Where are they now? – Elisa Barnes

Editor’s note: This feature is dedicated to profiling Van Horn High School Alumni and updating locals on what became of them after graduation.  The Advocate welcomes information for publication on VHHS Alumni and will try to highlight two Van Horn Eagles every week.

It’s been 28 years since I left Van Horn.  You knew me as Elisa Garcia, but now I am Elisa Barnes.  I left Van Horn the summer of 1988 to attend Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls.  My dream was to live a life in the field of journalism.  Four years of college turned into 6 years and BAM!  I’m in my 23rd year of teaching elementary school in Austin.

I have a daughter, Kathy, in her second year at Texas State University and a son, Konnar, a 2nd grader at my school, Menchaca Elementary.  I truly believe I have the best of both worlds.  I am able to interact with a “big kid” and a “little kid” on a daily basis.  I know all about One Direction AND Henry Danger!  They keep me in “the know”!

My husband, Joe, and I have created a cozy home for the kids, the three dogs, a lop-eared bunny named Maverick, a hamster named Morgan, and Emerson the hermit crab (named after our sandcastle teacher at SPI).  Life is good at the Barnes’ “farm”.  Kathy is experiencing campus life at San Marcos, and Konnar keeps us busy with scouts and karate.  He is an advanced first-degree purple belt.  We are very proud of both of them.

On my campus, I am the site coordinator for the University of Texas Neighborhood Longhorns Program.  This program is an incentive-based learning program that helps economically disadvantaged youth build a strong academic future.  Students who meet or surpass all the requirements for the entire school year are awarded a $100 scholarship award that is placed in an endowment until the student graduates from high school. In addition, students are given opportunities to attend athletic events throughout the school year.  I organize and attend these events with the students.

I also mentor University of Texas STEM students through the UTeach program.  The program allows UT STEM students to “try out” teaching.  UT students observe and teach science lessons in my classroom to obtain firsthand experience with planning and implementing inquiry-based lessons. I have worn many “hats” on my campus, however NLP has been the most rewarding.

Aside from teaching, I enjoy my hobby job with Stadium People.  I earned my security license and work at Circuit of the Americas, Austin 360 Amphitheater, Texas State Football games, Texas State Commencement ceremonies, University of Texas Football games, and SXSW.  I have been fortunate to take advantage of fun, exciting, and surprising opportunities. These jobs include events such as Formula 1 racing, concerts, ADA access, entrance security, and overseeing alcohol sales.  For the star struck, I have met Patrick Dempsey, Tyler Florence, Gene Simmons, Roscoe (Lewis Hamilton’s bulldog), and Roger Clemens, just to name a few.  I love my hobby job!

I have been blessed with wonderful and exciting adventures throughout my life.  I take advantage of every opportunity I can.  So, I have to share my television reality show debut with the City of Austin Resource Recovery.  My family was chosen to film a reality show in our own home!   Yes, chosen means I actually applied.  I filled out the application one morning over coffee during my Christmas break.  My husband was shocked, scared, surprised and supportive…. I was going for the shock value.  I never thought we would be chosen!  The show is about four Austin families trying to reduce the amount of waste they generate while documenting their progress on camera… all for a chance to win a Sustainable Home Improvement Package worth more than $2,000. Watch all five episodes!  I COULD tell you how it ends, but I’ll let you watch for yourself.   http://www.austintexas.gov/daretogozero

Life in Austin is wonderful!  I love my city, but Van Horn has a big piece of my heart.  The small town sunrises are glorious, the sunsets magnificent, and the stars shine like diamonds.