good fit for the county.
Dr. Threadcraft is from Houston and is married with three children, ages: eight, six, and three. She enjoys cooking and has been baking lots of cookies during quarantine. She enjoys watching horror, science fiction, and mystery movies. Her biggest pet peeve is when people are rude to individuals who work in customer service. She would like to experience the Pacific Northwest's climate and visit England to experience its culture and history.
Richard “Rick” Powers comes to UHD having a rich and varied background in the field of Criminal Justice. Born in Atlanta, but he grew up in Chicago where he started his career as a police officer including four years undercover in a state narcotics task force. After 20 plus years of terrible Chicago winters, he moved to Florida to finish both undergraduate and graduate school.
Like so many of our students, Rick worked his way through school: first at a community college and then finishing his undergraduate degree at the University of West Florida as an International Studies major. It took him almost nine years to get his degree! He then attended and graduated from Florida State University Law School. Because he was a bit older, worked, and had a family, he was more organized and more practical in his approach to law school than most others (and more sleep-deprived). He admires UHD students because so many are doing the same.
After law school, he was a state prosecutor in Orlando, and then joined a civil litigation law firm mostly defending police officers, judges, doctors, and others from lawsuits. However, “something was missing.” He decided to return to his law enforcement roots and apply to the FBI. Six months later, he was in new agent training in Quantico, Virginia. He spent 21 years in the FBI as a field agent, supervisor at FBI headquarters and the field, did assignments overseas, and then headed field offices where agents worked in about everything the FBI does. After his FBI career, he was an executive in, and consulted for, several international corporations in the security management area before coming to UHD full time.
Because he moved into leadership roles, he and his family moved about six times. One of those moves was to Houston. They fell in love with the city and its people, its food, and its weather! Eventually, he finished his career as the Special Agent in Charge of the Houston FBI office and began teaching at UHD as an Adjunct professor. Last August, he became a full-time Lecturer and Coordinator for our Northwest Campus CJ program. “It has been fantastic.”
Rick’s wife is a former university student affairs person who became very active in various leadership roles with Houston educational nonprofits. They have three children – two sons who own their own business and a daughter about to graduate from the UH MSW program with plans to be a child and adolescent therapist. His brother, who he is super proud of, is also an educator. He is an MD and a former ER doctor. He then became a NASA flight surgeon in the Space Shuttle and Space Station programs and now heads the Aerospace Medicine Residency at UTMB medical school. He still works with NASA and their commercial space flight program!
“I come from a family with a history of public service...my grandfather was a judge, I have cousins who are police officers, and others who are teachers and in health care...I guess it’s a family tradition to try to give to the community. But we do have choices as individuals, and I discovered for me personally, helping others in unserved and underserved communities...as well as helping those who don't have a strong voice themselves… is incredibly rewarding. That's what's so great about working with UHD CPS students. They want to make a difference in their communities and the world, and I get to help them!”
When asked what other career he might have wanted to pursue, Richard said he would be a psychologist involved in crisis intervention and crisis therapy. As an FBI agent, he trained as a hostage/crisis negotiator, including advanced training at Quantico and London’s Scotland Yard. “Working with persons in crisis to prevent self-harm and harm to others is challenging, fascinating, and really important...especially right now.”
Rick is currently writing a book. His bucket list includes riding on a freighter across the Atlantic and standing on the South Pole! His hobbies include working on a sailboat he inherited from his dad. “It’s old, tired, cheap, and I think it’s beautiful. Houston lets me enjoy it (and work on it) almost all year round!”
True to form as a public servant, Rick’s pet peeves are people who are unkind (“because it’s not hard to be kind”), people who have big egos (“your work will speak for itself”), and people who don't realize the power of supporting and empowering others (“we all win when that happens!”).
7/1/2021 6:22 AM
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