Monday, December 3, 2012

Abrahamic Initiative at St John’s Episcopal Cathedral: Explore a 200-year old Torah- Claudia Villarreal

Thanks to the Abrahamic Initiative, I had the opportunity to be part of a big moment in history. I was able to see two sister Czech scrolls get together: Torah #600 and #1118. These Torahs (Hebrew Scriptures) have a number because during World War II, some Nazis decided to store them and put a tag to numerate them. This experience was amazing because I saw how Jews are moved when they see a Torah; through their eyes you can see the love and the connection to these sacred ancient scriptures. These scrolls survived war, holocaust, they are what links the Jews back to their ancestors that suffered so much, and also link them to their ancestor’s teachings. The hours of this event have impacted my life. I felt the energy when I touched the wood on the scrolls. Even more, I understood why Jews are so peaceful after so much pain, because these scrolls gave so much peace to the soul and spirit.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

A post from Natasha Willey

I think I spent a good 4 or 5 hours perusing all of the art at a visit to the Denver Art Museum. It was so cool! My favorite floor was the Asian Exhibit where they had a section completely about Buddhism. I am studying Buddhism a little more closely in my Religion class, so I really enjoyed being able to see art from that religion. Some of the art was hundreds of years old, so it was incredible to see it right in front of me. I talked to one of the museum curators and we discussed a little bit about Buddhism and some of the art. I really hope to return to the museum before I leave for the semester.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Buddhist Meditation Interfaith Service- Malindi Van Sant

On November 11th, I attended a meditation service at St. Paul Methodist Church here in Denver. After having some herbal teas, we were lead in meditation by a student from the local ILIFF School of theology. It was a very relaxing experience. Afterwards, there was a discussion about the concept of interfaith. My idea of ‘interfaith’ is best expressed through the metaphor, “There are many paths up the same mountain”. (I first read this metaphor in the Hinduism chapter of a book we are reading in religion class- “The world’s religions” by Huston Smith). The student leading the discussion expressed his disproval of that idea by explaining that it can potentially lead to us projecting our views onto others. He explained that in his own view of interfaith, we aren’t necessarily all moving towards the same goal. One woman in the group thanked the student for sharing this obscure idea of interfaith with the group, because she felt the same way. She explained that she felt her own deep Christian faith allows her to better understand other faiths and see all people as members of her own community. This experience has certainly broadened my understanding of the word ‘interfaith’. I am fascinated by the idea of interfaith communities. I am interested in potentially starting an interfaith group back on campus—somewhere that people from different faith traditions can learn about one another in a safe environment. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Methodist Church Service- Jeremy Carper

 On Sunday October 6th, I attended a Methodist church service at Shorter African Methodists Episcopal Church. It was a longer service that lasted for about three hours, which gave me a new idea on what it really meant to praise Jesus.  There was standing up, hand gestures, and everyone spoke their mind when the preacher was talking. These outward expressions of faith are new to me personally since I come from a more reserved background that is Lutheran.  The few hundred congregants that attended the service really made the place fill up with a great atmosphere. This was a very new and eye opening experience that I was able to achieve because of the interesting topic of world religions for one of our classes at Wartburg West.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Natasha Willey reports on her experience of going to the Buddhist Cloud Monastery

Overall Experience: The experience has been my favorite so far. The monks were very kind and when they gifted us with the Buddhist prayer beads I was grateful to receive such a meaningful gift. There was such a peace there in the space that I really felt. 
Personal Growth: Seeing people so engaged in Buddhism as monks really made me see how much I like the ideals and beliefs of Buddhism. It is so peaceful and a very thoughtful religion/philosophy. I think visiting made me realize how much little things we do affect everyone all around us. The visit made me reflect on myself and decide to try to live with a little more meaning than I have been.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Immigrant Rights- Bethany Fristad

In class we have been talking about immigrant rights and with the time of the election, the right to vote is a very heavy subject. As I was walking down the streets I was having conversation with different people at their doorstep about the next steps for them to vote. While I was walking from house to house as a Get Out The Vote volunteer, I would meet random people on the sidewalk and strike up conversation. One particular man really moved me. As we began talking I asked him if he was planning on voting. He shook his head and said no. I asked him why he wouldn't be voting, as it was an important duty as a citizen. His response was quiet, but he said, "I can't." I didn't push further than that knowing that he looked as if he might have come from Mexico. I believe that man was not allowed to vote because he was an immigrant. Today as a class we visited a church that is involved with protection undocumented workers. Two 21 year old girls talked about their journey to America when they were only one year old girls, and the struggles that they face today not being documented. They expressed how important it was for us to vote. Alot of times we don't take our right to vote seriously. It is a right that not to long ago, people would die for. It's a privilege that should be taken seriously. 
I talked with an older lady on the street yesterday that said she was not voting because "it's in the Lord's hands. Whoever he wants to be the President, will be." While this is true, voting is an honor for me, and I will appreciate this right for as long as I live.

Bethany Fristad 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Immigration Reform Rally- Malindi Van Sant

On the evening of November 5th, I attended an immigration reform rally and vigil to protest detention of immigrants for profit as well as recent deaths at the hands of Border Patrol. We started out the evening standing at a busy intersection in front of the nearby ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) detention center. We held signs saying things like ‘Honk for immigration reform” and “I am a human too”. After this, we put up the signs and walked together towards the front of the detention center as a leader read out names and stories of people whose lives were robbed by the border patrol. One young boy was shot and killed after allegedly throwing rocks. We then came to the front of the detention center and the leader laid out a blanket to make an altar. We placed our candles on this, and people laid down other objects- such as water and flowers to honor these people. Because Dia de los Muertas (Day of the Dead as well as All Saints Day) was in the past week, we wrote down the names of loved ones that have passed away in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the makeshift altar. After saying their names, everyone called out ‘Presente’—which meant that although our dead loved ones were not here with us physically, they were here with us in spirit. This was a very moving experience for me. We are learning in class about immigration policies, and this was a great opportunity to put my education into action. 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Denver Art Museum- Bethany Fristad

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Denver Art Museum and it was an awesome experience. In our classes this semester I've always wrote in my journal reflections about how impressed I am with how much Character the city of Denver has. Since being here I've loved the youthful and classy vibe that Denver provides, and after visiting the Denver Art Museum the Character was completely evident once again. It was big and beautiful and filled with so much rich history that filled the essence of the place. The history that Denver has is incredible, and its been a cool experience to learn about all that Denver has been through. It was really neat to finally see the way art was able to portray all that it has been through. Some of the paintings and pieces of art were so complex with so much detail, that it captivated your attention for hours. I'm not the most "artsy" person ever, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the museum and how much appreciation I had for the artwork. 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Check out the Modern Art Museum... For free!

On Saturday October 5th I went to the Modern Art Museum with a few other students from Wartburg West.  We observed different paintings and exhibits at the museum when we walked through the two different buildings.  Some paintings were simple with little detail, while others were large and took many minuets to take everything in that the painter had incorporated when they made their masterpiece. This was a great experience that shows the rich diversity and history of Denver. Denver is an amazing city that wants their citizens to take advantage of the opportunities that the city has to offer.  That is why the first Saturday of every month, the city makes it free for anyone to come and look at the art in their museum. We took advantage of this opportunity, and continue to look for other great opportunities that Denver has to offer.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


“Listen. Talk. Work it Out.” October is Conflict Resolution Month in Colorado. Mary E. Zinn, the President of Zinn Mediation Associates, organized a dialogue about the American Dream at the Regis University. Her mission is to find peaceful alternatives towards conflict amongst our community.

I have never attended a dialogue before and so I did not know what to expect, would I be in a situation where I may feel uncomfortable in a different environment and also I didn’t intend on creating conflict with a person I did not know. All this was a waste of time thinking about because I am so fortunate I had the opportunity to be here. In total there were about 80 people who attended this dialogue and when we entered we were split into groups of 8, and then towards the end of the dialogue we formed into larger groups so that we could conclude our thoughts.

 I believe that the American dream is about freedom and opportunity and this is what I felt at the dialogue. We had freedom of speech freedom to share our opinions and the opportunity to present it to an audience who was so welcoming, and encouraged ideas we had. Although they were not agreeing with all the ideas projected, there was respect for sharing ideas. They listened and respected what each member of the group had to share. I truly felt that I was really fortunate attending this dialogue because I walked away with future contacts who can make my dream of service come true and also people who appreciate all that you do in this world and that in order to create an impact, you need to start with just one person. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Taize Worship Service – Nicole Hanson

The Taize worship service is a service that began in France, with participants seeking silence, prayer and music.  It is a service for reflection and thoughts.  I went to this service at St. Paul Lutheran Church with a group of other Wartburg West students and several members of the Urban Servant Corps.  We actually had a dinner with all of us, and then when the USC told us about the Taize worship service, several of us decided to join them.  It was a wonderful experience.  They “hymns” were more chant style, with only two phrases repeated until the words began to sink into us.  The prayers were call and response or silent.  The readings were read in French, German, and English, which lent itself to a whole community feel very nicely.  A number of the songs were also sung in French, German, and Latin, with the English translation written, and sometimes sung as well.  I think the most moving part of the service was the instrumental break after the readings.  Worshipers could choose to pray where they were, or light a candle in front of the cross and pray there.  This lasted for only ten minutes or so, but it was highly moving, and I think we should incorporate more time for silent reflection into our worships on a regular basis.  With the world so fast paced, we often don’t have time to pray quietly, or if we do, we do all the talking.  In a deliberate setting like that, it was easier to get everything off my chest, and then have an opportunity to just let God be, without needing to say anything. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Urban Servant Corps Dinner- Michael McFarlane

On September 26th, we all had supper with the Urban Servant Corps.  They are a group of people who have graduated from college and chose to spend a year living together and volunteering at various community service organizations around Denver.  We were informed that some of them would be leaving early to attend a Christian worship service known as the spirit of Taize.  It is a service held once a month at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Denver.  I attended the service with a few of the Urban Servant Corps people and a handful of Wartburg students. 

It was a silent service that used music and prayer to worship.  Visitors were asked to enter and exit in complete silence to allow people to reflect and pray.  I really enjoyed the service, and actually got more out of it than listening to a pastor preach for an hour.  It was a small group of people who were all there because they wanted a different kind of worship service that revolved around more reflection than hearing the scripture.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Denver Art Museum- Holly Hejlik

On one of its free days, a few of my friends and I went to the Denver Art Museum.  We spent around three or four hours there, and it was completely worth it.  It was a lot different from the general museum that you think of with a lot of paintings you stare at and ask, “How does that make you feel?”  Instead, it had numerous works of art from cultures all around the world.  Each floor had a different area in the world that it symbolized and the art of the cultures in that area.  

One floor of the museum where we were supposed to spend a lot of time involved Native American art which I find to be pretty extraordinary.  It involved many baskets, blankets, pottery, jewelry, clothing, etc.  What I really find intriguing about Native American art is the fact that they actually used it.  It wasn't just something that was there to look pretty.  They put a lot of care into constructing each piece from the resources they had around them, and then they would use the pieces for practical reasons.  They are extremely resourceful people, and I feel like they used art to help make everything even more beautiful.  Every item had a sort of mysticism developed around it in order to aid in telling a story about nature and their lives. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Denver Art Museum- Nicole Mittelstadt

            The Denver Art Museum was having a free day, so several of us went to see what it was like.  The building is huge! There are floors and floors of different exhibits from different cultures and different eras.  The display of Native American artifacts was especially interesting.  It was cool that some of the pieces looked familiar to me after going to the Southern Ute Cultural Center and Museum.  Many of the artifacts were religiously oriented.  They were used in ceremonies, dances, or rituals.  Everything the Native Americans made had a purpose.  Nothing just sat around for decoration.  Each item was used for something.  They didn’t waste or throw away anything.  Their reverence toward nature was inspiring.  It was obvious that they took the time and energy to make things perfect and beautiful.  The intricate details on everything from pots to clothing shows that the Native Americans truly cared about what they were doing and that they were doing it well.  There were many colors and symbols that represent different supernatural beings, seasons, and other aspects of nature.  Most tribes did not have a written language, so they communicated through drawings and symbols.  It’s hard to imagine living that way.  Today it’s difficult to find anything that is handmade or created from natural products.  It doesn’t seem like we want to take the time or money to make high quality items.  It is just simpler for us to take the easy way out, but this typically ends up with poor quality items and tons of waste.  I think we can all learn a lot from Native American artifacts.  We show much more respect towards nature and our God if we take the time and energy to live with purpose and make the effort regardless of cost.  

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tesoro Cultural Center- Nicole Mittelstadt

            We went to the Tesoro Cultural Center as a class for IS 201.  The whole place was really neat.  There were several little shops, booths, and even a tipi.  A couple of my roommates got their faces painted with designs Native American women would have worn in that time period.  The artifacts in the tipi were very interesting.  It’s so hard for me to imagine only living off the land and having to use animal parts and other natural objects for everything from clothing to tools.  On the other side of the fort there were several booths set up.  Each one was selling a different type of art or jewelry.  Their pieces were so original! I had never seen anything similar to any of them.  The Spanish style is so unique and colorful.  Most of the pieces were a tad pricey for my college student budget, but if I had the money I would have bought several items.  One of my favorite parts of the trip was watching the flamenco dancing.  The guitar and percussion instruments had to maintain a complex rhythmic beat while keeping up with the pace of the dancer.  Her beautiful costume was an authentic flamenco dress with a bright pink design on the skirt.  Her feet seem to be moving a mile a minute.  She must have to practice very frequently to stay in such great shape.  We also listened to a real cowboy talk about his experiences with being on the range and dealing with the other cowboys.  He had told some pretty fun stories.  We even got a picture with him.  While browsing around the authentic clothing, a couple of us had a conversation with the man who handmade everything he was selling.  He said that he has been making his living creating these items for 45 years.  He definitely knew what he was doing.  He also told us how long it took him to make some of the pieces.  Some simple pieces took only a day, whereas other more complicated pieces could take up to eight days to finish.  That’s a lot of work, but it was obvious that he loved what he did.  Overall, I think we had a wonderful time being immersed in this vibrant culture.  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Another Semester in the Books- Sarah Kraayenbrink

Another Semester in the Books!

It’s hard to believe that I only have five more days left of student teaching.  The epitome of my college career is coming to an end, and I look ahead to the future and the joys of being a teacher.   Looking back, time has gone really fast.  Four months ago I was moving to Denver feeling anxious about what lay ahead for the semester.  Now, however, I feel well-prepared and excited for my career as an elementary teacher.   

My name is Sarah Kraayenbrink, and I am from Sioux Center, Iowa.  I didn’t know that I wanted to become an elementary teacher until the end of my sophomore year of college.  Needless to say, I had a lot of catching up to do in order to complete my schooling in just four years.  After having field experience in numerous schools around the Waverly area, I knew that I wanted to experience teaching in an urban setting in order to prepare myself for any kind of teaching job that I might consider in the future.

My experience in two different inner city schools has opened my eyes to the diversity of students.  I started in third grade at Cowell Elementary.  About 90-95% of the students at the school are Hispanic, and I gained a lot of insight and experience working with English Language Learners (ELL).  The school that I am currently working at is Ellis Elementary.  I am in kindergarten, and there are students from Libya, Russia, Albania, Thailand and Mexico.  Nineteen of the twenty-seven students in my class are ELL, and I have enjoyed learning about their home countries and the languages that they speak.  The students have taught me as much as I hope to have taught them, and I have an even deeper appreciation for the diversity around me.

Besides student teaching, I have enjoyed exploring Denver.  A few places that I visited during my time here were the Denver Art Museum, Botanical Gardens, Denver Zoo, a Nuggets game, Balistreri Vineyards, Hammond’s Candy Factoryand and so much more.  I am going to miss Denver and the students that I have been working with a lot, but I am excited to come back in the near future to visit and to enjoy the beauty of this city and the mountains again!

Sarah Kraayenbrink 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Time to say goodbye, winter 2012.

We are sad to say goodbye to another great group of Wartburg students.  Good luck, we will miss you!  To view more pictures from this semester head over to!

Greetings from Ellis Elementary- Matt Brunsvold

Greetings from Ellis Elementary School in Denver,

My name is Matt Brunsvold and I am from Apple Valley, Minnesota. I decided to do my student teaching out here in Denver for two main reasons: just for the change of scenery and to get experience teaching in an urban school environment. I had been completing field experiences at Wartburg in mainly private schools and a couple in neighboring rural public districts. I am originally from a suburban area and wanted to see the entire spectrum by living downtown in an urban area. Wartburg West is about as downtown Denver as one could get. Taking the bus north for ten minutes or around 14 blocks and it will drop you off right at the state capitol.

The school that I am placed at is named Ellis Elementary. I have had two placements in my time here at Ellis; the first being a 5th grade reading classroom and the second a 3rd grade math classroom. I spent seven weeks at my first placement in 5th grade where I was exposed to the diversity Ellis had to offer. Saying that Ellis is a wonderfully diverse school would almost be an understatement. In the school there are around 25 different native languages spoken by the students and the school right now has about a 68% ELL population, which I’m told is lower than in past years. Students that are identified as ELL are English Language Learners who are learning to speak English on top of the school’s curriculum. On top of the diversity of the school, there is the glaring issue of poverty. 93% of the students receive a free/reduced price lunch which is how the school’s poverty level is determined.

On top of all my teaching experiences, there are so many other things to be doing here. I was so excited that I got a chance to see the group Atmosphere perform at the first ever winter concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. The weather was freezing but the snow set against the mountain scenery made it all worth it. Other things I have been able to do include seeing 2 plays at the Denver Performing Arts Complex, going to Rocky Mountain National park and hiking around a frozen lake at 9,500 feet elevation, seeing the Denver Botanical Gardens, and go to a Denver Nuggets game. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hello from Nicole Felton!

Hi Everyone,

As I write this most of the interns and social work students are packing and preparing for the trip back to the Midwest.  The student teachers have a couple more weeks before they come back to Wartburg.  I cannot believe it is time to say goodbye to Denver.
I have spent the semester doing my senior social work field practicum at the Bridge Project.  Bridge is an afterschool program and community outreach program that serves children living in public housing.  I work in the South Lincoln public housing section of Denver, which serves students age 3-18.  Bridge works to increase the graduation rate among low-income children in order to help reduce the cycle of poverty.
Every day I teach classes to help students progress in literacy skills, assist in teaching social, emotional, and behavioral skills, and provide family support.  I also help with getting the kids snack, doing homework, and being a resource to about 100 kids per day.  I work one-on-one with children who need a person to talk to and I help children work through emotional problems.  My time at the Bridge Project has increased my enjoyment of working with children and I plan to continue my work in this area after graduation.
My time in Denver has been busy.  I have been to the symphony, the Denver Zoo, the ballet Peter Pan, a Colorado Avalanche game, Red Rocks Amphitheater, The Taming of the Shrew, and the Celestial Seasonings Tea Factory.  I have spent time exploring downtown and experiencing several new restaurants.  The time I have spent in Denver has allowed me to embrace all the urban setting has to offer.  Coming from a small town, I struggled to understand how so many people could live in a small space, but after living here for a few months I see they do not live on top of each other.  The people actually work together to make the urban lifestyle vivacious and engaging.  My time in Denver has been an amazing chance to practice social work and indulge in living in the city.

Nicole Felton

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hello, Hola, Aloha, Hallo, Olá- Marcela Correa

I am a junior engineering science major from Colombia. I have always been interested in diversity and cultures. The US has always been portrait as a diverse place and it is commonly known as “the melting pot.” My Wartburg West experience has certainly helped me to understand and experience the diversity in this country. My first exposure to diversity was my first night in Denver when I order my food in Spanish in a restaurant just a block away from the apartment building. In my placement, at the University of Colorado, a lady greeted me in Spanish without even asking me if I was from a Spanish speaking country. In a city like Denver is easier to experience diversity and to see how different cultures come together in one place. In my way to work I take a street that is called Colfax Avenue. From downtown Denver to the University of Colorado medical campus you can see how as you keep going east, the different cultures are uncovered. As you get away from downtown, a few blocks are full of African restaurants, then a little bit further, you can see some Asian restaurants, and if you keep going east you will encounter a big portion of the road full of Hispanic stores and restaurants.

 I have definitely enjoyed the large Hispanic community in Denver. I have been able to find places and products that remind me of home. For instance, there is a place where every Saturday they have Salsa night. It is incredible to go to this place and see all the people dancing. It is truly a Latin environment and an example of how cultures can get this far.

Although Denver hosts a lot of international cultures, it also has examples of different places within the States. A couple of weeks ago I went to a place called Luciles. It was a completely different experience. I felt like being in the south. This restaurant is characterized for its food which depicts New Orleans and the south. I was with some friends from Iowa and they mentioned that some of the food that they had was not common in their region. One of them was amazed that we could experience the south by only going to a restaurant.

I have been in Denver for 3 months and I can clearly say that I still have so much to experience. I have had a lot of different experiences with diversity, but there are so much more things in this city that I would like to live. It has been a really good semester and it has certainly opened my eyes to the large diversity of the US. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Denver Celebrates St. Patrick's Day!

Denver Celebrates St. Patrick’s Day!
By Kimberly Morische
            We have now been in the Mile High City for almost three full months, and our cultural experiences have widened in terms of theater, art, sports, food, and even public transportation.  We have experienced that vast interests of the city’s many inhabitants.  However, during a bright Saturday morning on March 17th, the city came together for one celebration – St. Patrick’s Day.  Nelson and Bonita notified our group in advance that a parade would take place going down Blake and 17th streets, and many of us attended it. 
            I watched the parade with some other Wartburg West students, and it was so much fun to see the energy that was present.  Hundreds of people crowded along the sidewalks, wore green clothing, and cheered as various groups of people proudly sported their Irish heritage in the parade.  My favorite group was a studio of young Irish performers.  We eagerly tried to look over the heads of the many people standing in front of us, wishing for a glimpse of the group of female dancers.  Donned in red-haired wigs and green sparkly dresses, I saw the group dance to a jig as the bagpipers and drummers behind it played with all the bravo they could muster.
            After the parade, people quickly flooded the downtown area surrounding 16th street in hopes of getting a seat in an Irish pub.  We walked as fast as we could to the Tilted Kilt, a very popular restaurant, but unfortunately a line outside the door covered nearly a third of the block.  We did make it to another restaurant called Katie Mullen’s.  They had a festive green tent sent up outside and a Irish band playing onstage.  Spending St. Patrick’s Day in Denver was a wonderful experience that both allowed me to celebrate my small bit of Irish heritage as well as the culture of the city.
            I have very much enjoyed my time spent in Denver.  I am student-teaching in both Spanish and English classrooms.  My first placement was teaching Spanish at Abraham Lincoln High School, and I am now teaching English at Scott Carpenter Middle School.  I love how language is viewed as a precious source of knowledge here in the city.  Because there are so many cultures, nationalities, and languages represented here, I have enjoyed teaching both Spanish and English.  I can see that, overall, my students understand the power of language in society.

Best wishes,
Kimberly Morische

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Greetings from Denver from Kibnesh Herano!

Greetings from Denver

My name is Kibnesh Herano. I’m a fourth year student majoring in Social Work. Wartburg West has been an exciting experience!  I love the weather, the diverse population, and almost everything except the noise of the ambulances and fire trucks.  They wake me up once in a while.
My placement is at Lutheran Family Services (LFS). LFS is a resettlement agency that provides service to refugees, Asylees, victim of human trafficking, and secondary migrants. Refugees are people that have fled their country due to a “well-founded fear of persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, or membership in a particular social or political group”

One word to describe my agency is diverse. LFS has served people from over 40 countries. The largest arriving population groups are from Bhutan, Burma, and Iraq. Some of the service the agency provides include, housing assistance, case management, employment search assistance, legal and immigration advice.  At LFS I work as the case management, which means advocating and supporting refugees as they navigate the new systems in the U.S.

I work eight hours a day except Thursdays so most of the time am exhausted during the week but when I have time I enjoy going out to eat and visiting different places.  One exciting thing about Wartburg West is the different activities we were able to choose to do with Wartburg West Alumni. I was able to go for an afternoon tea at the Brown Palace, which is a luxurious hotel in downtown Denver. An interesting fact I learnt about the Brown Palace was that it hosted every U.S. president since Teddy Roosevelt, with the exception of Calvin Coolidge. Also I will be having a tour of the Celestial Seasonings factory next weekend with other students and two alumni. 

Over all Denver is great and I am not missing Waverly yet! 

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Warm Wishes from Denver- Kayley Law

Warm Wishes from Denver!

Hi, my name is Kayley Law.  I am a senior Social Work major at Wartburg College with an Intercultural Studies minor.  Wartburg has so many great experiences to offer; Wartburg West is one of many excellent opportunities to expand your education to other areas of the world.

I have always loved traveling so coming to Wartburg West came by me honestly.  The Wartburg West students have been out here for about 10 weeks so far.  In those 10 weeks I have had so many great opportunities in Colorado.  Most of my time in Denver is spent at my internship site.  I work at Colorado Coalition for the Homeless (CCH).  CCH is the largest agency in the state assisting the homeless.  CCH’s efforts to provide comprehensive services to their clients set CCH apart from other housing assistance agencies. 

CCH is a housing first model, meaning they believe in obtaining housing for clients before working on anything else.  Studies have shown with stable housing drug usage drops by 15% without any other inventions.  For this reason, CCH aims to help all homeless individuals in Colorado regardless of age, race, religion, legal standing, immigrant status, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical health state, or marital status.  Some agencies simply are too small or lack the funding to be able to help certain clients.  Because of how large CCH is (over 500 employees and 20 different programs), it is very rare for clients to be turned away or denied services at the Coalition, exceptions being extreme violent behavior towards staff.

CCH is proud to fund and employ the Stout Street Clinic.  The Stout Street Clinic is a full service clinic providing care to any and all homeless or at-risk individuals.  Primary care, pediatric care, eye care, dental services, psychiatric care, and substance abuse treatment are all available at the clinic.  In addition, CCH provides case management and therapy to clients who have recently obtained housing to help transition from life on the street to life with stable housing. 

At CCH, I work with families that have recently acquired permanent housing as a case manager.  I help connect clients with local resources to meet the client’s goals.  Some of the tasks I do weekly include: transporting clients to food banks, having direct contact with clients to work on goals the clients have set, and working with local resources to continue positive connections.  In addition, I hold a children’s after-school group on Mondays called Marvelous Mondays!  At Marvelous Mondays all children are welcome to participate in supervised crafts, games, and cooking projects.  This group helps to build a sense of community among the clients and increases communication skills. 

While I am not at my placement I have been able to get out and explore the wonderful city of Denver!  Denver has so much to offer on many accounts.  There are tons of great restaurants, shops and outdoor activities to participate in.  I have tried to experience as much of Denver as I can.  Thus far I have been able to go dog sledding, tour the Celestial Seasonings factory, have High Tea at the Brown Palace, see a couple shows at the Denver Center for Performing Arts, and attend the Symphony!  I haven’t had a chance to go skiing yet, but I will be sure to do that at least once before leaving. 

I have immensely enjoyed my time at Wartburg West.  I am very thankful I had the opportunity to come out to Colorado and experience the multitude of things it has to offer.  I hope everyone is doing well in Iowa!  We are sending warm wishes from Denver!  See you in April!

Kayley Law

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Colorful Colorado-Kaylee Benning

Colorful Colorado - Kaylee Benning
I'm a junior at Wartburg. I'm majoring in Fitness Management with a minor in Psychology and Leadership Certificate. Through deciding on my major, I have developed a deep interest in nutrition/dietetics and the combination of exercise in people's lives. I'm also very interested in the psychological side of nutrition and understanding why/how people develop the eating behaviors that they do and their comprehension of nutrition as an important component of healthy living. After Wartburg, I plan on getting my degree in dietetics and becoming a registered dietitian. In the meantime, I'm taking in a lot of varied and great experiences here in Denver to broaden my education and experience in the health and nutrition field. My internship is at the Downtown YMCA where I have started a nutrition and healthy eating class to target members and build an interest level in nutrition programming at the Y. This includes providing healthy eating information, nutrition advice and tips, recipes, and samples. I'm also learning a lot about the business side of the fitness industry which is quite different in a large organization like the YMCA in a big city such as Denver compared to my experience and exposure working at the W the last 3 years. In addition, I work with a nutritionist from the Community Programs Branch of the YMCA teaching nutrition classes in several schools throughout Denver ranging from second grade to high school. It has been a great experience so far and has really allowed me several opportunities to learn and implement nutrition in a variety of settings and to many different audiences.
Aside from my internship, my general learning continues to expand every week through the engaging classes we are taking here in Denver. I never thought I could so easily get involved and learn about social issues, politics, and various groups in such a short amount of time! With the help of Nelson and Bonita, I have been exposed to and able to participate in various organizations addressing issues of my own personal interests but also other topics that I would probably never take time to learn about otherwise. For my Community Engagement Project, I am volunteering my time and learning about a well-known food pantry here in Denver, Metro CareRing. This pantry receives all their food as donations from the largest and healthiest grocery stores in Denver. It is truly amazing the amount of fresh produce, whole grain items, and much more healthy food that people of Denver can get from the pantry to feed their families. This addresses the issue of food justice, especially in large cities where poverty is quite prevalent. It's really opened my eyes to the social issues surrounding us that we often don't consider in our everyday lives. I also have had the opportunity to follow a piece of Colorado legislation as a part of our Faith and Politics in America class. Continuing my theme of nutrition interest, I am following a bill about the regulation and registration standards of dietitians in Colorado. This has been yet another interesting and informative experience!
Even though we are very involved and busy with our internships and classes here in Denver, we do find time to take in the sights and all that the beautiful state of Colorado has to offer. My greatest experience thus far has been my first skiing attempt, and I'm happy to say that it was quite successful! I love having the mountains and snow within sight at all times while being able to enjoy the warm sunny, "running outside in shorts" weather several days a week. I also think I've become much more cultured being here with so many entertainment opportunities. I've been to the Denver Center of Performing Arts for a couple of great shows. I could go on and on about all the unique and new experiences that I have taken in while out here! Most importantly, I am proud of my own adjustments to the big city life, public transportation system, and eclectic personalities of the population here. Growing up in Waverly, Ia and then attending college at Wartburg, this is my first real experience away from home, and more than anything it has been a positive learning experience about myself. I miss my friends and family back home, but I know that these short few months here in Denver are teaching me life lessons that I would not get in the Midwest in the comfort of my hometown. I am so thankful and happy that I took advantage of this Wartburg West opportunity and am taking in all that it has to offer!
Take care in Iowa =)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Hi from Incredible Denver! -Katy Wendt

Hi from incredible Denver!  

My name is Katy Wendt.  I’m a fourth year student majoring in Psychology with minors in English Literature and Spanish.  I began as an exploring student at Wartburg and over the years found my niche by creating a unique curricular blend.  During my sophomore year, I decided to pursue a legal degree so I began shaping my undergraduate experiences accordingly.  I had an internship at the Department of Justice in Rock Island where I learned about criminal law and legal proceedings in general, but I wished for something more in-depth.  Fortunately, Nelson and Bonita found a perfect placement site for me in Denver: Justice and Mercy Legal Aid Clinic (JAMLAC).  JAMLAC provides free legal advice and representation to indigent individuals in the Denver metro area.  A small staff of four attorneys, two paralegals, one victim advocate, and one administrative assistant manage 50 active cases each week!  JAMLAC assists low-income people in resolving an array of legal issues pertaining to immigration, bankruptcy, divorce, child custody, domestic abuse, landlord difficulties, and more.  The employees at JAMLAC exemplify true servitude and compassion, giving freely of their energy and resources to bring justice to marginalized clients.  They are also extremely encouraging and informative in respect to my learning experience this semester.  From understanding legislative acts to interacting with clients, they have taught me so much already this semester!  During my time at JAMLAC, I have accompanied our lawyers to court, translated victim statements, completed U-Visa certification requests to District and City Attorneys, filed petitions for divorce and allocation of parental responsibilities, and much more!
I have learned a lot through my classes at Wartburg West, too.  The city is definitely our laboratory!  I have explored a variety of urban issues through community events: the Martin Luther King, Jr. Marade, the Point in Time survey, the Downstream Neighbor Water Symposium, the play Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner, the Transition Colorado Food Summit, and more!  I also recently attended a committee hearing at the Colorado state capitol concerning a House Bill which would allow at-risk youth and high school dropouts to earn a GED at community colleges rather than taking developmentally inappropriate courses at high schools.  For my Community Engagement Project, I am volunteering at Habitat for Humanity and learning about the affordable housing crisis in Denver.  I have my first house build this week and I am very excited for it!  Through these experiential learning endeavors, I have gained insight into many aspects of urban life not seen in Waverly or my hometown of Bettendorf, Iowa.
The entertainment in Colorado has also been amazing!  The last two weekends, I went snowshoeing and cross country skiing at Brainard Lake, a beautiful state park with winding paths through the woods and gorgeous views of the mountains.  I went to a country concert at the Pepsi Center with Brad Paisley, the Band Perry, and Scotty McCreery and received the surprise of my life when Tim Tebow appeared on stage!  I toured the Coors Brewery, the largest single site brewery in the United States.  I visited Leadville, the highest city in the continental United States and tried – and failed at – downhill skiing at Ski Cooper.  I toured Balistreri Vineyards and tasted wine made exclusively from grapes grown in Colorado.  And after living 21 years without seeing a live hockey game, I watched two: University of Denver vs. Colorado College and Chicago Blackhawks vs. Denver Avalanche!  The opportunities for fun in Colorado are endless, and I can’t wait to see what my next adventure here will entail!
For me, the most difficult part of spending the semester in Denver has been living so far away from my family and friends in the Midwest.  Residing 800 miles from Bettendorf, I don’t have the reassurance of being able to hop in the car and make it home in a hurry if an emergency occurs or I just need a weekend away.  Fortunately, I have communicated with my loved ones back in the Midwest through phone calls, emails, and Skype calls so it diminishes the distance somewhat.  I was also very blessed to have four of my closest friends visit me in Denver already!  Adjusting to city life has been slightly challenging, also, especially learning how to navigate the public transportation system and how to plan ahead to avoid potentially dangerous situations.  My worst experience was getting my car towed from the street.  I forgot to move it after I went to the NHL game and woke up to the horrible realization that it had been towed!  I also got my coat stolen from a bar downtown so learning life lessons in the city has been both demoralizing and expensive for me thus far!  But overall, my time in Denver has been unlike anything I have experienced in the past and even better than I could have hoped for.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have taken advantage of this opportunity, and I encourage everyone to come see Colorado for themselves!

Hope all is well back at Wartburg!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hello from Colorado- Holly Huser

Hello from beautiful Colorado!  My name is Holly Huser.  I am a 3rd year Business Administration major with a Management concentration and Psychology and Leadership Certificate minors.  I hope to work in the Human Resources area after college.  My interest in both business and psychology has sort of molded me to this direction over the past few years.  I have always enjoyed working with people and being the motivator in group situations to keep everything working smoothly and everyone working together and I hope that's the type of role I can play in HR someday.  My internship is at a non-profit organization called Mercy Housing in the HR department.  They are the largest affordable housing provider in the nation and their headquarters are here in downtown Denver in a beautiful high-rise building.  I have had such a great experience there so far this semester.  My supervisors are great and providing me with awesome learning opportunities that are so beneficial.  I am currently working on a project analyzing benefit participation in recent years that will be presented to the company's executive board to hopefully change and update their current benefits program, which I am really excited about!  Otherwise I work on smaller projects here and there and am being exposed to all areas of HR so I can get a feel for what specific area I will want to work in the future.

The classes some of us take with Nelson and Bonita are so interesting and engaging.  We have been shown so many different areas and taken part in different activities that many people who actually live here haven't taken part in or don't even know about.  Nelson and Bonita have so many connections with people and organizations to show us all of these interesting aspects about Denver and city life and how important it is to be involved.  I've just started my community engagement project with an organization that develops affordable housing (different from my internship) where I will volunteer hours with them and learn more about the organization and everything they do.  We also are all following a piece of legislation and getting involved with different political organizations through the rest of the semester.  Our classes really get us involved and give us experiences we wouldn't get back home, that's for sure!

Adjusting to city life in Denver after living in Waverly, Iowa my whole life was quite difficult at first but that is why I wanted to come out here in the first place.  I just absolutely love Colorado!  I don't think I would want to live in a city the size of Denver permanently, but being in this program has taught me many life skills that will be very important after college when I'm truly living on my own.  Learning the public transportation system alone felt like such an accomplishment! I will never take the luxury of having a car for granted again once I'm back home.  It's also opened my eyes to so many opportunities that a city holds not only for work or recreational activities, but to really get involved and give back and I have learned how truly easy that can be.

I will say that one of the highlights of my time out here so far was seeing Tim Tebow this past Monday!! I have to go to physical therapy once a week from my ACL reconstruction surgery I had in October.  The place I go to is very nice and there are many popular athletes that go there for therapy and personal training, but I have never recognized anybody yet.  Then, I was just going about my usual exercises and overheard someone point out that Tim was there with a personal trainer! I ended up doing some of my exercises literally 10 feet away from him! Unfortunately, I didn't have the chance to talk to him or say hi at all because he was busy working with his trainer and I decided it wouldn't be appropriate to interrupt since nobody else was.  Trust me, I have heard from everyone that that was "the biggest mistake of my life" and that I'll "never get the opportunity again" but truly just being at the same place as he was was a big enough deal for me!

Every now and then I miss home and the more peaceful sense of little Waverly and the Wartburg bubble, but this experience keeps us so busy and entertained that it's flying by already and I know I'll be back soon!  I can't wait to see what the rest of my time here brings but based on everything so far, I know it's going to be great!

Hope all is well J