Western Writing Students Share Internship Experiences and Advice

by Sophie Pizzo

terriblepictureofpanelwow.JPGProfessor Roche, left, with speakers Markus Elken, Michael Medeiros, and Victoria Arbour

When it comes to internships, students often have a lot of questions. Internships can seem like mythical creatures, ever-elusive in today’s increasingly competitive job market. How do you find the internship that’s right for you? How do you even get started? The “Internships in Writing” panel aimed to answer those questions for writing students.

The event started off with a presentation from Dr. Anthony Ciarleglio, director of the Cooperative Education Internship Program at Western’s Career Success Center, which is now located on the Westside Campus. Dr. Ciarleglio explained that internships a great risk-free way for students to gain experience in their field, while also earning academic credit and building their resumés. Dr. Ciarleglio also emphasized how writing students can get ahead: “I don’t know of any position that doesn’t require strong writing skills,” he said.

After Dr. Ciarleglio’s presentation, Professor John Roche (who says he is a “cheerleader for internships”) gave his own advice and moderated a panel featuring three Western writing students.

Victoria Arbour, a student in Western’s MFA program, shared her experience interning as a social media coordinator for FirstLight Homecare. Arbour found her internship through a family friend on Facebook. “This opportunity can come from anywhere…so keep your eyes peeled for these kinds of opportunities. You never know where it might lead to,” said Arbour. She found that her writing skills helped in producing content for social media. “You can do a lot as a writer,” Arbour said. “Be willing to expand.”

Michael Medeiros, a journalism major, currently interns with CBS News in New York City as part of their News Path division. Medeiros has been involved in writing on campus, and encouraged other students to take advantage of the opportunities that Western offers, such as writing for The Echo or reaching out when opportunities arise. “If you see an opportunity where you think, ‘I can put it on my resume,’ you should do it. You have to do it!” said Medeiros.

Markus Elken, a major in business and technical writing, initially applied to 45 internships without getting one. Then, after visiting Western’s annual Career Fair with copies of his resume, Elken landed a marketing internship with Odyssey Logistics that later turned into a part-time job. He learned that “having solid, marketable writing skills is really important, regardless of what field you’re going into.”

With advice from Dr. Ciarleglio, Prof. Roche, and fellow writing majors, students left the event with the newfound knowledge to seek out an internship with confidence.

Nostalgic Homage to Homecoming Week

by: Leslie Pizzagalli

Western Connecticut State University’s Homecoming Week Street Fair held on October 7th at the Westside Campus had passersby hopping — or should we say hooping, skipping, and jumping down to The Echo’s table for a good time.

Not only was there an abundance of food trucks, booths filled with activities, and bouncy castles, but thanks to The Echo, hula hooping contests were in full swing. As far as the victors, there were some seriously nostalgic goodies to be won. Slinkies, mini paddleball, bubble wands, and Play-Doh were only a few of the addicting childhood-reminiscent handheld gadgets given out during the Street Fair event. Students, staff, friends, and family members of all ages alike were eager and excited to participate in hula hoop contests to win these 90’s inspired throwback trinkets. In addition to the youthful, colorful toys, other trinkets such as fidget spinners, gel pens, and tiny hats were also offered as grandiose rewards to be won.

Even WCSU’s mascot, Colonial Chuck, joined in on the festivities; regardless of being unable to fit into any of the three hula hoops The Echo supplied!

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With the new university semester in full swing, students are busier than ever between class time and the workload. Any and all leisure time is cherished with such packed schedules, and a break like Homecoming Week is always an enjoyable opportunity to get college goers outside and exploring what Western has to offer.

By attending the street fair, The Echo crew’s hoped that with the help of their vibrant, neon colored knickknacks and flashy prizes to bring a splash of fun color and bittersweet nostalgia to the WCSU community. Furthermore, they also intended to bring awareness to the fact that the student-run newspaper is regularly searching for writers and contributors to The Echo, as well as introducing its lively club members to their intended and potential audiences. Each person who passed by the club’s table was informed  The Echo being a student-run newspaper offered exclusively online, and that anyone would be welcome to be a part of the sixty-two years (and counting) of publications at Western Connecticut State University.

 

More Photos and Videos from The Echo’s Street Fair Table:

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The In-Cider Scoop: Apple Cider-making at Western

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By Lauren Tango

It’s that time of the year: pumpkin patches, hay rides, brisk air, and of course…apple cider! There is certainly something about this time of the year that brings communities together by enjoying traditional outdoor activities such as these. On Tuesday, October 17th, Dr. Thomas Philbrick and his Evolution & Natural History of Land Plants students hosted an event on campus demonstrating the production of apple cider.

The process is quite simple: first, the whole apples are dumped into an apple mill to be ground and collected into a cloth bag. The milled apples then head into the apple press and the cider is collected into a bucket. The apples that are used for cider are typically “rejected” apples, meaning that they were too small or misshapen to be sold in stores. At this event, there were about 600 lbs of apples used, and every member of the biology class was hands-on in the process. There was one cider press that was creating basic raw apple cider, and another press that would be heated with added spices to give the cider an extra kick. 

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Dr. Philbrick also brought a touch of history to this event by using original cider pressers from the 1800s that he had rebuilt over time. Over the last 10 years that he has been making cider, Dr. Philbrick and his wife have also hosted cider festivals at their home where the entire neighborhood is invited to come witness the process of cider-making and enjoy the finished product at the same time.

As students rushed to their classes, they could not help but stop to take a second look at what was going on due to the enticing aroma of the freshly milled apples. This was an open event for the public and students at the university, and it was definitely a hit. It was a crisp, sunny and beautiful fall day during this event: the perfect equation to enjoy a nice fresh cup of cider!

The Amazon at Westconn

by: The Students of Professor D’Aries’ WRT 377W-O1 Course of Fall 2017

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NOTE FROM THE EDITOR: The following article consists of the “Literary Event” personal opinion reflections/reviews from the Fall 2017 students of Professor D’Aries’ WRT 377W-01 course, The Writing Life. The editor has elected to make the minimum amount of edits in the attempt to preserve originality. Otherwise, reflections were written and published by the members of the class on BlackBoard.

Please keep in mind while reading direct quotes from Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues-da Cunha, that he has only been speaking and writing in English for twelve months now.

To start off the article, D’Aries’ BlackBoard reminder for the assignment is posted first.

The reason that this particular class’ reviews of Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues-da Cunha’s lecture, Indigenous Tribes and Languages of the Amazon Rainforest, on October 10th, are being published is because The Echo’s Editor-in-Chief/President, Alyssa/Lulu Meyers and Vice President, Sophia/Sophie Pizzo, are members of this class, and were subject to attend and review this event. In an act of community and togetherness, Meyers prompted the opportunity to put our required attendance to a more informal use.

More information on Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues-da Cunha’s lecture can be found here: http://www.wcsu.edu/news/2017/09/28/amazon-indigenous-tribes-expert-to-speak-at-wcsu/

 

PROFESSOR D’ARIES:

Howdy, folks!

As I mentioned in class, we will attend this lecture on Thursday, October 5th at 1:40 in the Student Center Theater: http://www.wcsu.edu/news/2017/09/28/amazon-indigenous-tribes-expert-to-speak-at-wcsu/. We will meet at the lecture, so be sure to come see me so I can mark you present.

Before class on Tuesday, 10/10, post a 250-word response to the lecture in this forum. This response will be similar to our reader responses in that I’m most interested in your analysis and critique rather than a summary. Be sure to include at least two quotes from the speaker.

And as Alyssa mentioned in class, anyone interested in contributing their response to a feature article in The Echo should contact her directly.

See you on Thursday!

AD

 

BRITTA KALLSTROM:

Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues’ lecture on indigenous tribes and languages of the Amazon rainforest was both fascinating and quite enjoyable. He talked about population numbers and numbers of languages. The videos he showed were peculiar but interesting to watch. They certainly had more information on them then I was expecting. I knew tribes like that existed and they are in need of help from the outside world, for food and proper medicine, but I was mostly under the notion that they were striving to preserve their way of life, without being kicked out by illegal foresters/minors or dying for their lack of food, medicine, and dangers of the jungle. Dr. Rodrigues didn’t really say anything about preservation, but I think it was intended when he said they needed help.

All people are people, but because of where they live, they grow to think differently, communicate differently, and just live differently than people in other places. “Human beings are all the same. Same hardware, but different software.” We’re built the same but wired a different way. And people like him wish to understand exactly how they are wired. “Each language holds information on the people who speak it.” And Dr. Rodrigues this information is well worth learning and understanding. That is why he does what he does. And he seems very passionate about it.

When he said that he had only been speaking English for no longer than a year, I was very surprised. His English isn’t perfect, but for someone like me, who has major difficulty learning a new language and remembering, that is quite impressive. My personal favorite part was towards the end when he showed us the translation of a few English words into a few different languages indigenous to the Amazon tribes. I liked echoing his pronunciation of the words.

 

ALANA BRANCH:

If living in a rain forest means no unnecessary mass shootings and worrying less about what people think about you, then point me in the direction. I enjoyed Dr. Cunha’s lecture on indigenous tribes for the simple fact that it’s based on an appreciation for language and culture. Sometimes we get so embroiled in our own worlds that we forget to appreciate the small things, and I get the sense that in these tribes, they appreciate everything despite having little food and no health care and that just so happens to be their two major necessities. So I loved it when he said that everything is about nature in the Amazon rainforest while in America it’s all about money. I could agree; it’s all about money and power. What if we could live like the indigenous for a week? It takes something like that for some of us to really appreciate what we have, like a bed and hot water.

Another part of the lecture that stuck out was when he said that between us and the indigenous tribes we have the same hardware (feelings, bodily needs) and a different software (he speaks one language, I speak another). No matter where you’re from, we have this common link: a need to survive. Also, the roles of females and males are similar. Women take care of the home and the men work outside the home; they hunt.  We’re all just trying to survive. What also stood out to me, and most likely to everyone else, was the video of the young man wearing the bullet ant gloves, per ritual. I found it intriguing; painful to watch but intriguing, considering that’s what it takes for a boy to become a man, and it makes him a better man too.

The fact that this young man never complained made me feel like a total wimp for having complained all throughout my service in the army.

Again, I really liked listening to Dr. Cunha. I hope to attend another lecture in this series.

PS: I need some of that magic tea! (I forgot what it’s called. I think he called it miracle tea.)

 

CHRISTINE MARESCA:

Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodrigues-da-Cunha presented, with exceptional enthusiasm, a look into the lives of various indigenous tribes. Having spent four years living among a few different tribes, Dr. Rodrigues-da-Cunha has vital information on the communication, survival and cultural aspects of living in the Amazon rainforest. One concept that Dr. Rodrigues-da-Cunha repeated is “we have the same hardware, but different software.” We may look the same or very similar, but we have vastly different perspectives and ways of thinking.

It was interesting to learn that there are so many indigenous people in the world. It is insane to think that 69 tribes do not have any contact with the outside world. It is also sad to know that they need protection from governments that do not even admit they exist.

Another concept that Dr. Rodrigues-da-Cunha made clear is that living in the rainforest is hard. He admitted that he had trouble adapting to the diet and even lost three teeth while there. I cannot imagine living in a place where food was not guaranteed and dental hygiene was not certain. He mentioned that the indigenous people depend on nature the way we depend on money. I think sometimes we need to be reminded of the luxuries we benefit from here.

I thought the videos he presented really drove home his points. It was interesting to see a glimpse into their world. Watching the video of the ants in the gloves was eye-opening. There are so many complex aspects of the lives of people we never think twice about. Dr. Rodrigues-da-Cunha ended the presentation with a powerful thought: “Loss of language is loss of humanity.”

 

MARKUS ELKEN:

I have to say that presentation was very exciting to listen to. The Professor who presented was one of the most eccentric and interesting people I’ve heard talk before. I knew of the Amazonas region from watching an episode of Chef’s Table on Netflix, wherein an ex-hippie acid head decided to become a chef and now runs one of the top 10 restaurants on the planet. It seems that everyone to come out of that area, in my limited two-example experience, is a wild tree person to which everything is “amazing, trust me.” Hearing about indigenous peoples in trouble always irks me. These cultures, as archaic and primitive as they are, are really beautiful and should be treated with respect. The entire foundation of our civilization can be traced back to people like this, and in typical modern human fashion, we exploit them and destroy their homeland for our own gain. The language discussion was cool in of itself, but still, I am always drawn to the fact that I wish they would just take care of these people. The Brazilian government, in some cases, refuses to acknowledge their existence so that they can continue to log the forests. Maybe I’m just a hippie in this sense, but I’m not sure. It seems pretty straightforward to me that these people should be cherished and kept safe for as long as we can. If it all comes down, my money would be on them to make it through, not any of us modern folk.

 

KRISTIN ZUMPANO:

Learning about indigenous tribes/cultures in the Amazon was quite interesting, to say the least. The guest speaker was incredibly intelligent with his research and very informative. I was also amazed at how quickly he learned our English language so quickly in just one year, after spending the first four years of his life in the rainforest. This experience overall made me really appreciate the American way of life, and not to take the small simple things for granted. Thus, it seems as if the tribes that reside in the Amazon almost thrive on what little resources they can harvest. By this is mean they pretty much make do with what they have and seem relatively happy to live the life they do. Seeing such scarce conditions, however, made me sad because if members of the tribe become ill they do not have the proper treatments to cure the specific illness that can rapidly spread ending up fatal for most. Further, although he greatly appreciates the culture he came from, which is completely respectable and understandable, I question the thoughts of him saying he could adapt back to that lifestyle. Finally, the two quotes or two statements that stood out to me throughout the whole presentation were the following: ” A life without suffering is a life that is not worth living.” (in regard to the coming of age ceremony for becoming a man). Also in correlation with that painful ceremony, “The Amazon tribe Satere Mawe the young males wear gloves filled with hundreds of bullet ants.” Watching the short video clip of this experience, was even painful for me to watch, justifiably cringeworthy!

 

DESTINY HUNT:

Dr. Rodrigues’ lecture on the Amazon Indigenous tribes was very interesting. While I’ve heard and studied very few indigenous tribes in a few anthropology Dr. Rodrigues shared a lot of new information. For example, he shared with us a lot of numbers when it came to population and the number or tribes and languages. It was shocking to find out that at one point in time there were at least 6 million indigenous people living in Brazil, it was even more shocking to find out that as of today there are less than 900,000 indigenous people. While this is an understandable fact as Rodrigues shared with us that as many as 69 tribes have never had any sort of outside contact with the world around them. So much so that when these tribes do come into contact with others it is almost impossible to communicate with them. He further explained that many of these tribes are trying to ask for help as they do not have access to basic human necessities such as food, clean drinking water, and medicine. Dr. Rodrigues shared with us that the lifespan for many of the indigenous people is between 40-50yrs old. Learning this amazed me simply because in America 40-50 years of age is still considered to be quite young. Overall the lecture was very interesting and I learned a lot.

 

GINA DIGOVANCARLO:

Overall, I thought the lecture was boring.  The speaker had interesting things to say, and I enjoyed the videos that he showed the audience throughout his presentation, but when he was just talking to himself I couldn’t help but wonder how much longer I would have to sit there until the speech was over.

I don’t think this is the speaker’s fault, exactly, because he was clearly passionate about what he was talking about.  Maybe I just wasn’t as invested because he wasn’t talking about aspects of these tribes that I was interested in.  Yes, the languages they speak are important but I found myself being more drawn to the social dynamics and gender differences.  I was interested in what the men of different tribes used to cover their penises and how even though they live life naked the women still sit in a way that hides their vaginas from view.  I was interested in the fact that, despite having minimal contact with other kinds of people, the tribes’ women still fall into basic gender role stereotypes that we see in our own society: the men go out and the women stay home to cook and care for the children.  Some things really just don’t change in the world, huh?

The bit at the end when the speaker had some words in the tribes’ languages up on slides for us to repeat was amusing for the time that we did it, but I can’t say I remember anything about it besides laughing at myself for butchering the pronunciation.

Maybe this lecture just wasn’t for me.

 

CINDY DAVIS:

On Thursday, Oct 5, I attended the lecture on “Indigenous Tribes and Languages from the Amazon Rainforest” presented by WCSU World Language Professor, Linguist, and Anthropologist Dr. Alvaro Fernando da Cunha. The lecture was captivating, soul-wrenching, and thought-provoking. The indigenous tribes are in danger and close to extinguishing.

Dr. Fernando da Cunha explained why, with personal stories, images, videos, and facts.

His storytelling method was geared to capture the audience’s heart, and invite, inspire, and engage students to become future participants in the research, study, and preservation of these sacred tribes.The professor stressed the commonality of internal emotions between these untarnished tribes of the Amazon, and human beings throughout the world. All humans feel. He then explained the daily struggle to survive within nature, and the survival techniques used with the utilization of medicinal plants, natural fibers, and skills necessary to live near a river, or a mountain. Survival within a specific habitat has been learned and mastered through a lineage of multi-generational adaptation. Longevity and survival within the rainforest will, at best, reach

The professor stressed the commonality of internal emotions between these untarnished tribes of the Amazon, and human beings throughout the world. All humans feel. He then explained the daily struggle to survive within nature, and the survival techniques used with the utilization of medicinal plants, natural fibers, and skills necessary to live near a river, or a mountain. Survival within a specific habitat has been learned and mastered through a lineage of multi-generational adaptation. Longevity and survival within the rainforest will, at best, reach fifty years. Malaria, other diseases, malnutrition, and parasites shorten the lifespan.

The domestic and hunting tasks within the tribes adhere to the male-hunter, and female- child tending and home keeping chores paralleling the anthropological patterns of Homo-Sapiens, and other early prehistoric tribes. Task responsibilities and chores within the tribes are viewed equally, without a gender directed dominance. Women determine male sexual partners. In this realm, the women have more control.

A final portion of the lecture focused on the spoken languages. There are 305 indigenous ethnicities, and 274 indigenous languages in Brazil. From those 274 indigenous languages, there are many variations amongst the different tribes.

I appreciated the storytelling narrative of Dr. Fernando da Cunha. He was sharing his personal story of living amongst these people and passionately invoking audience members to share in the study of these special tribespeople that have lived apart of an electronic- frenzied society that rarely, or barely has the time or opportunity to stop and see the natural world.

 

RYAN STEWART

On October 5th, Western’s departments of World Languages and Literature (WILL), History, and Social Sciences hosted Dr. Alvaro Rodrigues-da-Cunha, of the University of Sao Paulo and University of Campinas in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and a post-doctoral researcher of anthropology and linguistics as they pertain to the native peoples of the Amazon Rainforest. Dr. Rodrigues spoke at WCSU’s Midtown campus Student Center Theater, delivering a lecture titled “Indigenous Tribes and Languages of the Amazon Rainforest”.

Dr. Rodrigues, a lively speaker who engaged his audience with fervor and friendliness, spoke of the great cultural diversity both endemic to the Amazon and present, through centuries of colonization and cultural exchange, throughout the nation of Brazil—the largest country in South America, which contains most of the Amazon, and houses most of its tribes.

He also spoke of the continued fragmentation of these cultures.

While European colonization, which began in the late 1400s, represented the initial, and perhaps largest overall, disruption to the forest’s tribes, today most indigenous Amazonians are threatened by the dual presence of loggers and drug smugglers, as well as global warming.

These are serious problems for groups of people already beleaguered by the hostile environment of the forest itself, most Amazonian natives already living lives much shorter, on average, than those of first-world people.

Yet, as Dr. Rodrigues was quick to point out, the indigenous peoples of the Amazon are just as human, and so just as deserving of respect and dignity, as we are here, in a technologically-advanced society. Indeed, we have the same basic necessities despite our cultural differences, a glaring fact which continues to be ignored by those who persist in destroying the Amazon.

I think he put it well when he said, “We have the same hardware and different software.” In other words, we have the same bodies and brains, but different ways of carrying out our lives.

Regardless, for many of the tribes of the Amazon, the primary struggle—one existential in nature—is that of basically defenseless peoples, most without any weapons other than bows and clubs, having to defend themselves against encroaching loggers, remorseless forces acting on behalf of large, greed-driven organizations. In the process, many distinct languages, spoken nowhere else in the world, have perished along with the tribes.

As Dr. Rodrigues stated, “Each language holds the unique reality and knowledge of those who speak it.” If that’s the case, then we have lost many realities, and countless amounts of knowledge, since the arrival of Europeans to the shores of the Americas. So, if we wish to preserve the unique wisdom of the peoples of the Amazon Rainforest, then we had better work to preserve the languages of those peoples; thus we must protect those people themselves, and the forest that they call home.

 

ALYSSA/LULU MEYERS:

“Amazing,” is an adjective and exclamation that the presenter continuously used throughout his presentation. “Amazing,” is how I will describe my experience attending this lecture on Indigenous People in in the Amazon Rainforest. While the presentation itself was fascinating, I found the presenter’s passion and energy thrilling. His obvious interest and investment (which I was not surprised, but excited to discover is something intimately important to him) drew me in more than anything else. He wanted us to see what he saw, to understand what he felt and saw. Instead of putting the information before us and hoping that a few words on a PowerPoint would be enough to absorb his lecture, he made us – or, at least he made me – feel involved and included as if we were part of the presentation; part of the presenting.

He told us, in regard to all human beings, that, “we have the same – the same – hardware, but we have different software. Yeah, [it] is amazing. The same hardware – necessities, emotions… There’s no difference about them and us. There’s none.” It would have been simple to say that we are the same and leave it at that, but he kept making a point to repeat it and make the thought stuck. At first, during the first few times when he would refer back to this concept, I would think about how I, personally, could understand it. I have heard similar things, about all of us humans being the same, and sometimes I would be able to grasp the concept, but rarely would I ever feel it. It is my belief that the presenter put a lot of thought, passion, effort, and feeling into conveying and promoting this – for lack of a better word – vibe. Eventually, I think I started to feel it, or at least feel and/or empathize with his feeling of this connectivity, unity, whatever it was that hit and stuck with me.

Oh, and I want that magic tea that prevents period pains, please and thank you.

 

SOPHIA/SOPHIE PIZZO

To me, the most memorable and impactful part of this lecture was the presenter himself. Right from the beginning of the presentation, Dr. Alvaro Fernando Rodriguez-da-Cuma was enthusiastic and radiating positive energy. He expressed his hope that students in the crowd, in five or ten years, would take his place on the stage, presenting their own lectures and research. It was refreshing to attend a lecture with such an enthusiastic presenter– it was evident that Dr. Rodriguez-da-Cuma has a passion for the Amazonian tribes.

At face-value, the lives of the indigenous Amazonian tribes are such a polar opposite from what we consider to be modern/”advanced” society. Watching the first video of indigenous tribe members making contact with more “modern” people was interesting. As people living in what we consider to be modern times, our exposure to people living in nature or without technology is usually through history textbooks or documentaries. We forget that these tribes are still existing and thriving and that they are living cultures. That’s why I found Dr. Rodriguez-da-Cuma’s work so profound– he is dedicated to making sure that these people and their languages are not forgotten, even when the rest of the world likes to pretend that they don’t exist.

My biggest takeaway from the presentation, ultimately, was the phrase Dr. Rodriguez-da-Cuma repeated several times: “We have the same hardware, but different software.” Even throughout cultures that are so vastly different, we are all humans trying to meet the same needs.

 

PHOTOS:

Western Students on Ice

By: Sophie Pizzo

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Western Recreational Services hosted a free open skate for Western students at Danbury Ice Arena last Friday.

Directly after the Danbury Titans game, students hit the ice from 10 pm to 12 am, with music, free refreshments, and skate rentals provided. Shuttle service was also available to and from the arena.

The ice was brimming with students of all skill levels, from beginners to seasoned skaters. Though there were a few falls and bumps along the way, the night was full of energy and fun.

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The free skate was part of Rec After Dark, which provides opportunities for Western students to get together for fun night-time events. Past events have included a free skate session last semester, as well as a “Glow” event featuring laser tag, glow-in-the-dark dodgeball and Zumba in Berkshire Hall.

“It was really fun to go back and ice skate after last semester,” said Sarah Hoffkins, a junior at Western. “I really hope that it keeps going on!”

For more information about upcoming WesternRec events, including Rec After Dark, visit http://www.wcsu.edu/recreation/.

Summer Study Program in Spain

By: Josh Fox

Are you interested in spending your summer in Europe? Want to learn more about a foreign culture at an affordable cost? If so, the Western Connecticut State University (WCSU) Summer Study Program in Spain is perfect for you.

Running from mid-May to mid-June, the WCSU Summer Study Program in Spain allows for students to spend a summer attending class in Malaga, Spain at the cost of only $4,300 – an estimated thousand dollars less than other schools’ programs.

The program is open to all WCSU students, and not only can it be used to fulfill the Intercultural Competency/Foreign Language requirement, but all classes taken can count for electives or major/minor requirements in Spanish. In addition to education, the program also gives students opportunities to travel to the cities of Madrid and Marbella and learn how to dance the flamenco and cook Spanish food like paella and tapas.

“The strength of the program is not only in its linguistic immersion, but also in its cultural immersion,” said Dr. Galina Bakhtiarova of the World Languages and Literature department, founder of the WCSU Summer Study Program in Spain. “Students live with Spanish families who provide room and board. That allows students to be part of the community. We’re not tourists, we’re part of the community.”

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The WCSU Summer Study Program in Spain was founded ten years ago by Dr. Bakhtiarova under the belief that studying abroad is a necessity, and she has made it her mission to work with each student to help them fulfill and enhance their academic goals.

If you’re interested in applying to the program, go online to wcsu.edu/spain and fill out the application. All applications are due by February 15th. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Bakhtiarova at  bakhtiarg@wcsu.edu or in her office, Berkshire Hall 215D.

Catholic Charities connects the homeless to valuable resources

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Catholic Charities of Fairfield County is a one-stop shop for homeless people seeking services in the Danbury area.

Awilda Perez is an outreach worker for Catholic Charities homeless outreach services. She has been working the program for 11 years.

awilda-perezThe program provides outreach and engagement for individuals who are homeless. Most of Perez’s clients have some type of disabling condition.

Perez helps clients to access services in the community such as food stamps, Obama phone, employment, healthcare, transportation to medical appointments, applying for benefits such as SSI or SSCI, and housing applications.

Homeless outreach helps the chronically homeless to address barriers to housing such as mental illness, substance abuse or physical disabilities.

The program intakes 150-200 clients per year. Perez usually works with clients for six to eight months.

“I think it’s a great program. I think we have been a lot of help to many clients,” said Perez.
jamellefarmerJamelle Farmer is a housing case manager for the Connecticut Collaborative on Reentry (CCR), a program that provides housing vouchers to those who are diagnosed with mental illness, served multiple incarcerations, and are chronically homeless.

The intake for the program entails a long assessment process that takes about two hours. Applicants must provide extensive background information, and work with their case managers to develop a service plan with goals that must be achieved to better their situation.

Applicants are referred to CCR through the Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Housing Authority. Sex offenders are not permitted entry into the program.

Farmer has housed four people since the program was established in March of this year. Since the vouchers never expire, Farmer works with his clients for the rest of their lives or until they choose to leave the program.

If applicants are incarcerated for longer than 89 days while they are in the program, they may have their vouchers revoked.

“I love the program, and I think it’s really good. Especially with me being the case manager. I am very goal driven in trying to rehabilitate the people, and help them move past everything,” said Farmer.

“It’s a gift, it’s something I always had. Since I was younger I always wanted to help people so I do a lot of volunteer work in the community.”
sierrapepiSierra Pepi is the Program Coordinator for the Morning Glory Breakfast program and the Morning Glory Marketplace.

The Morning Glory Breakfast program delivers a hot meal seven days a week to the homeless and financially disadvantaged in Danbury.

The meals are held at the Dorothy Day Hospitality House from 6:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. Morning Glory tries to provide a healthy meal so they usually provide eggs, pancakes and foods with low fat or sugar.

The Morning Glory Marketplace is a non-food pantry, which offers cleaning supplies and hygiene products to those who are housed but are in need of assistance. The marketplace is held on the first and third Friday of each month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the New Heights facility on West Street.

Supplies from the pantry as well as the food from the soup kitchen are donated. Pepi talks to schools, youth groups, and churches all year round to try to get people to donate to the program.

“We’re open to everybody, and that’s pretty much it. Everybody is welcome to come,” said Pepi.

Off the Streets houses the working homeless

 

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Many working people are homeless simply because they can’t come up with a security deposit. Off the Streets is a spin-off of the Dorothy Day House that was established to get people with a source of income out of the shelters and into housing.

The program was initiated by middle school students and has now boasts four chapters, two in Conn., one in Penn., and one in Calif.

In the eight years since the program was established, Off the Streets has helped 1,500 people get into housing.

According to the Administrator, Joe Simons, the program is constantly looking for ways to expand the operation because the concept can be applied in any community.

“It’s simply that there are a lot of people out there who are homeless, not because they don’t have income, but because they can’t get over the initial hurdle which is the security deposit,” said Simons.

“So we provide that, and also some furniture and basic household goods for when they move int because a lot of time when they move in they have nothing.”

The program collects furniture the first Saturday every month from 10 a.m. to Noon behind the First Methodist Church in Bethel.

Anybody who wants to donate small table and chairs, twin beds, chest of drawers and other basic necessities or money to help pay security deposits can visit the website at http://offthestreetsnow.com/ for contact information.

deacon-olesThe program’s founder, Deacon Mike Oles, was a volunteer at the Dorothy Day House who is often asked to speak about homelessness to religious education groups at middle schools. He brings homeless people to his sessions to add a face to the concept he is addressing.

During one of Oles’ sessions in Norwalk, the students were so taken by the homeless person who tagged along that they decided to take up a collection to get the man out of the shelter and into housing. The man was a hard worker who simply needed a security deposit.

Students continued pestering Deacon Oles about when he was going to get the man housed. At that time, Oles had mostly worked with people in the shelter, but had no experience with getting people housed.

Deacon Oles eventually used the money to pay the security deposit. And after that, another collection was taken, and another. Oles finally realized he could do this as a program, which turned into a separate mission from the Dorothy Day House.

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Susan Pagan got involved with Off the Streets due to  her platform in pageantry, which is centered on reaching out to the homeless, refugees, and those living in compromised conditions.

Pagan travels with her husband throughout the world on mission trips reaching out to those in need, but she wanted to do more. She was introduced to Off the Streets through a friend. After reading Oles’ book, she contacted him and they developed a plan to have her as a spokesperson for Off the Streets.

She recently shared her story at the Bridgeport chapter fundraising event on Oct.1, and also attended the Danbury chapter fundraising event on the same evening.

In the coming months, she will focus on trying to get more areas to sign on with chapters. Pagan is determined to travel and speak to congregations or groups of people to encourage them to start a chapter of Off the Streets in their own communities.

Pagan is passionate about helping those who are struggling with homelessness because she emerged from a similar situation where she did not have a place to call home for many years.

“I would like to tell readers that it is very simple to begin a chapter of Off the Streets in your own communities because it literally takes no money to start and there is no overhead, no employees, no office spaces, etc.,” said Pagan.

“Everyone and anyone can help, and finally… never take your home for granted.”

Western’s student nurses take on homelessness

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Western’s student nurses got a glimpse of what it’s like to be homeless at Danbury’s City Shelter on Thursday. The Community Health Nursing program exposes students to the full range of people they will encounter in healthcare. The program focuses on visiting nursing, which tackles the health of the community at large. Orientations include the City Shelter, rotations in schools, hospices, and the senior center.
nusreshlterShelter Program Coordinator, Mike Finn, began his introduction expounding the importance of treating homeless people like individuals by asking questions about how they are feeling and engaging in friendly conversation. He explained that homeless people are often ignored on the streets and treated as less than human. He then summarized his life at his dream job working for T.J.Maxx, and how it led to a more fulfilling job working at the shelter.

Finn went on to tell the story of a homeless man who Finn spent a lot of time talking to. When the man died, his sister came to Finn and told him that her brother spoke about him all the time because Finn was the only person who made him feel like a man. Finn said that’s why he makes sure everyone on his staff greets all their guests and talks to them in a friendly manner.

The students were then taken on a tour through the shelter. Finn explained the basic rules of the shelter, and precautions made to ensure no drugs or violence enter the building. He gave an overview of the services provided by the shelter to help people become independent members of society.
“Everybody ends up in hospitals whether they’re poor or rich. It’s important for us as nurses to understand where our patients are coming from, and what they have available to them, not everybody has the same things available to them,” said student Kyle O’Malley.

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“Pay it forward. You never know where you’re gonna end up. I think it’s a good idea. I think he gave a great overview of our community services, and I thought it worked well with the other agencies. It was pleasing for me,” said Assistant professor Patricia Cumella.

“I think we need to do more. Maybe just little things where you’re putting together toothbrushes, toothpaste, things that we wouldn’t normally think are that important. We should donate more or volunteer. Maybe put it around the campus how we can help,” said student Devyn Keller.

“I like how they have sort of a tiered system. First they pick up their lives, then they have an apartment that’s free, then after they’re employed they raise the rent incrementally because obviously those same resources need to go to somebody else,” said student Travis Maas.

“But I did notice that if one of the reasons you’re in the street is because you have an active substance abuse problem this isn’t gonna work out because you can’t be here.”

Danbury’s City Shelter Rehabilitates the Homeless

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Danbury’s City Shelter is more like a rehabilitation center than a place to rest one’s head. In comparison to other shelters in the area, which are solely focused on providing shelter for the night, the City Shelter offers a structured system of services to assist the process of recovering from homelessness.

According to Shelter Program Coordinator, Mike Finn, intake for the City Shelter is more extensive than other shelters. Chronically homeless people must go through the Coordinated Access Network (CAN) due to a statewide focus on getting them housed. All other applicants must get listed through 211.

 

bedsThe shelter then has its own intake, which asks for extensive background information including health history, education, work experience, criminal history, and veteran status. Finn said the purpose of the intake is to find out the strengths and weaknesses of the applicants so he can refer them to the resources necessary to improve their situation.

All shelters in the Danbury area allow a maximum amount of 30-days for time spent at a shelter. However, the City Shelter provides extensions for those who are either working, going to school or receiving help for their addiction.

The shelter coordinates with CT Works to help people find jobs and write resumes. A medical team and therapist comes to the shelter every Tuesday to offer services. MCCA offers an addiction recovery program during the weekend. Flu shots are provided during the flu season.

Other services that are extended to the homeless from other shelters include a place to stay from 9a.m. – 2 p.m., lunch held Mon-Fri at 12p.m., and showers.

“Danbury is one of the top areas in the state to serve homelessness. There are more services here than anywhere else,” said Finn.

kitchen“People are sent from 15 towns all around just to come here, and we have every service that they need. Sometimes we get too many people.”

Finn said for most of his life he was like everybody else. The only time he ever saw homeless people was when he stepped over them in Manhatten. One night he was walking down the street in Manhatten where a lot of people sleep on cardboard boxes, waiting for the breadline in the morning.

As he saw a homeless man approach, Finn turned to his brother and said, “Watch, he’s gonna ask you for money.” The man then approached Finn and said, “Do you have a spare ten dollars, I’m trying to get my swimming pool fixed?” Finn thought that was the funniest thing ever so he said, “Yes, you deserve the ten dollars.”

Finn thought about the man who had nothing, was about to sleep in a cardboard box, waiting for a bologna sandwich and a cup of coffee at six in the morning, but did not lose his sense of humor.

“I woke up that day. Everybody has some value in them. Homeless people are exactly that, people. Most people recognize them, don’t see them, don’t want to see them, don’t talk to them, go right by, and they’re like invisible to them,” said Finn.

“And that woke me up to people. From then on I would buy big bags of bagels, some with cream cheese, some with butter, and I would hand them out on the streets.”