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)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Livin' in the Fast Lane - Kayla Holbach

Being a small town Iowa girl making the move to Denver, Colorado has been an incredible adjustment. Living in Denver is noisier, brighter, and I just can’t seem to take a breath of fresh air. However, the change has been very beneficial to me. I have been introduced to new things and situations both voluntarily and involuntarily, some for the better, some for the worse. One of my experiences that has been for the better is my internship at Metro State University.
As an intern at Metro State University, I have been working in the athletic department. I have been introduced to many different tasks, both working directly with the athletics and all the things that go on behind the scenes. A couple projects I have been working on directly is setting up halftime activities, promotional marketing, and scheduling the events. I have put together multiple games for fans to play to help increase audience participation at both soccer and volleyball events. So far, all the games I have put together have been a success with both sports. In the upcoming weeks, I will be getting involved with more of the games and working at the different events. Helping with set-up, working during the game, and organizing the halftime events are all tasks I will be dealing with.

Although Denver is not home, I have been able to make the adjustment fairly easy. It was easy to get to know the area and what you are able to accomplish within walking distance. One of the hardest things to get used to was having to pick up groceries and run errands by only walking.  However, I am pretty used to it now and walking 3 or more miles a day is a normal thing for me.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Exceeding Expectations - Marcela Fitzpatrick

Marcela is one of four students from Augustana/Rock Island participating in the Wartburg West program this fall. 

It’s been four weeks, and Denver has already exceeded all of my expectations. During my short time here I’ve gotten to explore downtown, shop to my heart’s content, and eat just about anything you could imagine. It’s great that Colorado is so diverse; I really enjoy the fact that I can enjoy a night on the town, and go hiking in the mountains all in the same day. Being in Denver has influenced me to try things I don’t think I would’ve otherwise had the opportunity to do if  I’d stayed on campus. I went white water rafting on the Arkansas River in Leadville (just 2 hours outside of Denver), through some pretty intense rapids with 3 of my friends for the first time. It was definitely one for the books and I would strongly encourage anyone to try it if they have the opportunity. I also went tubing down Clear Creek in Golden, just thirty minutes outside of Denver. Like I said, there are an infinite number of things to do in Denver, and if you find yourself bored, you’re doing something wrong.

Besides all of the extraordinary experiences I’ve had, most of my greatest memories happen at work. My placement is at the UC-Denver Anschutz Medical Campus. I’m a Neuroscience/Biology major interested in pursuing clinical research. I was placed in the Pharmacology/Toxicology Department, in the Freed laboratory. This lab’s research is focused on Parkinson’s Disease (PD), the second most prevalent neurodegenerative disease in the world, next to Alzheimer’s. I love coming in everyday to learn new techniques and procedures in the lab, not only because I’m gaining valuable experience for my future but also because I get to aide Dr. Freed and his extraordinary staff in helping find a cause for PD. I can’t wait to see what the next 7 weeks have in store for me, I can’t imagine things getting much better than they are now, but I’m up for the challenge. And like many of the previous bloggers have mentioned I wouldn’t for a second regret my decision to apply to the Wartburg West program. It’s truly a once in a lifetime experience that I feel will positively impact my future. I advise any student that is wondering what its like to live in a big city while also gaining valuable internship experience for yourself to consider applying for Wartburg West.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Life from a Different Perspective - Kellie Solberg

            Denver has been such a blessing to all of us participating in Wartburg West.  Living in the big city has definitely been interesting, to say the least, and we have enjoyed the grand beauty of the Rocky Mountains during our weekend retreat to Leadville.  It’s been a lot to take in, especially for those of us from small, Midwestern towns.  Everything seems to be bigger, faster, and more chaotic than back home.  However, I want to focus on a much smaller and highly overlooked area – the microscopic world. 
I have the wonderful opportunity intern in both the horticulture and research departments at the Denver Botanic Gardens this semester, which has been awesome thus far!  Recently, I was helping out one of the full time researchers at my internship with separating some aquatic plant samples.  The sample included two stinky Ziplock bags of mostly Duckweed collected from a pond in Adams County.  At first glance, all I saw was a bag full of tiny Duckweed plants.  As I leaned in closer to see what the researcher was having me sort out, I saw tiny green specks – that was the flower of interest and what I had to separate from the rest of the pond sample.  Wolffia is the world’s smallest flower, and I was looking right at it, even though I could barely see it with my naked eye.
I was set up with the highest quality microscope I have ever used, and through that lens was easily able to locate the small, spherical Wolffia from the larger, flat, Duckweed.  Looking through a microscope for seven hours tends to make your eyes feel like they’re “bugging out,” but it was absolutely worth it.  Why?  Because I saw things I wouldn’t normally see without the microscope.  I have never been quite able to appreciate a Platyhelminthes flatworm so much before that day, despite those previous freshman biology lab experiments using the same specimen!  The way it moved through its tiny, watery world was fascinating.  Another creature I enjoyed observing was a small snail sliding along small sticks and Duckweed stems as I silently invaded his private world.  That snail moved with such grace!  And I’m pretty sure he or she smiled at one point, which was beautiful!  I also saw a plethora of aphids, mostly on top of the water, but some were sunken because they had died.  From the naked eye, they looked like tiny moving dots, but under the microscope they had definition and some even had some creative designs on their backs!  Finally, I saw a bunch of speedy Daphnia moving about the microcosm, which also made my day because I thought they, too, were adorable!  Although I was being as careful as I could be and was only removing the Wolffia for research purposes, I can’t help but think how the other invertebrates felt when they sensed an intruder tearing apart the ecosystem they thrived in.

Moving from a town of less than 3,000 people to a city of more than half a million is a kind of a culture shock and I think it can be easy to get caught up in the rush of the city life.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and I’ve had wonderful experiences living in the big city, but sometimes it’s nice to zoom in and focus on the smaller picture.  Looking at life from a different perspective is something we don’t often do, but if we do, it is truly something beautiful.  I hope we can see the beauty in everything we do out here this semester!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Jumping right in - Ellie Oberheu

I am Ellie Oberheu, a third year, religion major at Wartburg. I wanted to come out to Denver, CO because I wanted a different feel of jobs other than the Midwest style. I jumped right in with Rev. Diana Flahive. Diana is the CHUM (Capital Hill United Ministries) Community Minister. She is one of the founders and the director of WHI (Women’s Homelessness Initiative), which shelters twenty women each night at different churches in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Denver. There are 20 congregations involved with WHI and 14 open their doors, taking responsibility for different nights of the week. Through their volunteers, each site offers sanctuary, hospitality, a good meal, and a safe place to sleep. The women are brought to the church from the St. Francis Center. The SFC is a day shelter for people who are homeless. I am working with Diana to help serve the communities and programs of both CHUM and WHI. I have already connected with many of the community leaders and they are all great! I recently attended an annual CHUM picnic for the summer. It was good to hear about what all the other CHUM organizations were doing in Denver. I am already getting a good vibe from the Denver community. I cannot wait to see what else Denver has in store for the semester.