Peace, Love, and Play: Our Future Generations

Education, Front Page, Human Interest, Science, Teachers' Corner

Peace. Love. Play.

This motto perfectly describes the Mamma Mel’s Learning Center, a bilingual, progressive early childhood program in Rincón, Puerto Rico. The school offers a full immersion model, exposing the students, ages 3-8, to English and Spanish every day, all day. Melanie Smith, the program director, believes that children learn through play, and she has created a beautiful, eco-friendly space for the kids, including an art studio, organic vegetable garden, yoga classes, and music.

The Mamma Mel’s curriculum emphasizes respect and love for the environment and our small community… which is where I come in. Since August, my Tuesday afternoons have been filled with the laughter of K-2 students during our weekly oceanography workshops. As a marine scientist, who spent nearly 10 years in academic research, I have discovered my true passion involves ocean education and outreach. Teaching my community, and especially its children, about the sea, a crucial resource that we are inextricably linked to, provides an incredible opportunity to “give back”, after having the privilege of living my dream of becoming an oceanographer.

A firm believer in hands-on education, I have an amazing opportunity to teach these students outside, at the beach. They take a stroll to the ocean for lunch and play;  then we begin our lessons about the deep blue sea. Their eagerness to learn, week after week, astounds me, and they can hardly wait for the topic of the day to be announced. We have covered everything from biology to geology, from the ocean zones to how beaches are formed. The children have created their own marine food chains, learned about sea turtles, built a coral reef, and imagined life as the tiny, microscopic plankton that support the entire ocean food web.

My favorite workshop focused on marine pollution and debris, which is a huge threat to the health of our oceans. Plastics are, by far, the worst offender. Did you know that ~74 million pounds of plastic are spread throughout the world’s ocean gyres (circular currents)? Over 50% of all marine mammal species on the threatened list have been observed entangled in or ingesting plastic. Tiny, toxic micro-plastics have increased 100 times in the North Pacific Gyre over the past 40 years and are eaten by marine life, which then are consumed by us.

After discussing the problems with ocean trash and how long it takes to biodegrade, the students happily (and quite enthusiastically) helped with a beach cleanup, filling an entire garbage bag in less than 15 minutes. They were so proud of every piece of trash, and my heart filled with joy while observing their precious hands tidying Mother Earth. To wrap up our lesson, we made a pact to reduce the amount of trash we created, pick up litter during every beach visit, and share what we learned with friends and family.

As I watched the kids walking, with lunch boxes in hand, back to school, I realized the importance and impact of spending time with our future generations. It truly makes a difference. We are leaving this planet to these brilliant and passionate children, who deserve a beautiful Earth to enjoy and care for.

What can you do to help minimize marine debris? Use less plastic. Recycle. Opt for reusable bags. Cut apart plastic 6-pack rings before disposal. Avoid single use plastics (straws, utensils, plates, to-go cups, water bottles, etc.). Bring your own to-go containers.

I dedicate this piece to my mom, Cindy Schwierzke, a beloved Flour Bluff ISD kindergarten teacher, who passed in 2012. Her legacy shines bright.

Source: One World, One Ocean. The Plastics Breakdown: An Infographic.

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Robert Holt Writes a Sad Commentary on Corpus Christi’s Treatment of Historical Cemetery

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Human Interest, Local history


The following article on Old Bayview Cemetery is the work of R.W. Holt.  He is an artist, photographer and freelance writer based in Huntsville, Alabama, who grew up between Georgia and Texas calling Austin his second home. Through All Aspects Photography he routinely photographs and documents lost and forgotten cemeteries and places of historical interest throughout North Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee. Shooting film and Wet Plate Collodion, he is also an active practitioner of many alternative process photographic printing processes. Through an online blog and YouTube channel he is actively spreading the gospel of the photographic arts.  All photographs in this article are the work of Robert W. Holt.


Remembrance Deep in the Heart of Texas





Texas is without argument one of the proudest states in the union. The story of Texas is remarkably complex and unfolded over a long period of time. Texas was its own Republic for crying out loud! In many ways the rise of Texas was the result of forces which it did not own. The westward expansion of European immigrants and Eastern Americans, the Spanish, the Mexicans, Native Americans, the Civil War all are just examples of key ingredients in the caldron within which Texas was brewed. Stories abound of individuals and groups, struggles, tragedies and victories. Texas was not easy for, or on, anybody but it produced a legacy of strength, courage, perseverance and pride. Texas created legends. Texas pride is legendary.

Texans have a lot to be proud of and tend to be fiendishly defensive of their rich and diverse history. It is a state where the inhabitants overtly pronounce their pride both as Texans and as Americans. To be a Texan is to be something unique and there is a feeling that goes along with that. I do not need to argue the point that this pride is something that more and more stands out in stark contrast to our high tech, “its all about me,” nation where we continuously bear witness to a growing antipathy and even disrespect for our history. Been to an NFL game lately? Sat with a gaggle of hipster millennials in a farm-to-table fair-trade coffee-brewhouse-retro-market-bar lately? Yawn!

That Texans take great pride in themselves and their history can be seen in just about all aspects of Texas culture. It is in no way more evident than when it comes to the way they treat historical places. Whether a piece of architecture or a plot of land, Texans revere and mark these material elements of their history with fervor. From the Alamo and Adobe Walls to the State Capital and historic ranches, Texans protect and remember their history. Remember the Alamo! This holds true for historical figures as well. Houston, Austin, Baylor, Bowie, Crockett, King, and Hood just start the long list. Yes, Texans remember their history and they remember their dead. Well, most Texans do that is.


Deep in the heart of Texas, in the town of Corpus Christi lies Old Bayview cemetery. Ever heard of it? Didn’t think so. You are not really going to stumble upon Old Bayview whilst strolling through the touristy areas of Corpus Christi. It’s off the beaten path a bit. It’s probably more accurate to say that the beaten path has moved away from the cemetery over the years leaving it alone in deep urban shadows.

Stepping into Old Bayview, at first glance you’re left with the impression that you’re standing amidst the aftermath of an air raid. It is more ruins than cemetery. The listing and toppled masses of gravestones amidst shattered sites with bits and pieces strewn about brings to mind the bombing of Berlin or the Battle of Britain. It’s wreckage pure and simple. In fact it is a struggle to find an intact grave site. Walking through the cemetery, from site to site, is when you begin to come to terms with the destruction and the dire state of the cemetery as a whole. Even in the open grassy areas the odds are with you that you’ll feel something under foot and upon inspection discover a piece of a headstone or even one in its entirety fully encased under grass and dirt. Within minutes you will begin to wonder what the heck is going on. You will ask yourself how can this be.


But wait….it gets worse! You see, amidst all of this rubble reside no less than half a dozen historical markers each covering in extensive detail the history of the cemetery as a whole and then specific grave sites. This is when the real smack to the face comes. I promise you, reading these words whilst looking out over the wreckage will immediately cause you to pinch yourself because you’ll surely feel you must be dreaming.

What will happen next is that you will turn from this first sign, look back over your shoulder at the cemetery, return to the sign rereading parts of it to make sure that what you thought you read is in fact what you’ve read. Again you’ll look back over your shoulder at the cemetery and finally you’ll start to feel something welling up inside you. Don’t be alarmed. What you’re feeling is a sour cocktail of shame, anger and confusion. Looking past the sign from the edge of the “brow of the hill” and you’re looking out over the city of Corpus Christi. From this “beautiful spot” you’re left to wonder how on earth this all adds up. You’ll then continue on your self guided tour with words like Pioneer Settlers, Rangers, Texas Republic and Veterans running through your head. In a state of mild disbelief you will feel extremely compelled to inspect each grave, all of it’s remaining pieces and parts, in detail. This will be no small task and you’ll quickly discover that you’re missing many pieces to the puzzle. You’ll then sink into dismay.


Yes, it gets worse still. You see, the Old Bayview Cemetery historical marker is an incredible understatement. It merely tickles the surface with regards to the real scope and significance of the history contained within the cemetery. Let’s hit some of the highlights.

The first thing you should note is that if you’re standing in Old Bayview Cemetery, you’re standing in the south. Yes, it matters. You see there are no “sections” in Old Bayview. Unlike just about every cemetery you’ll find from this period in time, in the South, it is a fully integrated cemetery. From anglo settlers to Mexicans, former Slaves and Buffalo Soldiers, all occupants share equally in their rest upon this “beautiful spot” on the “brow of the hill.” So, not only is this cemetery substantial in terms of the breadth of history it offers, its’ diversity takes that great breadth and enriches it yielding a more complete historical offering.

The next thing to contemplate is the fact that this is the oldest military cemetery in Texas. Surely, and I’m not sure, it must rank as one of the older military cemeteries in our nation. From Texas Rangers and those who fell in defense of the Republic of Texas to service personnel earlier and later, the span of military military history represented is unparalleled until you step into places like Arlington National Cemetery. This is a military cemetery of significant proportion covering not just Corpus Christi history, not just Texas history but American history.


It is when you start to absorb the stories of the “pioneer settlers” that the full magnitude and significance of Old Bayview comes into complete perspective. As noted on the marker, after the Army departed, “the cemetery became the community burial ground.” What a stroke of luck! The stories that every single one of these civilian graves offers up, when taken in combination with the military graves, produces a vivid historical picture of life and times, a true historical record. With origins ranging from all parts of Britain, Europe and Mexico you will move through travail, turmoil, tragedy and triumph.

Let us return to the fact that Old Bayview is a diverse resting place treating all of its inhabitants on an equal basis. This is irrefutably true when you understand its history and consider it’s composition. Unfortunately, it is also equally true today when it comes to the disrespect, destruction and failure to preserve and protect. Military heroes, sheriff ’s, immigrants, former slaves, Mexicans, Anglos and children, yes children, have all met with the same fate.

So, what’s the deal then? Well, let’s be straight about a couple things. What you’ll see at Old Bayview is destruction plain and simple. No two ways about it! The willful defacement and destruction of a local, State and National treasure by humans. We’re not talking negligence, yet, we’re talking maliciousness. You’ll see disrespect for humanity and history on a grand scale. You’d have to look far and wide to see anything comparable to what you’ll find in Old Bayview. To make matters worse, the destruction is still occurring. There is a truly sick and disturbing element at work here.

You will find gross negligence and antipathy. The plain truth is that this destructive activity has happened and continues to happen because it is allowed to. It needs to be said, and even more to the point, measures are not in place to preserve, protect and sustain Old Bayview. While this is of State and National concern the cemetery belongs to the town and while it’s all too easy to blame “the Government” let’s be clear, the Government of Corpus Christi is comprised of elected officials and they’re spending the money of the very people who elected them. If enough people cared, well, it would not be that difficult to get the politicians moving. The reality is, obviously, people do not care. They do not care about their history, Texas history or American history. Even more, they do not care about respecting the dead and respecting the deeply heartfelt commemoration that has gone into each burial site.


The blindness of the citizenry of Corpus Christi to what has been entrusted into their safe keeping with Old Bayview has resulted in the cemetery not only failing to be heralded the prize possession it surely is but its being relegated to no-priority status and thereby failing to receive the attention and resources necessary to preserve, protect and sustain it. I’m calling a spade a spade here. This is shameful.

Wait, it could get a little better. Over the past dozen years a small band of Corpus Christi locals have at personal time and expense dedicated themselves to efforts to protect the cemetery. Protection seemed the first logical step and I agree. Basic maintenance in the form of grass cutting, the installation of an ineffective fence and even pleading with the town to more favorably place street lamps were all meager but essential first steps. Through their efforts things have improved a bit and a drip of resources have made their way torwards this national treasure. All the while this group has worked with the county historical commission and others to try and raise public awareness. So far, not so good.

Working with the town library a website was established and an effort was made to move through the cemetery photographing, documenting and essentially cataloging as many of the occupants as possible. All of this is publicly available on the main Library’s website. A survey of the cemetery was conducted using ground penetrating radar and this went a long way in terms of allowing for the identification of unmarked burial sites. These efforts are to be applauded. The digital record is essential.

All said and done, it is a strange and confounding problem that Old Bayview presents. Strange in that of all the places in the United States that you’d least expect to see history so disrespected and neglected, Texas would be at the top of the list. Perhaps it is truly and simply mass ignorance about Old Bayview altogether? Well, that’d be a bit easy. Truth is, the Government of Corpus Christi and the County of Nueces know all that is to be known about Old Bayview. That’s a fact. As for the scourge of willful human destructors? Well, I don’t think that Corpus Christi is alone there. That they allow this to occur against a precious heritage is alarming. Everything is big in Texas? Well, shame is big in Old Bayview. What was that saying again? Oh, that’s right…..DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS!

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Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Fire Department

Corpus Christi, Front Page, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial


     I often tell people that it takes a special kind of person to be a first responder.  As the wife of a fireman, I have become very familiar with the business of emergency services, and I realize that it is more than just a department with staff. These people become a family and establish a brotherhood.  This kind of familial connection in the workplace is something many can’t comprehend because they typically don’t put their lives on the line for each other. That is the privilege of those in emergency services. So often, the only recognition the men and women within these kinds of departments get is for their heroism. That is, no doubt, a very big deal and should certainly be recognized. However, these people also deserve recognition for their “behind the scenes” accomplishments.


     What I mean by “behind the scenes” is all of the countless hours of training, the multitude of classes that they attend, the numerous certifications that have to be completed as they advance in their careers.  The list is lengthy, and rightly so. Naval Air Station Corpus Christi Fire Department has an outstanding group of guys who work together to make their services the best possible.

     On October 19, 2016, I (along with several other family members and friends) had the privilege of attending – and being a part of – a special ceremony held in the bay of the fire department to recognize several men for their recent accomplishments. Fire Chief John Morris leads NASCC Fire Department, and he is winding down on a 29-year fire service career. This ceremony was special because it was his last group of guys to promote before he retires. The following awards were presented during the ceremony:


“On the Spot” Award – Captain Javier Morales and Weston Beseda



Fire Officer of the Quarter (3rd Quarter) – Chief Ward Hawkins


Firefighter of the Quarter (4th Quarter) – Brian Ray


Fire Officer of the Quarter (4th Quarter) – Chief David Flores


     Fire Chief John Morris also recognized three men who are the last group of captains that he would promote.  These three emergency service experts worked very hard to earn their new classification. Those individuals who were instrumental in helping them get to this point also need to receive credit for their encouragement and belief in their abilities.  These mentors helped the new captains become strong and dedicated leaders.  Captain Weston Beseda, Captain Shaun Lemon, and Captain Brian Ray are to be commended for the work they’ve done to earn the new rank.

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     Last, but certainly not the least, Fire Chief John Morris deserves recognition for his dedication to his fire department and staff. Without a strong leader, the fire department would be nothing. The department would not be what it is today without his efforts. I know that I can’t speak for the men within the department, but I appreciate Chief Morris’s service and his desire to make the individuals in his department the best that they can be.  Thank you, for “protecting those who defend America.”


(All photos taken by Katy Beseda and Shirley Thornton)

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