It’s time for spring cleaning!
Okay, it is only February and with the recent blizzard and freezing temps this may seem a little premature. But if you know you’re hoarding a bunch of stuff that you want to get rid of, now is the time to do it! Winona State’s SPED 490/695 class will be spending this year’s spring break in Treasure Beach, Jamaica, and they want to take your donations with them.
A total of 18 students and 7 travel leaders/instructors will be spending 8 days learning about the Jamaican culture, poverty and disability while mainly repainting, rebuilding and building a netball court for the children at Pedro Plains Primary School. The travel students will be working closely and interacting with the kids at the school, and the group of 25 are looking to also bring donations to the school. This is where you come in! These children and Pedro Plains are in need of nearly any kind of donation (see below).
This is a trip that the Special Education Department has been participating in for a few years now, and each year the amount of donations the Winona State crew brings with them grows. Last year the group brought with them between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds of donations, which was double what they brought with them the year before that! The travel study group welcomes donations from anyone, and they can be brought to the special education office in Gildemeister Hall room 221.
So, if you tackle your spring cleaning early you can gather up a bag of unwanted items that can be donated to a great cause! Donations will be accepted until the first week in March.
It’s about that time of the academic year; that time where seniors are looking at post-graduate jobs, clubs are looking for new members, and soon voting will happen for campus club positions. It’s also about that time when leaders are really thinking about how they can leave a lasting mark on their organizations. They’re also thinking about how to keep their organization prosperous after they’ve left.
This is where being a sustainable leader in any organization is key. According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD), “Sustainable leadership means planning and preparing for succession—not as an afterthought, but from the first day of a leader’s appointment” (para. 8).
In order to help leaders become more sustainable in their organization, they should keep these three “Rs” in mind: retain, repurpose, and be resilient.
It’s important to retain old members as well as fill in past positions with new people. For any successful organization, you can’t let it overload the group, but you also can’t leave your community with less people than what it needs to function. So, how do you keep your retention? It’s not a simple answer, but a good way is to be intentional with your recruitment and the discipleship of members into your group. Don’t have a hidden agenda and make sure your transparency, as a leader is as comfortable as you can make it. If your followers can see what you truly do in and outside of the position, that may make people more interested in joining and moving up in an organization.
In any organization, there should be plans from past activities and meetings that you’ve done as an organization. These plans should be reused and recycled through the years. However, for creating a sustainable organization, you need to make sure you’re having variety within your organizational activities. Repurpose old activities into new ones.
In your time as a leader, there are going to be challenges thrown at you. Finding new people to replace the old, and making sure your organization will thrive after you’re gone is very stressful. So, the last part of sustainable leadership involves resilience on your part. You have to make sure you jump back into “the game” after challenges and trials are thrown your way. Psychology Today defines resilience as: “That ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes” (para 1). Overall, remember that you need to make sure you’re taking care of yourself and doing things that you need to do to ensure your personal happiness and sanity.
Over winter break my friend, McKenna Cook, and I embarked on a journey to Ecuador that we will never forget. Prior to our departure, we were overwhelmed by the love and support from our fellow friends and family. Therefore, upon our arrival from Ecuador, I wrote a thank you note to my supporters expressing my gratitude for their generosity as well as filling them in on all that God did through McKenna and I on the trip.
I am sharing this letter to not only share part of my experience with you, but also to encourage you. I want to encourage you to find what it is that you are truly passionate about and then pursue it whole-heartedly. Nothing in this world can make you feel more satisfied than when you are pursuing what you love most. So, today I encourage you to find what it is you are passionate about (maybe even write it down) and start thinking about how you might pursue it. In my case I went to a foreign country. However, that might not be what you feel lead to do, and that is okay. You can make an impact in the world right here in Winona; even the things that seem small can make the biggest difference. My hope is that you feel encouraged by this, go on to pursue your unique passions, and in the end you can sit down to write a note of all that was done through you. But not just that, I hope you feel overwhelmed by how your unique passion was used to bless someone else.
Dear Friends and Family,
On December 11, 2015, my best friend and I embarked on an adventure to pursue our passions in videography, ministry, travel, and non-profit organizations. I am writing you to express my gratitude for your support of my most recent trip to the beautiful country of Ecuador. Without your prayers and monetary support this trip would not have been possible.
On this trip God used my friend, McKenna, and I to bless the people of Ecuador in ways we never thought possible. To be honest, we did not actually have an itinerary describing what exactly we were going to be doing on this trip before we left the country. In fact, that was actually our plan in itself. On this trip McKenna and I learned a lot about what it looks like to live a life outside of ourselves; being selfless. We wanted to demonstrate that kind of life on this trip by being the hands and feet of Jesus in whatever way we could. It was amazing how full our week quickly became when we just laid down our own plans and offered a hand wherever one was needed.
Our focus on this trip was to capture God’s work in Ecuador through the use of videography. We were blown away by how much of an impact our cameras made in the lives of many missionaries in Ecuador. Currently we are working on editing six videos that we gathered footage for on our trip, and once they are finished they will be shared across many social media platforms to raise support for the missionaries and their organizations there.
McKenna and I did more than just videography work on this trip. We did many different jobs ranging from a product photo shoot of the jewelry that was made by Sandi Youngren, to teaching her how to use Instagram. Sandi Youngren sells beautiful, handcrafted jewelry to bring hope and support to Ecuadorian women in need. Encantadora Jewelry is the name of her business and she has an Etsy site where you can find all of her stunning jewelry for sale. I would encourage you to check out her site at https://www.etsy.com/shop/QueEncantadora or like her Facebook page called Encantadora Jewelry.
I am incredibly grateful for the love and support you gifted me with on this adventure. I definitely left my heart in Ecuador and I cannot wait to return again soon to see all of the wonderful people that I have created lifelong friendships with. Please know that your investment in my experience has been a huge blessing and an answer to prayer in my life, and for that I could never thank you enough.
I was pretty excited to volunteer at Zumbro Lutheran Church for the Interfaith Hospitality Network in Rochester (IHN). After learning about IHN through a guest lecturer, I was interested in seeing first-hand how they run their homeless shelters. The night started off with Sarah and I looking through the large church for someone to direct us to the nighttime homeless shelter. The staff at Zumbro was very welcoming and more than happy to lead us in the right direction. The evening volunteers for IHN gave us a quick rundown of our responsibilities and showed us our sleeping quarters for the night.
After the other volunteers left, Sarah and I walked around the basement of the church to get a feel for the layout. While we were walking around we met a mother and her three children in the gymnasium. The youngest child came up to Sarah and me and asked us to play catch and basketball with him and his small, purple blowup ball. It was refreshing to see him smile and hear him giggle as we were playing. It was as if we were playing in his backyard, just trying to get those last precious minutes of playtime in before mom yells that it’s time to come in for bed (she didn’t yell).
There were four families staying at the church on this night, all singe parent households trying to figure things out. The children and parents go to school and work during the day, and then come to IHN for their evening meals and to sleep. All of the parents looked extremely tired, yet they took the time to make sure their children had everything they needed and wanted.
Sarah and I spent some time with a mother and her daughter during their bedtime snack. While we were chatting the young girl began singing a song she made up. It made absolutely no sense, at least to the adults in the room, yet she didn’t care. She kept signing and smiling until the song was over. The young girl then picked up IHN’s cordless phone and said ” I’m calling you,” so her and I played phone for a few moments before she went to bed.
It was a great experience, especially seeing the young children enjoying themselves despite their current circumstances. It was a great reminder of how people can remain happy and positive no matter what life throws at them.
On Oct. 26, 2015, my classmate Josh and I volunteered at a church shelter for those without a home in Rochester. Robin Saner’s foundations of counseling class in the Graduate Studies of Counselor Education Program is working with IHN (Interfaith Hospitality Networks) as part of an advocacy project. This project is helping us to be more active in our community in understanding poverty and it’s affects, and overall, we are learning how we can better the negative outcomes of poverty. I think it is easy for many of us to place judgment upon those without a home, and those living in poverty. I think poverty is viewed at a superficial level, instead of being viewed as a structural problem in our society. Which, in actuality, anyone could lose what he or she has worked hard for at any moment.
Joshua and I volunteered as overnight help, staying at the shelter during the nighttime hours. IHN and the different churches involved serve as a warm, welcoming, safe space for those without a home. I was not concerned about staying overnight because I usually can sleep in any environment, and in general I did not have any concerns. But, I needed to remind myself that families would most likely want their space. When Joshua and I arrived, the volunteers working before us explained our duties, where our bedrooms were, and some information about the families who were staying. It seemed to me these volunteers have helped for a while, which internally motivated me, and made me want to contribute more time in the future.
We all stayed downstairs which held the sleeping rooms, a gym, a movie lounge and a kitchen. When we arrived, only two of the families were there, and the other two were expected to arrive around 9pm. One family relaxed in the gym for a while; this family consisted of a mother, and her two teenage daughters who were interested in their phones the majority of the evening, and her son who I estimate to be about four years old. He enjoyed my company playing basketball in the gym-lots of giggles. The other family consisted of a mother and her three children; the children were in their room already upon our arrival, but their mom was awake working on school work. Josh was in charge of answering the telephone, and letting the expected families in upon their arrival. A mother and her cute little daughter arrived around 9pm, and they joined Josh and me in the kitchen. When in the kitchen, her daughter was singing a little tune- Joshua and I chuckled, and mom replied, “I don’t know what she is singing, maybe something from school”- it was a minor connection, but we all thought it was funny.
The last family, a father and his son arrived a little later. They also joined the kitchen for some food. I wanted to hear some stories, and/or make a deeper connection. But, I could tell families were just living their lives as they would regardless if we were there or not. The families then went to their rooms. After this, everyone seemed settled, so Josh and I went to our rooms.
As for sleeping, surprisingly, I DID NOT SLEEP! I usually can sleep anywhere; at any time. But, I achieved maybe two hours of sleep total. I do not know if it was the environment or if I was uncomfortable on the air mattress. I could not relax to get some shuteye. So with this, I was thinking and reflecting. I could not imagine–firstly, not having my own space. Then not being able to sleep, then getting up for work or school the nextday and restless. Then in turn feeling exhausted, and then over exerting myself at any job, and then trying to find a place to stay in the evening. I am a single person without children; I could not imagine being a mother, and single mother at that…it has to be a vicious cycle. Personal health, mental and physical, would not be a priority. Needless to say, this one restless night was eye opening.
Josh had his alarm set for 6:30am- a mother wanted to make sure someone would wake her if her alarm did not go off. I woke up around 6:45 am. The end cap of my two-ish hours of sleep.
The gentleman and his son were gone when I awoke, Josh shared he was getting his vehicle. Josh woke up earlier than 6:30am due to to this gentleman’s son crying because he was not certain where his dad was. His dad was in the shower! I did not hear this commotion- my room was a little further away from everyone. But, I wonder if he woke others. After this conversation, I joined everyone in the kitchen. The single mother and her cute daughter were ready to go and eating breakfast, along with the student mother and her children. Which, I would like to share that both mothers, by appearance, are hard working individuals. One had her work clothes on, and the other a student. I know there are many stereotypes about people without a home. I feel there is an association of laziness with homelessness, and this is an example, and proof that this is not the case.
At this time the kiddos from these families were eating breakfast- IHN had a food supply for the families. Cereal was the main thing consumed. The bus driver arrived around 7! The bigger (gym) family- mother, two daughters, and son, were scrambling to get ready. Joshua offered the toddler boy from this family some cereal for breakfast, but he did not want any. I am interested in the eating styles of the families. The single father and his son the night before consumed soda right before bed. The little son part of the bigger family, ate only a few gold fish before his family left in the morning. I wonder if there is any way we could better help families prepare food for their day? Food and nutrition is one component that could help better anyone’s day.
All families left 5 minutes before 7:30am. At the end of volunteering, doors were made sure to be locked and keys were put away. I will say this night volunteering put some things into perspective, and motivates me to do more in the community.
About a month ago, I spent the evening at a homeless shelter through Interfaith Hospitality Network out of Rochester. Typically families spend the night in various churches in the area that donate their space to the organization. Each week the families move to a different location on Sunday. When I went, I stayed in an actual house that the church in Eyota owned.
I was extremely nervous about staying there. However, I was not nervous for the reasons I think most people would be such as concern for their safety, I was just nervous and anxious because of the unknown. Whenever I am forced to put myself in unknown situations I am worried that things will be awkward or uncomfortable which causes anxiety for myself. For these reasons I asked my sister to come with me for this experience. I also thought it would be something new for her and maybe an eye opening experience. The evening went well, and looking back I should not have been so nervous for the experience! I definitely think going with someone else made things a lot easier.
The organization supports four families at a time, and I was able to observe the families’ interactions. They didn’t communicate much with me, but it was interesting just to see their interactions with each other. I could tell the families appreciated being able to stay in a home vs. a church for a few nights. I arrived around 8pm so I got to see the families coming in from work. They all ate a snack and let the children play with toys before going to bed. It was obvious that the parents were all exhausted. My sister and I were responsible for making sure the house was locked up when everyone arrived.
We slept on an air mattress in the living room, and each family had their own room. At 7:30 the next morning, another volunteer arrived to cook a hot breakfast for the families, which is done on the weekends. Although they were staying in a home, the things they had to use/play with were limited and used. Games were missing pieces; movies were very old and outdated. There were limited options for toys for the children. They also could use new bedding (blankets, pillows, etc.).
Something important that I think that our general society doesn’t understand is that anyone can become homeless. There is such a stigma attached with homeless people that they are lazy or use drugs. This experience just totally proved those stigmas wrong. At Interfaith Hospitality Network all parents are drug tested before being able to be a part of the organization. On top of that, the four families that were staying when I volunteered were all working as well. It’s unfortunate that that negative stigma is what so many people believe. I think if more people understood that it could happen to anyone, there might be more support and help for those in need.
Even though National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (Nov. 14-20) is coming to an end, you can still make a difference.
Hunger is something that we too often forget about when we live in a society where food is always right at our fingertips. Eventhough we are college students and feel like we are going to go hungry when we cannot afford to eat out on a Saturday night, we still have a pantry full of food at home. The truth is that the majority of us are blessed more than we may realize. About 1 in 9 people go to bed hungry every night. The truth is that you can make a difference.
In high school I led an event called One Meal One Day through a non-profit organization called Compassion International. The event encouraged people in my school and community to skip a meal and donate the money they would have spent on that meal. The money we raised was sent to Compassion International to be dispersed around the world to help feed families who have been living with growling, empty tummies every single day.
It does not take a certain, special person to make a difference in the life of someone else. Anyone can decide to step up and make a difference. All you have to do is make that first step and decide to do something outside of yourself. Are you willing to step up?
What if every one of us at Winona State University decided to skip a meal and give the money we would have spent to someone living in dire need? Think about the impact that could make. Do you think it’s possible? I do.
If you think skipping a meal will be too difficult for you or you don’t eat actual meals throughout the day because you are a typical college student, think outside the box. Think about that $5 drink you get from Mugby Junction every morning. Think about that new album you are going to download on iTunes. Think about the money you are going to spend on getting your nails done next week. What if instead of spending money on those things this week, we simply skipped them and used that money to support a family in need? This may even seem like a shock to you or something that you just could not bare to give up. Well, let’s think of a different idea.
What about instead of giving useless Christmas presents to your family this year, you gave money in their name to a non-profit organization like Compassion International? Or, next time you are at the grocery store, throw a couple extra of extra canned goods in your cart and donate them to the local food pantry. Get the idea? There is a limitless amount of ways for you to make a difference in the life of just one person.
Ronald Reagan said, “We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” This is so true. No one is asking you to solve world hunger by yourself. But together, we can make a huge difference.
It’s one day. It’s one meal. It’s one person. It’s you.
Volunteering with Family Promise in Rochester was an experience I was quite anxious and excited to take part in. I love having the opportunity to try new things and learn about the world around me. What had me most excited was the opportunity to get to know about some of the issues that the Rochester community is facing on a daily basis, such as homelessness.
What made this experience so enjoyable and less nerve racking was doing this with my classmate. In any new situation it can be slightly intimidating, but having someone there with me who also hasn’t done anything like this really helped put me at ease since neither one of us knew where to go or what we were doing.
Our challenge began when we arrived to the church, Christ United Methodist in Rochester. From the outside, the church looked fairly small and is an area that I had not spent any time in. Once we walked across the street (carrying our blankets, pillows and overnight bag), we walked in to what turned out to be a very large and beautiful church. The choir was upstairs practicing so we tried to quietly navigate our way around the church to find out where we needed to be. Once we got to the opposite end of the church, we found the stairs, made our way down, and navigated the many halls of the basement to find the coordinator in the kitchen. We were warmly greeted and were given our instructions for the evening.
It was in the midst of our conversations that we were able to have our first interactions with those who were staying at the church. Two brothers came out together to return a game they were playing because it was missing some pieces. Because it had been fairly quiet in the church halls, we took that opportunity to introduce ourselves to them and open ourselves to the experience that we were about to embark on for the next 10 hours or so. We engaged in some small talk and they were telling us how they speak Spanish, but were working really hard on learning English – which they did a phenomenal job. We reassured them that they were doing great and they excused themselves to head back to their room.
Another interaction that we had was with one of the fathers. He came out for a snack and after greeting him, he started to talk about his family and some of the issues he faces on a daily basis. He works full-time, his children are in school but at separate schools, which start times begin a little over an hour apart, and it is a one-car family. He really opened up about the struggles that he faces and how he wants to care for his family but when work and family conflict, it is very challenging to pick your battles. For a family that works so hard and encourages their children to try new things and get them involved (his son was in football), it may seem as if the world is against him and his family.
When you think of homelessness, you don’t think of a family who has working parents, a vehicle and children who are active in school and extra-curricular activities. I felt as if that night was a night of breaking stereotypes. Out of the four families there that night, two had vehicles, three of the four had at least one employed parent, and the profession of one couple was a nurse and doctor. What an enlightening time to reflect and see that anything can happen to anyone. It really opened my eyes even further to understanding how quickly life can change and those who are homeless did not choose to be.
The bit that I want to touch on is the living arrangements that each family and volunteer had. Each family had their own private room to share. For the volunteers, all three of us slept on a stage in the downstairs dining hall on twin sized air mattresses. Each family member and volunteer are offered the same items including a twin sized air mattress for the kids and volunteers, and a full sized air mattress for the parents. We had one sheet, blanket, pillow, towel, and washcloth. Although it was not much, it was exactly what we needed to get through the night. It is because of such dedicated and selfless community members that such a program exists and can help families move from such a dark time in their life to a time full of light and hope.
Everyone has that one cause that they hold near and dear to their hearts. For some it may be spending time at animal shelters or volunteering at soup kitchens but for me, its donating blood. Ever since I can remember I would go with my mom to the local blood drive and watch her donate blood. It seemed like a no-brainer that as soon as I was old enough, I would donate as well. The youngest you can start donating is at the age of 16 with your parent’s permission as long as you meet all the requirements. Unfortunately, I didn’t meet the weight requirements until I was 17, but I wanted to find a way to help out. I started volunteering through our student government and by my senior year I had worked my way up to coordinating the events.
Did you know that donating 1 pint of blood can save up to 3 lives and that every 2 seconds someone needs a blood transfusion? According to the American Red Cross, there are 5 million patients in need of blood every year, but only 38% of the population is eligible to donate blood.
Less and less young people are donating blood these days. It is understandable to be nervous, especially if you are afraid of needles! The process is quite simple though, and you even get snacks and juice after. The American Red Cross hosts over 200,000 blood drives a year and its simple to find one near you. Winona State hosts blood drives about twice a year, as one just happened a few weeks ago. Signing up is easy and they accept walk-ins if the drive is not too busy. After registration the donor will go through a health history questionnaire and mini physical. After this, you are ready to donate blood! The actual donation process takes about 8-15 minutes or until a pint of blood has been collected, and the needle insertion is just a quick pinch. After donating, it is important to have a snack and something to drink. After about 15 minutes of relaxing, you are free to resume your daily activities and enjoy the fact that you just helped save lives!
Recently, I read an article about the need for bone marrow donors and felt compelled to become a part of Be The Match. Every three minutes, one person is diagnosed with a blood cancer and every 10 minutes someone dies from a blood cancer. Be The Match has become a global leader in bone marrow transplants with over 12.5 million selfless volunteers on the registry. The registry is for patients who need a bone marrow transplant but don’t have a matched donor in their family. The need for new members on the registry is constant because there are still patients who do not have a match.
To get involved with this organization is very simple. Just like blood drives, there are Be The Match drives. The organization recruits new registry members between the ages of 18 to 44. There are a few medical guidelines that have to be met but the process is a simple cheek swab. The cheek swab is analyzed for tissue type to hopefully be matched with a patient. Only about 1 and 540 members of the registry are matched with a patient in need and go on to donate. But every new donor that joins gives new hope a patient searching for a correct match.
I had the privilege of getting to participate in Winona State’s recent Be The Match Drive a few weeks ago. It lasted 3 days and simply took 15 minutes. It was as simple as walking into the East Hall in Kryzsko Commons and hopefully becoming the hope for a patient battling.
Science has always been my favorite subject because it’s so fascinating how the world works. Being involved with Astronomy Club has its perks including trips to the science museum and volunteering for Elementary Science Fun Night. Elementary Science Fun Night is a volunteer opportunity with different science clubs on campus including Astronomy Club, Physics Club and Geology Club. The clubs come together and go to an elementary school in the area to teach kids about science in a fun, hands-on learning environment.
This year, the clubs traveled to Goodview Elementary. From 6:30-8:00pm kids visited various stations taught by the clubs. The Geology Club brought a volcano demonstration, rocks, minerals, fossils and toy dinosaurs to the event. Kids colored various species of dinosaurs, which kept them occupied for a while.
The Physics Club brought beads that glow different colors under UV light. Liquid Nitrogen was also a popular demonstration to showcase physics to kids. Dr. Ferstl, a physics professor on campus always brings liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen provides plenty of fun experiences for kids. The most common experiment is dipping a bouncy ball into liquid nitrogen then dropping it on the floor so it shatters. As a bonus, ice cream can be made with liquid nitrogen and it’s delicious.
Gravity is a scientific concept that was well represented at this event. The activity was called a gravity well, which consisted of fabric, a dense ball and a marble. The dense ball was at the center of the fabric. Kids rolled a marble around on the fabric, which represents how gravity impacts the planets and the solar system.
Astronomy Club also brings its fair share of experiments. Impact cratering is a very popular activity that Astronomy Club provides. Kids throw various spherical objects in sand to determine the size and shape of craters that would be created by each variation. Craters are collisions between an asteroid, comet or the meteorite with the moon. So basically this station simulates how the moon is impacted by various objects in space.
The station I was responsible for was about static electricity. As I turned on the machine, I put both of my hands on the big silver globe. The conveyor belt in the machine would pick up speed generating electricity that would get transferred to me. Kids were amazed and a little freaked out because my hair reacted really well. If anybody came near me, they could feel the electricity that I radiated. My station was super interactive because kids would poke my arm and get shocked. Some kids laughed and thought it was the coolest concept ever.
Joining a science club was one of the best decisions I made at WSU. I’m not a physics major, but I still love participating and being an officer of the Astronomy Club. Participating in fun volunteer events like these make for a great weekend. Don’t be afraid to join a science club! You will learn a lot and meet great people in the process.