Author: Renee Sedlacek (Page 1 of 3)

Students gain practical skills while supporting community in Internal Auditing course

ISCPA Audit Team: John Nicholson, Elizabeth Cokel, Michelle Thompson, Neal Usry and Rachel Schaefer

Masters students in Jaime Grandstaff’s internal auditing class were able to apply what they were learning in the classroom this spring by meeting real community needs. Half of the class partnered with Youth Emergency Services & Shelter of Iowa (YESS) to review employee expense reimbursements, and the other half worked with the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants (ISCPA) to review cash receipts. The students worked closely with staff at the organizations throughout the semester and then provided final reports on April 17.

In addition to the projects, panels of subject matter experts from businesses across the area came to class, and some classes were also held at Principal Financial Group and Wells Fargo. Together, these experiences provided opportunities for networking, real-world experience, and job and career options. To read more about the outcomes of this class and hear from those involved, check out

“With this being a new course and a new community engagement project, I had a lot to learn about how to set it up,” said Grandstaff. “The Community Engaged Learning team helped me through the process with what forms needed to be completed and who I needed to talk to with all aspects of the project.”

There are many benefits of incorporating a community engaged learning component into a course. For more information, resources, or to explore community partners, visit or contact the Director of Community Engaged Learning at

A Community Thrives

My name is Bri Dressel and I have been interning at the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC), specifically working with direct food assistance. My recent work has been exciting because I have been given the freedom to make DMARC’s video grant application for the A Community Thrives grant of up to $100,000! This video took a lot of time and energy but I am happy with the way that it turned out. Applying under the “Wellness” category, my video needs to get one of the top number of votes to move to the next round. Though there are many submissions and my video may not win, this is a good opportunity for DMARC’s cause to gain publicity. Here is the link to vote for my video ( , voting is open until May 12th and everyone can vote once daily! The footage shows a little bit of what Des Moines is like and the Drake Area Food Pantry, which is one of DMARC’s 13 pantries. DMARC has 12 pantries and 1 mobile food pantry. I had the pleasure earlier in the year participating, helping, interviewing, and photographing “A Day in the Life of the Mobile Food Pantry.” Later the photos I took and the story I wrote from my interview with one of the pantry visitors, Ida, was featured on the cover of DMARC’s newsletter. Working at DMARC has provided me with a lot of opportunities to get a better grip on what food assistance means—a perspective shift for sure.

Small but Mighty Nonprofits

My name is Jamie Lamb and I am a first year student at Drake University in the college of Arts and Sciences. Through the Engaged Citizen Corps (ECC), I am currently an intern with Rebuilding Together Greater Des Moines. Rebuilding Together helps with home repairs for low income, senior citizen homeowners. This includes anything from simple around-the-house tasks, to installing wheelchair ramps or grab bars to make a home more accessible to family members with wheelchairs.

Although Rebuilding Together is a large organization with offices in about 135 cities nationwide, the office that I work in is small. When I began my time with Rebuilding Together, the office included three other women other than myself. This included the executive director and two other part-time workers. Towards the middle of my first semester in the office, one of these ladies left our team, leaving only three of us left. Just recently, this number decreased again when the other part-time worker also left her position. This left the executive director and myself the only two people left in the office.

This organization has a lot going on all the time, this time of year probably being one of the busiest. Between planning single work days and National Rebuilding Day, which is May 5th and 6th, there wasn’t a lot of time for the extra work that needed completion. There was about a week and a half/two week period in which every day spent at the office consisted of running around and trying to do four tasks at one time. Kimberly and I had to manage phone calls, filing, planning and managing all upcoming work days. As the weather gets nicer, more time is spent outside of the office, but in order to do so, it requires a lot of planning.

One day in particular that was more chaotic than expected, was a Friday, which is the longest day I have in the office. This Friday began with the normal checking of messages, but instead of the usual three or four messages, there were fifteen messages that I needed to listen to, take notes on, go through with Kimberly and call back. This task took about an hour to complete if not more. I barely had the chance to finish just listening to the messages when a couple of homeowners walked through the door requesting an application. It was my job to go through the application with them because they had difficulties reading and writing and we wanted to make sure we received all of the information that we need.

Going through our tedious application was a difficult task, however getting the chance to learn about this particular couple is something that I took special interest in. They were very kind, not married, but living together. The woman told me about her eight children, and how one of them had a mental disability. Hearing their story was one of the first times that I was able to experience the type of families we help first-hand. This time, I was not told their story through someone in the office and I did not have to read about their story in one of our newsletters; they told me their story directly. As we filled out the application together, I truly felt as though the work I do in the office makes a difference out in the community, even if my job isn’t always the most exciting in the office.

After the application was complete and all questions were answered, they shook my hands and continuously extended their gratitude. It was easy to see how genuine they were and how much they appreciated our help.

If organizations such as ours didn’t exist. It would be difficult for low-income homeowners- such as the ones I helped that day- to complete the required repairs needed to keep their home safe. Over time, houses break down and wear down and become unsafe for families to live in. Should the homeowner not make enough money to make these repairs, they will leave it alone until the house is no longer safe to live in. Rebuilding Together bridges that gap and provides those services for repairs to be made, and for them to be done well.

The Rebuilding Together Greater Des Moines office is small, but that doesn’t take away from the impact that it has on the Des Moines area. This particular experience, combined with the rest of my time with this organization, has taught me so much about the behind the scenes of a small nonprofit. It’s impossible to spend one hundred percent of the time doing hands on service work- the office is where it all happens. Sometimes it becomes hard to remember that it’s not always going to be the exciting hands on service work. There is a lot of planning and preparation that goes into each project. Which makes the work done in the office just as important as the hands on work that is completed during work days.

Lessons in Difference and Activism

By Adam Resnick

In April, the Engaged Citizen Corps went on a field trip to the most important building in Iowa: the Iowa State Capitol. During the meeting, we met with the state representative for the Drake area, Mr. Ako Abdul-Samad. Abdul-Samad is in his fifth term in the Iowa House of Representatives and has tirelessly fought for progressive values and social justice in his time in office. Through his background as a Black Panther and civil rights activist, Abdul-Samad learned the values and methods to enact powerful change and to resist the status quo. Over time, he grew to fight injustice through elected roles and ran in his first election in 2004 when he became a school board member for Des Moines Public schools. Abdul-Samad is also the founder and CEO of Creative Visions, a non-profit in Des Moines that works to build communities and hope. During our meeting, he discussed his background and the challenges he has overcome to rise to the position that he currently holds. Abdul-Samad also spoke to us about the necessity of honesty when dealing with those different from yourself and the importance of knowing your own identity when trying to enact change.

In examining the lessons from Mr. Abdul-Samad, the first thing that stood out to me was his message: “If you allow people to put you into a box, you allow them to define you.” Through this message, Abdul-Samad meant that people are not simple. By allowing others to give you a label, they are trying to reduce you to an abstraction that they can make generalizations about. These clichés are often hurtful or inaccurate and can lead to unfair judgments about your character or actions. Relating this message to current events, as a former Black Panther and a Muslim, Mr. Abdul-Samad is an easy target for those that like to bring identity politics into daily life. In our current political climate, many politicians and citizens make vast generalizations about huge groups of people in order to win support. These statements, such as “Mexicans are rapists” or “Muslims are terrorists” reduce entire swaths of unique individuals into faceless stereotypes. It is easy to target groups because inevitably, individuals have preconceived (and sometimes racist) views about those groups. Modern politicians can capitalize on these views and baseless fear to drive people to the polls. Abdul-Samad urged us to “respect every one’s beliefs” while also recognizing our own biases. Abdul-Samad said that it is ridiculous to say that “we don’t see color” because human beings were built to see race and that is a part of our process of cognition. To ignore this essential factor of our humanity will lead to lying to ourselves, a dangerous choice that undermines the ability of individuals to have honest conversations. These honest conversations between individuals with differing views are what Abdul-Samad said are crucial to mitigating hate and working to solve issues in a way that promotes unity instead of further division.

From Mr. Abdul-Samad, I learned valuable lessons in humility. It is necessary to have the humility to accept not only the positive facets of one’s outlook, but also the negative biases that we each inevitably possess. I learned that understanding our own identities allows us to open up to those that we see as our “enemies” or those that have viewpoints contrastive to our own, in whole new ways. With an understanding of our own identity, we can honestly discuss how the actions of another party makes us feel, our concerns, and our shared aspirations. When these honest conversations occur, we find it much easier to make substantive and positive change occur than when we blindly target “cardboard cutouts” of generalized groups of other people. In all our conversation with Mr. Abdul-Samad, I learned valuable lessons in difference and activism, inspiring my own ability to make change in my community.

The Ugly Truth About Community Service

By Kylie Hunter

Hello, my name is Kylie Hunter and over the course of the past year, I’ve discovered some ugly truths about community service. I encourage you to read this with an open mind – for when I first discovered these truths, it was hard for me to comprehend. It’s extremely difficult to hear that your “great work”, might not be so great after all. These truths are not meant to hurt your feelings, rather I bring them up, with the hope and intention to end the cycle of inadequate community service.

Before we discuss these ugly truths, here is a little background information on myself. I’m currently approaching the end of my first year at Drake University. Over the course of the past year, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to participate in the Engaged Citizen Corps – a program dedicated to service-learning. Through this program, I was offered an internship at Habitat for Humanity; here, I was able to examine the direct effects of community service. On campus, I’m also involved in Residence Life and a member of a business fraternity, this is where I had the opportunity to serve as the VP of Community Service. This position gave me the ability to test out some of the ugly truths in community service.

The main point of this blog is not to say that all community service is bad, in fact there are many forms of community service that are thriving. Instead, this blog is being written to inform oblivious, but well-meaning volunteers. So that these volunteers become well-informed and more aware of their impact.

Too often, our good intentions are used as excuses to avoid the task of truly examining the impact of our actions. Not examining this impact simply because we had “good intentions” is one ugly truth. When we don’t take the time to evaluate the impact of our service, we are not helping anyone. Unfortunately, this occurs far too often on both college and high school campuses, mainly because often times these institutions create a community service environment, in which service becomes just another “to-do”. Those hours may look great on resumes – but out of all those hours, how many do you think were actually impactful? Reflecting on my past volunteering experiences, with the knowledge I have now, I’m sad to say that many of my hours weren’t as impactful, as I would have liked to think they were. Of course, I had great intentions but since I never checked the impact my work, I was blind to the reality of my service. This occurs frequently in the world of community service. A real-life example occurs at an animal shelter, we go to this shelter and decide that our time would be best spent playing with the puppies and kittens. However, because of our intent to help these animals, we are blind to the fact that the animal shelter doesn’t need us to play with the animals, they really need help cleaning the cages, filing paperwork, and other unglamorous aspects of service. When we don’t check the impact of our service, we become selfish volunteers – this is why when we complete community service without checking its impact, those we are trying to help suffer.

Many times our community service contributes to endless cycles of reliance and poverty, this serves as a second ugly truth of community service. There is a parable that illustrates this concept, “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man how to fish you feed him for a lifetime”. This shows the importance of service that works towards long-term solutions. I was able to experience this type of community service at Habitat for Humanity. One of Habitat’s mottos is “hand ups, not handouts” – this motto provides a standard that should be set holistically for community service. By giving hand ups instead of handouts, Habitat ends the cycle of poverty for individual families. Habitat homes are not just given out – the family has to pay for their home, go to financial workshops, and put in sweat equity; however, families do not go through this process alone, Habitat is always by their side. The unfortunate reality of this type of service is that, referring back to the parable, it is quicker to just give the man a fish. It is an investment, sometimes of both time and resources, to teach the man how to fish, but it is worth it. So do you let the man starve as you try to teach? No. That is why short-term community service is still needed; however, we should always be trying to think of how our service can be altered to create long-term change.

So there you have it, those are just a few of the ugly truths of community service. I hope that these truths empower you to make your community service experiences even more, impactful and long-lasting. While working together and changing our mindsets, we can use community service to make a meaningful difference in our world.


The Des Moines Student Healthcare Partnership learns about healthcare and homelessness

By Kristina Nikl, P3 student at Drake University

The Des Moines Student Healthcare Partnership, which is a collaboration between Drake pharmacy students, Drake OT students, DMU DO students, DMU PA students, and a variety of nursing students from Grandview, DMACC, and Mercy College in Des Moines, joined together for a service-learning opportunity at Central Iowa Shelter and Services (CISS) on Friday, March 31. We prepared and served dinner to the residents of the shelter, and had the opportunity to have a discussion/reflection session with Deanna Lehl, one of the healthcare providers that is employed by Primary Healthcare and works in the clinic at the shelter. This event impacted both the community, as it helped provide resources to those in need, and our group, as we increased our cultural awareness and learned more about people who face homelessness and about their access to healthcare services. From Deanna, we learned about the challenges that come with providing healthcare to this diverse patient population but also about how rewarding it can be.

Throughout this event, we were able to learn about homelessness by directly interacting with people who face homelessness, as well as by interacting with staff at the shelter. We interacted with the residents of the shelter as we personally served each of them. We interacted with the staff in the kitchen of the shelter as they helped us prepare the meal and clean up the kitchen after the meal. Conversing with these staff members gave us a perspective of what it is like to prepare and serve meals on a daily basis at the shelter. We also had the opportunity to see the clinic and ask Deanna questions about the clinic and the patients she sees. This direct interaction with the shelter residents and the staff at the shelter allowed our learning and reflection to be an important component of this event.

The Des Moines Student Healthcare Partnership was a recipient of a service-learning mini grant from the Office of Community Engaged Learning and the Community Action Board.

Collaborative Drawing Emphasizes Importance of Empathy in the Community

By Professor Emily Newman
Assistant Professor of Art and Design

During the Fall semester of 2016, beginning drawing students traveled outside their campus studio to collaborate on a large scale drawing with youth from Iowa Homeless Youth Centers (IHYC) in downtown Des Moines. Eight students and I gathered with participants at the IHYC ready to embark on the creation of a large 60 inch drawing.

Prior to our first visit, students were assigned the same drawing project in class. The large scale, collaborative drawings utilized techniques of gridding to scale up, shifts in value to create representational images, and an introduction of abstraction through the drawing process and materials used- skills covered in beginning drawing curriculum. After starting our project in class, students were now prepared to repeat the techniques and help instruct youth participants.

The collaboration between art students and IHYC is in its infancy and with any first time partnership there were expected and unexpected bumps in the road. After each drawing session, the students and I would meet to reflect upon our experience. We discussed the experience of service learning, including dispelling myths about the perceived needs of those without permanent shelter. Student Christian Verdin reflects,

“At first, I was somewhat opposed of the idea of teaching art to young adults in need, just because I believed they needed other information and tips on how to escape poverty, but my mind was changed as I thought further about it. Art was a way of escaping reality for some of these individuals.”

We also reflected upon the challenges of creating a partnership from the ground up. Our student participants far outnumbered the youth from IHYC. We discussed possible changes to the structure of the project to increase participation and enable a more empowered experience. Students identified this learning experience as a valuable lesson in project organizing and management.

“The IHYC service learning experiment was a good lesson for everyone, including myself. It taught me to never assume that something will turn out the way you want it to, at least on the first try. Things take time and effort, and they will not always run smoothly at the snap of your finger.”-Jordin Wilson

The overall service learning experience of a collaborative drawing was not what any of us had perceived. As a project that incorporates teaching a new skill set by interacting with youth of the same age, yet different backgrounds, the comparisons and contrasts of participants to one another were visible. By the end of the experience, students reflected upon the larger goal of the project; creating art together provides a pathway to empathy.

“I was able to have good conversation and to teach simple drawing techniques to the few individuals who did participate. But regardless of the numbers, I think that it was an important project…I am thankful for the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone, and to just be youth drawing together and disregarding the circumstances were (sic) placed in for just a couple of hours.” -Courtney McCuddin

The partnership between the Department of Art and Design and IHYC is continuing in thanks to the support of the Office of Community Engaged Learning and Taylor McKee, Volunteer Coordinator at Iowa Homeless Youth Centers.

The Confusion, Fear, and Discrimination Following President Trump’s Recent Executive Order

By Delia Koolick

“Refugees banned from entering the United States” the CNN headline read the day President Trump signed his refugee ban. For the clients of EMBARC, this is scary thing to read. EMBARC, or Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, serves refugees from Burma and the areas surrounding in Asia. Many clients do not speak English well and seeing a headline like that spread fear throughout the community. Would they see their family members still in Burma ever again? Would they get deported?

My name is Delia Koolick and I am a first-year Psychology Major. I am the Engaged Citizen Corps member working with EMBARC this academic school year. Since starting with the organization, I have learned many things about the big and diverse refugee community in Iowa. I spend a lot of my time working with refugee and immigrant students at the Meredith Middle School ESL after-school program where we work on reading skills. Recently, I have started to conduct research on newer refugee communities in Iowa, such as Syrian and Eritrean, as EMBARC will begin to work with some of these families within the Des Moines Public Schools system.

Back in January when the initial travel and refugee ban was enacted, EMBARC had many curious and fearful clients come in for help. When you understand little English, “refugee ban” is big, daunting topic of concern. Even though none of the effected countries were clients of EMBARC[1], this executive order still took a toll on these refugees’ lives.

The Executive Order states, “I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order”1. The ban prohibited entrance from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syrian, and Yemen[2]. While no EMARC clients were effected, it became clear to them that they could be in trouble next. Families coming for political freedom and safety could no longer feel safe politically.

Anti-refugee and more specifically, Anti-Muslim immigrant discriminatory acts have risen in America since the attacks on Paris in 2015[3]. This includes Iowa, as Governor Branstad tried to block the entrance of Syrian refugees in late 2015[4]. This rise in discrimination effects all refugees as they get shouted at to “go back from where they came from” and that “we speak English in America.” This unfair reality has only grown worse for refugees since the signing of the executive order as the media has shaped perceptions and influenced that thoughts of people across the country and world[5].

While at EMBARC, I have learned so much about the refugee community in the United States. However, the most important thing I have learned is no matter how different people’s backgrounds or experiences are, we all have similar goals. Refugees need our help to integrate into society and feel safe. They should not have to worry that every move they make could be grounds for discrimination, hate, or even deportation. By responding with fear and discrimination, we are going directly against the values the United States were founded on. To continue learning my understanding of refugees backgrounds, I plan to continue researching all different types of Refugees in Iowa for EMBARC. By understanding, education, and advocating, the fear and discrimination may lower as people start to realize we all want the same thing; success in the United States of America.







All-Ages Advocacy: What I’ve Learned

by Molly Brandt

My name is Molly Brandt and I am a senior at Drake University earning a Bachelor of Music with Elective Studies in Business (A.K.A. Music Business). I’ve been working in an informal way with The Des Moines Music Coalition (DMCC) for the past year and due to the withdrawal of one of the original ECC members I was offered the opportunity to fill her spot. The gradual growth of this Des Moines’ access to arts has always inspired my studies and work and I’ve grown very passionate about the city of Des Moines with special regard to its arts and culture.

What exactly am I doing with DMCC? I will explain: Currently, the Des Moines city code (Sec. 10-8, Article E, 6) prohibits the presence of minors after 9pm in most music venues holding an active liquor license. This restrictive ordinance negatively affects the safety and retention of area youth, hinders development of the local music scene, and stunts Des Moines’ cultural and economic growth. So I am helping The DMMC organize an All-Ages Campaign to change the city ordinance. In a typical week, I usually spend several hours in the office, located at the Mickle Center in the Sherman Hill. Sometimes we will have committee meetings on the all-ages issue. Last week was DMMC’s annual fundraiser and awards show, the Backstage Ball, which was celebrating those in Des Moines who’ve helped build this city’s music scene. I spoke at the event to attendees about our project and how to get involved. Lindsay Keast, DMMC’s Outreach Coordinator, and myself often speak at smaller events around town. Other tasks during a typical week include: meeting with Drake Journalism students reporting on the project, working on marketing for upcoming events and the project as a whole,

The DMMC took on the advocacy project after previous unsuccessful attempts to create a realistic ordinance relating to live music for all ages. I’ve taken on the role as project manager to get the ordinance changed in 2017. The DMMC hosted our kick-off event to launch the campaign “Music For All Ages”. The event entitled “Lights Out at Nine” on Thursday, Feb. 9th from 6-9pm at the local venue Lefty’s Live Music, which is consequently one of the venues that suffers from this ordinance’s restrictions. The event featured three young bands from Des Moines: high school female duo, Glitter Density, the always energetic brass band Grand Ave Ruckus, and another high school student, Carmelita. In addition to curating this event, I’ve been able to organize committee meetings and reached out to influential leaders in Des Moines as well as started researching the economic and cultural impact of this ordinance on the city of Des Moines and its cultural and artistic vibrancy. The goal for DMMC is to take this issue to the Des Moines city council, with support of the community, and large attendance at city council meetings to work to change the ordinance.

 If, “civic learning” is the democratic participation in the community, applied learning and social responsibility of the individual, then the all-ages advocacy project has certainly engaged with this idea. I have never, before now, tried to change a current law in a grassroots sense. It’s 2017 and the processes of democratic change are in the hands of the people who can protest and work to change policies of local, state, and national government. Never in my life have I felt more engaged with politics as in the past few months. The American public is now realizing the power we have to influence policy-makers’ decisions (whether they actually listen to those voices is the key). Amidst all the noise of national political news, I must work to make this issue relevant to local stakeholders and citizens. There’s no doubt this is true democratic participation, through our future contact with the Des Moines Police Chief, city council members, and ultimately, the constituents.

Like many local issues, this all-ages advocacy idea does not live in a vacuum of Des Moines. We’ve seen this issue all across the United States. In an article from Minneapolis’s Star Tribune, this same all-ages conundrum is explored through a venue and record store called Eclipse, catering now to all-ages:

“St. Paul and Minneapolis need all-ages venues like Tom Cruise needs Oprah. Since Eclipse closed, Minneapolis lost TC Underground, the Toybox and the Quest’s Ascot Room. The lack of underage venues spawned a boom in (illegal) basement shows, causing more problems with noise complaints and underage drinking.

‘Most of the clubs would love to do more all-ages shows, but in these hard times it’s hard to host them,’ said Triple Rock staffer Kermit Carter, whose band Superhopper rocked Eclipse last Friday. ‘We’re excited as all get up that Eclipse is back. In theory, we can scare up some new fans here who can’t see us anywhere else.’”[1]

Similarly, in other parts of the United States, this same type of grassroots advocacy approach to all-ages access to music has taken hold. In Seattle, Washington, the All Ages Movement Project is “a network of 200 community-based organizations across the U.S. that connect young people through independent music and art. AMP is committed to making sure young people can access and participate in music scenes in their communities. AMP’s web site includes The AMP directory that links to more than 200 all-ages punk, hip-hop and indie venues as well as youth-run recording studios and art galleries, searchable by city, genre, and other terms.”[2] According to AMP’s website,

“AMP believes that music communities have within them the potential to create change. Unlike other communities, music communities are exceptional at reaching young people, because they are essentially created by young people. AMP organizations work hand-in-hand with these music communities, opening doors for young people to get involved and build skills for the future. We use culture (music and art) as a vehicle for community change and use community organizing as a vehicle for cultural change.”

I’ve learned that this issue plagues other cities and there are steps by organizations to change these laws and ensure access to arts and culture. The organization is proof that community political change is a catalyst for cultural and artistic change and that grassroots support of not only constituents, but public officials can promote this change. I’ve also learned that we are not alone in this fight and the fight is continuous for ensuring access to culture for our city’s youth.

Academically, this internship with DMMC is the perfect capstone to my entire college career in the Music Business major. Like I’ve said, DMMC is an organization I’ve admired for many years and truly believe it’s exactly what I’ve been working towards ever since I decided Music Business was my life’s calling. Working in real time with festival planners, board members, policy makers’, committee members, young people, and musicians is something you simply cannot experience in the classroom setting. That’s not to say my classroom curriculum has been for naught. The internship has opened my eyes even further to the world outside of Drake and has allowed me to work on an entirely unique project with a high level of autonomy.

Since beginning my endeavors with this project and the DMMC, I’ve already gained a high level of personal growth. Lindsay has been an amazing teammate and role model. She’s helped me get involved with projects outside of the advocacy campaign, with DMMC’s festivals and education programs. In my work with DMMC I’ve been able to interact with DMMC board members, influential leaders in Des Moines, and musicians/artists who similarly care about this issue. I’m getting a better idea of what it really takes to garner support for a grassroots movement. Through our event at Lefty’s, I experienced the process of actually planning a music event, booking bands, and especially marketing the event (with significant help!).

Personal growth can be hard to measure, but I know that I’ve felt a great sense of confidence and accomplishment with this organization, which has inspired me to drive this project with more fervor and passion than before. Self-doubt plagues many of us, and definitely myself included throughout my college experience. However, I feel that the empowerment of this project, through an issue I care about deeply, I have shed some of that crippling self-doubt. I’ve grown in my ability to speak publicly about this issue for large and small audiences, which is a fear I often used to dwell on – but not anymore! I’ve grown in my ability to take initiative without prompt, stay organized amidst busy times, and work in a successful and cohesive team.

My goals for continuing the project are to make the process as organized and transparent as possible. I want to expand my research to the economics of the music scene in Des Moines, strategic city plans in place for change (e.g. Capital Crossroads 2.0), venue data, and input from young people. I hope to use these resources and ample backed-up research to bring a convincing argument to city council and ultimately the citizens of Des Moines. I hope to work closely with the DMMC board of directors, my committee members, and Lindsay Keast to make sure we are doing everything we can to get this ordinance changed. In the process, I hope we can bring more overall awareness to Des Moines regarding the music scene and our desire overall for diversity and inclusion. I’m extremely excited to continue this work for an organization I love and a city I call my home.

[1] Chris Riemenschneider, “Can Eclipse rise again?”, The Star Tribune, 2008.

[2] All Ages Movement Project,, accessed February 27, 2017.

East High Cares

By Maiya Mindoro

My name is Maiya Mindoro and I am a first year student at Drake University from the Boulder area of Colorado. I am pursuing majors in marketing and politics. Through the Engaged Citizens Corps program I have been working with the Community Housing Initiatives (CHI). This nonprofit deals with providing affordable housing for the citizens of Iowa. I work alongside the Resident Services Director specifically creating programs to help residents get out of the cycle of poverty and succeed while they are living in CHI housing and beyond.

Since 1994 CHI has produced affordable multi-family rental housing, with a special interest in the preservation and conversion of historic buildings. Iowans who have incomes at or below 80% of the area median income level are able to live in these homes. In these communities the Resident Services Department provides social service programs to engage residents with their neighborhoods, offer free supportive services, enrichment activities and more specifically focusing on the youth and senior populations.

One CHI Resident Services program is called East High Cares. EHC is a leadership development program reinforced through volunteering at East High School in Des Moines. East High school is located in the Viva East Bank area where CHI is a partner with other nonprofits with the goal to help revitalize these neighborhoods. EHC tackles many different areas including homelessness, animals and youth. A large project this year has been on the topic of hunger and food deserts. “Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers” (American Nutrition Association).

There are 14 areas of Des Moines that are food deserts and the Viva East Bank neighborhoods specifically are food deserts. 45,000 Des Moines residents are impacted (Adam Krause, Prezi). Having quality fresh-food at meals is not generally feasible economically or due to accessibility. At Hyatt Middle School in Des Moines there is a community garden which was created to help those affected by the food desert. The garden is open to the public and produce is replanted each spring by the middle school. East High Cares created a mural for the garden last year and currently are working on a recipe box for the garden. This recipe box contains recipes books using the food that is found in the garden and is stored in a Little Free Library hand painted by EHC. We visited the garden and looked at what fruits and vegetables were being grown to know what recipes to put in the book. All of the students researched recipes, gathered them from their families and asked community members in order to create this book. The book is being put together by students as well. Finishing touches are being painted on the library including the Des Moines skyline, flowers and words like “Free Recipes”. Lots of effort is being put in by EHC to help the community understand and use the garden more.

Even though the community garden is free and open to the public, it is not used nearly enough. The garden is overgrown and underappreciated with a plethora of produce going to waste. Apart from some community members not knowing they are allowed to enter, many do not know what to do with the produce that they find. When EHC toured the garden many students could not identify what all of the produce was. I was the only person who knew what a tomatillo was, even most of the adults thought it was just an unripe tomato. If students knew what a food was it would be rare for them to know what recipe they could use it for in most cases. Many of the kids in the program are my age or not too much younger than me; even though I am in a leadership and facilitating role I can be considered a peer. It is interesting the differences in exposure and knowledge that we all contain just due to where we grew up. There is not a large amount of exposure to fresh fruits and vegetables in the schools or homes of these students; even though this project is for the community, research and exposure helps the EHC students just as much.

The EHC neighborhood is a food desert, a desert in which inhabitants do not even realize they are in. The reactions from the students reflect thoughts and mindsets similar to many people in that community. When we explained what a food desert was it was a new concept to all of the students. But they were easily able to connect the definition to characteristics of the area surrounding East High once we discussed it further. That is why helping bring attention to the garden and keeping it attended to is so important. Everyone deserves access to fresh food. The food in the garden is already there and just waiting to be used by someone who needs it. Giving knowledge of produce through recipes is valuable for the community and youth as well. These recipes and the bright little free library are attempts to help neighbors get out of the food desert and into the community garden. Healthier and better balanced lives along with economic advantages come if the community garden becomes utilized.

EHC is a small part of CHI that makes a big difference in the lives of East High School kids. And projects like the recipe box affect more than just them, a whole community benefits off of the work that they do. Through my work with CHI I am able to see the little things and the big things and understand why each are so important. I did not know what a food desert was before this task, I was never affected by one. But moving into one and seeing first hand people impacted by it makes working to improve the situation much more meaningful. Sometimes seemingly smaller services and tasks have a bigger impact and a larger ripple than an outsider looking in could imagine. That applies to the political climate currently and how nonprofits in general are not going to be getting the funding in which they have in previous years. Programs like East High Cares will possibly be cut or no longer be part of CHI because the funding is simply no longer there. The nonprofit has to make hard choices in order for the doors to stay open. The kids in EHC won’t be able to have their space to enhance their leadership or help the community. EHC is also a home for the kids; a place not easily replaced because it’s their “people” along with all other positive things the program gives them. The loss of EHC will hit hard for many kids.The thought of letting EHC go is a very difficult one for the directors involved as well.

Education is extremely important. Educating the community surrounding East High school along with the members of EHC is the most important task we can do at CHI before the possible split from the program. On the topic of food deserts and every other issue that we tackle as a group. Knowledge is power and we have the ability to give that power. I will continue to learn about issues new to me or that don’t affect me personally by getting out of my comfort zone so that I can help pass it along to others who will use it. Even when issues do not affect you personally, they can change the life of someone in your own community. The kids in EHC are an above average group of leaders who will go on to do amazing things with or without the program, but educating them as much as possible before will only help. CHI aims to help the people they work with live the best life possible, I know without a doubt that East High Cares fosters that goal.

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