College students share power of learning with island teens
Like academic avengers, four college students are spending the summer using their powers for good on Galveston Island.
Four days a week, the two men and two women are instructors for the Galveston College Summer Kids Program, a series of enrichment classes in dance, theater, literature and robotics.
“They’re all super students — but they have something more to offer,” Becky Giles, the program’s director, said. “They love to learn and have genuine enthusiasm for their specialties.”
Shielding island teens from their evil adversary — boredom — these students offer the power of learning.
Coast Monthly caught up with these super students.
His greatest joy is playing music to an enthusiastic crowd, but this summer, the 19-year-old guitarist is moving to a different beat.
The Galveston native, who will be a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, is teaching literature “in small bites” to hometown teens.
“It’s a way to nurture minds and to guide students on how to learn from what they are reading,” he said.
Dominykas Bytautas is using different genres of fiction and nonfiction to give students a taste of books that they might not discover on their own.
Bytautas will have the students read excerpts from various books. Each student rates the books according to their interest. They choose their highest rated book to read.
“A book like the ‘The Phantom Tollbooth,’ means something to me,” Bytautas said. “It’s about a boy named Milo who is easily bored. He discovers through a magnificent journey that he can do whatever he puts his mind to, and can find meaning in everything he does.”
Approach to living: “If you can help, then help. And if you can’t, try.”
Humor: “Those who don’t know me might think I’m shy, but when I open up, they think I’m funny,” he said.
Won’t tolerate: Discrimination regarding gender or race. “Everyone is equal and I do not understand how people cannot see that,” he said.
College life: Studies English at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is part of the University Leadership Network. He also has a job at the university’s recreation center. Although he doesn’t have a pet, he plans to acquire a goldfish in the fall.
Favorite music: Pop punk. This genre infuses the speed and structure of punk rock songs but with the melody reflecting pop. “Right now, I’m listening to Alkaline Trio, who are awesome.”
Instruments: Plays acoustic, electric and bass guitar; also piano, harmonica, trombone and drums.
Career plans: Writing and recording music.
Favorite writers: George Orwell and singer/songwriter Billie Joe Armstrong.
Strengths and weaknesses: “I am good at playing guitar and absolutely miserable at studying for exams.”
Greatest influence: “My parents. They have sacrificed so much for me and continue to support me through everything. I hope one day to be as good a parent as they have been to me.”
History: An only child who has traveled extensively in Europe. Writes fictional stories for fun.
Hometown: “I love the small town feel of Galveston, even though it is a decently sized city. I loved growing up next to the ocean and how diverse Galveston is. Growing up here gave me a sense of the real world. It will always be my home.”
His look: Tennis shoes, khaki shorts, T-shirt.
After four years of working full-time and going to Galveston College for two semesters part-time, Haley Fields is finally becoming a full-time student this fall at Texas A&M University at Galveston.
Fields, 21, is teaching three levels of robotics — a beginning, middle and advanced class — where students actually build robots.
“I do teach the principles, but mostly it’s hands-on design and building, and I think really fun,” she said. “The first class is building robots out of household items, like an electric toothbrush. In the second session, we are building a small car powered by saltwater; and the advanced class is using programmable Legos to create more complicated robots.”
Approach to living: Learn something new every day.
Greatest influence: “Judy Walker, my grandmother. She’s a strong, intelligent, beautiful woman who has always inspired me to be the best I can be. She has a master’s in education, and she always has a solution to any problem.”
Career plans: Mechanical engineering. “In the past year, I have researched several career options. I have always excelled in mathematics — I’m beginning calculus now and I love it. I enjoyed my introductory engineering and graphics class. I am fascinated by engineering design.”
Favorite author: Kathy Reichs, especially “Deja Dead.”
History: “I was born in Stephenville, Texas, but I lived in about 20 towns growing up. As a child, I loved to take my bicycle apart and put it back together, and to help my dad work on the car. I graduated from Weatherford High School with a cosmetology license, which has made it possible for me to support myself while I attend college.”
Won’t tolerate: Child abuse. “It’s hard to understand why anyone would hurt their kids. It’s important to raise awareness about the issue. It’s not just about hitting, but about screaming and berating children in public.”
Current job: “In addition to teaching in the summer program, I am a hairstylist at Sports Clips in League City, where I live.”
Strengths and weaknesses: “Math is my strength. With math you get an exact answer and a method to check your work, so I always feel confident. I struggle with English, because you can answer the questions in so many ways and there’s no way to know if you’re correct.”
Teaching: “The best part about teaching kids is to see them glow and get excited about what they’re learning. It’s a wonderful feeling to know you’re doing something to make education enjoyable.”
Music: “I like alternative rock and country. Green Day is my favorite band. I also like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Thomas Rhett.”
Getaways: “I didn’t leave Texas until I was 18 years old. Now, I take a spontaneous trip every year to see something different. Once, I drove to Orlando. Last year, I flew to San Diego and Los Angeles.”
Greatest fear: “Cows and horses terrify me. I like living in small towns but I cannot abide the animals.”
Her look: Comfortable clothing. “I work in an athletic environment so I wear athletic clothes. When I’m not working, I like to wear dresses. They’re easy and cute.”
Dance is what moves her, what takes her to a higher plane, and where she excels. Whether it’s jazz or hip-hop, contemporary or ballet, dancing is her art and her fun and possibly, her vocation. Kaleyah Malveaux, 19, is a former Ball High Tornettes Colonel who came up through the ranks to ultimately lead Galveston’s flamboyant dance team.
“Dance is exhilarating and stress reducing and fun and everyone can do it,” she said. “It’s an expression of life and joy. It makes you feel good. It’s a really beautiful art. You need to learn the basics to get the most from the movement.”
Her class incorporates basic ballet technique and positions, but includes all kinds of movement, choreography and showmanship.
Approach to life: Live a well-balanced life — both physically and mentally. “I want to contribute to the health of the environment. I try to keep an open mind.”
Greatest influence: “My dance teacher Lindsay Griffin. She has new ideas and is always supportive of my goals and dreams.”
Turning point: “My early life was somewhat difficult. I was very energetic and active, and with dance that’s a good thing; there are no limits. I started dance at Ball High School.”
Favorite author: Doris Lessing, “Group Minds.”
Won’t tolerate: Bullying. “Sometimes, I think kids don’t know what they’re doing when they speak in a mean way or belittle another person. They may not understand that what they’re doing is destructive. When I see this — and I have — I tell the person: ‘That’s not right.’”
Career plans: “My goal in life is to open a dance studio and help motivate and inspire others through dance. For this, I need a dance-teaching certificate. I am taking my basics at Galveston College and also doing online courses.”
Personal dreams: “I want to live in a way that has a positive impact on the Earth and our environment. Right now I am researching Earthships, sustainable housing, and I hope to build one in my future.” (www.earthships.com)
Strengths and weaknesses: “Besides dancing, my greatest strength is good, critical thinking skills. My weakness is anxiety, and dealing with that challenge.”
Music: “Party music! Awolnation, Florence + The Machine and Kaskade.”
Secret talent: “I love to write short stories.”
Humor: “I do have a sense of humor, but I am not an extrovert. In fact, I am rather shy. I think I was drawn to dance because it allows me to express myself.”
Pets: “I have two dogs and two cats. Buzz is a German shepherd and Tipsy is a Lab/chow mix. My two super soft cats are Honey and Moon.”
Her look: Comfortable athletic wear for everyday. Circle skirts for fun paired with a black top and a matching bow. Loves her Dr. Martens.
As long as he can remember, Mason Aiken has loved to act. He was only 12 when he landed his first community theater role in “Lost in Yonkers.” He’s performed in “Gypsy,” “Big River,” “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and numerous other plays and musicals.
At age 19, he already has years of onstage training. Now, the student becomes the teacher.
In his summer theater class, participants practice exercises, warm-ups and tongue twisters to help them become more comfortable in their bodies, with their voices and with each other. They do improvisation and evolve into working with text and characterization through selected scenes and monologues.
Approach to life: “I want to make the most out of myself and not run away from emotions. You have to live with your fear.”
College life: Studying theater performance and production at Texas State University in San Marcos.
Career plan: Become a successful writer and director with acting as a hobby.
Influential person: William Nealon, the theater arts director at Ball High School. “He helped me develop my skills. He taught me that acting is living. You don’t perform on stage, you live in the scene. Many people have helped me to succeed.”
Favorite music: Alternative rock and classic alternative such as the Talking Heads, The Smiths, Weezer and Dead Kennedys.
Will not tolerate: Stubborn ignorance. Also paper cuts.
Pet: Minnie the Chihuahua.
Currently reading: “The Catcher in the Rye.”
Strengths and weaknesses: “My strength is my desire to create; my weakness, my own ignorance.”
Early life: Lived in Texas City until third grade, then moved to Galveston. Graduated from Ball High School. Has an older brother, Taylor.
Feels strongly about: “Underage drinking. It can be so destructive. I don’t make a big deal out of it, but if I’m asked, I speak up. You don’t have to drink to have fun.”
Getaways: Florida and Mexico on summer vacations. Future travel plans include Europe and South America.
His look: A look? “Pants more than shorts.”