Firework safety urged for holiday
Williamson County officials are urging residents to exercise firework safety during the New Year holiday.
This comes after the county commissioners extended a burn ban until Jan. 18 because of dry and windy weather conditions. On Friday, the National Weather Service for Austin/San Antonio issued a red flag warning from noon to 7 p.m. for multiple counties including Williamson, meaning weather conditions are conducive for wildfires.
Although the burn ban doesn’t prohibit fireworks, the Texas Pyrotechnic Association has agreed voluntarily not to sell fireworks with sticks and fins, which pose the greatest wildfire danger.
Some municipalities in Texas have city ordinances banning the use of fireworks near or within city limits, so before purchasing or discharging fireworks county residents should check with the city or a local fire station to ensure they are legal.
The Williamson County Financial Stability Coalition is gearing up for the 2013 tax season and is actively recruiting volunteers for its free tax preparation sites located across the county.
The coalition is a collaborative effort comprised of five organizations: United Way of Williamson County, Literacy Council of Williamson County, WBC Opportunities, AARP and the Internal Revenue Service.
In 2011, the coalition assisted 3,021 families and individuals. Collectively, they received more than $4.6 mil- lion in refunds.
Volunteer income tax preparers, site support and translators are needed at Taylor City Hall, the Leander Public Library and a new site in Georgetown at The Caring Place. The coalition, in conjunction with the AARP and IRS, will offer free training and certification for those volunteering in January.
To volunteer or get more information, go to wilcofreetaxprep.org, email your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 512-255-6799.
The Leander school Educational Excellence Foundation has launched a mobile device recycling program that will benefit students participating in the district’s “bring your own technology” initiative.
The foundation is asking community members to donate their old Wi-Fi enabled devices to its Devices 4 Learning program so that students can participate despite economic status, according to a district statement.
Donated devices will be cleaned, re-imaged and made available for students to use. The program seeks old smartphones, iPads, newer laptops, Kindle Fires or iPod Touches or other devices that are in working condition, mobile and Wi-Fi enabled. Please attach power cords to the device with a rubber band when donating.
The donations are tax deductible, according to the district. To make a donation, drop off the devices at the front office of any district school. To learn more about the program or foundation, go to the foundation’s website at www.leanderedfound.org.
For Leigh Henson, the bright lights of the stage and applause after the curtain falls will continue past her high school years. The Cedar Creek High School senior varsity theater student plans to major in theater at Tarleton State University and wants to become an actress.
Henson said her competitive streak — which she described as being confined only to her theater work — is laser-focused and singleminded. Henson said it’s what helped her earn a spot in an international acting competition.
Henson competed in the monologue category at the Texas State Thespian Convention’s state festival in Houston last month. Her performances earned her two superior ratings and one excellent rating, qualifying her for the International Thespian Society’s festival at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln in June.
There, she will compete against theater students from across the United States, as well as from Canada, Dubai, Mexico, Ireland and England.
“I was so excited. I just couldn’t believe it,” Henson said. “I was jumping up and down. I was just so excited.”
Cedar Creek drama teacher Achlie Ruffin praised Henson and said she was delighted Henson made the international festival. “Leigh brought everything she had,” Ruffin said. “I knew all along she’d make this. I kept telling her, ‘You’ve got this.’ When we found out, we looked at each other with wide eyes and just started jumping up and down and screaming. She started crying and I started crying.”
Henson performed a monologue as Sugar, a 14year-old heroin-addicted prostitute, in a play called “Side Show.” She tempered that with a lighthearted and humorous second monologue by the title character of a play called “The Valerie of Now,” an 11-year-old about to turn 12 who comes to realize the power of womanhood a milestone brings her.
Ruffin said the contrasting characters and the different life experiences they bring were meant to show the range Henson has as an actress.
Henson said she read Sugar’s monologue “and I knew I wanted to do it. I wanted something really powerful. Valerie is much cuter and funnier. I wanted something much lighter than what I’d just done to end with.”
While Henson is finishing up her senior year of high school, she and Ruffin will be looking for sponsorships and raising funds to attend the Nebraska competition.
The two will spend the next few months refining Henson’s performances.
Henson said she’s thrilled to have this chance.
“It’s the best feeling I can possibly imagine,” she said with a smile.