TOP ROW (Left to Right): Bita Behgooy, Mubanga Musonda, Johanna Qvist, Kero Murugeson, Julia Aguiar, Professor Brandy S. Jumper, Candace Eldridge, Kelly Torosian, Vashtai Kekich, Richard Pearce. BOTTOM ROW (Left to Right): Professor Jessica Hargis, Judy Ma, Tiffany Hernandez, Allen George and Robert Monroy.
Kekich attended the first PTK meeting and was excited to get involved. When the discussion turned to the African water crisis, she mentioned the water crisis she had been reading about in the local paper, the one affecting her neighbors right here in North Texas. Kekich researched the crisis and then arranged a meeting with Jim Parks, executive director of the North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD).Kekich learned that the NTMWD meets the drinking water needs of 1.6 million people, including residents of Collin, Dallas, Kaufman and Rockwall counties. In 2000, the state border between Texas and Oklahoma was redrawn, inadvertently bisecting the water pump station and moving all but one pump into Oklahoma. In addition, Lake Texoma had an infestation of zebra mussels, which, according to the Lacey Environmental Act, could not be transported across state lines. The water district was operating on 28 percent less water, and if the problem went unfixed, there would be a catastrophic water crisis on top of the ongoing drought. To resolve the loss of the Lake Texoma supply, NTMWD is constructing a pipeline extension that would not allow zebra mussels to enter the environment, but it could not go live without an exception to the Lacey Act.
“This is a big deal,” Kekich said. “Jim Parks explained water rates and levels. The NTMWD projects 50 years ahead in the water planning process, and Lake Texoma is a big part ot that. With Lake Texoma not accessible, we have a huge problem."
Kekich learned that federal legislation was filed to grant an exception to the Lacey Act, but the public was still somehow unaware of the importance of the legislation, so she and her fellow PTK members decided to inform students, professors and the public. The group manned tables at campuses in Plano, Frisco and McKinney. In addition, they created and held a water symposium featuring Parks and Ellen McDonald, a zebra mussel expert and principal at Alan Plummer Associates, Inc.
According to Kekich, the group planned the symposium in 10 days, and she was pleasantly surprised when close to 200 people filled the room. In addition, the students gathered 673 signatures of support.
Jim Parks, executive director of the North Texas Municipal Water District with PTK member, Vashtai Kekich
has inducted more than 6,700 since the honor society chapter was chartered in 1987.
The bill, signed by President Barack Obama, had a world-class list of supporters including but not limited to U.S. Congressmen Ralph Hall, Sam Johnson, Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling as well as Senator John Cornyn and retired Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison at the federal level and Texas Senators Craig Estes and Ken Paxton at the state level.
According to Denise Hickey, public relations coordinator for the NTMWD, in 2011 North Texas had the driest year on record, and the are served by the NTMWD remains on water restrictions due to ongoing drought and the loss of the Texoma supply.
“There is awareness at your students’ level that the water supply was an important issue,” said Hickey. “The letters were instrumental in showing support for the district. They should be applauded for that. The group played a supporting role to regain the needed Texoma water supply. If you start getting letters, calls and emails, and awareness is heightened, then any individual will pay more attention to any topic.” (See “This just in from D.C. and Austin” right)
An International Competition
With the assistance of the PTK officers, Collin College PTK vice president of scholarship Judy Ma wrote an essay about the students’ project, which won regional and international awards. In addition, the awards resulted in the Collin chapter being named one of the top 100 chapters in the world. According to Ma, the Honors in Action Project addressed “The Culture of Competition” by concentrating attention on the theme of “Competition and Geography.” Students examined the issue of how geographical location affects competition for natural resources in communities, with a primary emphasis on water.
After the water symposium, the PTK chapter organized a trip, open to all Collin College students, to the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center. This was the capstone of their research, and they were able to learn about natural water filtration and observe, with their own eyes, the reality their community was facing.
“Because of Phi Theta Kappa, I had the opportunity to be nominated and selected for the All Texas Academic Team. They offer full-ride scholarships including room, board and tuition to Texas A&M University-Commerce or The University of Texas at Arlington. I never would have had that opportunity without Collin and Phi Theta Kappa," Ma saidCollin College Phi Theta Kappa Chapter Award-Winning Tradition
Founded in 1987, the Collin College Alpha Mu Tau chapter of Phi Theta Kappa first achieved five Star status in 2005 and then again in 2007. from 2009 through today, the chapter has maintained this exceptional distinction.
This year, the chapter received nine awards from the Texas Regional Convention and two international awards under the guidance of faculty advisor Dr. Brandy Jumper, Dr. Jessica Hargis, Dr. Mark McKnight, Dr. Garry Evans and Professor Lynette Kenyon. Awards included the Distinguished Theme Award for Honors in Action for the “It’s a Small World: Competition and Geography" and the Paragon Award for New Advisors awarded to Professor Jumper. The Collin College chapter was internationally ranked as one of the Top 100 Chapters and was once again awarded the five Star status.
Four outstanding students individually reached a five-star level: Richard Pearce, chapter president; Judy Ma, vice president of scholarship; Robert Monroy, vice president of Service, and Tiffany Hernandez, historian.