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Working to Yield Bright Futures at Willkie House

Carrie Lawal, Engaged Citizen Corps member

This year I’ve had the opportunity to work with Willkie House, a historically Black institution focused on the development and progress of young people, as a member of Drake’s Engaged Citizen Corps program (ECC). My experience working as a content manager and teacher at the non-profit has enriched my appreciation for service work, as I strive to tackle inconsistencies in early child development specifically for students of color, with their success being my only marker for success. My experiences have become invaluable and have ultimately pushed perfection in areas involving public speaking and social media marketing. Working with the kids has also helped me gain a better sense of community, as they are the up and coming future leaders of Des Moines. 

Since working with my advisor, John Douglas, I have learned the importance of well-developed communication skills. This semester especially, I have gotten comfortable texting and emailing John in order to stay on top of projects. For instance, whenever a new project or speaking point for the next meeting pops into my advisor’s head, he’ll send me an email or text as a reminder so that I can start thinking about it and stay on track. Upon completing these assignments, I learn more about the history and continued relevance of Willkie House. At the beginning of the semester, I had no idea that Willkie House was forever an institution devoted to uplifting African Americans specifically. Every time I see one of our kids walk through the door, the importance of Willkie House is reinforced. At first I was shy and hesitant because I wasn’t really sure what I should be doing with the kids and the kids were still warming up to me; however, I have learned so much since getting to grow with them.

One thing our director implemented with the help of our academic coordinator, Gene Jewett, is the Black History program at Willkie House which stretches beyond the month of February and continues into April. The Black History program was implemented after talking to the kids at Willkie House and realizing that there was a real need to teach a history that often went overlooked in the classroom. I am excited and honored to be a part of this project because it is something I wish I would have had when I was a kid, so to go on and teach kids something so valuable, regardless of race, is so special. One of the ways I am contributing to the Black History celebration is by creating a video that highlights innovators and game changers within the Black community. In order to make sure that this is interactive for the kids, I will be bringing in speakers—former Black Panthers and other monumental Black voices—to speak to them.

ECC has given me the tools and skills in order to be successful at Willkie House. I remember in class specifically talking about the importance of understanding others’ unique personality types. When I first went to Willkie House, as I stated earlier, I had trouble warming up to the kids because I am a naturally shy person; however, my instructor helped me understand that this is important for the kids to see in student leaders because some of the kids hold the same personality type as me. So, I showed those individuals that may feel shy and may be reserved that I was the same way and therefore inadvertently created a safe space for them.

I continue to take a lot away from ECC and my site because there is still so much that I discover and learn on a daily basis. I think that specifically I have learned the importance of helping out wherever help is needed and being flexible and able to quickly adapt. These are definitely qualities I can apply to my future career in the journalism field. As an active citizen, I vow to apply my teachings from toxic charity, ECC, and Willkie House to whatever my future career entails, as far as understanding individuals needs before acting and not letting setbacks limit my success. Overall, I am really glad that I continue to gain new experiences that I would never have gained if I wasn’t an Engaged Citizen member because it really does help you see the deeper meaning of your actions and how big your impact can be!

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Alumni Highlight – Jamie Willer

Throughout the years, students have made impactful changes on campus. During her time at Drake, Jamie Willer was one of these star students. A 2017 Drake graduate, she is currently working at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and oversees their Office of Community Service. Through her role, she works to build and strengthen both co-curricular and curricular community engagement efforts in partnership with staff, faculty, students, and community partners.

Photo Submitted by Jamie Willer

While at Drake, Willer worked with the Office of Community Engaged Learning (CEL) as President and founding member of the Community Action Board (CAB). When she wasn’t leading her peers, she studied Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Justice in Urban Education. Following graduation, she worked at LSI and served as their Statewide Volunteer Coordinator. All this and more led Willer to pursue her Master’s degree in Community Engagement with a focus on Higher Education in Massachusetts. She has kept in touch with Drake’s Community Engaged Learning Office and has maintained a mutually beneficial relationship. Willer commented that CEL staff members Renee and Amanda helped shape her Master’s level research, and for the past two years, Willer has been invited back to Drake to facilitate conversations concerning her area of expertise in white savior complex.

When asked what advice she would give other students Willer said, “Value the incredible assets of the Drake Neighborhood and the surrounding community, particularly the expertise of community leaders of color. There are some incredible activists and educators in Des Moines who I’ve learned so much from about what it means to engage in communities, not from a savior mentality, but a place rooted in solidarity.” Willer modeled her advice while at Drake by attending Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) meetings. These meetings are still held right here in the Drake neighborhood.

Late night community action board meetings and other Drake memories are still with Willer today. “We used to go get half-priced apps and chat for hours about the work we were doing and it was truly incredible to be surrounded by people who had the same visions and passions and cared just as deeply about the work.” Willer is proud to report that many of those people became some of her closest friends. She still catches up with them regularly. 

Our fabulous alumna left us with this quote, “I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.” – Eduardo Galeano.

Thank you, Jamie, for all you do. You have a knack for inspiring others. Thank you for showing the world that #DrakeServes.


Alumni Highlight – Jasmine Barr

Drake University elevates the talents and passions of students daily. We had the chance to catch up with a recent Drake grad and learn about how she turned her passions into a career. Jasmine Barr, who was a Service Learning Ambassador in the Office of Community Engaged Learning 2016-2017, is currently a Chapter Consultant at Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity. In her position, Barr gets the opportunity to volunteer with students on various campuses throughout the United States on a myriad projects. Last September she even helped students in Georgia register to vote in an upcoming election.

Photo Submitted by Jasmine Barr

Barr credits her Drake experience with introducing her to her fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega, also known on campus as APO. She pledged the service fraternity during her sophomore year. Barr’s experience as an active member inspired her to think about communities beyond those she was immediately part of. She says her experience, “helped me begin thinking about shared connections and building a better world.” Along with growing professionally and intellectually alongside her fraternity brothers, Barr also created fond memories she thinks of today. She reminisced about two particular service-based events saying, “Particularly Sack Lunch Buddies at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and Night Eyes at the Blank Park Zoo. Each of these projects is focused on child well-being to some degree and therefore hold special places in my heart. Sack Lunch Buddies was one of my favorite service projects because it provides after school and weekend snacks to students on free or reduced lunch in various Des Moines public schools. Night Eyes was an opportunity to don a costume and pass out candy to younger kids who preferred a merry not scary approach to Halloween.”

Barr also offered up some advice for current students. “Besides drink water and take a nap, I would encourage Drake students to dive into campus life. This could be done by attending a theatre show, hanging out in the office of STIIL more often, attending more SAB programs, or joining a new student org; without overwhelming your schedule of course! Getting involved gives students an extra opportunity to create a collection of positive experiences.”

Barr encourages students to get involved off-campus as well. She is a big advocate for the administrative offices at Drake and their ability to connect students to the Drake community. “I would encourage all Bulldogs to start building shared connections with the people of Des Moines to build towards calling Drake a true home away from home.”

You can find Barr on Facebook and Linkedin cheering on her Drake peers. She loves seeing what her classmates are up to after graduation. With real Drake spirit, she says, “There’s no greater sense of Bulldog pride than seeing my peers succeed in their fields well beyond the classroom. To paraphrase Issa Rae, “I’m rooting for everybody [at Drake]!” We are rooting for you too, Jasmine! Thank you for taking the time to catch up with us here at Drake’s Office of Community Engaged Learning. We are proud to see you working hard to inspire generations of bulldogs to come. #DrakeServes

Alumni Highlight – Lainie Fickau

Drake University along with the Office of Community Engaged Learning does its best to prepare students for meaningful personal lives, fulfilling professional lives, and responsible global citizenship. The students who graduate from Drake are changemakers in their community and we have been lucky enough to reconnect with some of our phenomenal alumni.

Lainie Fickau graduated from Drake in 2018 and earned herself a position with the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa. She is a Community Troop Manager and leads eight Girl Scout troops across four school districts located around or within the Des Moines Metro. Fickau has the unique opportunity to work with girls in underserved communities who may not otherwise experience Girl Scouts due to a lack of volunteers in their area. On average she sees 150 Girl Scouts every two weeks for troop meetings, field trips, and service projects.

While deciding what she wanted to do post-grad, Fickau knew she enjoyed working with kids but didn’t want to pursue a traditional teaching profession. The Drake grad reflected on her time volunteering and interning as a student which led her down a path she wanted to follow. Fickau realized she was passionate about working with non-profits that addressed after-school needs. “Girl Scouts offer girls an opportunity to form friendships, learn new skills, and share unique experiences that can’t be found in a classroom setting.”

Fickau had the opportunity to attend the IMPACT Conference in 2017 through her job in Drake’s Community Engaged Learning Office as a Service Learning Ambassador. Fickau continues to use the tips and tricks she learned at the conference, and encourages other Drake students to attend.

When asked what other advice she would give Drake students she said, “Two BIG things! First, apply for that job/internship/scholarship. Even if you think you’re underqualified, not ready for the next step, or lack connections. The worst thing that can happen is that they say no. If you don’t, you tell yourself no. Second, ask your mentor/boss/professor questions about what they did to get to where they are. It only costs you your time and possibly the price of coffee! My dad always reminds me that it never hurts to ask.”

Thank you Lainie Fickau for your time and we wish you the best of luck in the future. You truly live out our favorite hashtag #DrakeServes

CEL Faculty Fellows Selected

Welcome to our Faculty Fellows for 2019-2021

Thanks to funding from the Slay Fund for Social Justice and the Olson Endowment for Global Service-Learning, the Office of Community Engaged Learning is able to support two faculty fellows to advance the work of community engaged learning on Drake’s campus. We are excited to announce Dr. Sandra Patton-Imani, Associate Professor of American Studies, as the Slay Fellow for Community Engaged Learning and Dr. Sara Johnston, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy, as the Olson Fellow for Global Service-Learning. 

About Dr. Sandra Patton-Imani
Dr. Patton-Imani has been integrating service-learning and community engagement into her courses for many years in a number of different ways. For example, since 2012 her FYS: Diversity in the U.S. has partnered with students at the local International Baccalaureate Elementary School to create digital storytelling projects focused on different racial-ethnic immigration histories. And in 2015 her Intro to Women’s Studies course conducted research on different elements of bullying and presented poster sessions for attendees at a Bullying Resolution Conference for local educators. In Fall 2017, she co-taught Oral Histories and Life Narratives with English professor Yasmina Madden in collaboration with the local Above + Beyond Cancer (A+BC) nonprofit. Students in the course interviewed cancer survivors and caregivers that had just returned from a trip to Tibet, collaboratively wrote life narratives, and created online story maps representing each interviewee’s story.

Most recently, she received a Green Foundation Grant from the Humanities Center in summer 2019 to develop a new collaboratively taught course for the A+BC and Drake Community Press collaboration. The course will use the life stories collected in the Oral Histories and Life Narratives class, along with academic research on public health and inequality, to collaboratively write a play exposing how cancer patient experiences and treatment are fundamentally shaped by social factors including socioeconomic status, race, gender, sexuality, and disability.  For a deeper glimpse into Dr. Patton-Imani’s work check out her archive here:http://culturesofengagement.wp.drake.edu.

Dr. Patton-Imani is excited to collaborate with faculty, staff, and students to create opportunities for experiential learning in partnership with the Des Moines community. Dr. Patton-Imani is available for one-on-one consultations and coaching on engaged teaching strategies, critical reflection, design or re-design of a service-learning course and more! To contact Dr. Patton-Imani directly please email, sandra.patton-imani@drake.edu.

About Dr. Sara Johnston

Dr. Johnston has been involved with global service-learning since 2015, having led or co-led six inter-professional global service-learning trips to Nicaragua, and five trips to Peru with her former university, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC). In Nicaragua Dr. Johnston and her students worked with the teachers and students at a Special Education School to collaboratively develop a variety of global service-learning projects, which they referred to as “Maestro a Maestro” (teacher to teacher). For example, speech therapy and occupational therapy students worked with teachers at the school to identify a classroom need (more materials and interventions for students with autism) and to design and develop several teaching tools (sensory boards, visual schedules) to meet the need. Any teaching tools developed had to be sustainable and replicable (e.g., materials that the teachers had access to and could afford).

Most recently Dr. Johnston participated in the 2019 Drake Global Service-Learning Faculty and Staff Development Travel Seminar to Tecnológico de Monterrey in Guadalajara, Mexico. As a result of her participation she is currently working with other colleagues in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences to pilot a “virtual” global service-learning project in Belize. Students will complete coursework about health disparities and access to preventive care in Belize, conduct a needs assessment with stakeholders via distance technology, and design a health education project about the importance of preventive care which will be shared with stakeholders in Belize to reduce the rates of hypertension and diabetes. Over the next two years, faculty collaborators plan to develop “virtual” global services-learning projects in Mexico, Peru, and Ireland.

Dr. Johnston believes that the true mission and spirit of global service-learning is reciprocity. In other words, it’s not enough to simply send our students abroad to complete a project in the host country; we must also work to bring our international partners to campus and community to facilitate cross-cultural education.

Dr. Johnston is available for one-on-one consultations and coaching on developing sustainable, replicable, and reciprocal global service-learning opportunities abroad and in the local community, pre-trip student preparation and reflection, much more. To contact Dr. Johnston directly please email, sara.johnston@drake.edu.

Learn more about community engaged learning at www.drake.edu/cel.

Shameka Brown attends Newman Civic Fellow Gathering in Boston

Shameka Brown, Drake’s Newman Civic Fellow, had the opportunity to travel to Boston, Massachusetts to attend the Newman Civic Fellow conference at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S Senate Nov. 15-16. During this time, she was able to collaborate with other Newman Fellows from across the country to discuss the power of change and what it means to be a changemaker.

“This opportunity allowed me to understand the different strategies and ways to make changes through socio and political tactics,” she said. She was able to work with other students who are committed to the public purpose of higher education. Campus Compact gives students the skills to build democracy through civic education and community development.

Shameka is currently working to apply the skills she gained from the conference to the project she is conducting at Drake, which entails working to develop an African American Studies major at Drake. Adding this major to the Drake curriculum would help diversify the program and give students the opportunity to expand upon their studies. She is currently working on a grant that would help provide funding for the major and help the major to be sustainable for years to come.

Drake receives award from Iowa Campus Compact to support student learning and service

Drake University has received an award totaling $55,794 from Iowa Campus Compact to support the Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program and Engaged Citizen Corps Program at Drake. The award represents the largest award Drake has received from Iowa Campus Compact to date and will allow the university to continue growing its AmeriCorps service program.

“Through this award, we are able to educate more Drake students about community engagement and social justice, while building the capacity of more nonprofits around Des Moines,” said Amanda Martin, Assistant Director of Community Engaged Learning and manager of the Engaged Citizen Corps program. “We are so grateful to Iowa Campus Compact and the Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program for their support and partnership.”

The Engaged Citizen Corps Program is a year-long program for first-year students at Drake who take 9 credits together and serve a 300-hour service internship with a local nonprofit, such as Anawim Housing, Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC), and Grubb YMCA. The award includes an AmeriCorps education award that the participants receive to offset costs of higher education, in addition to helping to provide funding for a staff position who works with the AmeriCorps members on a regular basis. The funding will also allow students to participate in regional conferences dedicated to education and service.

“This program puts first-year students on an accelerated path to developing professional skills and to becoming civically-engaged citizens and professionals,” said Martin. “Alums of the program have gone on to leadership roles around campus and many have continued in internships and jobs at the local nonprofits.”

Emily Shields, Executive Director of Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact said, “We highly value our partnership with Drake University and look forward to another year of leveraging AmeriCorps resources to positively impact students and the larger Drake community.”

For more information about the Engaged Citizen Corps Program at Drake University visit www.drake.edu/engagedcitizen.

Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact strengthens the capacity of colleges and universities to fulfill the public purposes of higher education through its network of 58 campuses. IAMNCC creates partnership opportunities, supports quality programming through professional development, and promotes the importance of the civic mission. This includes Campus Compact AmeriCorps, which catalyzes partnerships that transform higher education, people, and communities. For more information visit iacampuscompact.org

Service-learning allows students in “Homelessness in America” experience the content in a unique way

By Amy Knudsen, Homelessness in America Professor

I utilize service learning in my Homelessness in America class to assist students in understanding this complicated and multi-layered problem. I connect community organizations that come and speak to the class on a variety of topics related to homelessness, have the class volunteer at a local shelter, and design and implement a class project that educates the Drake community on the issue.

Continual reflection was utilized by journaling, speaker reflection papers and reflecting on the group work and project. In addition, I asked students to reflect on what citizenship means, do they believe that volunteering is a necessary part of community and the role of the government in responding to the issue.

We had eight speakers from local organizations speak at the class and students volunteered at Central Iowa Shelter and Services. Students wrote thank you notes, sorted donations, checked in guests and handed out towels and hygiene items.

For the group project students wanted to educate the Drake community on homelessness as well as collect items for those living on the street or in camps. Students decided on hygiene and snack bags. With our service learning grant we were able to purchase 96 hygiene kits that contained soap, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrush, razor and shave cream. They collected snack items for the snack packs by placing collection bins around campus and creating a venmo account for cash donations. To get the word out students reached out to organizations on campus, hung posters, created a Facebook event and tabled in Olmstead on April 16 and 17th. While tabling they had students answer questions on homelessness in Iowa and Polk County for candy prizes, collected notes of encouragement to put in the kits, gave tips on engaging with the homeless and panhandlers and distributed homeless services resource cards for Polk County.

The students collected items and raised an additional $200 that was used to purchase snack items. They assembled over 100 snack bags containing granola bars, beef stick, nuts, applesauce, a bottle of water, mints, a note of encouragement and a homeless service resource card. Over 200 snack and hygiene kits were delivered by students on May 8th to Primary Health Care’s Homeless Outreach Services.

The success of the class was seen in the student’s reflections:

“Through this project, and in particular through this class, I’ve learned a great deal about social inequality and homelessness. Most importantly I learned how bad the situation is for homeless individuals in Iowa and in Des Moines in particular. Sometimes it’s hard for people to recognize what’s going on in their own backyard, but I feel as if this class has opened my eyes to the reality of the homeless population in Iowa. “

“Specifically, regarding our project, it made me think about how often I take things for granted. A plastic bag with crackers, a water bottle, jerky, a granola bar, and a mint seem insignificant in my own life. That is a snack I would probably get between games at one of my old soccer tournaments for a travel soccer club that probably cost like $10,000 a year. Even then, I would probably only have the granola bar and the water and then throw the rest of the stuff out. These days, I do my best to salvage things that can be salvaged, but throughout this experience I have felt that there are things that I do still take things for granted, and I now feel confident that I can recognize and try to change that. Besides that, I have come to appreciate the services that the organizations we learned about offer. Not only do they clothe and feed people experiencing homelessness, but they try to provide things that every human should have available to them (medical assistance, federal aid, transitional housing, etc.).”

“I came in with a small amount of prior knowledge about this topic. I knew about the struggle for affordable housing, the growing rates of gentrification, and issues regarding the wealth gap, and that’s about it. Something that has stuck with me about this course is how difficult it is to rise out of poverty/homelessness and stay there. I also learned how frequently people get evicted, and how many regulations are at fault for these evictions. For example, in Evicted, we read that, in some places, if a tenant calls 911 three times or more in one month, they can be evicted. I was like…WHAT?!?!?!? There are so many injustices that few people are aware of and few people care about. Also, people experiencing homelessness can get in trouble with law enforcement basically by just existing. Why? Simply because better – off people don’t want to “see it”.”

Leveling the Playing Field

Kate Gallinero

The WHAT

My name is Kate Gallinero, and I am a first-year student studying prepharmacy at Drake. This year I was blessed with the opportunity to work with Genesis Youth Foundation, where I was an intern through Drake’s Engaged Citizen Corps program. Genesis is a grassroots nonprofit in Des Moines whose goal is to give opportunities to and empower immigrant and refugee youth. They hold after school arts and soccer programs as well as academic enrichment and tutoring to build up the youth and connect them to a community that is welcoming and intended to aid in their personal growth. At the heart of this nonprofit is the CEO and founder of Genesis, Sam Gabriel. From the moment I met Sam, I knew that Genesis was something he was immensely passionate about and it was incredibly infectious. As an immigrant myself, I know the importance of giving opportunities to immigrant and refugee youth. I know the struggle to not have your parents walk you through paperwork before college; to have to translate during parent-teacher conferences; to not be able to ask your parents for help on homework; to grow up in a world completely different from the world they grew up in. Growing up as a first generation American is an experience near and dear to the core to so many people and the opportunity to make it better for youth in the Des Moines Area has been something I hold close to my heart. Truthfully, as much as I came into this program wanting to improve Genesis Youth Foundation, I learned so much more from this experience than I ever could have imagined.  

This year I worked with data analytics and ways to improve the programs within Genesis. Some of my projects this year included creating tutoring curriculums for Genesis youth programs, and working with the Salesforce system for nonprofits to hold and keep track of data. Something new implemented with Genesis this year is their structure which now involves sign-ups for sessions throughout the year with pre and post assessments to measure the growth of the students. I also worked with creating guidebooks for new coaches and volunteers. While a lot of what I did was behind the scenes work, I knew that the work I did allowed others to do things that helped Genesis to grow. Although some of the things I did felt like office work and I was not always directly working with the kids, I learned to understand that my work was part of something bigger. I learned that behind the scenes work is just as crucial as being on the front lines of the nonprofit so to speak.

The WHY

In the immigrant community, food is an important cornerstone to relationships and community. Food brings people together, says “welcome” better than words ever could, and most importantly, should never be denied when offered. I recall meeting Sam and having him ask me how comfortable I was trying new foods, to which I responded that I was fairly comfortable. Being an immigrant myself I knew that food is a way to open up your culture, little did I know that besides the food, there would be such an overwhelming sense of ease with the kids and other volunteers. The unique thing about Genesis is the sense of home and family that you receive. The sense of comfort and safety at Genesis is almost palpable, which makes it so important to the community. Being able to build those relationships and provide a space to feel understood and valued, like they have somewhere to be heard and somewhere to grow. Especially in a climate that is increasingly unkind to those from immigrant and refugee background, the importance of embracing culture and differences is becoming more and more apparent. Through the community building and programming, the goal of Genesis is to help level the playing field for these immigrant and refugee youth, and give them the tools to succeed.

Truthfully, this organization has become so much closer to my heart than I imagined. The sense of family and community that Genesis brings is truly so unique and needed in Des Moines. Even as a first-year student, in a new state, and new city, I found a home away from home not only at Drake, but in this organization.  Because of my service learning, I am capable of understanding and analyzing the needs of a community before addressing what I judged to be their needs. I have learned so much more than my personal experience has given me. I learned the importance of community building as well as capacity building in the nonprofit world. I learned that there is a difference between reaching out to the community as an outsider and being a part of the community.

A Reflection on Service Learning

Students in PHAR 150’s Global Health Course spent the past year teamed up with the Des Moines Area Religious Council (DMARC) to take part in service learning. The students were divided into three teams. These are their experiences.

Team 1

Throughout the course of this semester, our class partnered with three different DMARC food pantries. At our site, we helped restock shelves, walked the patrons through the aisles, and administered anonymous surveys to collect data on various social determinants of health and food insecurity. We have learned more about the food pantry and DMARC through interacting with the pantry staff. Analyzing the surveys and conducting a focus group allowed us to assess the population needs. Our focus group was an open discussion where we discussed the patrons’ perceptions of the pantry, use of the pantry and other food banks/kitchens, and other resources they were in need of. The patrons were very willing to share their personal experiences with the group, which resulted in an engaging conversation and mentionedseveral ideas we could bring up to the pantry directors, such as creating a resource contact list for various services such as mental health, health insurance, housing, and employment.

One of the major takeaways from working with the DMARC food pantries is that food insecurity does not impact just minority or underprivileged populations, it impacts nearly every population. The pantry patron population differed based on which site they frequented; at the River Place location, we saw a lot of the older, white, and rural populations, many of which had already retired. Food insecurity is often created to be something that does not impact middle class Americans, or established Americans, removing many people from the issue. However, that was the one of the main populations that we saw in our pantry. Giving someone food does not cure their food insecurity, instead there are so many other needs that people have, many of which they lack the resources to fix. For instance, many people need more food than a once a month pass through the pantry, but they do not know where they can go to get more food, instead implementing budgeting of food stamps and eating high calorie, carb-loaded diets. Our focus group helped establish to us that people are looking for help that they cannot find, mostly because these resources are not accessible to everyone, including free/affordable healthcare, insurance, dental care, and clothing closets. The ability to interact with those that are food insecure humanized and grounded the issue for us, and gave us an invaluable lesson for our futures in health-related fields.

Team 2

Over the course of this semester our team has been working with the local Drake IMPACT food pantry to evaluate their service and the needs of their patrons. Starting in the pantry itself, we got to experience how their system functions while working directly with the pantry clients to assist them in obtaining the food they need. Taking these clients through the pantry, we were able to learn a lot about the various strengths and weaknesses of the food pantry service. One of the largest weaknesses we found was in food quality and the freshness of items present within the pantry. Investigating these observations further, we transitioned into conducting one-on-one interviews with those visiting the pantry using a social determinants of health survey. The results of these surveys will be given to DMARC to continue their work in improving pantry services. Finally, we conducted a focus group with pantry patrons to further investigate issues present within the community that cannot be expressed in a simple survey format. Through open dialogue with 8 of these individuals, we learned a lot about issues present within the Drake community ranging from transportation to program effectiveness to even mental health. 

Another component of our experience within this course was working with students from the INSTITUTO TECNOLÓGICO DE MONTERREY in Mexico. Exploring the theme of Global Health, we embarked on a journey of learning with these students as we researched various health issues present in both countries. Both the Drake and Tech groups also provided unique perspectives and data on the issues present within our respective communities. Building toward a collaborative presentation, the chance to work in a cross-cultural setting has been invaluable to our academic experience. As students pursuing careers in global health, understanding colleagues from various backgrounds and cultural settings will be vital to future work. We personally would recommend this course to not only anyone pursuing a career in global health, but to anyone looking to expand their knowledge on global health disparities that face the modern world.

Team 3

In our experience at DMARC, we distributed surveys and conducted a focus group to receive more information about the clients at DMARC pantries, their needs, and their feedback. We had the opportunity to volunteer at the West Des Moines DMARC pantry, which recently began a program to encourage healthier eating. This program works by giving each food item a point value from 1-5, where healthier items are a 1 and less healthy items are a 5. Pantry users are allowed 36 points per visit, so if they choose healthier food items, they get to take more. Throughout our weeks at DMARC, we developed relationships with our pantry director, other volunteers, and clients.

Generally from the responses from the focus group, the clients who are using the West Des Moines pantry are very satisfied with their experience, especially because of the pantry’s dedication to providing fresh and healthy food. The overall lifestyle of the individuals who use the pantry has improved because of the healthy food that they are receiving. Additionally based on the survey responses, participants did not have too many concerns about food insecurity, meaning that they are being taken care of well at the pantry and are receiving adequate food. The largest need that we identified was that individuals need assistance with paying for their utility bills, which is an area of need that the West Des Moines pantry could work to address. Overall, the process of taking surveys and conducting the focus group felt like we were really making a difference to improve the West Des Moines pantry so that they can help their clients have the best experience possible – while giving the clients a voice for their needs to be heard.

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