TAMU-CC Supports Community with Safety Training, Literacy Instruction, Pollution Education, and Translation Services

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Faculty and staff at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are leaving a lasting legacy in the local community with new and innovative programs courtesy of the Impact Multiplier Grant Program.

In the 2020-2021 grant cycle, the IMG, sponsored by the TAMU-CC Office of Community Outreach in the Division of Research and Innovation, supported programming aimed at increasing public literacy/engagement, environmental conservation, and restoration. They include:

  • Safety Compass: Child Abuse Prevention Program – Dr. Kristina Nelson, Assistant Professor of Counseling and Educational Psychology
  • Islanders Helping the Early Acceleration of Readers Together (IHEART) – Dr. Bethanie Pletcher, Associate Professor of Reading Education
  • Creating Solutions to Pollution through STEM Mentorship and Local Environmental Stewardship – Dr. Keisha Bahr, Assistant Professor of Marine Biology
  • Community Translation – Dr. Rossy Lima, Assistant Professor of Translation

“The Impact Multiplier Grant Program is one of the ways that we support and empower university faculty and staff to engage directly with the community and create meaningful societal change,” said TAMU-CC Director of Community Outreach Joe Miller. “I continue to be impressed and appreciative of the intellectual creativity and spirit of commitment that IMG applicants from across campus bring to the table.” 

Safety Compass is a 5-week program, held this summer at the Antonio E. Garcia Arts & Education Center, which is a part of the TAMU-CC College of Education and Human Development. The program is designed to educate families about various topics to prevent childhood sexual abuse such as body safety, assertive responsiveness, appropriate boundaries, stranger awareness, and internet safety. Program goals are to alleviate the local shortage of childhood sexual assault prevention programs, to enhance child safety skills with a focus on empowerment versus fear, and finally, to deliver a program that can be evaluated, enhanced, replicated, and expanded. Islander students assist in the delivery of the program. Safety Compass was awarded $5,195 by the IMG. 

“Sobering statistics show that one in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse by the age of 18,” Nelson said. “Safety Compass is a multi-faceted, intensive intervention approach that will positively influence future generations by reducing the risk of childhood sexual abuse. It also encourages Islander students to engage in servant leadership within our community and will hopefully inspire them to serve at-risk families in their future careers.”  

Islanders Helping the Early Acceleration of Readers Together, also known as IHEART, also received IMG funding.

IHEART was designed as an in-school tutorial program for young students who struggle with literacy tasks. This year, the program will serve 30 first-grade students at JFK Elementary School in the West Oso Independent School District. A program goal includes decreasing the number of children identified to receive special education services. Ten Island University students will act as tutors to provide small group reading instruction and early reading intervention. A benefit for the Islander students includes exposure to rigorous research-based teaching strategies and frequent feedback.

 “The district, school principal, and staff are wholeheartedly welcoming the tutors onto their campus. Without the IMG funding, the burden of providing materials is placed on the school,” Pletcher said. “Early reading intervention is key, so that children are ready to meet the challenges of complex text.”

The $5,000 awarded to IHeart will be allocated towards necessary teaching materials, additional books for the classroom and home-setting, and textbook scholarships for TAMU-CC tutors as a token of gratitude and appreciation.  IHeart is part of a larger, ongoing partnership between TAMU-CC and West Oso ISD.

Receiving a $6,000 IMG award is the Creating Solutions to Pollution through STEM Mentorship and Local 

Environmental Stewardship program. The program is aimed at educating those in grades K-12 on how waste and marine plastic pollution results in environmental issues in the Coastal Bend. Main program activities include interactive month beach clean-ups that gives youth a chance to see first-hand how plastic pollution affects their environment. Clean-ups will be organized in collaboration with the Islander Green Team and will include locations on and off campus.

“Recently, plastic pollution has increased due to cascading effects from COVID-19, including use of single-use masks,” Bahr said. “Several studies have documented the ingestion of plastic waste into our coastal species including seabirds, fish, and crabs… and if we eat any of these animals then we are also consuming these plastics and this has been linked to many medical issues including liver damage, reproductive and infertility problems, damage to the immune system, and even cancer.”

In addition to the physical clean-ups, the Bahr Marine Ecology lab will teach students how to reduce waste and incorporate environmentally conscious efforts within their school. Bahr’s long-term goal is to implement those types of programs into K-12 school curriculum across South Texas.  

Lima was awarded $7,000 for her Community Translation program. The program is designed to assist more than 13,000 Corpus Christi monolingual Spanish-speaking residents, allowing them to obtain important information through written and video formats in their native language. The program will also assist individuals with limited mobility along with those who are visually impaired. Lima’s team, which includes TAMU-CC students working towards a Translation Certificate, will team up with organizations that already serve as mediators between access to information and services.

“The discrepancy in meeting the needs of limited English proficiency individuals has been exacerbated during COVID-19,” Lima said. “In addition, several organizations, such as Translators without Borders, have expressed their concerns for vulnerable communities, saying that ‘information in the wrong language is useless’ during a crisis.”

Lima has published two articles exploring the promotive aspects of community outreach practices for translation students and is looking forward to writing an article about the impact of this project for language justice.