Sunday, January 25, 2015

Finding Kindness in the Big City - Jenna Vogen

            Growing up in a small town was always a comfort to me. Everyone knew each other and could rely on one another for help or little encouraging words. This love for a tight knit community that truly facilitated relationships led me to choose Wartburg College for my undergraduate studies. It was perfect, Wartburg gave me the opportunity to meet hundreds of new people and see new experiences all while keeping the safe, friendly, and nurturing community feel that I had grown so used to.
            Having always associated small town with safety, moving to a city created a little fear for me. Worries as I prepared for my semester at Wartburg West varied from as miniscule as wondering what would happen if I got lost in traffic to as extreme as if I would get mugged while walking down the street. Despite my initial unease I have come to realize that Denver is one of the friendliest and welcoming areas that I have ever encountered.
            During one of my first days here in Denver a couple of friends and I began exploring the bus system. While on the bus I noticed everyone was extremely kind, (even the bus drivers, who I give all the right in the world to be cranky seeing as they drive in traffic all day with such a massive vehicle!) people would quickly give up their seats with a big smile or would just communicate with one another to pass the time. One moment that especially stood out to me was as I was loading the bus at the busy intersection of Broadway and Colfax, I dropped my wallet without noticing. Soon a homeless woman was chasing after me with my wallet saying that I dropped it in the snow! In that moment I realized that maybe everyone in the city wasn’t as closed off and unfriendly as common stereotypes suggest.

            Within the past month I have had the opportunity to meet some of the most diverse people and hear some amazing life stories. I have come to realize that Denver is a city filled with kindness. Acts of warmth such as a woman paying for my morning coffee, authentic conversations with complete strangers, or even courteous drivers in rush hour traffic have truly restored my faith in people on a daily basis. Coming to Denver has given me the opportunity as a small town girl to see that no matter where you go in the world there will be good people near. I have been lucky to be surrounded by such unconditional kindness and thoughtfulness throughout my experience thus far.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

Carless in Denver - Hilleary Reinhardt

The day I turned 16 (just kidding, I failed my first license test) I was super pumped to inherit my parents’ 2000 Saturn station wagon. Ever since that point, I have relied greatly on a car as my main mode of transportation, until I came to Denver. I decided to not bring my car for my semester at Wartburg West as I was going to force myself to really immerse myself into the urban lifestyle. My organization where I am completing my senior social work practicum is about five miles from the Wartburg West apartments, about 20 minutes by bus.

Public transportation is not new to me as I grew up occasionally riding the light rail around my home cities, St. Paul and Minneapolis; however, I am now using it as my daily form of transportation around Denver and I love it! Not only is public transportation economically efficient and sustainable, but it also has its own culture and provides its riders with human interaction. Bus culture is like nothing I have ever experienced before. Every age, race, ethnicity, and language is present on the bus…making people watching extremely entertaining and educational. It also acts as its own community; others will watch out for and help those on their bus. For instance, last week on my ride home from a local grocery store I was carrying more bags than I probably should have been. An older male saw me struggling as I was getting on the bus so he walked up to the front and asked if I needed help with my bags. I accepted his help as he carried my bags to an open seat on the bus and set them down.

Both Nelson and Bonita Bock are appreciative when students use public transportation as those who drive cars have less chances of human interaction. While riding the bus, I never wear my headphones with the hopes that someone will sit near me so that I can strike up a conversation. In some instances, people do not want to chit chat but in most cases, people on the bus love to have conversations with those close by. The things that I have learned from and about the people I have conversed with give me an insight into what their lives in urban Denver are like…and I have learned many things that I could live without knowing.

Future Wartburg Westers, I challenge you to come to Denver with no car or if you absolutely need to bring it that you use public transportation as much as possible.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Denver Round Two: A Fresh Start - Malindi Van Sant

Although I have previously been part of the “Wartburg West” program, this time has a whole new feel to it. It has only been two years since I was in Denver for the “Sophomore Experience”, but a lot of change has taken place here in that time period. Wartburg West has a new location, right downtown! Living downtown has many perks. The bus system is easy to navigate (even for the directionally challenged, such as myself), my favorite record stores, restaurants and book shops are right down the road, and the very life of Denver itself is right outside of our apartment door. 
When I left Denver in 2012, I’d had such a great experience that I didn’t think it was possible for it to be better this time. The new building is in a very nice location and has great amenities as well. The church where our classes are held is simply beautiful, and the congregation has been very welcoming. The beauty of the capitol building, the skyline, and the mountains on my way to my internship manages to leave me breathless every day.

Denver has a whole different vibe to it since I was here last. New stores and restaurants have popped up everywhere, as well as new people. The population of the city has been growing rapidly in recent years. For the newcomers, finding an apartment building has become a wild goose chase. Rent and property value is also rising quickly as the city grows. It seems like everyone I know wants to live here, and I even hope to move here myself someday. I am really looking forward to spending another amazing semester in Denver.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

JeffCo Schools - Micah Peters

The topic of this post has been an extremely prominent issue in the Denver area while I have been here.  Although my school is in the Denver Public School system, this is an issue with education as a whole – not just one district.  Not only has this been in the news lately, but it also impacts me as a future educator.  It also impacts you, if for no other reason than that you are a citizen of this country.  I have shared facts, links for additional information, my thoughts, and a few questions I would like people to think about.  This may not faze you, and it might enrage you.  Regardless, please seriously consider how this impacts the future generations of this country and the future of this country. 
            For those of you who are unfamiliar with the recent activities in the Jefferson County School District, I will provide you with a brief synopsis of what has been happening.  Below, I have also put the links for my sources and for further information on this topic from a variety of news sources including CNN, Aljazeera, Fox News, and USA Today. The Jefferson County schools have an Advanced Placement United States History curriculum in place. According to several news sources, the JeffCo School Board has decided to “review that course [A.P. U.S. History] with an eye toward promoting patriotism,” (USA Today). The school board would like to create a committee to review said course.  The JeffCo school board has made a proposal that, “will select materials that ‘promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights,’” and avoid materials that, “’encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law,’” (Aljazeera America).  Among other issues discussed at the school board meeting, the teachers and students alike were unhappy with this proposal and set up walk-outs that lasted days.  One day, enough teachers called in sick the schools had to close.  The next day, students walked out of JeffCo schools and continued to do so into the next week.  The issue is still being discussed and no final decisions have been made. 
            As an educator, this impacts me.  As an educator, this impacts my future students.  As a future parent, this impacts my own children.  Perhaps most importantly, this impacts me as a past, present, and future United States citizen.  It also disturbs me.  How do you learn from the past if you do not know what happened?  How do you ensure that history does not repeat itself, if you are fed a censored version of the truth?  It has nothing to do with being anti-American or not teaching Patriotism.  It is simply a matter of being an informed citizen of this beautiful and powerful country.  We could make a list of the times the United States had a positive impact on the world and then turn around and do the same for all of the times we had a negative impact on the world.  This would be meaningless.  It would be foolish to try to convince someone that the United States has never done any good on this planet.  However, it would also be foolish to pretend we have not had a hand in some of the most horrifying and heart-wrenching acts against humanity.  Sometimes the acts of a few, reflect many.  The acts of our country, are a reflection of us – its citizens.  It is time we hold ourselves accountable for the good and bad parts of our history and our actions as a nation. 
            I would love the opportunity to be an educator in a time when the history of this nation is not covered up, ignored, or disregarded; but rather, a time when the history of the United States of America is regarded with the utmost respect and a sense of accountability, responsibility, and awareness.  If we, as members of the human family on this earth, want to ensure our negatives are not repeated and our positives are re-evaluated and applied when necessary, we cannot hide the truth from each other.  There should be discussion about the Japanese Internment camps during WWII.  There should be a discussion about the Native Americans and how our government treated them.  There should be a discussion about the aftermath of dropping an atomic bomb on hundreds of thousands of people.  There should be a discussion about slavery and the oppression of minorities.  There should be a discussion about the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on our country.  There should be a discussion about non-violent resistance and non-violent movements in our history.  The only way to be certain that the ugly parts of our history do not reappear is to talk about them.  This country has a great deal to be proud of, but we are not perfect.  We owe it to our future generations to expose our history in its entirety – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It is truly the only way to ensure this country moves forward with its founding ideals close at heart. 

Here are the links, as promised.  Enjoy.

Monday, October 20, 2014

It's Been a Blast - Megan Petersohn

My name is Megan Petersohn.  I am a senior at Augustana College. If you have the opportunity to be a part of Wartburg West, I suggest you do it.  This has been one of the best experiences of my life.

Only a few students from Augustana applied to this program because not many know about it.  I double major in Biology and Neuroscience along with a minor in Spanish.  My journey deciding on this discipline has been long and painful but this program has shown me that I chose correctly.

Here in Denver, I intern at Anschutz Medical Campus where I conduct research on Parkinson’s disease.  I have learned so much in the small amount of time I have been here: about myself, about research, and this type of career path.  If anyone reading this is a bit of a science nerd, you may like to know that the lab I have been placed in has implemented the most dopamine brain transplants ever.  My supervisor, Dr. Curt Freed, has become an iconic figure in the chase to cure Parkinson’s disease and I get the opportunity to work with him.  This lab has transplanted fetal brain cells and pluripotent stem cells into the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease and seen extraordinary results.

At my internship placement, I have had the opportunity to work with scientists on different experiments contributing to the cure for Parkinson’s disease.  I have also been able to attend seminars offered at Anschutz Medical Campus, allowing me to expand my knowledge on scientific methods and findings.  Last week, I watched a fellow researcher slice a Parkinsonian brain into super thin slices, making it easier to look at different areas of the brain.  Next week, I am presenting at a poster session as part of the Department of Medicine Research Day.  Everything here has exceeded my expectations of an internship experience and would not have been possible without Wartburg West.

Outside of the internship, however, Denver has so much to offer!  I grew up in a relatively small town in northern Illinois, so I am not used to city life or the mountains (two things that were the biggest adjustments for me).  Being in the city is not something I looked forward to but it hasn’t ceased to astonish me. I have eaten at wonderful restaurants, met eccentric people, and experienced the breathtaking nightlife in downtown Denver.  I have gone to a college football game, got scared at a nationally ranked haunted house, and attended museums, a play and a neuroscience conference.  I will still choose country over the city but you should know, you can still find pieces of country in a big city like Denver.

One of my favorite things about living in Denver, Colorado is the short distance it takes you to end up in the middle of nowhere, in a forest, or on top of a mountain. I can drive thirty minutes and end up on a hiking trail in the foothills of the Rockies.  Give me an hour or two of driving and I can end up at the highest incorporated city in the United States (Leadville, CO).  Three hours can get me to one of my all-time favorite hikes.  While I have been in Denver for my internship, I have made it a personal requirement to get out of the city at least once a week.  I have made trips to Leadville for the retreat where I went whitewater rafting, to Golden, for hiking or floating down a creak, to a pumpkin patch to pick out my own pumpkin, and even to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), to hike, see the bright yellow aspen trees, and to hear and see elk bugling.  I even made a trip to Glenwood Springs where I hiked Hanging Lake Trail.  Hanging Lake Trail is one of the best hikes I have ever made.  If you have the chance to go there one day, you should.  The rewarding scenery at the end of the hike is something I would imagine seeing on a tropical island somewhere, but with mountains.  The lake is shallow and the water is almost transparent with an amazing emerald green glow.  Two waterfalls trickle into the lake over cliffs.

All in all, this internship in Denver has been the best thing for me.  I have had many amazing opportunities to learn, explore, and see things I have never seen before while having to live alone in a city setting.  It’s taken a lot to live on my own, away from my family and friends in Illinois, but I’ve had a blast out here.  Again, to whoever reading this, go to Wartburg West and you will not be disappointed with your experience in Denver, Colorado.

Megan Petersohn (a very happy participatant of Wartburg West)