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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Summer began in Anchorage...
…Summer Continued -             
From Chugach to North Cascades
National Park – Part 2           
Matt Seats
When we last chatted, my Wilderness Leadership class had just been relieved of most of our remaining food. We didn’t know it yet though. We had heli-dropped plenty of food for our last eight days in the Chugach Wilderness weeks earlier. 

We left Whiteout Pass one sunny morning, skiing and hiking to our final hut in Alaska. When we arrived, we were greeted by a heart-dropping sight. Nearly all of the glorious food we had been dreaming of as we crossed the tundra was strewn across the ground, ravaged by a Yeti, or a polar bear…or probably ravens.
Well prepared for dealing with adversity and uncertainty, we sprang to action and sorted what was left of our eight day ration. We figured out calories, and days, and revised our meal plans based on what we could find. Everyone pulled together and what could have been severe food stress became a reason to pull together. We still don’t talk about our “garbage soup” incident with folks who weren't there though.
A week later we began our hike back to civilization. Appropriately enough, one of our final obstacles was the Raven Headwall. After finishing the long, down-climbing snow descent, we skied for about a mile downhill through a whiteout. Skiing through a cloud is an experience that must be experienced to be appreciated. 

Soon we were leaving the Alaskan outback, and preparing for a month in Washington. There we would begin our climbing expedition at Eldorado Peak and Boston Basin – 
whose bathrooms offer the best views in the world!

Marmots, summits, and Indiana Jones-style descents!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Semester Exchange in Florida

I can’t believe it is already my fourth and final year at Prescott College. I came here as a wide-eyed 18 year old knowing I was here to study the environment because it was fascinating, and knowing little more about it. Looking back and becoming nostalgic about my experiences here, I’ve decided to post about just one amazing opportunity I had through school. During my second year here at Prescott College, I applied for a CIEL exchange semester at New College of Florida. It’s always hard to leave friends and community in Prescott, but I saw the CIEL exchange program as an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the extensive list of schools I could go to for a semester. It was hard to pick just one, but I settled on New College of Florida for an adventure in an entirely different ecosystem.

This experience began with a cross country road trip from AZ to FL with two friends, a big pot of pasta salad, and a ’95 Honda accord. Seeing the dramatic landscapes across the west and the gradual change to subtropical forest gave me a true understanding of the multitude of ecosystems in the southern US. After a long and epic journey we arrived in beautiful Sarasota, Florida, and jumped straight into the ocean.

I instantly met a few other students on CIEL exchanges from schools around the US. It seemed that each person in the exchange felt pride about their school, but needed to escape for a semester (an issue I didn’t have since I’d already spent a semester in Kino and both blocks in the field), and we all immediately bonded. The coolest class I took in Florida was called Eumycetozoans, or slime molds, in which we surveyed a maritime forest. If you don’t know what slime molds are look them up! They are amazing organisms!

I decided to stay for the summer before returning west, and got two internships in town. The first was working as a beach bird monitor for Audubon Society. I was given training on how to spot nests, chicks, and to put up signs in the area to educate beach-goers about these threatened species.  My species of interest were snowy plovers, black skimmers, and least terns. I also had an internship with Sierra Club working on a Clean Water Campaign. I organized a Water Sentinels program in which I trained local volunteers in checking the water quality of water bodies in their neighborhoods.

In August I returned to Prescott and to the friends I had missed. I recommend a CIEL exchange to everyone because there are adventures to be had everywhere, especially if you can get credit for them!

I came into Prescott College right after High School, and was intrigued by the Cultural and Regional Studies Program, hoping to travel. The first opportunity to travel however, besides an amazing orientation, was to Kino Bay, which brought me into the Environmental Studies Program.  The semester-long Marine Biology course re-sparked my love of the outdoors and particularly the ocean. It also just got me stoked on learning (high school had turned me off). I felt like a nerd and loved it. My newfound inspiration about learning led me to spend the next year on campus in Prescott taking Education courses. This also provided me some amazing experiences and opportunities, but by the end I was ready to go back to the beach. Only with ample encouragement from my mom, did I sign up for a class on activism for the block. I had wanted to just keep up my summer traveling until the Marine Conservation course was going to start, but I decided to trust my mom and do something I was not familiar with...Mamma knows best.
The block course that I took focused on the DREAM act Campaign, where eight young people walked across the country promoting the act and sharing their stories about growing up in the U.S. either with family members who were undocumented or being undocumented themselves. Our class joined the walkers for four days out of their nine month journey. It was so inspiring and motivating to hear their stories first-hand and get a taste of what it was like to be so dedicated something so important. This class stoked my fire for learning again. I rode this wave of motivation back down to Kino and all through the Marine Conservation semester, and realized how much being excited about something helps you to learn it. Similar to my block class, this course focused on getting involved with projects already underway. However, we also created new projects. Being able to contribute to community organizing that was already in action, and being part of the creation process was so empowering. I was not only getting knowledge, but also experience in what it would actually be like to work in the conservation field. I was not only enjoying and learning from this awesome place, but also giving back to it. I didn’t think any other course I would take could compare…Until I did the Tucson Social Justice Education Semester. Leaving Kino was hard, but I knew my next semester would be good because it was taught by the same wonderful professor that taught my previous block class (the DREAM act one).
Going into this course I didn’t know what to expect. I had also never been to Tucson before, which made it even more exciting. I soon realized that the reason we went to Tucson was because it has a much more diverse population, and the injustices in schools, and in all aspects of life for that matter, are much clearer. For this reason, it also has a lot more going on in terms of activism. We got to work with youth-run organizations, well-known activists and authors, and dedicated community members. The course was centered on the former Mexican American Studies (MAS) Program of the Tucson School District and its completely unjust removal. The MAS Program, based in a place with a majority population f Mexican Americans, gave voice to their previously silenced history and culture. It proved to not only increase the students test scores, graduation rates, and college attendance rates, but also the student’s self-esteem, autonomy, and self-motivation. Not to mention how much it changed the student’s attitudes about learning. For example, when the program was cut, one of the teachers offered his class on Sundays in the community center, and all of his students came to learn in their free time!
Throughout the semester, we worked with those students a lot, helping them with projects and events they put together, exemplifying their self-determination and passion for community organizing.  We contributed to many groups and organizations directly and indirectly relating to the MAS program, such as Scholarship AZ, which helps undocumented citizens (usually students who grew up in the US) get scholarships to college. We also worked with a youth center that provided a safe space for youth of the city to come after school and get involved in activities such as dancing, arts and crafts, and martial arts. This organization also encouraged youth to create their own activities based on their unique passions. For example one young woman created a feminist group to help herself and her peers learn about how to stay safe in a big city and be empowered as a woman. Many members of my class, including myself, attended her meetings and brought in our experiences and advice as mentors.
Interacting with the local community helped us to get an understanding of the place we were working, and of the work of community organizers/activists. A big lesson from the semester for me was how teachers are inherently revolutionaries, shaping the minds and lives of the future. Despite all of our truly unique experiences (too many to mention), I think one of the best parts of the semester was how our teachers modeled the methods and theories that they taught. Borrowing from the pedagogy and epistemologies of the MAS program, our teachers took the time to get to know us and provided the space to know ourselves and each other. We shared our life stories through creative narratives, and read and discussed some of the many books that the Tucson Unified School District had banned along with the MAS program. We discovered that in doing this we were validating the experiences of oppressed people and realizing how those stories are necessary to understanding the reality of our current and past world. 
In all of the courses I briefly described, my world view was changed. The teachers have become my mentors and friends. My perspective on life was widened, sometimes with harsh realities, but always with a strong sense of hope. The courses fed my awareness, experience, and motivation in ways that have inspired me to keep working in these important fields and to always keep learning.

Angelei Star

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Aztec Hopi Run

An amazing event has taken place partially in Arizona, passing by Prescott in a powerful wave of ancient prophesy fulfillment. The Aztec Hopi Run was a ceremony that consisted of people from the Aztec lands in southern Mexico and the local Hopi running over 1,800 miles to bring sacred water from the north to the south and sacred fire from the south to the north. The Hopi people carried water from their springs, representing the life force energy and the need to respect and protect water in our world. The Aztec response of carrying fire from the south was to balance the dualistic natures of both elements. This ceremony was on the whole to bring about the Age of the Eagle or Condor, an age when humanity remembered its intricate ties to the earth and each other. 

The carrying of the water and fire in small sacred vessels was an epic site. As the runners from the different tribes crossed geographical places of power, there were more ceremonies held in the honoring of the coming together of these elements. It must be acknowledged, the beauty of two diverse cultures coming together to honor the energetic forces of the world and one another. 

The support of the people of Prescott for these runners consisted of food, places to sleep and enthusiasm. So cool to see this community support this beautiful ceremony. Speaks a lot to the values of the college, too, the bringing together of so many cultures for the greater good.

Pictures of this run can be seen on facebook under Hopi and Aztec Run. 
Cheers! - Brittany Davis
The Good Good 

There is a new restaurant that has opened that is almost fully staffed by Prescott College students. Located right next to campus, the Good Good serves up delicious fancy grilled cheese and soup feasts. Students are getting a good look at how local businesses start up and hold space for bigger picture consciousness in the world today. One of the main ways the Good Good exemplifies this is through the beautiful Huichol art exhibited there. 

Drawing in a very powerful art form, the Good Good is sharing dynamic holistic world views of this culture, shared through an amazing Huichol artist...

These intricate pieces are opening minds to ancient patterns of knowing among people very in touch with their worlds. Many Huichol pieces are created from dreams that these people have, and they are all connected to very powerful songs that the Huichol sing to help cultivate the mixing of beautiful colors in iconography of energetic forces that shape our world. What a beautiful thing, inspiring the students who walk in to fill themselves up not only on food but on artistic expression. Yum! - Brittany Davis

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Autumn changes in the High Desert
Prescott boasts a pretty wonderful phenomena in the autumn. Though the town is surrounded by evergreens in the National Forest, there is much color change grandeur to be found as well. The autumn's here are glorious, filled with such a spectrum as to make the eyes wide. The autumn's here are still pretty warm, keeping the desert feel, but since it is the high desert we get a share of some nice good autumn flow in the breezes that blow through. 

Just a little further south there is a wonderful change in the Sonoran Desert too. Prickly pears have their fruit all over, and Prescott's own pricklies are being harvested and enjoyed all over. The colors, again are striking.

Looking closer at the changes in the leaves, it is amazing to see the minuscule details behind the transformation... a lot of the change that happens within people this time of year too. Classes get into full swing for the semester session, and all the little rivulets of change become more and more apparent as students fill up on knowledge. Come the change, I say, come the change! - Brittany Davis