Author: Erin Opar

Making an IMPACT My First Year at Drake

Written by Amber Guzzo

Hello! My name is Amber Guzzo and I am a first-year student in the Engaged Citizen Corps. Along with about every other student here at Drake, my schedule is packed from morning to night taking classes I love and partaking in activities I’m passionate about.  Every week is a little different here on campus and therefore I am never bored. I am so glad I made the decision to come to Drake and to be a member in the Engaged Citizen Corps.

However, if you were to flashback to a year ago, I did not have the same amount of enthusiasm about coming to Drake, or for any school for that matter. I had applied to nine great schools, and I was stuck trying to decide the perfect fit for me. That was when I started doing research on all of the schools I had gotten into., and trying to narrow down what would be the right fit for me. I was very intrigued when I stumbled across the Engaged Citizen Corps program here at Drake. I have to admit, as cool as the program sounded, I was also nervous of the time commitment. In the end, I ended up applying with only a few hours left before the due date, and looking back, I am so glad I made the decision to do so. 

After I had been accepted into the program, it was definitely one of the main factors that drew me to Drake. The fact that I was able to land an internship with a nonprofit my first year, and have the opportunity to explore Des Moines was such an amazing opportunity. I have grown so much personally this year, and I am so thankful for this program for helping with that growth. Not only that, but I also met some of the most genuine and kind people. I will walk away with some of my closest friends here at Drake. 

Here are just a couple examples of the activities I have done through the engaged Citizen Corps in my first semester:

  • Civic Action Academy – Schools from all across Iowa and Minnesota came to Drake to learn how to be better civic leaders and it was a great learning opportunity.
  • Poverty simulation – One of my favorite experiences from my first semester. It was such an eye-opening experience of what it is like to deal with poverty. 
  • Bridging the Gap – This was an awesome experience where we as a group went to a town meeting to discuss better ways the City of Des Moines could build relations among different groups.

In our First Year Seminar class, “Toxic Charity,” I was able to discuss some of the most important factors of serving others, especially those affected by poverty. I learned the importance of dignity, and how not all service is beneficial. My preconceived idea of serving the poor was challenged through this class which then aided me at my internship. We also had the opportunity to have guest speakers come to our class to discuss vital topics to serving others as well as being a good civil servant. Some of these topics included:

  • Equity and Inclusion
  • Privilege (and how we need to realize our own privilege to be able to use it to help underrepresented groups.)
  • Mental and physical disabilities

Now one of the most important parts of the Engaged Citizen Corps is my internship! I am so blessed to be placed at such a wonderful internship. I intern at IMPACT Community Partnership in Des Moines. The staff there has been extremely welcoming and kind, and I have enjoyed working there so much.

 At IMPACT, we run a very busy food pantry, provide emergency services, disaster relief, and run the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LiHeap) program for our region. LiHeap is a program to help families in the winter keep their heating bills down and their heat on during the winter. We work with local vendors to make sure if they are behind on a payment, that they still are able to use their heat until it is warm enough. We also provide a credit to their account, so their bills are more affordable. Weatherizing homes is another service we provide to a select amount of homes in need every year. 

I have done a various number of tasks at IMPACT, but my biggest project is the newsletter that I put together every month. We send out this newsletter to local vendors we work with along with other local nonprofits to raise awareness about the programs we provide. I have loved creating our newsletter because I have been able to work on my marketing skills, while also learning about our various programs and learning more about our staff. This semester I will be working on a housing task force that our nonprofit has put together to work on housing issues in the Des Moines area.

Head, Heart, Health, and Hands Healthy: Adventures of Polk County 4-H

Written by Taylor Bahr

My name is Taylor Bahr, and I am one of 10 members of Drake’s Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC) program. Through the Engaged Citizen Corps I’ve had the opportunity to participate in service-learning related coursework as well as partner with ISU Extension and Outreach in the Polk County 4-H department for an internship as a first-year student! Through this program, I’ve developed a passion for healthy charity and have become a leader within and outside of the Drake community.

Polk County 4-H is part of the state of Iowa’s 4-H program whose mission is to “empower youth to reach their full potential through youth-adult partnerships and researched-based experiences” (Polk County 4-H). The 4-H program hopes to further student’s skills in areas such as leadership and communication through several delivery modes including camps, clubs, and after-school programs. Throughout my time spent at Polk County 4-H this past semester, I’ve specifically been able to research and develop new lessons for the after-school program. At first this skill was very foreign to me, but I quickly learned how to design a program that would excite students as well align with the 4-H mission and program priority areas.

With Polk County 4-H I have also had the incredible opportunity to work directly with students on a weekly basis at an elementary school close to campus. Here, I work closely with around 20 students in two different 4-H clubs: Monroe 4-H and Monroe Cloverkids. These groups are divided by age, and each week I partner with the after-school program and lead different lessons focused around a variety of overarching themes, including STEM, Healthy Living, Communication & the Arts, and Leadership & Civic Engagement. This is when many of the lessons I design become useful to me. While some weeks I use pre-written programs, I often create new programs based upon student’s interests.

One of my favorite programs that I have done with the students thus far is creating chemo bags for patients at John Stoddard Cancer Center, a local Des Moines treatment center. Drawing on many of the concepts I’d learned in class about toxic charity, the Monroe 4-H club was able to give back to their community by also learning about the importance of kindness and giving back in their lives and others around them. By contacting John Stoddard to gain an understanding of their needs and directing that information into the creation of the program I was able to benefit both the 4-H club and those who received our chemo bags.

However, my role within Polk County 4-H isn’t confined to just this after-school program. With the help of my site supervisor, and lots of research, I’m currently in the process of creating a Drake Collegiate 4-H Club. This experience has been very exciting to me as I’ve gotten to connect with students on campus who are 4-H alums. This project also offers me the opportunity to make a lasting impact not only within Polk County 4-H, but also within the Drake community.

Overall, the Engaged Citizen Corps program has impacted my life in more ways than words can describe. I know Emily last week tried not to sound too cheesy when she mentioned the impact of the program on her life, but I’m already WAY past cheesy. 🙂

When I applied to the Engaged Citizen Corps program, got accepted into the program, and even up until I went to my internship site for the first time, I never had a full understanding of the program as a whole. While I knew I’d be focusing my time around the idea of service, I didn’t know I’d get placed in a site where I get the privilege to get to know 20 students on a weekly basis. While I knew that I’d be taking an FYS (First-year seminar) about Toxic Charity, I didn’t know that it would create a passion within myself. I didn’t know that a short semester later I would look at charitable giving, poverty, and the world in general in such a different way. While I knew that I would spend a great amount of time with fellow ECC members, I didn’t know they would become some of my closest friends on campus. While I knew that the Engaged Citizen Corps program was a great opportunity as a first-year student, I didn’t know that it would bring me closer to my campus, closer to the Drake Neighborhood, and create opportunities to develop myself as a person and student leader.

As I look back upon my experiences in the ECC program thus far, I’ve come to realize that this program hasn’t just taught me; it’s shaped me into a better person. Being cognizant of the community around me and striving to educate others on issues pertaining to charity and poverty is something I will continue to build upon past just this year. Knowing that my experience is only a little over halfway through, I’m excited to see where my Engaged Citizen Corps experience continues to take me.

Loving My HOME (inc.)

By Emily Hanna

Hello! My name is Emily Hanna and I am an enthusiastic member of the Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC) here at Drake University. As a part of the Engaged Citizen Corps I get to take service-learning specific classes and have an internship as a first-year college student! (And write this amazing blog post!)

The organization I am working for is HOME, Inc., or Home Opportunities Made Easy Incorporated. HOME, Inc. is focused around three main topics: revitalizing Des Moines neighborhoods, creating opportunities for quality affordable housing, and retaining housing through education and counseling. All in all, they help make sure people have homes, and are able to stay in them.

One of my jobs at HOME, Inc. is to create content for social media accounts. As a novice graphic designer, it is thrilling to be able to create posts and see how they look on Facebook. I created an Instagram page to attract a younger population to our resources and make sure we are consistently posting on social media. Coming this Spring, we are revamping the 15-year-old website. My job is to look through the data and make sure that all the information can be found online in a simple and effective way. 

The saying of being an intern can be true when it comes to my job once in awhile. No, I have not gone on any coffee runs yet, but I have spent a good amount of time with the copier. I find myself creating a lot of packets for our RentWise program- a series of classes for the community to learn how to be a responsible and wise renter- and building folders full of information for our new homeowners. 

As a part of my job, I get to spread the message of our mission: revitalizing, creating opportunities, educating, and counseling, and that is amazing. I have learned so much about landlord and tenant rights and responsibilities, something I would have not thought about. I have been able to rewrite brochures that help people know their legal rights through the Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which has been an experience that has opened my eyes to struggles that people face. 

A fun part of the job I was able to experience was attending a task force meeting. A variety of representatives from different nonprofits in Des Moines came together to tackle the problems released prisoners face when they re-enter society. There are multiple difficulties former convicts face, mainly employment, education, and housing. After listening to many professionals speak, I gained the sense of how vital and important housing is. Through this meeting and the work I have done at HOME, Inc. I have learned that housing is vital to a successful life. Without housing what does one have? This is a question that continues to bounce around my head as I take my law classes, and when I took an ECC course talking about dignity. 

The entire Engaged Citizen Corps program has been a blast. I would say life-changing, inspirational, eye-opening, or motivating, but they sound too cheesy. I’d say if you could google positive adjectives, every single one would be a word I would describe ECC. What I learned in my First Year Seminar (FYS) class was the definition of service-learning. Not just the google definition, because you don’t need a class to learn that. But the concept and real-life practice of service-learning. 

As a class, we would read a chapter of a book, discuss it, practice it, and then reflect on it. That, that long process is what I call service-learning. I find it so fascinating that I can go through that process to not only help others, but to make myself a better person. 

Because of this program I am a better person. And it is not just because I am now an expert copy maker, or that I accumulated 130 followers on the HOME, Inc. Instagram. But, it is because I understand what service-learning is, how to treat people with dignity, how important housing is, and how to think on both sides of an issue. 

I am so thankful for this program, for HOME Inc., and for you, who made it to the end of this blog,

Best wishes,

Emily Hanna

P.S. I would not be doing my job right if I did not publicize HOME, Inc. (Facebook and Instagram @homeincdsm)!

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Chinatsu Sazawa is an Associate Professor of Japanese at Drake University and enjoys using service as a way to bridge American and Japanese cultures.

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Creating a carnival for the students of Ruby Van Meter with the help of the Office of Community Engaged Learning.

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An Interview with Dr. Anisa Fornoff

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An Interview with Professor Carlyn Crowe

Carlyn Crowe is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Journalism and the Internship Coordinator for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC) at Drake University. She is a Faculty Fellow of our office, and enjoys engaging her students in meaningful and thoughtful service around the Des Moines community.

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Reggie’s Sleepout

Sleep Under the Stars so Kids Can Reach Them.

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