Wednesday, April 1, 2015
My name is Elli Parker and I am a senior Elementary Education major from New Hartford, IA. Before coming to Denver to complete my student teaching experience, I didn’t realize what a luxurious lifestyle I lived. I have a working vehicle, an education, supportive parents, food to eat, and a place that I call home. This may not sound extravagant to many, but compared to some of my students at Tennyson Knolls Elementary, I am living a life of luxury. In the small Iowa community that I grew up in, my classmates and I all had very similar upbringings; middle class white families from a small supportive community in rural Iowa. This is not the case in Arvada, however, where many of my students come from poverty-stricken dysfunctional homes.
It didn’t take long for me to realize some of the adversity that my students faced every day. Whether my cooperating teacher, Stacey, told me directly about specific situations, my students told me stories, or I saw a student struggling to communicate because of a language barrier, it was obvious to me that these kids dealt with hardships on a daily basis. The most common issue in my classroom, and the entire school, is language. Many students came straight from Mexico to Denver and spoke little to no English. Some have been here for a year or more, but others have only been in the U.S. for weeks or months. A few of my students do not have cars, so if they miss the bus, they have no way of coming to school. One of my students has missed 42 total days of school this year. All of the students in the school receive free breakfast, lunch, and snack, and two of the students in my class take a backpack home every weekend filled with food. Another very common issue is moving. Students often talk about moving from house to house, apartment to apartment, or moving in with family members.
After reading this, you may envision my classroom or school as somewhat of a depressing environment. Surprisingly, this is not the case at all. I am amazed every day at how positive, funny, and hard working my students are. School is definitely a safe haven for many of them; a place of structure and stability that many of them do not get at home. Students who speak little English are able to rely on bilingual classmates who graciously translate when needed. These children have truly touched my heart, and I look forward to coming to school every day. Wartburg West has allowed me to experience a lifestyle and diverse experience that would have never been possible had I not participated in this program. I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend in Denver and lives that I was hopefully able to touch in the classroom.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Coming from a town with less than 1,000 people and working in a town with less than 200, I was a little apprehensive about making the decision to spend a whole semester in Denver, CO. I knew the change from a small, rural town to a metro area was going to be drastic. My first day of driving into Denver was a sensory overload. The amount of traffic and buildings is something I have never experienced before. I knew it was going to take time to adjust to a new way of living in a metro area. However, the Wartburg West program has been one of the best decisions I have made since coming to Wartburg and has expanded my views on the many different aspects of living in a city.
One perception that has changed since living in Denver, is regarding individuals that experience unstable living conditions (homeless). Coming from a small town that hardly ever sees a homeless individual, was a great shock to me when in Denver you usually see one of these situations on every block. My perception of these individuals changed greatly through my Community Engagement Project. I volunteered at a restaurant in our neighborhood known as SAME Café. SAME Café serves a menu of soup, salad, and pizza from local, organic products. They also only accept payments fair to the individual’s budget or a half-hour of their time to volunteer in the café. Through this experience, I met and worked alongside with many individuals that had unstable living situations and came to SAME Café often to receive a nutritious meal that was a luxury for them. One particular story that stood out greatly to me, was a man that visited SAME Café often and always enjoyed being able to interact with people while volunteering in exchange for his meal. After working alongside of him, I learned he use to hold a career in the restaurant industry until experiencing job cuts. He told me how much he enjoyed coming to SAME Café as much as possible just so he could spend a few minutes back in an industry he had so much passion for. These experiences at SAME Café really opened my eyes to many individuals that have unstable living situations do want to have stable lives but often do not require the resources needed to get them back on their feet.
The Wartburg West program has truly been an experience of “living my learning”, has grown me as a person and will be one of the greatest highlights of my college career.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Recently I’ve noticed the efforts of sustainability in the metro area and I feel bad because the most I do to help sustain our earth is to use the same bag when I go to the grocery store. I have recently read the article “The Company We Keep” which is in the Conspire “Green Revolution” magazine edition. The author of the article, Lenore Yarger, expressed how she never thought much about sustainability until she met someone that used composting toilets. She never thought much about them until she became adapted to being around them more and learned how helpful they are to the environment.
This story of Lenore and the composting toilets reminds me of an experience that I have had while living in the city. I am from a rural town in Southeast Iowa where we have to drive everywhere to get to one point or another. When I came out here I did not bring my car and I was having a hard time dealing with this. I soon noticed that a ton of people in the Capitol Hill area walk to work or take the bus. When I first started riding the bus I was very nervous, I did not know public transportation very well and was a little uncomfortable just not driving myself. Soon I saw two young women who were about my age get on the bus. I soon realized that just because I never really thought about taking the bus or walking, I just never was given the opportunity and it should not be scary.
So similar to Lenore Yarger’s article “The Company We Keep” and the composting toilets (which she now owns) that just because an idea is new, should not be shut down completely, new experiences give us different outlooks and the company that we keep very much influence those outlooks.
Friday, March 6, 2015
Blog Post Week 9
Advantages of Living in a Big City
Coming from a decently sized Metropolitan area in Iowa I thought I was prepared for practically everything that would happen in a city the size of Denver. In some respects I was prepared for the number of people that I would encounter daily but besides that Denver has surprised me in many ways. On the day we arrived to the city we were welcomed by rush hour. Not the best welcome but one of the essential experiences of living in the city. Due to this first experience I have walked to work everyday. It is a great way to start the day and gives time to think and wind down at the end of the day.
Most people would see this traffic as a disadvantage; but I find it something different entirely. This traffic forces you to walk around the city and really experience the culture, the people and the amazing places you would never see driving by in a car. This is something I would encourage any city dweller to do. Get out of your home and experience all of the great things that a city has to offer. In doing this I have been to some of the best restaurants I have ever been to. Many of which are small and unnoticeable when driving by in a car. Specifically, Emilio’s served some of the best Mexican food. Beyond this there are pizza, hot dog and breakfast places that are some of the best places to eat but would never be noticed if it weren’t for the people who take the time to walk down the street.
Once you have made it out on to the street and taken the time to go into that ‘hole in the wall’ restaurant I encourage you to do something else. Talk to the people that are on the street. Not only will it make their day, but also, it will teach you about the resiliency and love that people have for one another. Everyone has his or her own story and each one is unique, interesting and amazing. I encourage you to do this due to several experiences of my own. Walking down the street I was stopped at a crosswalk by an older gentleman who was nearly blind. He needed help to get across the street. Once I had finished helping this man he turned to me, asked my name and then proceeded to tell me he would pray for me that day.
For class, we were also required to attend the Point in Time Survey, which asks questions about how long and why those people who live on the streets are homeless. Specifically, I came across one man who had just returned to Denver from visiting his one-year-old, twin grandsons. He was a very proud man that worked a full time job but just couldn’t afford a place to live. This is just one of many interviews I conducted that really changed the way I look at those who are homeless. It is nothing like the stereotype; which is why I encourage you to take the time to get to know these people. It will make their day to have a simple conversation with you.
Each city has its own specialty, Chicago has its hot dogs, San Diego their burritos and Denver their outdoor activities and breweries. Hiking, skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling are just a few of the activities I would encourage any visitor to the city to take advantage of. I went out to a place called Deer Creek Canyon, just a thirty-minute drive from the city, to hike and spent one of the best days, with the best views of both the city and the wilderness that surrounds Denver. It was an amazing experience that you won’t have any other place but Denver. I have also learned to ski while in Denver and taken a few trips to the mountains not far outside of the city. Whether you are a pro or just a beginner it is worth the day to try it out.
Finally, Denver has a crazy fan base for their sports teams. Especially the Broncos and the Avalanche. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to a Broncos game but I was able to make it to an Avalanche hockey game. They play in the Pepsi Center downtown and it is sold out almost every game. It was a game and an experience I will cherish and will certainly take the time to do again. Going to a game has gotten me interested in the sport of hockey and more passionate about the city that I live in.
Over the past few months I have learned a great deal about Colorado, Denver, city living and about myself. The city is a great place to find out who you want to be and where you want to go in life. While also learning about the way other people live. Being in an apartment setting has allowed for me to get to know the other students in the building and gives us a great opportunity to learn and explore together. Whether you are a current student at Wartburg or someone who has graduated, I would encourage you to take the chance a move to a city. Even if it is just for a little while; whether you like it or not you will learn a great deal. It is something you will never forget.
Thursday, February 26, 2015
Going from living in a city that has a population of 9,874 (Waverly, IA) to living in a city with a population of 3,002,629 (Denver, CO) is a major change. A positive change I believe as well. My experience thus far in Denver has been incredible. I have discovered a lot of positives of living in a big city, and also some down sides. Denver has a lot to offer and I feel blessed to be able to study and work here for the semester.
One thing I picked up on from the first week of living here was the convenience of resources. Everything is just steps away in this area. We live within walking distance from 16th street, which is filled with shops and restaurants. Need a grocery store? It’s less than a half-mile away! Starbucks are on every block and gas stations are on every corner. The options for food and shopping are endless. By living in the heart of Denver, we get to have everything in the neighborhood. It’s a nice perk and hopefully I will not go broke from this experience! There are so many places and restaurants I want to try and visit.
This brings us to our next pro, never being bored! There is so much to do in Denver and so many ways to stay busy. Some things I have done thus far include attending a comedy club, going to a rodeo, visit two breweries, attend two plays, go to a winery, and visit multiple museums. Outside of Denver, I have skied and hiked many times. I honestly just hope I can fit everything in that I want to do before the beginning of April! Big cities offer many options for fun and new activities.
They also offer exceptional exposure and experience. My work at ManorCare is great involvement, and many of us have intriguing internships that are setting us up for our futures. There are just endless opportunities in Denver. There are so many businesses, companies, and people to get connected with in larger cities. By living in a big city and getting involved in it, we are getting a solid foundation to build our future upon. On top of this, I am learning how to function in a large city setting. Learning the bus routes and safe paths to take and furthermore learning directions and resources I can get connected with. I am overall developing life long skills and getting exposed to many opportunities that will help me out further down the road.
For the cons I have found, I will just type a short paragraph. Nobody likes to focus on the negative too much! But traffic is an aggravating thing. With my road rage and impatience, this does not sit well with me. Then there is the cost of living. Housing is much more expensive in the city (although I am lucky enough to live in cheaper Wartburg housing at a prime location). But then I have noticed that groceries are more expensive. I cannot get my canned mandarin oranges anymore for just 50 cents. I have to pay 99 cents and sometimes even more! Then lastly, the safety in a larger city (Denver included) is not as high as in a smaller city usually. It is a busy city with a lot going on. I feel safe where I live and in my areas, but there are some negative occurrences in Denver on a regular basis. But putting that aside and all of the listed cons, I think the good out weighs the bad and I am happy to be here. Denver is a wonderful city and I cannot wait to discover more positives of it!
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
The anticipation moving to Denver was big. I always loved Colorado and didn’t think I would actually ever be able to live out here until I graduated or unless I actually went to school out in Colorado. But for me that wasn’t a choice considering the out-of-state tuition was insane. When I realized Wartburg had a program that allowed me to experience life in Colorado for a semester without the huge commitment of moving out there on my own, I fell in love and that was a point that helped me decide to be a student at Wartburg.
The thought of living in Denver didn’t scare me all that much considering I live near Chicago and frequent the city a lot and know how to get around. But right when I got to Denver I got a little overwhelmed. Denver is sort of like a small big city so it wasn’t that the city was big, it was just the fact that I was now living in a place that I was unfamiliar with and didn’t know how to find my way around frightened me a little bit. However, I was soon able to navigate my way around the city pretty easily with the help of the Bocks and of the friendly people of Denver who never had a problem with helping us out.
One of the things I had to get used to out in Denver was the people. It wasn’t that the people were rude; in fact it was the complete opposite. Everywhere we went everyone was so nice and extremely willing to help with any question we had. They would even give us recommendations on places that we should go or restaurants or other things that we should try. Another thing I had to get used to was the weather in Denver. One day it would be sunny and in the 70s, but then the next day there would be inches of snow covering the ground, although I never really complained much about the weather because I got to hear back from friends in Iowa about the weather being in the negatives. It never got too frigid in Denver.
Living in Denver has only solidified my decision to move out to Colorado after I graduate. I love every aspect of living in Colorado; the picturesque mountains behind every city or town view, the opportunity to go snowboarding when I have free time, the people who are a joy to be around seven days a week, and last but obviously not least, the laid-back lifestyle as opposed to the rushed way of life in the Midwest.