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Posts published in May 2012

Memorial Day Services honor those who serve

By Lewis Spearman

HIGHLANDS – The Memorial Day Service at Sterling White Cemetery last Monday was solemn, filled to capacity and chocked with a sense of values of patriotism that almost define this community, Crosby and Huffman.

As the Boy Scouts brought in the U.S. Flag before it was raised in ceremony a procession included the Memorial Wreath and a Color Guard of Honor. With them were trumpet player Dana Read and Pipe Major Tom O’Brien of Texas Bagpipes.

Jeff Moore, Managing Partner of Sterling White Funeral Home and Cemetery spoke an opening and pointed out recently interred veterans of the War on Terror as a reminder that the sacrifice was on-going for freedom.

Pastor Jerry Hovater of the Little Country Church in New Caney dedicated the services with prayer.

Guest Speaker Col. Frank Bertone has certainly paid his dues having served in the U.S. Army and in law enforcement for Precinct 3 Constable’s Office. A Master Peace Officer, he served 8 years in the U.S. Air Force, 17 years in the Texas State Guard, serving as Battalion Commander, Brigade Commander, Deputy Chief of Staff, graduated Sam Houston State University, Texas State Guard Officer’s Academy, U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, ICMA Training Institute for Local Government and Police Management and the Southern Police Institute for Criminal Justice Studies, to mention a few of his educative backgrounds. Now he is serving as Texas State Chairman Awards Committee for the Department of Defense, Vice President of Texas State Guard’s Trust Fund, Vice Chairman of the Texas Military Forces Support Foundation, Past Grand Knights Council of the Knights of Columbus #3229, Grand Officer of the Solemn Military Order of The Temple of Jerusalem, and member of the American Legion of Crosby.

His address defined the Memorial Day celebration as a day to give thanks to those that have fought for the things that we have. His address called the day for quite celebration not for politics, debates or causes.

“Memorial Day is a day to say thank you to those that stand among us.”

A special dedication was presented by Pastor Hovatar. A roll call of those veterans interred at Sterling White in the last year was performed by Don Guillory. As bagpipes played Amazing Grace a dove release was performed by Houston Dream Doves. Sampson Masonic Lodge #231 lead by Sgt. Rusty Mayfield placed sprigs of evergreen on the tank representing eternal life of the struggle for freedom.

After the ceremonies, Sterling White offered up fresh hot dogs and buns and all the fixings for a traditional Memorial Day lunch.

Jeff Moore said, “The Staff of Sterling White Funeral Home and Cemetery gratefully acknowledges your presence and ‘Thanks You’ for your continued trust and confidence. I would like to thank all of you for attending our Memorial Day Services. It is a great honor to serve you and your loved ones. I would also like to thank my staff for all of their hard work and dedication. A special thank you to all the local vendors who have contributed to this years’ services. Houston Dream Doves, Crosby High School JROTC, Boy Scout Troop #107, the Crosby American Legion Post 568, Crosby Ladies Auxiliary Post #9761, Botanical Designs, bugler Dana Read and Pipe Major Tom O’Brien, Sampson Masonic Lodge #231 and with a very special thank you to Pastor Jerry Hovater and Col. Frank Bertone.”

Scenes from my aunt’s house

By Kristan Hoffman

One tree in the front yard, or two? Wood siding, or brick? Have I ever even set foot in the backyard?

These questions roll through my mind during the drive to Dallas. It’s been over 10 years since I last visited my aunt’s house, but 4 short hours later, here we are. The front walk is like memory lane, leading me to answers I didn’t realize I had forgotten.

I’m 7 years old, sitting at the dining table, legs tucked underneath me. I hold out one finger, my body tensed in fear of being bitten. Inside a brass cage, yellow and blue feathers rustle, punctuated by twin chirps. My aunt opens a little door and slips her hand in. Next thing I know, tiny claws are dancing across my pointer finger. I relax and smile.

I’m 9 years old, playing Hearts on my laptop. My cousin, older and wiser, leans over and shoulders me out of the way. “Have you heard of an mp3?” he asks. As I shake my head, he is already typing and clicking and downloading a few things from his server at MIT. “It’s the future of music,” he assures me. Soon we are listening to some song called “Sweetest Thing” by some band called U2 on some program called Winamp. Impressed, I nod to the beat and try to sing along with the chorus.

I’m 10 years old, knocking tentatively on my cousin’s bedroom door. He doesn’t say to come in, but he doesn’t say to go away either. I close the door softly behind me. He’s sitting on the bed, face red with anger, eyes wet with tears. I sit down on the floor in front of him, but he just keeps staring hard at the opposite wall.

After several minutes of silence, I ask if he wants to play Connect Four. He still doesn’t say anything, but he scoots off the bed and slides the board game out. We’re dropping our red and black checkers into place when his father comes in to apologize. But he never actually says he’s sorry. He just holds his arms out and waits. They hug silently, my cousin’s small body stiff, my uncle’s hand heavy on his back.

I’m 12 years old, up late for no real reason. While the rest of the house sleeps peacefully, my typing fills the darkness. A childhood friend is teasing me over chat, but I feel something else coming. Something exciting and frightening.

Oh god, there it is. But what do I do now? What do I do with those three little words? I want them — of course I want them — but not from him, not right now.

Joy, regret, and panic churn inside me. With tears in my eyes, I type, “I’m sorry.” I hit send. I sign off.

I don’t sleep that night.

I’m 26 years old, sharing a mattress with my mother. In the morning we wake to soft light filtering in through the windows. Still half-asleep, we stay in bed, lying on our backs and talking. Catching up, sharing stories.

Memories layer one on top of the other, new on top of old, hers on top of mine. It’s been over 10 years since I last visited my aunt’s house, but pieces of me linger, hanging on the walls next to the photographs. I collect them now, questions and answers no longer forgotten.

One tree. Brick. Still not sure.

Deputy’s widow sues ExxonMobil over death

HIGHLANDS – The widow of a sheriff’s deputy claims in court that ExxonMobil and a public water district failed to warn about dangerous currents in a canal to a refinery, and her husband drowned when the water pushed him through a culvert.     

Eddie Wotipka’s widow, Karen, and their three children sued ExxonMobil and the San Jacinto River Authority in Harris County Court.     

”On or about June 10, 2010, Eddie Wotipka was a deputy sheriff with the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. While on duty, Deputy Wotipka either fell or jumped into a fresh water canal allegedly owned by the defendant San Jacinto River Authority,” according to the complaint. “This canal services the Exxon Mobil refinery located in Harris County, Texas.     

”Unbeknownst to Deputy Wotipka, pumps were turned on at the request of defendant ExxonMobil.”     

Karen Wotipka says the pumps caused a “dangerous, hidden condition” in which the surface water looked calm but a swift current ran beneath.     

”The swift water caused Deputy Wotipka to be pulled under the water in the canal,” the complaint states. “Karen Wotipka saw her husband’s dangerous situation and jumped into the canal to assist her husband; however, Mrs. Wotipka was immediately pulled under and almost drowned prior to being rescued.     

”Deputy Wotipka, after being pulled underwater, was propelled through a culvert which went under a roadway, causing his death.     

”Defendants knew or should have known about the dangerous condition caused by turning on the pumps.”     The Wotipkas seek damages for negligence and wrongful death.     They are represented by Michael McGown with Benckenstein, Norvell and Nathan of Beaumont.

Deputy Eddie Wotipka, 51, drowned in a canal near West Cedar Bayou and Lynchburg Road June 10, 2010. Wotipka had just arrived at his Highlands home from his evening shift as a patrol deputy in District 3 when neighbors alerted him to dogs near the canal not far from his home. Deputy Wotipka went to check on the situation his dog either fell or jumped into the water.

Neighbor Donna Watkins said she was driving by when she spotted the dogs near the canal and stopped. That’s when she saw Wotipka, who asked her to aim her headlights in his direction. But Watkins said before she could do it, she heard a splash.

“When I opened my door, I heard a splash, and then seconds later I heard him hollerin’ and heard another splash,” Watkins said.

Deputy Wotipka had taken off his weapon and radio and jumped into the water to try and save his dog.  He began to struggle in the rough waters so his wife, Karen, jumped in to try and save her husband. 

Watkins saw Wotipka go under, come up and go under again. She said he was holding the dog the entire time.

“He looked up at me and he never let go of his dog. And he took his last breath going under and that’s when he let go of the dog,” said Watkins. 

Watkins said she went to get her husband, and her daughter stayed by the water to try to calm the deputy’s wife, who was clinging to a piece of concrete.

“She was screaming, ‘I can’t! I can’t!’ And my daughter was constantly telling her, ‘Yes you can. My daddy’s gonna get you,’” Watkins said.

“Me and my son went over to where the lady was hanging onto the concrete and threw the rope and got her to put it over, put it under her arms, and we pulled her to the bank,” Steve Watkins said.

HCSO’s marine unit and dive team, with the assistance of the Houston Police Department’s helicopter, arduously searched for Deputy Wotipka for several hours. His body was located at approximately 5 a.m. some 100-150 feet from where he originally jumped in. The body of the dog was also recovered.

Deputy Wotipka had served with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office since 1993. He is survived by his wife and two children, ages 24 and 26.

New exit from US90 to FM 2100

By Lewis Spearman

CROSBY – TXDoT is making plans for a new exit from U.S. 90 westbound onto the westbound feeder road that runs onto FM 2100.

When the Star-Courier first carried the story of Texas Department of Transportation (TXDoT) intending to build a new exit ramp into Crosby from U.S. 90 from the westbound side the intended location at that time was to be where Friendly Ford of Crosby’s western-most entrance is now located. Since that time, many local folks have pointed out what appears to be the construction of a ramp onto F.M. 2100 on that westbound side.

Well, according to correspondence with TXDoT, they are not yet out of the planning phase for that exit.

“This project adds a new exit ramp just west of Krenek Rd.  It will connect from the existing US 90 westbound main lanes to the existing westbound frontage road.

 This project also moves the existing entrance ramp, currently just west of Krenek Road further west, to the east of FM 2100.  This new entrance ramp will connect from the existing westbound frontage road to the existing westbound main lanes.  Nothing in this project connects directly to FM 2100.

This project is to be let in June. It takes about sixty days for contractors to mobilize.

 Sixty days after the June 2012 letting should make a start date in early August 2012.  Six months of barricades can be expected, the finish date would end up early February 2013.” according to Danny Perez of TXDoT.

So, whatever is being built there is not the exit ramp, contracts have not been let and the designs are still underway.

Current designs place the exit from U.S. 90 before the entrance and the entrance now will be moved further in the direction of Houston.

Another implication is that a great deal more traffic is being foreseen for the Crosby area about the time that the construction of the railroad overpass of FM 2100 is completed, expected in Summer of 2013. Notice that most county and state agencies undertaking projects estimate conclusion of “better roads” in 2013.

Local races highlight Primary Election May 29

By Gilbert Hoffman


Voters are finishing up Early Voting this Thursday and Friday, May 24 and 25, and if they didn’t vote early, they will have a chance on Election Day, Tuesday, May 29 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Early voting could be at any location in Harris County, but on Election Day you will have to vote only at your precinct.

Democrat and Republican ballots have their candidates, and a variety of propositions that are none binding.

Of interest on the Democratic ballot will be the race for president, with incumbent Barack Obama facing three challengers, and for U.S. Senate there are 4 office seekers. Sheriff Adrian Garcia has two opponents. For County Commissioner in Precinct 4, Sean Hammerle and Dave Wilson are on the ballot to face the presumptive incumbent, Jack Cagle.

Of special interest in East Harris County is the race for Justice of the Peace, Pct. 3, Place 1. Incumbent Judge Mike Parrott, who has held the office since 1993, and gained praise for his Teen Court and other practices, will face a challenger Latonya Allen for the first time since taking office.

Another closely watched race is incumbent Constable in Pct. 3, Ken Jones. He is opposed on the Democratic ballot by Eric Reed and Kenneth Perkins. Speaking at a recent Highlands Rotary lunch, Constable Jones reviewed his 11 years in office, and talked about improvements he has brought, including short response times, use of reserves, a new team policing concept being developed with the Sheriff’s office, and plans to get new cars and replace deputies that were cut from the budget last year.

The Democratic ballot will also have three non-binding referendums, on college tuition, immigrant status, and legalizing cansinos.

On the Republican ballot, Mitt Romney heads a long list of presidential hopefuls, and David Dewhurst is the front-runner for Kay Bailey Hutchison’s vacated U.S. Senate seat.

In State Rep. District 127, incumbent Dan Huberty is challenged by Bobby Jordan. A high profile race is for District Attorney, with incumbent and sometimes controversial Pat Lykos seeing a challenge from Mike Anderson.

For sheriff, one from a large field will try to unseat Garcia in the November election. Mike Sullivan, a Houston City Councilman, is running against incumbent Don Sumners for County Tax Assessor-Collector.

County Commissioner Pct. 4 is currently the appointed Jack Cagle, and has two opponents in the primary.

Two Republican candidates are vying for the opportunity to oppose Constable Jones in the fall election. Both are Sheriff’s deputies, with an eye on serving local policing needs, and recently spoke at Highlands Rotary.

David Cruzan is a resident of Huffman, and wants to serve the community. He has been a church Youth minister, and served in the marine corps.

Cruzan has done police work throughout the world, he said. He has been a Sheriff’s deputy for 22 years, as a patrol deputy and as an accident investigator. He is also an instructor at the Sheriff’s Academy.

Cruzan is active in an organization “K-9 for Cops.” He is one of 2 sergeants working with dogs, and the department has acquired 10 new dogs, with 6 more coming.

He claims that the burglary rate is increasing in this area, and the policing units need to be more visible, and more pro-active in their work.

He says the Constable’s Office should “Serve and Protect”, with their #1 priority public safety. He proposes quarterly meetings with the public to keep them involved, informed, and to get their help in policing.

Cruzan cites the high DWI offenses as a sign of the need for more patrols. This is especially important on FM2100, which has seen 8 fatalities and 200 accidents from DWI offenses.

Other policing concerns are gang activities, game rooms, and meth labs, all of which require cooperation with the Sheriff’s office and the courts.

Bill Norwood, another Republican candidate for the Pct. 3 Constable’s office, also spoke recently at Highlands Rotary. He categorized himself as a “Christian, who will take care of you.”

Norwood originally had a degree in Theology before entering the Sheriff’s service 30 years ago. A resident of Baytown, he is concerned about security for the public, and favors a more proactive approach. He feels that patrols can be increased, and even offers to drive a patrol car himself. He also would establish storefronts in several communities, to bring the Constable’s office closer to the people.

Norwood has been working in the County Jail for many years, and says he brings a compassion and understanding to the job that could be applicable to work as a Constable.

He has also worked as a baliff, serving four different judges, learning all aspects of criminal, civil, and family law. One unique view that this position has given him, is that bookings after arrests take too long, and by hiring more clerks, faster bookings would mean more officers would return to street patrol sooner.

If elected as constable, Norwood vows to “give my heart to the community” to make it a safe place to live, work and visit.

The Republican ballot also will have five non-binding propositions, regarding free choice of schools for children, repeal of Obama’s healthcare laws, permission to have public prayer, limits on public spending and debt, and provision for the State Legislature to redraw federal and state districts instead of the courts.

Friendly Ford anchors Crosby’s new Scoreboard


On May 11, Fred Salinas owner of Friendly Ford in Crosby, announced that he had secured the Super Anchor display for the modernized Scoreboard for the Crosby Cougars.

The new scoreboard will feature the latest in digital graphics and re-plays will show highlights of the game after they happen. This digital screen will be surrounded by advertising. Above all other advertising and larger will be the Super Anchor, this coming season that will be Friendly Ford. That aspect alone will measure fifteen feet eleven inches. The Anchor’s advertising will be located between the Cougars’ claws.

According to the school, Crosby ISD was looking for new and creative ways to help upgrade Cougar Stadium and other facilities so they have partnered up with Daktronics Sports Marketing (DSM) to create a new marketing campaign.

This marketing campaign will help secure necessary long-term advertising commitments (a new revenue stream) to help fund a new video scoreboard at Cougar Stadium, new scoreboards at the baseball and softball fields, and potentially generate revenue for the general school fund. The community raised revenues for this project will bring a new level of excitement, color and interactivity to all of the events at the stadium.

The upgrades at the Cougar athletic facilities will include state-of-the-art scoring, timing, and display equipment while also offering local businesses numerous advertising opportunities throughout the stadium. Michael Vogelaar (DSM Advertising Sales) is scheduling visits with local businesses that are simply interested in learning more about the various custom opportunities that are available at the stadium. These opportunities are for local businesses of all sizes. CISD and DSM have already received their first signed commitment from Friendly Ford of Crosby.

The anchor advertising includes not only the football scoreboard but also the stands at entrance and exit, the baseball bleacher back, both ends of the baseball bleachers, the baseball scoreboard, the Softball bleacher backside, the softball scoreboard, two minutes of the Static Logo effects of the Marquee display in front of the school on FM 2100, one game day sponsorship/promotion opportunity per season, two customized P.A. announcements when Friendly Ford is game-day sponsor, four radio drop-ins for each broadcast game, one logo and link on District Website.

“It cost a lot,” quibbed Salinas, when asked the bottom line, “But we want to support the community and we know football and sports are important here.”

The football scoreboard alone has plenty of advertisement on it. A feature title will be digitally displayed per varsity home game. A pre-game animated partner logo will be displayed digitally for five seconds rotating with other sponsor partners. Six timed during the game that logo will appear during regular season. As the scoreboard will now display re-plays of downs, five times the Anchor will show the Friendly Ford logo, ass well as other partners before re-plays appear. For each home game during regular season, a 30 second pre-game logo will appear that is to be supplied by the advertiser. Finally, during the regular season home games, a 30 second commercial supplied by Friendly Ford will appear.

Highlands Rotary awards scholarships to 15 students

HIGHLANDS– Dr. Dennis Brown, president of Lee College, was the featured speaker at an awards ceremony Tuesday night at the Highlands Community Center. The event was the award of 15 scholarships, in the amounts of $1500 and $2500, to students that had outstanding applications, grades, and recommendations in their schools.

Receiving the scholarships were students from Highlands and Crosby, and Chinquapin schools. Dr. Brown gave a motivating talk, about the value of higher education in today’s marketplace, and how education can make the difference between a “job” and a “career” that would be life fulfilling. He also exhorted the young graduates to continue their education now, as breaks with the intention of finishing higher education later often fail.

Brown also touched on the advantages of Lee College, some of the awards and advanced programs they offer, and new initiatives in Early College at the high school level. Before becoming president at Lee College in February, Dr. Brown had previously been a vice president of instruction at El Paso Community College, and involved in creating six early college high schools. He left the audience with the thought “Never settle for less than the Goal you set for yourself.”

Scholarships were given out by Rotary Chairperson Larry White, with some thank you comments from Dane Listi. Listi had been in charge of this year’s Rotary Chili Feast in February, where the Rotary Club raised most of the money that funded these scholarships. He made a point of naming and thanking the sponsors of the Chili Feast event.

Dr. White said that the club was awarding 15 scholarships this year, amounting to almost $30,000. This continued a tradition that has gone on for almost 40 years. White introduced the ten people on his committee that reviewed applications, and made the awards based on grades, activities, essays, recommendations and need.

Receiving scholarships from Goose Creek Memorial High School were Elyssabeth Dunn, Miesha Frank, Valeria Gomez, Zachary Houchins, Mary Rosser, Amanda Chavez, and Shelby Barnett. As they received their award, each student was asked to say a few things about themselves, and their plans for the future.

Receiving scholarships to continue their college education were Dianna Muldrow, Melanie Muldrow, Amy Brewer, Crystal Chavez, and Julie Burns.

Each year Rotary gives special named scholarships, commemorating Rotarians who had outstanding records of service to the community and to Rotary. This year, the Dr. W. L. Herndon DDS scholarship was presented by his daughter and past Rotary president, Patricia Scott, to Taralyn Hortman of Goose Creek Memorial High School and it’s Interact club.

The named Pat McPhee Scholarship was presented by his widow, Barbara McPhee, to Chase Wells of Crosby High School.

The named Jay E. Bird Scholarship was presented by his classmate, Rotarian Weston Cotten, to Erick Martinez of Chinquapin School.

Over one hundred Rotarians, students and their parents attended the dinner and ceremony at the Highlands Community Center.

Morman talks roads: Barrett Station Main Street to become four lanes

By Lewis Spearman

When Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman came to town on May 10 it was with news of infrastructure plans to meet challenges to communities, the distinctive feature however was that Precinct 2 is in the design phase of making Crosby-Lynchburg into a four lane within Barrett Station.

The design indicates that there would be two lanes North and two lanes South from Magnolia Street South to the limits of the community.

Jack Rodriguez, Senior Director of Road-Bridge/CIP for Precinct 2, described the new roadway as not having enough room to become a boulevard between existing houses. The plans also include a new route for buses to travel to and from Drew Intermediate School. The Precinct is already in the purchase phase of the rights of way.

Now there are problems with widening the existing two lane into four lanes. First Precinct 2 cannot do it without the State of Texas highway agency, TXDoT, making a narrow strip that now leads from the Crosby Freeway Bridge to FM 1942 the same width as that proposed in Barrett Station.

Problems with that requirement are manifold. There are environmental challenges currently, there is a waterway under the extant bridge. That portion now has a turn lane onto FM 1942 from the North but is currently a bottleneck for Southbound traffic. The State retains all rights of way within a distance of bridges such as the one that goes over F.M. 2100 because the structure of the bridge must remain uncompromised by subsidence and encasement. In other words the engineers don’t want the land shifting anymore than is out of control around bridges that have to carry enormous burdens. The second problem is more familiar to most of us it involves money.

Commissioner Jack Morman stated, “I got an increased budget of three million dollars, that three million equates to exactly the operating budgets of all the facilities that we acquired. So, it does not take into account the amount of the additional right of way, or take care of the road maintenance. We will be able to vett all of those but not as fast as we would like. We are already stretching our dollars, we are just going to have to make our dollars go farther. It is nothing new for us living lean and doing more with less. We’re trying, any partnership we can get, like with the State, we jump on that. It is not butting heads, it is collaboration and the State’s budget is worse than ours for having money to spend on needed projects.”

“If we can get some help out of them we would be ready to start moving.” Morman stated when asked to confirm the need for TXDoT to help match the width of the proposed Main St. of Barrett Station.

In addition to widening Main Street, the Commissioner has gone to the Harris County Attorney’s Office to ask if it would be possible for the county to front the money for M.U.D. 50 to handle infrastructure needs, pipes and other problems, and then pay Harris County back over time. It appears for now that this may, depending on a vote by Commissioner’s Court, be possible.

On resolutions and the new year


Sometimes turning the calendar to a new page isn’t enough. For a fresh mindset, I need a bigger, bolder signal of change. So I pick a different desktop picture for my computer; I rearrange the furniture in my living room; I cut my hair.

Still, the world is not new, and I don’t have a clean slate.

Every January, I have to come to terms with this all over again. I have to remind myself that the new year isn’t about a new me. It’s about a better me. Resolutions are meant to build upon the foundation we already have — to improve it, not erase it.

I think the best resolutions are small and simple. Something like “Become a millionaire” sounds great in theory, but it’s too big, too vague. Resolutions should be achievable — with clear, actionable steps that are completely within your control.

I prefer to make just a couple resolutions each year, in order to set myself up for success. After all, if these things were so easy to do, wouldn’t I have done them already?

This year, one of my resolutions is to make better use of my to-do list. I read somewhere that the best to-do lists have no more than 5-6 items per day. More than that and people start to feel overwhelmed. If/when they can’t cross everything off, they feel like they have failed. Plus the unfinished items carry over into the next day, along with their negative outlook.

So I plan to assign only a handful of tasks to each day, and to tackle them one at a time in an efficient and timely manner. It may sound small, but I think the ripple effects will be far-reaching.


Since moving to New York, I started recording my new year’s resolution as a pithy statement on my cell phone. The first year I moved here it was “Don’t forget about you,” to remind myself that I should stand up for my own decisions. Last year it was “Help others.” For 2012, I chose “Dream big. Act bigger.”

There are many things I would like to learn this year, from expanding my skills at work, to learning how to surf and ski. I also would like to continue traveling to other countries, seeing new sights and experiencing different cultures. Do I need a resolution to accomplish these goals? Of course not. But it helps.

Unlike Kristan, I find the point of a resolution is not to set measurable goals, but instead to shape your values and beliefs into something important. Resolutions create a focal point, and they represent your commitment to accomplish something you never thought you would. Seeing my new mantra on my cell phone every day helps frame my thinking and influence my actions in the right direction.

For example, there is a particular goal that I’ve had in mind since last year. “Dream big and act bigger” is a promise to myself that I will work hard to achieve it, continuously pushing myself out of my comfort zone without comprising who I am. That may mean I accomplish the goal, or it could mean along the way I change my course. But as long as I try, then I know I’ll be happy.

It also means I will look beyond myself and understand my impact on my peers. My decisions may be for myself, but we only reach them with the help of others.

This past year I have been very grateful for the faith that my family, friends and colleagues have in me, along with the opportunities I’ve been given. But I know there is more that I can learn as well as contribute. So I can’t settle for the status quo. I have to dream big and act bigger.