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!

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