first person

Filipa Rodrigues for KUT News

To celebrate Juneteenth, KUT News is bringing you voices from Austin's black community. 

Nneka Waturoucha is a 19-year-old University of Texas student. Her father is American and her mother is Nigerian. While she grew up around minority communities in Houston, she’s still assimilating into the predominately white West Campus area.

Southeast Austin resident Maria Del Rasario Ramirez has lived and worked in the United States for twenty years, and she is one of 162,440 people in Travis County at risk of hunger, according to an estimate by Feeding America. As an undocumented immigrant, she is ineligible to receive food stamps, but she does receive benefits for her granddaughter, whom she is raising.

The food stamps program – officially called the Supplemental Food Assistance Program (SNAP) – makes up the largest portion of the trillion dollar Farm Bill, which expires at the end of the month. The Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House have been debating how much to cut the program. The Senate wants $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts. The House is calling for $16.5 billion.

First Person is an ongoing series from KUT News where Central Texans tell their own stories, in their own words.

KUT News freelancer Jeff Heimsath filmed Marissa Lankes, an organic farmer at Austin’s Boggy Creek Farms. While passionate about her work, Lankes dispels the romanticism of farming, and argues that interest in artisan fields like organic farming may be a product of dimming career prospects for young citizens and recent college graduates. 

The Obama administration continues to press for passage of the DREAM Act, a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students whose parents brought them to the U.S. when they were children. Opponents of the bill, including Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, say it would reward illegal behavior. Texas is one of only three states that provides financial aid for undocumented students.

KUT News freelancer Jeff Heimsath interviewed one undocumented student at the University of Texas about his hope of becoming an American citizen. 

The worst single-year drought in Texas history has caused more than $5 billion in agricultural losses. Doris Steubing is a cattle rancher in Maxwell, about 30 miles south of Austin. We sent freelance videographer Jeff Heimsath to her ranch to ask how she's getting by.

It’s been four months since Bastrop County's devastating wildfires. While residents are trying to rebuild their lives, the destruction and trauma of the fires still lingers. KUT freelancer Jeff Heimsath recently sat down with one Bastrop resident to hear his story.  

Elena Adams lives in East Austin and has three children. Her youngest was born prematurely with cerebral palsy, a group of disorders that affect the brain and nervous system.

Adams was shocked when she found out, because her other two kids are healthy. Doctors told Adams her son Smith would not be able to walk or talk.  

But Smith is slowly proving them wrong. He can speak and is trying to walk on his own. 

Adams has a hard time affording treatment, but she gets a little bit of state money and help from organizations like Any Baby Can.

Now, she's optimistic about the future.

“You can’t really stress about a lot of problems,” she said. “You just have to let them go the way they’re supposed to go.”

Jeff Heimsath shot and edited KUT's video interview with Adams. Check it out above. 

This morning on KUT, we reported on the challenges people with autism face when trying to find gainful employment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports increases in the prevalence of autism. Meanwhile, the state legislature slashed spending that would help people afflicted by the disorder.

One of the people we talked to was Daniel Shackelford. He has Asperger’s Syndrome but was able find gainful employment at Seton Medical Center through a privately run program called Project SEARCH. You can hear more from Shackelford in the video above, shot and edited by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News.

With Veterans Day one week away, we wanted to bring you the story of a veteran who suffered through homelessness. So we sent videographer Jeff Heimsath to interview Jeffery Anderson.

Anderson currently lives in Temple, and he served more than five years of active duty in the United States Army, including two tours in Iraq. But when his wife became ill when pregnant with their fourth child, she needed his help at home.

Anderson says he asked the Army to be placed on rear detachment for three months until the baby was delivered. But he was told to choose his family or the Army.