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San Jacinto teen pens socially relevant novel

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IrisJones3Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula | SJNT Local Author Iris Jones reads her first book, “Growing Up Iris,” at the Shepherd Library to a small crowd. At the reading, Iris did a Q&A with the audience, as well as a book signing. Her book is available on both Amazon and Audible.

By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula
SJNT staff writer

SAN JACINTO COUNTY — Ushered in by April showers, local author Iris Jones has been touring the county, visiting the Coldspring and Shepherd libraries to read a preview of her new book, “Growing Up Iris.”

Originally from Cypress and moving out to Point Blank a few years prior, Iris found less pressure to be the best and more room to be laid-back, giving appreciation for the rural atmosphere by noting “It’s good for your character development to be able to be yourself out here,”

With plenty of pandemic free time, 15-year-old Iris set out to write about her experiences, not only as a city kid moving out to the county, but also as a biracial girl finding comparative experiences between Houston and East Texas.

Now 16, Iris has been touring the county and beyond reading excerpts from her book, dabbling in the different roles she finds herself in when around different groups.

Her chapters range from chapters like “Black,” which addresses subjects like fear of police brutality to struggles of accepting her own skin, to titles like “Siblings” that discuss the dynamic of being the youngest girl out of six brothers.

The book includes both personal stories of growing up with a White mom and Black dad, (an experience she views as average, while others around her were sometimes taken aback), as well as historical references to Black America.

During the Q&A portion of the reading, Jones replied to how society has shaped how she sees herself as a Black and White woman. Identifying more as a Black woman, Iris said, “I grew up with Disney princesses mostly being white with blonde haired with blue eyes, and I remember how important it was seeing ‘The Princess and the Frog,’ seeing a new example that I could be proud of.”

She reflected on learning more about Black History in America, from medical malpractice to systematic oppressions, to present day where laws are still being passed that allow Black people to exist in their own skin (and hair) without repercussion. Alongside oppression, Iris cites inspirations including seeing more people in power and media that she feels she can better connect with.

Iris hopes her book is able to accomplish similar goals, whether giving those going through similar experiences a page to turn to or providing a new perspective to those interested in reading about personal experiences beyond their own.

In taking the time to learn more about Black history in America, Iris currently is in the TAMS program that allows her to take university courses through UNT remotely, and she is on track to have her associate’s degree in biology by the time she graduates from high school.

With plans of becoming a surgeon one day, she cites inspiration found in an African American woman named Henrietta Lacks, whose cancerous cells led to the discovery of the almost immortal HeLa cell line, which under the right conditions, can reproduce indefinitely. Though the discovery was great, malpractice around it is part of what drew Jones into the profession, hoping to provide a voice of accountability for those who look like her.

On top of her other endeavors, Iris also started the Racial Literacy Project, which aims to give local libraries books that include stories and characters from racial and cultural backgrounds that are historically underrepresented.

Her donations include books to both the Shepherd and Coldspring Libraries that were used as inspiration while writing her own book, ranging from serious to light-hearted. Iris plans to eventually follow her first memoir with an update, but not before first exploring the possibilities of a children’s book which would deal with similar subject matters.

“Growing Up Iris” by Iris F. Jones is available on Amazon and Audible or at any of her book signings.

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Coldspring board recognizes top talent

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050621 cocisd 003CASSIE GREGORY | COURTESY PHOTO Coach Thaddeus Gordon with some of the COHS track team members who qualified for Regionals, including Troy Thortenberry who qualified for the upcoming UIL Track & Field State Meet in the Pole Vault event. Shown from left: Troy Fortenberry, Edward Brown, Dante Eldridge, Jared Curry, Curtis Parker, Stephen Torres, Coach Gordon and Carter Currie.

Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — The Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD Board of Trustees recognized students and staff for outstanding achievements at its regular monthly meeting on April 26

Band Director Trent Graves and the Coldspring-Oakhurst High School band were commended for earning a superior rating in Sightreading at the 2021 UIL Concert & Sightreading Contest.

Additionally, Track Coach Thaddeus Gordon introduced track members who qualified for UIL Regionals, including Troy Fortenberry, who qualified for the state meet. Asst. Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Vikki Curry also gave recognition to outstanding teachers who earned Distinguished Trojan awards.

050621 cocisd 002CASSIE GREGORY | COURTESY PHOTO The Coldspring-Oakhurst High School band was given special recognition for earning a Superior (1) rating at the 2021 UIL Concert & Sightreading Contest on Monday, April 26.

In other business, the board:

•discussed a staffing and salary review presentation from the Texas Association of School Boards;

•approved a shared services agreement with Conroe ISD's Regional Day School Program for the Deaf for the 2021-22 school year;

•approved the 2021-22 school calendar;

•certified the 2021-22 Allotment and TEKS Certification;

•approved the purchase and installation of a greenhouse for Coldspring-Oakhurst High School;

•approved the 2021-22 CTE Programs of Study;

•approved repairs to the Coldspring-Oakhurst High School sanitary sewer system;

•approved a proposal for preparation and repainting of campus exteriors, interiors and entries;

•approved a student athletic insurance policy;

•approved an engagement letter for financial audit services for the fiscal year ending Aug. 31;

•discussed making mask/face covering requirements optional on district campuses and buildings; and

•authorized the school superintendent to hire a firm to conduct a safety and security audit of all district facilities.

The next regular meeting of the COCISD Board of Trustees is Monday, May 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the Jones Educational Complex.

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VFD trading up on vehicles

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042921 new trucks 1TONY FARKAS | SJNT Firefighter Clint Jones puts a shine on the new First Responder vehicle for the Coldspring Volunteer Fire Department.

By Tony Farkas

COLDSPRING — The Coldspring Volunteer Fire Department is getting new vehicles to help its mission

Emmitt Eldridge, CVFD fire chief, said the City of Coldspring saw a need with a growing population to have more vehicles to respond to medical calls.

Currently, the FD has three ambulances, one being repaired after an accident.

“This county is growing,” Eldridge said. “We do have a First Responder program in the county, but the city started one, and we told them we need some vehicles. It’s a wonderful thing, seeing all the entities in the county getting together to provide the residents with what they need.”

The first vehicle the department received is a first responder/transport vehicle, meaning it can both arrive at a destination ready to aid, or transport firefighters to where they are needed.

The department also received a small brush truck from the county Emergency Services District Board.

Eldridge said the department will receive a similar vehicle, an F-150, from San Jacinto County, which will arrive in July; also, the county and the Texas Forestry Service, through a grant, will provide the department with a large brush truck in the near future.

“Before getting this vehicle, we had a ‘03 F-450 that had a lot of issues,” he said. “Every year, it seems we get more grass fires, and with the truck we had, we couldn’t get anywhere.

“Last year, before receiving the vehicles, the company had to walk three miles to fight a brush fire in the woods, with only the hand tools they could carry, because the vehicle could not make it,” Eldridge said.

In order to show the new direction of the Fire Department, the logo has been changed slightly to reflect the Coldspring mascot, the Trojan.

“We are big on community, going to schools and doing education, and implementing an explorer program,” Eldridge said.

He said the department is very appreciative of the city and county.

“Everything the county and city has done for us has been tremendous,” he said.

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Superheroes visit courthouse lawn

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super 1COURTESY PHOTO The San Jacinto County Child Welfare Board and San Jacinto County decorated the Courthouse lawn to raise awareness of child abuse in the county.

By Judy Hester
Secretary, SJC Child Welfare Board

COLDSPRING — Each April the San Jacinto County Child Welfare Board, along with Child Protective Services and its parent agency, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, join hands with our local government, community groups, churches, service organizations and hometown citizens to put the spotlight on recognizing, preventing and reporting child abuse.

It is a time to focus on ways not only to protect children but also to prevent abuse from ever occurring. This is a great opportunity for our county to make a difference in young lives, so during the month of April, residents that are concerned about the problem of child abuse are asked to wear blue.

The Child Welfare Board's most dramatic statement concerning child abuse was the placement of a display of heroes on the courthouse lawn.

The signs indicate "Children Need Heroes, but Abused Children Need Superheroes." Each star placed on the courthouse lawn represents a child who was abused during 2020, with the one black star indicating one child's death that tragically occurred that year.

In Texas during 2020, there were 251 deaths with one in San Jacinto County. San Jacinto county had 205 investigations of child abuse, 76 of those being confirmed victims. This is a staggering number for our state and our county, and we should all accept the responsibility of making sure that in the future none of our children are ever included in these statistics.

We can look away and often do look away, but the repercussions of child abuse are affecting people every day. Abused children are more likely to be substance abusers, perform poorly in school, or become juvenile delinquents.

Millions of our tax dollars are spent annually to pay the financial price of child abuse from child protective services and foster care to the cost for court, law enforcement, hospital, medicine, and mental care.

In 1989 a heartbroken grandmother, Bonnie Finney, took a stand against child abuse by tying a blue ribbon to the antenna of her minivan in remembrance of her late grandson, 3-year-old Bubba Dickenson.

The body of Bubba was found bound, beaten and bruised in a weighted toolbox at the bottom of a canal. He had been killed by the boyfriend of the child's mother. Bonnie vowed to never forget the battered and bruised body of her grandson and uses the wearing of blue as a reminder to fight for the protection of all children against abuse.

As you drive by the San Jacinto courthouse, you will notice the Child Abuse Prevention flag displayed on the flagpole during the month of April.

Judge Fritz Faulkner and the Commissioner's Court issued an official proclamation declaring April as Child Abuse Prevention month. The Child Welfare Board decorated the gazebo on the courthouse lawn with blue ribbons to highlight the fight to end child abuse. April 25th was "Blue Sunday" and all churches in the county participated in a day of prayer for the children and families who have suffered.

We must be the voice for our children and give them hope, courage  and love. Remember, residents are obligated by law to report suspected child abuse. If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, call 911. For all other cases in Texas, call the abuse and neglect hotline at (800) 252-5400. Let's all join hands and stop child abuse.

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Heroes honored

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042921 baby save 2COURTESY PHOTO Coldspring VFD Chief Emmitt Eldridge presents Paramedic Kristin Loftice with a Lifesaver’s Award for his help with the delivery of a baby.

Coldspring paramedics receive lifesaving awards

By Tony Farkas

COLDSPRING — Two paramedics with the Coldspring Volunteer Fire Department were honored with lifesaving awards recently.

Kristin Loftice and Timothy King helped with the birth of a child, who was in danger because the umbilical cord had wrapped around its neck, on the side of FM 3081 near Willis on Nov. 26, 2020.

The mother and child were not identified for privacy reasons; and King was out on a medical leave.

“We got a call at around 4 a.m. for a lady in labor,” Loftice said. “By the time we got there, the Punkin-Evergreen VFD was there, and had her laying down on a pallet because she was going through contractions. I was trying to calm her down as she was pretty hysterical and hurting, and I tried to get her to not push so we could transport her to the hospital.”

While prepping the woman for transport, she did a hard push and the baby’s head had crowned, so Loftice told her partner to get the OB kit because a baby was on the way — in the dark, in a driveway, and just flashlights for light.

It wasn’t only the conditions that were a problem; the birth was a problem as well.

“When the baby’s head came out, I noticed the baby was blue, and I felt around and found the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck,” she said. “I had gotten my fingers in and was able to spread out the cord, and at that time, the baby started to move its mouth.

042921 baby save 1COURTESY PHOTO Coldspring VFD Chief Emmitt Eldridge presents Paramedic Timothy King with a Lifesaver’s Award for his help with the delivery of a baby.

“I told mom to push and let’s get the baby the rest of the way out; I was able to guide the baby out (of the birth canal) so the umbilical cord didn’t wrap any tighter,” Loftice said. “King took care of the mother and prepared her for transport; I took the baby into the ambulance and began taking care of it. The baby then started crying, and he pinked up very good, and he started trying to feed on the way to the hospital.”

In the end, they delivered a strong, healthy boy.

“We got them to a hospital and everything turned out great,” she said. “Mom and baby checked out OK. My first baby delivery, and with it being one with an umbilical cord wrapped around the neck, it was scary, I’m not gonna lie. But I went with my gut and my training and toughened up. Still, it was intense.”

There was a point that Loftice had questioned her career choice, having seen quite a lot of bad things as a paramedic. However, birthing a child has given her a new outlook.

“That, as well as helping people, is why I got into paramedic work,” she said. “It warms my heart up. It’s why I’m here and do what I do. Bringing a life into the world, instead of trying to keep it from going out, was a breath of fresh air, a big change.”

Loftice keeps tabs on the family, and said that all reports indicate mother and son are doing fine.

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