All posts by Rachel Hawkins

Concealed carry now a reality at North Lake College

A state wide concealed carry policy for all Texas community colleges took effect on Tuesday, Aug. 1.

In June of 2015, the Texas legislature passed Senate Bill 11, which now permits License to Carry (LTC) holders to keep a concealed handgun on or about his or her person into any institution of higher education in Texas.

On Aug. 1, 2016, the legislation went into effect for all Texas four-year colleges and universities.

“We are prepared, and our students are prepared,” said Carole Gray, Dean of Disability Services, Veterans Affairs and Counseling Services at North Lake College. “We have information going out to student, facility, and staff. This is part of who we are now, and to predict the future wouldn’t do us any good. We can only wait and see.”

“The law does not allow ‘open carry’ on college campuses,” said Lauretta Hill, Dallas County Community College District’s (DCCCD) Commissioner of Public Safety and Security. “Open carry refers to the intentional display of a handgun, including the partially- or wholly-visible display of a handgun stored in a shoulder or belt holster. The law also does not allow the carry of rifles or shotguns on college campuses.

“In the future, students, facility, and staff can expect to see several changes regarding their security, including being required to wear identification name badges. This will also effect visitors who will be required to show identification at the front desk before walking campus grounds.”

Certain campus locations do not allow firearms such as child-care centers, polling places, sporting events, or any locations where grievance or disciplinary proceedings are conducted. The college prohibits the use, possession, or display of any illegal knife, club, or prohibited weapon that cannot be concealed.

Proponents of open carry believe arming the ‘good guys’ allows individuals to protect themselves and others in a world where bad guys carry guns.

“I feel that now it’s kind of better, because at least now we can protect ourselves if something happens, especially because of what happened recently,” said Ashley Gonzalez, a North Lake student, referencing a violent campus shooting in May which claimed two lives. “I believe as long as the students and facility are responsible and they know how to use it right and not play around with it, then they should be allowed to bring it here.”

Opponents of open carry are often quick to point out that statistically a gun owner is more likely to be shot by his own weapon than use it to defend himself or others.

“Our focus has been on compliance with the law and making sure that the college community understands what is allowed and what is not allowed,” said Dr. Christa Slejko, President of North Lake College. “Over the last year, we have held public forums to solicit feedback and questions from the community, the employees, and students. We’ve also had the opportunity to participate in the development of the DCCCD policy for implementation of the law.

“I think it means we will be adjusting to this new environment based upon our individual feelings about concealed carry. As you know, this is a controversial subject with proponents and opponents on both sides. In addition to complying with state law, it is also our role to be sure that our facility, staff, students and community understand the law and how concealed carry will look on a college campus. Above all, we don’t want this to be a distraction from our learning mission.

“The only part of the law that is open to local control is in the area of exclusionary, or gun free, zones. With input from the many constituents involved in our planning, the DCCCD Board approved as part of their policy, exclusionary zones. Exclusionary zones cannot be used to work around the intention of the law, but examples of approved gun-free zones including sporting events, the college Health Center, the Counseling Center and lab areas in which there are combustible materials.”

One Act Play inspires youngsters to perform

The Irving Park’s Recreation Centers continued a time honored tradition by inviting friends and family members to attend the 53rd annual One Act Play Competition, which was presented at the MacArthur High School auditorium on Friday evening, July 21.

During the event, young actors and actresses from six recreations centers performed on stage in front of an audience while demonstrating their acting, singing, and dancing abilities. Students from the ages of seven to seventeen practiced twice a week during the summer and prepared plays encompassing a variety of genres, from fantasy to drama to Dr. Seuss.

Karlie Ulloa acted in “Daisy-Head Mayzie” produced by Lee Park Recreation Center.

“We practiced an hour and a half for twice a week,” Ulloa said. “There are also a lot of kids, so it’s really fun to interact with them. When you think about it, it’s like a big family with all of the cast and directors included.”

The five judges scored each performance on presentation, delivery of lines and clarity of story, correct speed and length, and originality.

The 2017 One Act Play Competition winners are as follows:

Best Play – Snow White Lite by Northwest Park Recreation Center

Runner-Up Best Play – Bonding by Senter Park Recreation Center

Best Actor – Silas Whitworth from Senter Park Recreation Center, Play: Bonding

Runner-Up Best Actor – Vgom Jain from Mustang Park Recreation Center, Play:  When Two Superhero Universes Collide

Best Actress – Regina Lubbers-Reyes from Northwest Park Recreation Center, Play: Snow White Lite

Runner-Up Best Actress – Helja Estrado from Northwest Park Recreation Center, Play: Snow White Lite

Honorable Mentions:
Danielle Jackson from Georgia Farrow Recreation Center, Play: Guest in the Barracks

Angel Franco from Northwest Park Recreation Center, Play: Snow White Lite.

Atos opens state-of-the-art facility

Atos, a global leader in digital transformation, opened a new regional headquarters in Irving with a ribbon cutting event on Tuesday, July 18. The 800,000 square foot facility featured the company’s first North American Business Technology and Innovation Center, which will allow customers to have hands on experiences with their latest innovations.

“This new building in Dallas is a natural progression of our trajectory in the United States,” said Michel-Alain Proch, Senior Executive Vice President of North American Operations of Atos. “By providing the latest technology to our employees, we want to empower them to achieve firsts in the industry for our customers. To accelerate our expansion, we will continue to recruit top talent in the region.”

Atos works across 72 countries and is one of the largest IT service providers in Europe. Their expansion into North America comes on the heels of a string of strategic acquisitions including signing a contract to provide infrastructure and data center services to National-Bank in Germany and teaming up with Dell EMC Cloud to launch Atos Canopy Orchestrated Hybrid Cloud for Microsoft Azure Stack.

“We have a large employee base here based on all of the acquisitions that were centralized,” said Lacey Hautzinger, the company’s senior director of marketing communications. “Why do many companies come to Dallas: it’s the central location, it’s the airport, and the ease of getting clients in and out. We have many North American customers, and we really wanted to put our footprint here in Irving.”

The facility contains a cafeteria, which features locally produced foods, and a game room.

“This is where we want to bring most of our customers in North America,” Hautzinger said. “We can show them what we are able to do, and show them our innovations, and come up with creative ideas.”

Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer expressed his enthusiasm for the new headquarters.

“Atos is a significant addition to Irving’s roster of leading national and international corporations,” Stopfer said. “Not only has Atos chosen a stunning new facility, the company will contribute a tremendous depth of experience, opportunity, and leadership to our city. We are proud Atos chose Irving as its North American Regional Headquarters, and we welcome this exceptionally innovative technology company and its employees to their new Irving home.”

Stopfer and Michel-Alain Proch, Atos Group’s Senior Executive Vice President and CEO North America, both shared the honor of cutting the ribbon. Proch believes the prosperity of the 650 employees depends on a suitable workplace.

“It’s important to not only have a place but to work, but also to play, and that is really the success of an enterprise,” he said.

Chad Harris, president of Atos North American Operations, is proud their business technology solutions company is coming to North America.

“It’s important because it represents the center of innovation, not just because as us for employees and what we do to create solutions for our customers, but it also represents the center of innovation for Fortune 500,” he said. “These companies allow CEOs to come into Irving and imagine a future for their business. It’s not only important for us as a provider, but for the city, and we do this with great pride.”

Joint Fire Training Facility promises improved firefighter, policemen training

The City of Irving and the Grand Prairie Fire Departments came together to host the grand opening of their joint Fire Training Facility, located at 4850 N. Belt Line Road, on Friday, July 21.

The new $4 million facility features a five-story burn tower composed of apartments, commercial offices, and a balcony. The burn tower also includes an elevator shaft, rappel panel and training access hatches. The facility will train incoming and current firefighters on various techniques involved in fire safety and rescue.

The Fire Training Facility also has a 4,000-square-foot building, which contains classrooms, kitchens and a break room for the firefighters.

“I want to thank the city council and the city manager for supporting this,” said Irving Fire Chief, Victor Conley. “We haven’t had a facility to train at since 1968.

“This facility is going to help our first responders to be better prepared to respond to emergencies where there is a lot of muscle memory that kicks in, because they go through the training on a regular basis. It’s going to help our community and our fire department be better.

“By the addition of this facility, the fire department was able to help the city of Irving achieve an ISO-1 insurance rating. It will reduce insurance rates, have a huge impact on economic development, and bring more corporate partners to our city while keeping taxes low for our citizens.”

“We bought this land years ago, and there is a whole master site to develop this property,” Conley said. “This is just the first component. There will be classrooms, and an emergency operation center. We plan to have a rifle and gun range for our police department.”

Irving Mayor Rick Stopfer feels cooperation was a key component in the creation of the joint Fire Training Facility.

“It’s a great day for the city of Irving and the city of Grand Prairie,” Stopfer said. “To the community, it shows the spirit of cooperation we have between our two cities. I think regionalism is important, because it shows the responsibilities of both cities working together to bring one city together, so we can share those costs and be mindful of the citizens’ dollars.

“For the future, it shows we’re committed to having the facility and the tools our firefighters need for our future growth and development for the city. As we grow it’s becoming more and more evident that the firefighters have to be well trained.”