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Former AC students found dead in local business office

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Students and faculty say they were shocked to hear of the shooting deaths this week of two Amarillo College graduates. According to the Amarillo Police Department, preliminary autopsy results show that on Monday, David Gisch shot and killed his wife, Kendal Gisch, and then shot and killed himself. The two mass media graduates were found dead in the office of the Internet marketing and Web design company they co-founded. Amarillo police said they were called to the office at 5000 SW 45th Ave., where they discovered the couple, both 22 years old, with gunshot wounds to the chest. Authorities are investigating the shooting and said final autopsy results may not be available for more than a month. Kendal Kuehler and David Gisch met while attending AC, and both worked in Student Media. The two continued their education at West Texas A&M University but left to start their own business, GischMedia. Kendal and David were married this March. AC graduate Caitlin Duke said she was speechless when she heard about the shooting. “This couple had so much going for them,” she said. “I can only imagine what their family and close friends are going through. It is hard to imagine what could’ve happened to lead to this ending.” Duke took several classes with the two and described them as a joy to be with. “Kendal was always funny and smiling. David was very kind and driven. In Jill Gibson’s public relations class, we had a semester project. Kendal and David teamed up and they absolutely blew everyone else’s out of the water. It makes me believe they put in 100 percent in whatever they did.” Duke said she was not surprised when the two began dating. “It was like they were meant to have one another,” she said. Another AC alumnus, Zeb Rollins, studied with the couple both at AC and WTAMU. Rollins said he had seen posts on Facebook but could not believe what happened. He later discovered the rumors were true. “Kendal had the most beautiful soul,” said Read more [...]

Students become engaged with this year’s Common Reader

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During the Common Reader book signing outside Ordway Auditorium Oct. 29, Ruta Sepetys connects with a student.
There are few artists and performers who inspire teenagers to embark on a lengthy bus ride, but for one high school student, it was a black and white decision to make the journey for the author of Between Shades of Gray. Sixteen-year-old Whitney Hamilton traveled 12 hours by bus from her home in Austin to see Amarillo College Common Reader author Ruta Sepetys. “My eighth grade year, when it first came out, it was in the Scholastic Book Fair … and I read the summary and I was like, ‘I want this book,’ but I didn’t have the money for it, so my best friend bought it for my birthday and I read it, and I fell in love with it.” Hamilton said she was reading Sepetys’ website when she discovered the author would be speaking in Texas. Initially Hamilton’s mother was planning to drive her to Amarillo for the author lecture, but the family car broke down and they did not have enough money for repairs. Traveling by bus meant leaving late at night and missing two days of school for the approximately hour-and-a-half long lecture. Hamilton said it was worth every minute of the trip. “The best part was just seeing her and listening to her,” she said. “My teachers told me that she really knows how to talk and explain things, and it literally made my day listening to her.” Hamilton, who attends Westwood High School in Austin, also has read Sepetys’ second novel, Out of the Easy. At the book signing following the lecture, Sepetys gave her a copy of an unpublished galley of her third book, Salt to the Sea, which comes out in February. “Thank you so much for coming so far,” said Sepetys, hugging her young fan and posing with her for pictures. “An author is nothing without readers. This means so much to me.” The other audience members packed into Ordway Hall to attend Sepetys’ lecture may not have traveled as far as Hamilton, but many shared her devotion to the historical fiction author. Mechanical engineering major Mugisha Aime said he was excited to Read more [...]

Ruta Sepetys shares her story

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The author of a New York Times best-selling novel gave a lecture on Amarillo College’s Washington Street campus Oct. 29. Ruta Sepetys is the author of AC’s 2015 Common Reader, Between Shades of Gray. The book tells the story of 15-year-old Lina Vilkas, a Lithuanian artist who is arrested with her mother and younger brother and deported to a death camp in Siberia while her father is arrested separately and sent to a gulag. The story not only chronicles Lina’s fight to survive, it chronicles her fight to retain faith in mankind during the horrors of Joseph Stalin’s reign. At the lecture, Sepetys described how she went on a trip to Lithuania to see her distant family. She asked her family members if they had any photos from her father’s childhood, and they said, “You don’t know, do you?” The family members revealed the hidden history behind her immediate family’s immigration to America. Sepetys’ grandfather was an officer in the Lithuanian military when, in 1940, Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union, occupied Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. In order to fully occupy those countries, the Soviets had to get rid of those nations’ military forces. Sepetys’ grandfather was a high-ranking officer in the Lithuanian military. He was not on the list for deportation; he was on the list for execution with the rest of his family, Sepetys’ grandmother and father. Sepetys said her grandmother had taken her raincoat and had torn out the lining and sewn in the family’s valuables: silver, jewelry, money and the deeds to the property – knowing she was going to be on the list for deportation. One day a friend knocked at their door and said to Sepetys’s grandfather, “I owe you a favor; this is your favor. They (the Soviet secret police are) 20 minutes behind me. You have to flee.” Sepetys’ family fled. Her father never saw his home again. On foot, her family fled through Poland into Austria and finally into Germany. When they arrived in Germany, they Read more [...]

AC students win 13 statewide media awards

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Amarillo College Student Media members won 13 awards in competition announced Tuesday (Nov. 3) by the Texas Community College Journalism Association. The honors included three first place awards for AC students for their work on the student newspaper, The Ranger, and the student magazine, AC Current, during the 2014-15 school year. Amanda Castro-Crist, Ranger editor during the contest period, won first place in the in-depth or investigative category for her story on domestic violence. Allysia Fine took first in newspaper advertising for her “Pixels and Pastries” ad, and Jp Bernal received a first-place certificate for magazine layout and design for his “Social Savvy” page design in AC Current. Bethany Zalman took second in magazine layout and design for her “Melt the Fat Away” page spread. Bernal placed second for magazine cover design and also for his newspaper “Free College” cartoon. AC Current editor Hannah Overton took another second place for magazine photography for her portrait of Cathleen Tyson. Castro-Crist placed second in feature writing for her story about a family who lost a loved one and received another second place for her page one newspaper design. She also placed third in the sports photo category for her rock climbing photo. Honorable mention certificates went to The Ranger for general excellence, to the Ranger staff for headline writing and to Heather Hinkle for her newspaper column, “Show compassion to the little ones.” The 2014-15 awards would have been handed out in Austin Friday (Oct. 30), but the certificates did not make it from TCCJA headquarters in San Marcos because of the heavy flooding last week. Seven current Student Media members also participated in live competition in Austin Thursday night (Oct. 29), putting together a multimedia package in 12 hours on the topic, “Sixth Street on a Budget.” Wesley Bahn, Makayla Barrientos, Alma Bustamante, Robert Celestino, Denisha Kranthoven, Christie Read more [...]

Best-selling author to visit college

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Students will have opportunity to meet, interact with Common Reader writer The author of a best-selling book that soon will become a movie is coming to Amarillo College. For the past seven years, AC has had the Common Reader program, which includes choosing a book for new students to read as well as organizing activities involving the book such as having the author visit AC. This year, the Common Reader chosen is Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. At 11 a.m. Oct. 29 in the Badger Den, Sepetys will give a reading from Between Shades of Gray and answer moderated questions. At 7 p.m. in Ordway Auditorium, Sepetys will give a lecture with a book signing immediately following. “Every student can get something out of this program,” said Courtney Milleson, student success coordinator and an academic adviser. “For the student who is a strong reader and enjoys sticking their nose in a book, this is something that they can completely get into. For the student who has never really enjoyed the reading process, we hopefully pick a book that challenges them to get into a book and enjoy the reading process. “More students this year have walked up to me going, ‘I am not a reader, but I loved this book.’” Between Shades of Gray is a novel focusing on Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union and his deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia. The story is told from the point of view of 15-year-old Lina Vilkas and her family and the journey of extreme suffering they endure. When it came to picking this year’s Common Reader, the English department worked in conjunction with Milleson and her committee to make the decision. “We played a significant role – first in determining the initial list of books to be considered, then in vetting that list, and finally in recommending a selection to the CR committee,” said Frank Sobey, department chairman of English, humanities and languages. There has been an unexpected yet positive feedback about the Common Reader Read more [...]

Discussion brings awareness to domestic violence

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Stephen Jennings, left, and Lynn Jennings, right, counselors at Jennings Counseling Associates, participated in a domestic violence discussion panel on the Downtown Campus.
The Legal Society of Amarillo College hosted a three-part live discussion panel in support of October’s cause: domestic violence awareness. The latest event, titled ‘Understanding the Dynamics,’ was conducted Oct. 14 on the Downtown Campus. The live panel featured four speakers who discussed aspects of domestic violence and “the dynamics from the offender point of view,” said Robin Malone, an AC assistant professor of legal studies.The efforts of the Legal Society originated from a collective desire from the club to provide the community with a venue that allowed open discussion about domestic violence issues. “Domestic violence touches on so many different ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, we just felt like it was our obligation to educate people,” Malone said. The event drew about 30 participants that included local members of the Amarillo community, AC students and members of the Legal Society. Speakers at the live panel consisted of members from the local community actively engaged in efforts directed at identifying and providing assistance to those affected by domestic violence. Trudy Banner, a Highland Park Student and Family Advocacy services representative; Kathy Tortoreo, BIPP coordinator for Family Support Services; and Stephen and Lynn Jennings of Jennings Counseling Services and Associates were present to discuss the specialty training and programs offered by their respective organizations. During the discussion, Banner highlighted key areas of identification that included “helping kids understand that they’re in an unhealthy relationship” and ensuring that “parents know what to look for” when dealing with youth domestic violence issues. Tortoreo added to the discussion by attributing some underlying issues for domestic violence to being linked to a “specific belief system” that fosters “anger as a tool.” She said that is why the battery intervention program at Family Support Services is committed Read more [...]
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