Earth Day Service Project 2019

On April 22, 1970, U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson founded Earth Day. And on April 27, 2019, eight dedicated environmentalists from Arapahoe Community College—some seeking Service Learning credit—joined Denver Audubon’s Master Birders, Naturalists, and other volunteers to learn more about various species sharing our planet.

ACC’s Earth Day Service Project began at 7:30 a.m. when Cristina Duke (an ACC student from Joan Anderssen’s ECON class) arrived with her young daughter Kaelyn, then Juliet Hubbell (ACC’s Humanities faculty member) joined us with her daughter Rachelle. Dylan Goodman (from Diana Hornick’s online Interpersonal Communication class) and Lisa Asbill (from Karen Browning’s online Interpersonal Communication class) also attended early that Saturday to help pull weeds, cut back some Rabbitbrush, and rake leaves and branches from the Garden Circle just past the entrance to Denver Audubon’s Nature Center, south of Chatfield State Park in Littleton.

Left to right: Dylan Goodman, Audubon Master Birder Mary Keithler, Trina Wilson, Rachelle Hubbell, Juliet Hubbell, Lisa Asbill, Diana Hornick

At 9 a.m. Trina Wilson (an ACC student from one of our science classes taught by Celia Norman) met up with Team ACC to begin the Denver Metro Nature Challenge BioBlitz. What’s a BioBlitz? It’s an event that brings together natural resource experts, community volunteers, and members of the public to inventory all species in a specific area over a specific time period.

A lone grasshopper rests in dried and fallen Cottonwood leaves. (Photo courtesy of Trina Wilson)

Pycnoporellus, a genus of fungi, grows on the trunk of a tree near Audubon’s Nature Center. (Photo courtesy of Trina Wilson)

Poison Ivy berries can contain oxalates, needle-like crystals that cause pain and swelling in the lips, face, tongue, and skin. (Photo courtesy of Trina Wilson)

Vertebrae of a mammal found during our BioBlitz hike. (Photo courtesy of Trina Wilson)

Our Naturalist guide, Dave Erickson, alongside Master Birder Mary Keithler, pointed out native plants and called our attention to many birds, including a flock of six American White Pelicans soaring overhead and some Hummingbirds whirring by us at ground level. We hiked the trails adjacent to the beaver ponds, majestic Cottonwoods, and Audubon’s ever-popular springtime bird banding station.

Audubon Master Naturalist Dave Erickson (in the middle with hat) talks about Rabbitbrush and various other native plants at Denver Audubon’s Nature Center in Littleton. Note the ACC backpacks that were filled with goodies and provided to all volunteers, complements of ACC’s Student Life Office.

Between 9 and 11 a.m., and after the morning turned from cloudy to partly sunny, Team ACC helped create a snapshot of 50 different local species of plants, mammals, birds, insects, and fungi, better understanding our beautiful natural world.

Red-Winged Blackbird perched and observing BioBlitz participants. (Photo courtesy of Trina Wilson)

Wild Plum blooms in late April on nature trails at Audubon. (Photo courtesy of Trina Wilson)

Since 1970, National Earth Day has not been considered a national “holiday.” But if we want to continue breathing fresh air, drinking clean water, observing mammals, enjoying bird songs, and appreciating every plant we see and smell and eat, then Earth Day needs to become a national holiday in order to bring even more awareness to all of the species we share this planet with. Join us right now by signing the petition….and see you next April to celebrate our wondrous planet!

by Diana Hornick, ACC Communication Department Faculty
 & Service Learning Center Coordinator

A Year-Long Project: Project Homeless Connect

“Project Homeless Connect was the most inspiring event of humanity that I have been part of in a while. We need more compassion and acceptance in our world today, and being at the event reminded me of all I have and all I can give to others. Thanks to everyone who organized and was a huge to small part of this tremendously valuable event!”

This quote from one of our 35 ACC volunteers at Project Homeless Connect says it all.

Sponsored on November 15, 2018 by Mile High United Way, Denver’s Road Home, and the City and County of Denver, over 750 volunteers helped connect those in need to an array of offerings, ranging from ID services, housing information, resume workshops, haircuts, legal assistance, and various healthcare service—like massage and diabetes testing—to specific help for veterans, children, and pets. Plus, 157 people were offered jobs on the spot. ACC is proud to have been a provider and sponsor for this remarkable event, each of us becoming more educated about homelessness, as well as better understanding issues of diversity since culture, race, age, learning and physical challenges, gender, sexual orientation, and religion were all represented in one day.

On that sunny, unseasonably warm, 60-degree day, ACC helped our most vulnerable population access much-needed resources to become self-sufficient for themselves and their families. But this annual, one-day event—open to people of all ages who are experiencing homelessness or facing housing instability—did not begin and end on November 15.

Beginning back in Fall 2017, ACC’s Service Learning Center began collaborating with Phi Theta Kappa, Student Life, our Library, and various other departments to collect 1,000 coats for the Fall 2018 event. We fell short of our coat count, but our community did step up, and generous students, staff, and faculty donated 450 coats right up to the night before the event took place.

Phi Theta Kappa students Savannah Lewis-Sweed, Carli Rodriguez, Josephine Thibodeau, and Ryan Holmes.

Phi Theta Kappa students Savannah Lewis-Sweed, Carli Rodriguez, Josephine Thibodeau, and Ryan Holmes.

It was quite daunting to collect and store hundreds of coats for two and a half semesters, but it was worth it to know some of our teachers were planning worthwhile Service Learning assignments for their students. Dina Hornreich’s Interpersonal Communication student, Rachel Anderson, and Karen Rojenko’s Nursing student, Josh Mickelson, spent time volunteering at our ACC Coat Table at the event by showing up at 7:30 a.m. to help set up and staying through the morning to hand out coats while learning about the many families looking to stay warm this winter. Chris McKellip’s AAA assignment focused on Service Learning, helping Jonathan Rumley and Carol Capuano learn first-hand about the homeless situation by guiding guests through the many services offered, while Tamara Haynes, being a licensed cosmetologist, adorned 15 guests by cutting their hair.

ACC students Rachel Anderson and Josh Mickelson

ACC students Rachel Anderson and Josh Mickelson

If collecting and storing hundreds of coats was a task, how did we plan to get them to the Denver Convention Center 10 miles north of ACC? That was easier than realized, knowing how helpful and collaborative our departments are across campus. Brendan Bieker and Adrian Medina from our Facilities Department drove us and our dozens of trash bags filled with coats of all sizes in two enormous pick-up trucks to the event center in the middle of afternoon traffic—and back—with no complaints at all.

Loading up the ACC coat donations the day before the event. Pictured are Brandon Bieker, Diana Hornick, Josie Mills, and Adrian Medina

Dropping off the ACC coat donations the day before the event. Pictured are Brandon Bieker, Diana Hornick, Josie Mills, and Adrian Medina

But at 10 a.m. on November 15, it was show time, so we had to have our coat area set up and ready for the more than 1,400 guests who would soon be arriving at our table, planning for another Colorado winter. Good thing a small group of our volunteers entered the event center nearly three hours earlier that morning energized because we needed a lot of time to tear apart those bags and organize the coats neatly in sections on our 24 tables for men, women, and children—along with a miscellaneous items’ table of hats, gloves, and even t-shirts. We instantly knew we had more tables than coats, but then we introduced ourselves to Linda and her staff of three from Coats for Colorado who brought another 750 coats. We also worked also alongside Juanita from Servicios de la Raza and two friendly folks from Home Aid Colorado who dispensed 1,000 pairs of socks. We even gave away over 20 of those plastic bags that originally held the coats—without rips or holes—to some guests asking for ways to store their new coat or socks or whatever else they were procuring for themselves.

English and Literature faculty Juliet Hubbell and Assistive Technology Specialist for Student Access Services Enrique Castro Franco volunteered at ACC’s Coat Table. Their blue volunteer t-shirts tell guests that they are bilingual.

ACC Library and Learning Commons Director Lisa Chestnut and eLearning Specialist Cherri LaMarr volunteered at the ACC Coat Table

ACC’s Workforce and Community Programs staff volunteered at the ACC Coat Table. Pictured: Kelly Locascio, Amber Toliver, Julie Beggs, Anthony Silio, and Shao Yeung

But serving the community while hearing people’s stories about living in Denver without a place to call home is more than supplying coats to those in need. Brad Bartholomew, a member of our photography faculty, incorporated a unique and valuable Service Learning project for his class by bringing 12 students out to their own booth so they could learn to take high-quality portraits and communicate with the public. Brad had this to say: “We had a wonderful and positive experience. I had many students say that it was one of the most positive things they have ever done. They thanked me for getting them involved. I set it up, but they did all the work. We were all proud to represent ACC as we helped our neighbors.” And ACC was not alone in educating students about poverty and inequity, as Regis University’s Service Learning students worked the Welcome area to pair up volunteers with over 1,400 guests that day.

ACC Photography professor Brad Bartholomew and his Commercial Photography students

ACC’s Portrait Studio at Project Homeless Connect

Humans were not the only ones receiving care and support that day. Quite a few dogs—small and large—were getting checkups and immunizations, picking out toys and snacks and bags of food, taking time to be petted by volunteers representing non-profit animal shelters, and even getting baths. And one or two got to have their portraits taken by Brad’s students while posing with on their humans’ laps.

Some dogs accompanied their humans to Project Homeless Connect this Fall 2018

By 3 o’clock, the event was over and people were meandering out the door with smiles and new outlooks on life. At our now-empty coat tables, the remaining five volunteers had only three coats left that Servicios de la Raza—which serves as an integral chamber in the heart of Metro Denver’s Latinx community—took with them for their upcoming Thanksgiving event.

Reflecting back on the event just a few weeks after it ended, it felt good to leave knowing so many people that we live alongside in our communities would be warm this winter, because in spite of the balmy temperatures we had for the event, a big cold front with lots of snow was heading towards Denver in the next few days. It was also sad to think so many individuals, especially the children and dogs we saw, needed to have those resources in the first place and couldn’t simply spend that day nestled in their own, safe homes. Sometimes, we take what we have for granted, but it’s good to know we can help again in other areas of support next year. Any ideas? See you next Fall at Project Homeless Connect 2019!

ACC Service Learning Center Coordinator/Communication faculty Diana Hornick and Math faculty Heidi Barrett

by Diana Hornick and Josie Mills

9 Reasons You Should Get Involved On Campus

ACC students and Student Life Director Dan Balski at the Student Engagement FairGoing to college is about so much more than just going to class (but please make sure you are doing that). It is also about gaining experience and perspective to help you in your future. Getting involved on campus can help you succeed in numerous ways…here are 9:

  1. Build Your Community / Find Your People
    Joining a club or organization, going to an on-campus event, or working on campus can help you find your people (those people that get you and you get them) and build your community. You’ll meet people who share your interests and passions. Having that community helps you stay engaged with your education and with your college. You’ll gain the sense that you belong right where you are and have the support to help you Move Mountains toward your degree/certificate.
  2. Networking
    Getting involved on campus gives you a chance to network with not only your peers, but faculty, staff, transfer college reps, and potential employers. At ACC, we offer career fairs/visits, transfer fairs/visits, clubs, organizations like NSLS and PTK, and a variety of activities where you can practice your networking skills.
  3. Get Different Perspectives
    When you get involved, you will get to meet people with different perspectives and life experiences. As you share your perspectives and experiences and learn about other viewpoints, your perspective will expand. Having an open mind and seeing another person’s point of view will help in future jobs and socially.
  4. It Helps You Reach Your Goals / Succeed
    Studies show that students who get involved on-campus tend to perform better in the classroom. This may be because these students find study groups, take classes with their new community of peers, and overall just feel more supported and ready to tackle each challenge they face. (Read more about the research by Alexander Astin and Vincent Tinto.)
  5. Snacks!Students at Student Life BBQ
    Attending an on-campus activity is a great way to feed your mind and your body. We know our students have more commitments than just college, so we provide you with snacks, coffee, pizza, soup, salad, and candy (for that burst of sugar) to keep you going from one activity to the next. Enjoy an activity and a snack between classes.
  6. It’s Good for Your Mental Health / Well-Being
    Taking time to enjoy an activity or join a club for a hobby you enjoy can do wonders for your mental health. It gives you a chance to focus on something you enjoy and de-stress. It helps you relax, but can also help you prepare for tasks and homework that lie ahead.
  7. It’s a Resume Booster
    Being involved on campus looks great on your resume. When you join a club, organization, or academic experience (Pinnacle, Progenitor, Great Books, Writers Studio) you are showing that you are well-rounded to potential employers. You are also learning skills that you may not be in class, such as: social, leadership, and organizational skills. Clubs and organizations are a great way to practice those “soft skills” employers are seeking. You may also be eligible for a work study job on campus as a component of your financial aid package. Work on campus and build your job skills.
  8. Develop Leadership Skills
    Speaking of building your skills, colleges have organizations to help provide you with leadership skills. At ACC, we offer: Student Government, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), and National Society of Leadership Success (NSLS). These organizations provide you with the opportunity to take part in competitions, activities, and events that will give you the chance to grow as a leader.
  9. It’s fun!
    Getting involved on campus is fun! These activities, clubs, and organizations are designed to help you relax, build skills, and interact with your peers and the college community. So take a break from your studies (but please still make time to study) and join the shenanigans!

You might be asking yourself how you can get involved at ACC now? It’s easy.

There are a ton of ways to get involved whatever your interests may be. We want ACC to be your home away from home while you are getting your degree or certificate. Our faculty and staff are here to help you along your educational journey and beyond. After all, college is a time for studying (we didn’t forget), discovery, and planning for and beginning your future. Let’s Move Mountains together!

For more information about how you can get involved on campus, contact the ACC Student Life Office at 303.797.5668, student.life@arapahoe.edu, or visit M2820 on the Littleton Campus.

A Day of Service at Audubon’s Nature Center

It was a hot day. Yes, it was sunny and clear and dry, so it was a “nice” day to do some gardening outdoors with the Audubon Society of Greater Denver near Chatfield State Park here in Littleton. But it was hot.

The Service Learning Center, along with ACC’s ViTaL (Volunteering To Learn) Team, helped get faculty involved with this year’s “Day of Service” on Saturday, April 14, 2017, sponsored by Student Life. We ended up with seven able-bodied volunteers around 1 p.m. to help dig out mint, grasses, and rabbit brush from a bird garden area at the entrance to Audubon’s Nature Center very near the parking lot, and very near the unrelenting construction taking place at the main road. But the noisy trucks did not deter us from helping beautify this community area for Audubon, whose motto is “Connecting people with nature through conservation, education, and research.”

 

Steven and Ashley -student volunteers

Steven and Ashley (our two student volunteers) dug right in (pun intended!) to help Audubon for 3 hours on Saturday in the heat and sun, with plenty of birds chirping in the background.

Rebecca from Veterans Services removes invasive grasses along the perimeter of the bird garden.

Whitney from Student Life helps Ashley in the bird garden with bird-catching nets in the background. The nets are used during bird banding days in April and March each year, teaching the public about some of Colorado’s feathered friends.

Register for a bird banding event here.

Rebecca from Veterans Services removes invasive grasses along the perimeter of the bird garden.

Rebecca from Veterans Services removes invasive grasses along the perimeter of the bird garden.

Our ACC student teaches Sarah (also from Student Life) and Whitney, along with Rebecca, how to dig a proper hole.

Our ACC student teaches Sarah (also from Student Life) and Whitney, along with Rebecca, how to dig a proper hole.

Jennifer

Jennifer (a teacher in our Psychology Department) battled (and won!) her fight to clip off and dig out rabbit brush roots in this dry, yet quite rocky, soil.

birds in tree

And…we actually saw a few birds at Audubon. These two Red-winged Blackbirds coached all of us volunteers that day from the newly blooming trees above.

The Service Learning Center, Student Life, and the ViTaL Team look forward to future volunteering events at Audubon! Learn more about Audubon in our area.

by Diana Hornick, Service Learning Center Coordinator