LSC-O Sheds Light on “Hidden Gems”
for the Community

Lamar State College-Orange is known for a number of accomplishments: an ever-growing enrollment, affordable tuition and a number of recognized programs, to name a few. But beneath the surface lies a plethora of barely-tapped resources that are open to both students and the community, alike. You may or may not know about these “hidden gems,” but they are available to the public and are there for the taking.

For starters, community members are invited to be a part of the LSC-O music program’s new Grand Chorus, beginning this fall, as well as an acting class, both offered through the Continuing and Workforce Education program. The Ron E. Lewis Library at LSC-O and the Orange Leader have begun a substantial undertaking of digitizing and archiving dated microfilm, a portion of which is now available to the public. A number of resources are also continuously offered by LSC-O to the veterans and senior citizens in the community, including free tuition and special classes.

This fall, LSC-O’s music program will begin offering the new Grand Chorus, a choir for both students and the community, where you can study and perform major works from various musical periods throughout history. The works of Mozart will be studied this upcoming fall semester and all students will present one of Mozart’s pieces this semester and another in the spring semester. The fall concert will be performed with the Beaumont Interfaith Choral Society, accompanied by organs and strings, and in the spring, students will sing with the Symphony of Southeast Texas as part of their symphony chorus.

“Our community is rich with choral traditions,” said LSC-O music professor, Don Ball. “To my knowledge there is no community choir in Orange County that is meeting regularly. This class would meet the need for a community chorus, and at the same time, give students at LSC-O the opportunity to sing some great music with area musicians.”

The Grand Chorus class will meet on Monday evenings from 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m., with a few extra rehearsals sprinkled in around performance times. There is no pre-requisite to be involved and anyone interested within the community may register for the class through the Continuing and Workforce Education department at LSC-O. The fee is $40 per person and offers full-time students a one-hour credit for the class.

“We welcome everyone,” says Ball. “The more people we have involved, the more we can accomplish.”

Since 2005, Mary McCoy, director of library services at LSC-O’s Ron E. Lewis Library, has worked closely with the Orange Leader Archives to organize and put online 240 rolls of microfilm dating from Oct. 22, 1886, to Aug. 31, 1983. For many years the microfilm lay safe, but forgotten. The archives of the Orange Leader were relegated to a vault at the Orange Police Station in an attempt to protect them from the ravages of Hurricanes Rita, Ike and any others that might come through the area. The Orange Leader is one of the oldest community newspapers in Texas and was published under a variety of names, but has existed in Orange since the late 1800s.

The Orange Public Library has always provided the community with a full run of the Orange Leader on microfilm, but due to economic issues, the microfilm reader at the library has not been operational for many years. Library patrons are allowed to check out the rolls of microfilm and take them to the Ron E. Lewis Library on the LSC-O campus to use the microfilm reader there.

“While this process does provide the citizens of Orange with access to the Orange Leader archives, it is not the ideal solution,” said Mary McCoy, director of library services at LSC-O. “As the librarians at LSC-O helped the patrons with the microfilm reader, we began to search for a solution to the problem.”

The microfilm company was contacted about the cost to purchase another set of microfilm, but the company could not find any archival copies of the film. The company had changed hands many times and the archival or original microfilm was lost. The microfilm used by the Orange Leader reporters was eventually located in the vault at the Orange Police Station. Eric Bauer, editor of the Orange Leader, agreed to place the microfilm in the Ron E. Lewis Library and was interested in the prospect of the digitization of the film. In Feb. 2010, the agreement was signed and the Ron E. Lewis Library became the official institutional repository for the Orange Leader.

After much research, the University of North Texas, Digital Projects unit was chosen to digitize the Orange Leader microfilm. Some issues of the Orange Leader are available online at the Portal to Texas History (http://www.texashistory.unt.edu). To date, four rolls of microfilm out of 240 have been digitized, but that represents 520 issues of the Orange Leader. Four more rolls were recently sent to be digitized, spanning dates from the Orange Tribune’s (now Orange Leader) first issue on Oct. 22, 1886 up to 1905.

McCoy states the goal of the Orange Leader Archives Project is to provide free and easy access to the back issues of the community newspaper.

“Through the years I have helped a number of people look through the Orange Leader microfilm from the Orange Public Library,” she said. “They are so excited to find that childhood picture of a younger brother who died many years ago or maybe to find a copy of an obituary for a family genealogist.”

The Orange Leader Archives Project will take many years to complete. Any community members or community groups desiring to support the project may send contributions to the Ron E. Lewis Library, 410 Front St., Orange, TX 77630. All contributions go directly to the University of North Texas to cover the digitization costs. As issues are completed they are posted to the Portal of Texas History website. Any group who would like a presentation or demonstration of how to use the website may contact Mary McCoy at (409) 882-3083.

“Remember,” she urges, “the Orange Leader Archives contain the history and stories of every group, individual or community organization that was ever featured in our local newspaper, The Orange Leader.”

Senior citizens also have an array of services and classes available to them through LSC-O’s Continuing and Workforce Education Department this coming year. For more than 10 years, senior citizens have had the opportunity to sign up for a group fitness class, targeting their specialized needs. During any given semester, between 20 and 40 seniors sign up for the fitness class, taught by Don Thomas, LSC-O’s instructor of physical education.

“I get several responses from them about the class,” said Thomas, “but they’re always positive. Some say the class has saved their life, some say the doctor told them to continue taking the class, and so on.”

Thomas says senior citizens who sign up for the class can expect to see an increase in strength, improved balance, improved blood pressure, enhanced healing, greater alertness and improved coordination if they stick with the program. This fall, the senior weight lifting class will meet on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9-9:50 a.m. The cost to take the class is only $49 for the entire semester.

Beginning Computers for Seniors is another class that “Over 55” crowd may sign up for this fall. Basic computer skills will be taught and the class is designed for individuals who have never used a computer. Students will learn very rudimentary skills such as how to turn on a computer, navigate with a mouse, open programs, play games, surf the internet, set up an e-mail account and how to send e-mail with attachments. This free class will be held on Oct. 12 from 9-11 a.m.

“A significant component to LSC-O’s mission is to provide community service activities that promote economic development and cultural awareness,” said Cliff Ozmun, dean of Continuing and Workforce Education. “These classes are part of the way that LSC-O performs its mission.”

For more information on signing up for either of these classes, please contact LSC-O’s Continuing and Workforce Education Department at (409) 882-3917.

Last, but certainly not least, senior citizens continue to have the opportunity to register for up to six hours worth of classes at LSC-O without having to pay tuition. However, fees are still applicable and you must be a Texas resident to sign up for this opportunity. Director of Financial Aid at LSC-O, Kerry Olson, says that senior citizens are admitted to any class they want to take, as long as there are no full-time students on a waiting list for the course.

For more information on this tuition incentive for senior citizens, please contact the Financial Aid Department at (409) 882-3317.

Opportunities abound for students and community members of all ages at Lamar State College-Orange. While the college has much to offer on the surface, there is always more than meets the eye. Come discover and be a part of one of LSC-O’s “hidden gems.”