Page 2 of 7

Girl Scouts are more than cookies and crafts

By Kaylee Trego, Engaged Citizen Corps Member

Learning the Craft

My name is Kaylee and I am a first-year student at Drake University. When looking at colleges, one of the reasons Drake stuck out to me is because of their Engaged Citizens Corps, or the ECC, a scholarship program that accepts ten first year students. Each of the students are assigned to a non-profit organization to intern at. My organization is the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa. They have impacted me in ways that I never expected. I have done a complete 180 in my major, switching from Public Relations to Elementary Education, and I have learned more about developing programs than I ever thought I would need to know.

Changing The Future

Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa, or GSGI, is based in Des Moines, Iowa and in Sioux City, Iowa. I work in the Des Moines office. One of my favorite parts of working with GSGI is staff-led troop meetings. I have had the opportunity to work with four troops over the course of the last semester and a half, and each one teaches me more than the one before.

Changing My Future

What I have learned most from my experience in the Engaged Citizens Corps is that I have a passion for teaching. Through Girl Scouts I have been able to develop lessons and put them to action in troop meetings. This is part of what inspired me to pursue Education over Public Relations, But, my own internship site has not been the only influence on my major change. Part of our scholarship requirements is that we must volunteer at another ECC members site. One of my classmates is interning at Junior Achievement and needed to recruit volunteers to teach a 5-lesson program in a classroom. I volunteered to take a program for first graders, and I was a little nervous because I had never had to teach a lesson by myself. But, working with the students I learned that it wasn’t just something I could do, it was something I enjoyed. This completely changed my outlook on my career and showed me that I still had room to grow and learn.

Getting Involved

The Engaged Citizens Corps has provided me with an incredible amount of opportunities. Through Girl Scouts I had been able to attend day trips to the Iowa capitol building with the girls. I also was fortunate enough to attend the Governors Luncheon for Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. This is the only event that the Iowa Councils do together and one of the only events that the organizations do together all across the country. Experiencing this was incredible, especially in a time where tensions between Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are fairly high. Since Boy Scouts announced they would be accepting girls there has been an undeniable tension between the two organizations. However, in this event they came together to discuss all of the positive effects that scouting has on Iowa. It was amazing to experience alongside my coworkers.

It’s Been Great

I can’t express how grateful I am to have been accepted into the program. There are not enough words to describe how positively it has shaped my first year in college. Some of my closest friends have even been found through the program. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to work alongside the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa and Drake University. If given the opportunity to go back and do my first year again, I would absolutely participate in this program again.

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)!

Professor Chinatsu Sazawa engages Japanese 140 students in the community

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

Continue reading

Ruby Van Meter’s Homecoming Carnival

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

Continue reading

An Interview with Dr. Anisa Fornoff

Dr. Anisa Fornoff is an Associate Professor of Pharmacy at Drake University. She is also a faculty fellow with the Office of Community Engaged Learning & Service, and enjoys working with people in the Des Moines area with disabilities.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Reggie’s Sleepout

Sleep Under the Stars so Kids Can Reach Them.

Continue reading

The Power and Impact of Mentoring

By Russell White

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” -Jack Welch, chairman and CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001.

My name is Russell White and I graduated from Drake in May of 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and International Relations. I currently serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Iowa Mentoring Partnership (IMP) at Volunteer Iowa. My work is related either to capacity building and sustainability for mentoring programs, or I am engaging in outreach via social media, email and phone. I am tasked with helping give technical assistance to mentoring programs and helping them create the structure their programs need to be successful in serving Iowa’s youth. Often, I get the pleasure of listening to personal stories from mentors, mentees and parents/guardians about the amazing impact mentoring has on their lives. Nothing is more fulfilling than knowing that you are helping to improve the lives of children across an entire state; knowing that you truly are making a difference it people’s lives. But, I didn’t end up at the IMP randomly, it was quite deliberate. For you see, I am passionate about youth development and mentoring. Why? Well, I myself am a mentor. I mentor a young boy named Aiden who attends Monroe Elementary School, which is not that far from Drake University’s campus.

I began mentoring Aiden in the fall semester of 2017 of my senior year at Drake. At the time, Kerry King of Fraternity and Sorority Life (FSL) put together a new service opportunity between Drake FSL and Monroe Elementary’s afterschool program. When I first heard of this opportunity I was excited by it, mostly because I enjoy volunteering with kids; it is honestly a blast. The Spring before, a group of FSL students attended Monroe Elementary for several hours and spent time with the kids. We read them books, talked with them and even played a few games with them. Needless to say, it was perhaps one of the best ways to volunteer. So, upon hearing about this new opportunity to spend time at Monroe Elementary once a week for an hour with their afterschool program it seemed like a no-brainer! A handful of other Drake students and I signed on to be volunteers in the fall of 2017.

Upon my first visit to Monroe I was taken outside with the kids to the playground. That is when I met Yolanda Shields, the director of the afterschool program, and, as I would learn, a terrific individual to be around. After meeting her and explaining I was a Drake student here to volunteer, she quickly referred me to a student of hers that was writing a book and needed help. Since I was a college student, both her and the student thought I could lend a little bit of help. That student was Aiden. Our first day together Aiden and I sat at the base of the jungle gym and spent the entire time working on his story. At first, this might seem only like a cute activity that he and I did together on our first day. However, prior to sitting down with Aiden I was informed that Aiden has ADHD. So, sitting down for a long period of time and focusing on one particular thing doesn’t exactly come naturally to him. At the same time, he sometimes gets so hyperactive that he bounces off the walls in his classroom and causes both disruption and trouble. Sitting down with Aiden, it became clear to me that he was not at all a bad kid. He is similar to most kids his age: has a hard time with sharing, loves to play video games, has a silly sense of humor and just loves to play around. He and I hit it off on my first visit to Monroe and I had informally become his mentor.

I would go back to see Aiden most weeks; I did my best to try every week, but sometimes I could only do every other week. But every time I would walk through the door and he saw me a big smile would grow on his face. Those moments always felt rewarding. He and I would almost do the same thing whenever I came to visit him. We would go out into the hallway, sit down on the floor, I pull out my phone and we begin to watch video game clips on YouTube. At the time, Aiden’s video game obsession was a 2D dungeon/adventure/mining scroller called Terraria. Luckily, I knew of the game prior to him showing me and that excited him that I knew what he was talking about. He and I began to bond over video games and we would show each other videos and just watch them every time I visited. But, I would also get him to play some board games with me, like Candyland, Battleship and even Chess. Surprisingly a 10-year-old kid likes to play Chess.

At the same time though, I would talk with Aiden about how things are at home. How school and class was going. Just anything that was going on in his life, and he would open up more and more to me with every visit. I would also try to work with him on how he interacts with other students; teaching him to be more kind and more willing to share with his classmates. By the end of my senior year, I could already see a difference in his behavior. To see and witness the change in him was such a rewarding feeling. But, my time with Aiden also had an affect on me. It made me more responsible and considerate of others. Whenever you’re a mentor, you have to be reliable and consistent with your mentee. That consistency and reliability translated to other aspects of my life. It also just made me happier, to be honest. Being around Aiden and simply playing games, watching video games and hanging out had a real positive impact on my own mental health. It also inspired me to keep mentoring and to help spread the culture of mentoring. Because of my time with Aiden, I have become passionate about the mentoring field which is a considerable reason for why I chose to serve with the Iowa Mentoring Partnership. I still mentor Aiden to this day. In fact, I intend to see him tomorrow after work and bring in his favorite snack: Takis.

People underestimate the power and impact of mentoring. The impact of a mentoring relationship doesn’t just affect the mentee, but it affects the mentor and the parents/guardians too! In a mentoring relationship, you are helping your mentee realize THEIR potential, while the mentee is helping you realize YOUR OWN potential and worth as well. You build each other up and it is a beautiful dynamic to be a part of. You become a friend, a big brother/sister, a role model. You’re just there for them. It is as simple as that. Someone they can count on and know that no matter what, they (you) will be there. It is one of the most rewarding feelings you could ever receive in life. All the while, I only spent one hour a week with him. That is only four hours a month. Think about all of the hours you spend in a month doing practically nothing. So, let me ask you this: What will you do with your four hours? Nothing? Or change a kid’s life for the better?

« Older posts Newer posts »