Settling In

It takes me a long time to get settled into a new place. At the end of May, I moved off-campus (to an apartment across the street, but off-campus nonetheless). I have been incrementally unloading piles from my car, lugging them up three flights of narrow stairs, shuffling them from room to room, and coaxing them toward their dwelling places. On the first day, I stocked the bookshelves. After a week, I managed to confine my clothes to closets and dressers. By the end of week two, I had sheets on the bed, a full refrigerator, and a bedroom fan. In a decorating frenzy this weekend, I tried to fend off the white walls with an assortment of posters, pictures, and tapestries. Progress continues, however slowly.

Still, a home feels empty without living things. I have kept plants – with varying degrees of success – since I was very young. My south-facing window played host to fledglings before they outgrew the sill: a hibiscus that is now my height; an array of herbs and succulents; and a $3 cactus that, with its spiny spawn, has since outgrown many pots. I enjoy their company. No surprise then, that I found myself in Rick’s Garden Center in search of new roommates. After thorough inspection and much deliberation, I came away with two hanging plants. One is a philodendron (family Araceae) that trails cheerily down from my kitchen ceiling. The other, perched in my bedroom, is a rabbit’s-foot fern (Davallia fejeensis). Under a mound of fronds, furry tubers grope down the edges of the pot, tarantula-like. I didn’t realize when I brought it home that I was joining a legion of highly specialized plant-lovers: Send in the Fronds – NYTimes.com. Despite its rather alarming appearance, I hope my rabbit’s foot will bring the apartment its namesake good luck – at least until I find a place to hang my horseshoe.

Children’s Literacy Center

For the past two years I have been involved with a local Colorado Springs non-profit The Children’s Literacy Center. The CLC provides free one-on-one reading tutoring to students who are below grade level in elementary and middle school. I began volunteering the fall of my sophomore year with a 5th grade girl who was at a 2nd grade reading level. Every Tuesday and Thursday and I tutored her for an hour, reading from the program curriculum, chapter books, and playing games. By the end of the semester she had grown tremendously and graduated from the program. The following spring I was introduced to a new student, a second grader, who I worked with for four months. In the summer of 2010 I worked part time as an intern for the CLC helping to plan their summer camp and organize their online book store. Because of this opportunity I was asked to come onto the paid staff and work as a Site Coordinator at Helen Hunt Elementary in the fall of 2010 and organize 12 CC volunteers each semester.

In short, there are many valuable opportunities around the Springs with local non-profits. The following are links to the CLC’s page as well as recent projects done by Colorado Springs non-profits.

http://www.peakreader.org/

http://www.gazette.com/sections/nonprofits/

CC students love to get involved and give back to the community, so there are also a number of student-run organizations on campus that are focused on service. The CC soup kitchen runs every Sunday out of Shove Chapel, Cool Science does experiments and projects with local elementary students, and Early Birds provides free reading and math tutoring in the mornings before class at Bristol Elementary.

A few thoughts on education reform:

We can all agree that education reform needs to happen in the United States.  BUT, how do we go about it?

Waiting for Superman is a 2010 documentary about the failures of the American public school system.  I recently watched this film again in my History of Education class taught by Professor Dennis Showalter.  Sure–it is a phenomenal film and makes you think about our education system.  But how do we fix the achievement gap?  Waiting for Superman implies that the “Superman” to help fix our education system is the charter school model.

But wait, are charter schools the answer? At the organization level charter schools sound perfect (in the general sense): principals get to choose ‘right fit’ teachers, teachers have the opportunity to get school-time for class planning, students are immersed in a college preparatory atmosphere, students are motivated to do well, and so forth…

In reality, charter schools are vastly underfunded compared to the traditional public schools (the film dismisses this); the film almost dismisses socio-economic status, we need to think about bettering the home life and life styles of these families in conjunction with bettering the school system; and Diane Ravitch (a well-known education historian) commented that charter schools really aren’t that successful (1 in 5 actually succeed).

Education reform is multi-faceted in its problems and methods to reform. We need to consider ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender, and funding. We need to think about how to avoid teacher attrition–statistically, there is a higher turnover rate in charter schools than traditional pubic schools. How are we bettering family life? How are we getting parents involved (especially if some parents may have to work 2 or 3 jobs to maintain a basic lifestyle)?

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article called”U.S. Students Remain Poor at History, Tests Show.”

American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject, according to results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.

While there are problems with the test the students took (National Assessment of Educational Progress), this points at a crisis that charter schools can’t simply solve. What are we to do to promote holistic education reform?

CC has a Baseball Team?

The Story of Four Kids Motivated by the Love of the Game

The 2011 season for the Colorado College Club Baseball team was a roller coaster ride that will never be forgotten. We came into the season with 6 returning players, and hope that we would get enough support from the incoming freshman class. We no graduating seniors, we knew this was going to be a rebuilding year, and the season started out as such. However, before we get to that point it is worth noting how this team came to being, Four years ago a group of motivated sophomores decided it was no longer okay for CC not to have a baseball team. They set out in the hopes of creating a club team, thereby bringing a baseball team to the school for the first time since Title 9 was passed.

Led by Matt Kerns, Eddie Spears and Tristan Kanipe and Brad Dixon, a baseball team was formed, and placed into the NCBA (National Club Baseball Association) Division II league. While the first two years were rough, both ending with CC possessing a losing record, the 3rd year proved to be different. Last year for the first time in the programs history, CC finished with a winning record, and even more impressively won the series against division and city rival UCCS, who had dropped down from DI club that year. It was awesome to be able to celebrate a winning record with the seniors who had created the team, because for them it justified all the hard work they had to put into it. However, as happy as it was to celebrate the accomplishment, the harsh reality set in that this core of the team, our four seniors were graduating and moving on to bigger and better things. What was remaining was four sophomores and two freshman, and a whole lot of confusion.

The Team in 2010

With Matt Valeta and I both studying abroad in the fall this year, the day to day operations of preparing for the spring season was left to Russ Pagan, Chuck Lovering and Sam Brody. These three sat in on activities fair, met with prospective students, etc. and managed the team, while a lot paperwork and necessary busy work for the season was done abroad by Matt and I. We both came back excited about the possibility and praying for enough freshmen to continue this club. What we found was a whole host of new faces ready to step in and fill some of the roles that had left to go work in Washington. Reuben Mitrani, Jayson Post, Jesse Paul, Bradley Bachman and Stephan Gayle joined us as freshman, Will Allenbach transferred in from Tulane as a sophomore, and Chris Lowenstein joined the team as a junior. All of these additions gave us hope for the season to come. However, we also realized which such a young team, that there was going to be a lot of road bumps and learning experiences.

The season started out rough, with the rust of the team being the most apparent aspect of the team. This culminated in a 8-2 lead being blown in the 7th(final) inning against Western State. Lots of errors led to bad losses, and about halfway through the season we got together as a team and decided we had had enough. We started playing better, and took two of three from Fort Lewis, and played better against UCCS and Western. I injured my ankle over spring break, and took on the coaching role during two of our biggest series. However, the season ended on a positive note, with us ending the season on a 3 game winning streak, finishing with a 2 game sweep of Fort Lewis. With the season coming to a close, one thing stood out to my co-captains and I; we weren’t graduating anyone. We plan on returning at least 13, with hope for 5-6 freshman, and a couple current students joining on. However, while our regular season was over, one of the most inspiring moments of the season was yet to come.

Earlier in the season the coach from DU had let the league know that a player on their team had passed away from a skiing accident. While we as a team were unavailable to attend the memorial, the coach Jared Floyd proposed a memorial game between DU and CC in honor of Joe Lubar. We thought it was an incredible idea, and said we would love to participate. Son on the second Sunday of 8th block we drove down to Denver not quite sure what to expect. What we encountered was an incredible afternoon full of events that made us completely forget the fact that it was over 90 degrees out. The day started with the announcement of both teams, and both of us lining up on the field, followed by the Lubar family coming out to the pitchers mound. Then an accapella group from DU performed “And So It Goes” by Billy Joel, which brought tears to the eyes of many. Afterwards a music student at DU came and sang an incredible rendition of the national anthem. After that DU retired the jerseys of Joe Lubar, and presented the framed jerseys to the family. We then presented an engraved bat on behalf of CC and the club baseball team.

Finally the younger brother came out and threw the first pitch, which began the game. The feeling that overcame both teams was that this game was not about beating their rival, but instead something much bigger. Both teams were cheering for one another, and simply enjoying the 9 inning game that insued. Both teams were able to use all their players, and over 100 fans were in attendance, including families from the Colorado College team. Overall it was one of those experiences that moves you, and you walk away from knowing you took part in something special. The coach and I talked after the game about making this a yearly tradition, and it may be that it would come to CC next year, which is something that CC should look forward too if given that opportunity.

The Winning Strata-gy

When it comes to sporting events, I love to root for the underdog. At the College National Ultimate Frisbee Championship, we had the thrill of learning what it’s like to be that underdog, fighting our way up through the pack. Both our Men’s and Women’s club frisbee teams qualified for the championship tournament, a first for either in the school’s history. As teams from a small school, we were hardly expected to match the level of play of teams from huge DI schools like the University of Oregon, the Univeristy of California at Santa Barbara, and Stanford. Our women’s team, Lysistrata’s Tools (or’ Strata,’ for short), began the tournament seeded 15th out of the 20 qualifying teams and fourth out of the five teams in our pool. In our first day of pool play, we came out strongs and upset the #2 and #3 seeded teams in our pool. About 3:50 into this highlight reel, you can watch us keep fighting for our “Cinderella Story:”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfrWQbvka60&feature=player_embedded[/youtube]

Determined to keep our energy up, we finished out our pool play undefeated and qualified for quarterfinals after that strong win against UNC-Wilmington, the overall #3 seed in the tournament. It was great to be playing in Boulder – in addition to the beautiful backdrop, our sideline was packed with parents, fans, and CC friends who came out to support us with typical Tiger spirit. We faced a tough loss in quarters to the University of Michigan, who went on to lose to UCSB in the finals and take second in the tournament. While we would have loved the chance to keep playing together, we couldn’t help but be proud of the performance we put on for CC’s national debut. Not only did we play hard, we had a blast doing it. Here’s to Strata, all smiles after our final game:

 

 

Summer Motto

Summer is for reading! No matter what else you are doing, summer is the best time of the year to do some of the reading you’ve been putting off for the whole year. And in Colorado Springs, in such beautiful, gorgeous weather, it’s almost a crime not to. I recently finished reading Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played with Fire and am currently waiting for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest to be returned to the library so that I can finish the series. They are great books, but I must also confess that I love books on espionage, conspiracies, social deviance and a little (read a LOT) of action is always the cherry on top.

That being said, I will read anything I can get my hands on. Right now, I’m reading The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Yes! at the same time. Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey is also on my nightstand, although I don’t get to it as often, I’ll typically read a chapter a week. I’d been waiting to read these books the whole year, but just never quite had the time, that little thing called school. This is just the beginning, so there will be more ramblings about what I’m reading. And just remember, what ever else you are doing, SUMMER IS FOR READING!

My Summer (Re)Reading List

 

 

 

(aka highly recommended reading by Melissa)

Simone de Beauvoir- Second Sex

 

Ralph Ellison-Invisible Man (MY ABSOLUTE FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME)

 

Robert Putnam- Bowling Alone

 

Michael Pollan- Omnivore’s Dilemma

 

Another summer goal I have is to learn some French. I bought Rosetta Stone recently and plan to at least be somewhat conversational. I just can’t ask “pardon, où sont les toilettes?” all the time…

Summer in the Springs

This is my second summer in the Springs, and I can’t wait! This weekend I explored Territory Days in Old Colorado City (picked up some VERY early Christmas presents, new loose leaf tea from Organica Tea, and a sunburn) and next weekend there’s another festival in Manitou Springs! In between I’m enjoying the beautiful, non-humid  weather (I’m from the Midwest), surrounding parks and paths, and researching other activities for the summer. I’m going to see Third Eye Blind in Fort Collins (http://tasteoffortcollins.com/) this coming weekend (for $5!!) and Jerry Seinfeld in July at the Pikes Peak Center.

I also love to explore downtown Colorado Springs. Some of my favorites are Josh and Johns – a great ice cream place owned by CC grads, Poor Richards/Little Richards – an awesome bookstore/coffee shop/toy store/pizza shop also owned by a CC grad, and Nosh – a tapas restaurant that is great for special occasions or a fun night out (http://www.nosh121.com/). My friends and I also just discovered a place that makes great bubble tea, a perfect addition to the summer. Also, around the Springs we are always looking for restaurants with patios (Colorado summers are perfect for outdoor dining).  People joke that Colorado Springs has more restaurants per capita than other cities, but for a moderately sized city, there really is a wide range of great dining adventures!

Summer in Colorado Springs!

Hello all,

Summer is here!  Today I will be moving into my apartment with Sandy (my roommate!)!!  She will be doing the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program at CC, which starts next week.  Oh, you didn’t know that CC had a graduate program?  I think it’s phenomenal and such an amazing experience–liberal arts, block plan/block breaks (! Can you imagine block breaks in graduate school?), student teaching (what else could you ask for?)!  Click here to check it out.

Speaking of education, I am interning with a professor at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs doing education policy research. I’m incredibly excited, and also overwhelmed. Excited, because this is exactly what I want to do in the future.  For me, education policy synthesizes my interests in the theoretical practice and the experiences of humans.  I know theories of inequality, but how do I eradicate inequality? Is it possible? Education policy, in some sense, attempts to help me find some of those answers. That’s why it’s overwhelming. It’s also overwhelming, because this is a peek into my future! I’m currently working on three projects!  ahhH!

I’m all about the good tunes–especially the Summer playlists–and wanted to honor the memory of Gil Scott-Heron who passed away a few days ago.

Long before Public Enemy urged the need to “Fight the Power” or N.W.A. offered a crude rebuke of the police, Gil-Scott Heron was articulating the rage and the disillusionment of the black masses through song and spoken word. (The Associated Press)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS3QOtbW4m0[/youtube]

 

Enjoy your summer, everyone!  (I’ll try and update often and narrate my summer in Colorado.) Hopefully I’ll see some of you in the fall!