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.


Building research skills and solving problems

Being able to effectively use research to inform planning is a critical piece of becoming a well-rounded communications leader. This is exactly what our cohort of five students in Drake’s Master of Communication Leadership (MCL) program learned by working with a local nonprofit to propose, conduct, analyze, and present research to help the organization solve its communication challenges.

In the Applied Communication Theory and Research class, and under the guidance of Matthew Thornton, assistant professor of journalism and mass communication, the five students in our cohort worked with the YMCA Supportive Housing organization in Des Moines. This permanent, supportive housing campus offers 140 efficiency units to single adults who meet income and lifestyle criteria, filling a unique, much-needed niche in the affordable housing continuum. While the organization was at capacity and serving its residents well, it was lacking the public awareness and funding needed to propel its mission and fuel future expansion.

After digging in, our team recommended three types of research: getting a lay of the land through one-on-one interviews with organization employees and board members; circulating a written survey of residents; and creating an online “snowball” survey for potential donors and partners—business and nonprofit leaders in the region. Executing these plans the way we wanted to depended on securing some funds, provided by Community Engaged Learning via a service-learning mini-grant. These additional resources allowed us to offer a survey incentive to YMCA Supportive Housing residents: bus tokens for all who completed the survey, with a drawing among those who completed it for Walgreen’s gift cards. They also allowed us to print written surveys and print/bind the completed, 100+ page survey report to present to and share with the client.

Ultimately, we were able to hone in on some areas where enhanced communication and new partnerships could really move the needle for YMCA Supportive Housing. Staff and board of the organization reported that the effort was more thorough, validating, and actionable than they had even hoped for. Our cohort will continue to draw on these findings in the execution phase of this project, which will take place during our summer 2016 MCL Capstone.

Going through this process was as valuable for both us, as learners, as it was for our nonprofit client. The experience of not just learning about research in a classroom but actually using what we learned to address a real problem was invaluable. We now have the deeper, practical knowledge, as well as the confidence, to move forward to draw on these tools in our own professional lives.

written by Jill Brimeyer, MCL Class of 2017


ECC: Anawim Groundbreaking

On October 6, I got the opportunity to attend a Groundbreaking event for one of Anawim Housing’s new projects: The Brickstones at Riverbend. This new project will be a 30-unit senior living apartment complex and is expected to be completed by fall of 2017. The Brickstones is a really important project, because it will provide affordable housing to people in the community above the age of 55, as well as help to revitalize the 6th Avenue corridor.

I’m glad I was able to attend the event. Several different people spoke, including the mayor of Des Moines and some of Anawim’s board members. Their speeches were inspiring and gave insight as to why the Brickstones project, as well as low income housing in general, is important and necessary. After the speeches, the actual “groundbreaking” took place. Several people, mostly Anawim’s board members, got to put on construction helmets and ceremoniously dig into the ground. I also got a free Anawim Housing mug, could eat free cookies, and got to shake hands with the mayor as well as several of Anawim’s board members.

written by Marina Birely, ECC student working with Anawim Housing


Engaging through listening


By Catherine Osborne, Service Learning Ambassador

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.”  — Ralph Nichols 

As we see in this Ralph Nichols quote, it is often said that to be understood is one of the greatest human needs. Therefore listening to the people within your community is one of the best ways to engage and serve. It’s crucial that you aren’t just listening to hear, but that you are listening to understand. Listening is a process and it does require effort. One of my favorite sayings is listen deeply. For me this implies listening with intention of understanding, listening to learn, and listening to fight ignorance. We must listen deeply to know how to best serve others.  Throughout this blog I will lay out some steps I have learned that help me to better listen. 

Receive openly

First, we must be open-minded and ready to receive. Receiving the information that your community, neighbors and friends are trying to convey is the beginning of engagement. You must be ready to absorb whatever they are expressing, both verbal and non-verbal. Communication can happen through observing surroundings and being aware of human emotions as well as actual conversation. It is crucial to not let yourself be distracted. There are the obvious distractions like cell phones, but also try not to be distracted by your own thoughts. Sometimes as I am listening I find myself actively thinking of how I will respond to the person I am engaging with. Whether it is thinking of advice I can give or something that I want to bring up when they are done talking. Let yourself hear their words and listen to their actions with an open and absorbent mind.

Process thoroughly

Once you have absorbed the information it is time to process what it means. Allowing time and space for ourselves to process what we have just absorbed is important. Relate what you learned from an individual or community back to your own life to help you understand. Or perhaps process the fact that you may not be able to relate on a personal level at all and think about what that means.  One of my favorite ways to help myself process and gain clarity is to ask questions. Asking intentional questions after processing is one of the best things you can do to fight ignorance as well as show that you care. Make sure to be intentional and thoughtful with your questions.

Respond intentionally

Now that you’ve listened and processed the information, it’s time to evaluate and respond. Evaluate what you just discovered through your processing. Here are some things to think about:  What have you learned? Have any of your perspectives on things been affected? How did the community or person you engaged with impact you? What in life has brought them to be where they are at in this moment? Now here are some things to consider when thinking about how to respond to what you’ve heard: Is a response even necessary? Does this community or person need you to take action on something? Or do they simply just need someone to listen and understand? Do they need you to respond through your own community? Don’t be too quick to jump to a response. The reason that listening is the most important part of communication is because without deeply listening, you will fail to provide a relevant and meaningful response. So next time you are engaging with community I challenge you to receive openly, process thoroughly, and respond intentionally. Listen deeply.


Whipped Cream Pies and Service-Learning


SPLAT. I felt the whipped cream slowly drying in my hair and dripping down my face as yet another whipped cream pie hit me in the face. Normally I don’t spend my Thursday afternoons getting whipped cream pies thrown at me, but this was a special occasion. My First Year Seminar – The Portrayal of Mental Illness and Intellectual Disabilities in the Media – was running the Ruby Van Meter Homecoming carnival for its students. Before this day, I had never been to a place quite like Ruby Van Meter. RVM is a school for students with intellectual disabilities and only intellectual disabilities. They have an amazing amount of resources to work with students and give them the best education possible. All around me, the carnival was full of laughter as students took part in a photo booth, cake walk, fishing for prizes, face painting and of course the pie toss. As I got another pie in the face and another student cackled with laughter, my peers and I agreed that the pies in the face for an hour was worth it and we couldn’t wait for our service learning at Ruby Van Meter to start that week.


ECC: Serving or helping?

I have always viewed service as an extremely powerful thing. Since I was little, there has almost always been some part of my life that’s been connected to at least a simple act of service. I think one of the main aspect that I have taken away from this class so far in relation to my views on service is the idea of “helping” versus “serving” and what it actually means to really serve. This is a topic of interest that I have faced a lot while working with my organization here in Des Moines.

Jewels Academy is a non-profit organization that offers STEM and self-enrichment programs for underrepresented girls in grades 4-12, which is an area that has only recently been brought to the forefront of social awareness. Kim Wayne, who serves as the Executive Director and Chair, founded Jewels in 2005 with the goal of providing young women in the Des Moines area with the competitive edge that they need to succeed both academically and professionally in STEM-focused careers. Many young women experience little to no access to science and technology related educational opportunities, especially more advanced courses. There is also a lack of support, mainly in under-served communities, for girls to pursue careers in science and technology. Jewels Academy provides hands-on learning and introduces innovative concepts and technology in a variety of programs from non-traditional educational programs to a STEM day or boarding school. By offering these in depth programs, they are giving young women the encouraging and nurturing environment necessary to empower and prepare them for success in a national and global STEM workforce.

I have come across this helping versus serving debate a few times in the last two months that I have been working with Kim at Jewels. The goal of service writing as I understand it is to provide service through the work that you do, but so far I have yet to feel like I am truly serving this organization. I have written a few grants and put together two newsletters, and overall I have been thanked for doing those projects. However, I am almost always following a template given to me by the directors, and the majority of my work is edited and changed to more accurately fit their needs. I have always understood that this is what would be happening while working with an organization like this, but am I really serving them if I am not allowed the opportunity to do much of my own work that I feel would benefit them? Or am I only helping them? I have never thought that serving and helping were two separate concepts until recently. The discussion presented that serving is positive while helping is more negative in terms of the effect they have on those receiving the service. I disagree with this because I feel like any type of service can be construed as serving or helping, and can have both positive and negative effects. People should not shy away from doing service work just because they do not think it’s actually “serving”, but it is also important that they feel fulfilled themselves. Hopefully by the end of working with Jewels Academy, I will be able to feel like provided them with meaningful service, even if it is not me really “serving” in every sense of the word.

written by Etta Moline, working with Jewels Academy

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