Tag: Des Moines

Sabrina Uddin–Engaged Citizen Corps Member

Hello, my name is Sabrina Uddin and I am a first year student at Drake University from the Chicago area. As a member of the Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC), I am an intern at IMPACT Community Action Partnership. The nonprofit organization has several offices throughout central Iowa, but the Drake Neighborhood office in particular is home to both the leadership team and an outreach office that services the community. Though I work primarily with the Director of Community Engagement, I am often able to collaborate with other members of the leadership team and staff in the outreach office. IMPACT runs two major programs from its outreach office: a food pantry and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The food pantry is utilized by an array of households throughout the community for varying amounts of time. LIHEAP financially aids households by assisting in payments for utilities bills.

Typically, I make the five-minute walk to the office from Drake twice a week and spend between eight and ten hours completing a variety of tasks. Through interning at IMPACT I have gained unprecedented skills and experiences because I am able to interact with many different aspects of the association. When I first began interning, I focused on two entirely different projects: organizing staff t-shirt orders and an audit of the food pantry. This was a good introduction to working at IMPACT because I familiarized myself with the staff, volunteers, schedule, and locations of food recovery and other IMPACT offices. Since those first few weeks in September, my projects have expanded to include answering phone calls and scheduling appointments for LIHEAP clients and organizing open-ended responses from a community survey. On a daily basis I make copies of flyers, expertly use the paper cutter, and enter information into spreadsheets.

Occasionally I engage in direct service by assisting in the food pantry. I work with volunteers to lead clients through the food pantry. My internship is focused largely around behind-the-scenes tasks that help the nonprofit run smoothly, however I always appreciate being able to interact with the people IMPACT helps. Regardless of whatever task is at hand, I know that as a member of the Drake Neighborhood and Engaged Citizen Corps, I am ultimately contributing to IMPACT’s overall mission of working to eliminate poverty by addressing the needs of the community.

Drake University’s campus is rather like a bubble. It is easy for a busy college student to become wrapped up solely in academics and extracurricular activities, forgetting about the community around the campus. However, it is important for students to remain cognizant of the fact that they are certainly part of this community. Since we live in the area during the school year, I believe it is important that students engage with the community in some way, whether that entails venturing off campus to support local businesses or simply saying hello to another person at the bus stop. As students at Drake University, we are undeniably connected to this community. I know that if I had not ventured out of my comfort zone and applied for the ECC, I would not feel nearly as connected with the Drake Neighborhood as I do currently.

Through this internship, I am afforded the opportunity to converse with and learn about community members and this has allowed me to develop a substantial understanding of the Drake Neighborhood. Since I am aware of the challenges and successes of the community, along with other students who are engaged in the community, I feel as though I better understand where improvements can be made and what we, as Drake University students, can do in order to help make a positive difference. Furthermore, by working in what some might call “the real world” I have been able to observe and experience situations that have sharpened my critical thinking skills and my ability to work with people. I know that after I am no longer a member of ECC, I will carry these lessons with me. When I am home, in the suburbs of Chicago, I now have knowledge that will allow me to optimally help my community. Regardless of where I end up in the future, I want to be sure that I can contribute positively to the overall wellness of my community.

Just Sustainabilities J-Term Course

As part of their learning about environmental sustainability, social equity, and urban planning, students in the Just Sustainabilities J-Term course explored advocacy for alternative transportation in downtown Des Moines. Although it was one of the coldest days of the winter, we bravely ventured into the streets and bus stations to explore how community leaders are working to make the city more friendly to people who cannot or choose not to rely on private cars to move around.

We first stopped in a conference room at the law firm of Faegre Baker Daniels, on the 33rd floor of Des Moines tallest skyscraper. There, we met with firm partner and Drake law alumnus Larry James, as well as with Jeremy Lewis, the director of the Des Moines Bike Collective. Larry and Jeremy told us about their work on the Connect Downtown plan, which is an urban planning document that identifies key ways to increase the walkability and bikeability of the downtown area. They described the research that went into developing the plan, but just as importantly, they also told us about the political processes involved in building support for the plan on the Des Moines City Council and in the downtown business community. After a question and answer period, we made sure to check out the views of the city from above and to take plenty of pictures!

From there, we walked ten blocks into the East Village to look at the East Grand bike lane demonstration project. As a first step towards making the Connect Downtown plan into reality, the city of Des Moines has built protected bike lanes on both sides of East Grand. While ordinary bike lanes are only marked with paint, the city has installed reflective posts to increase bike safety. In addition, it has created spaces for parallel parking between the bike lane and the street. As one planner put it, normally, bike lanes are designed so that bikers protect the parked cars from traffic. The East Grand design flips this arrangement, so that parked cars protect the bikers. It’s simple, but adds a lot to bikers’ feeling of safety!

After lunch at Zombie Burger and conversation about what we had seen and heard, we took the DART bus to our last stop of the day: the DART downtown central station on Cherry Street. There, we met with DART’s public affairs officer, Amanda Wanke, and members of DART’s planning staff. We learned about the bus utility’s goals of expanding its services, which are described in DART’s Forward 2035 comprehensive plan. In addition to describing innovative ideas like “transportation hubs” – which combine bus stops, bike-share stations, and car rentals – and driverless busses, the DART staff explained that they are required by law to ensure that DART’s services are equitable and nondiscriminatory.

This trip not only revealed new information about the city of Des Moines, it also helped to move the class forward towards completing independent research projects about organizations that are working to advance sustainability and equity. Discoveries from this research appear on the public class website at www.justsustainabilitydesmoines.wordpress.com. Check them out!


Written by: Michael Haedicke