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MANY VOICES, ONE DU

VOLUME 1 A UNIVERSITY OF DENVER PUBLICATION


Many Voices, One DU


Many Voices, One DU

Volume 1 2017

A University of Denver Publication Edited by: LP Picard, with support from the University Writing Program


Š 2017 University of Denver Writing Program All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the University Writing Program at the University of Denver. www.du.edu/writing writing@du.edu 303.871.7448 2150 E. Evans Ave., Denver, CO 80210 Printed on recycled paper. Designed & Typeset by: LP Picard Photo credits for images appearing on front, back, and inside covers on page 87. All other photographs provided by authors.


Many Voices, One DU

“The truth about stories is that that’s all we are.” Thomas King The Truth About Stories

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Contents Foreword ix Chancellor Rebecca Chopp

Background xi Introduction: Storying the Strange

Doug Hesse

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“What Should You Wear to a Mass Grave?”

1

“The Illusion Behind Stability”

5

“Magic is Real”

11

“2 Wind”

17

“Cogs, Springs, and Broken Things”

23

“Rejoice in Choice”

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Ann Petrila

Walid Hedidar

Nick Tarasewicz

Jessi Jones

Alex Young

Ciera Blehm

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The University of Denver

“Ka Huaka‘i ma Kololako”

39

“A Change of Scenery”

51

“Inside the Mind of a Black Man”

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“Side Character”

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“Deep Roots”

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“How One Committed Teacher Changed My Life”

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The Journey in Colorado: Reflections of a Hawaiian’s DU Experience Halena Kapuni-Reynolds

Gillian Schultz

Rory Moore

Miciah Lewis

Andrew Fox

Bud Bilanich

About the Cover Acknowledgments

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Foreword

When I arrived on campus as chancellor in September 2014 and began my listening tour, I heard a common refrain: the university often seemed disjointed. People from across campus and beyond yearned for a deeper connection to the institution and, more importantly, to each other—what many described as “One DU.” Intentional community has never been about monolithic thinking. To the contrary, “One DU”—which underpins our strategic plan—is about making sense of the many perspectives, backgrounds, and stories that, together, make the University of Denver community stronger than the sum of its parts. Many Voices, One DU captures the essence of why an intentional community thrives when it listens to others’ narratives. Especially on a university campus, we have rich opportunities to learn from each other, to develop better solutions to problems, and to prepare students who will go on to lead diverse communities and organizations. Professor Bud Bilanich tells a story about the importance of literacy and education—and of the bond between student and teacher that deepens the DU educational experience. His story reminds me of so many I have heard over my decades in higher education—and indeed reminds me of the transformational value of higher education. Telling our stories is sometimes difficult and takes bravery. These difficult stories are important because they erode the stigmas that too often

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keep survivors from feeling comfortable speaking out. And in reducing stigma, these stories allow us as a society to confront more honestly the underlying forces that implicitly sanction sexual violence and other forms of intimidation. Stories can lift us up and empower us to take charge of our lives. Others’ breakthroughs can and ought to inspire us. Student Ciera Blehm shows us how tragedy can lead one on a journey of empowerment. Ciera now serves the DU campus through her work to raise awareness regarding sexual assault and to help other survivors. DU, like any university, is a community of communities. As important as the notion of One DU is to us, it is also important that we find smaller communities to provide the support and inspiration we need. For example, alumnus Halena Kapuni-Reynolds found community and support in an academic department. Many students find support through student organizations, sports teams, or departments on campus, and these smaller communities are as important as the larger DU one. As students study abroad, as alumna Jessi Jones recalls, they are exposed to even more communities and stories. Throughout one’s life, there are difficult and uncomfortable encounters that, when approached with intention and the commitment to listen, lead to increased understanding. These uncomfortable moments are often the best learning opportunities— but only when we lean in, listen, and learn. This volume contains just a few of the thousands of stories waiting to be heard. I hope you will find these powerful stories informative and inspirational. I hope they will remind you to listen for others’ stories so you can learn from them. And I hope they will inspire you to share your own story—and to encourage others to do the same. —Rebecca Chopp, Chancellor

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Background

As part of the university’s new strategic plan (DU IMPACT 2025), we began a common reading and writing pilot project—One Book, One DU. Over the summer, incoming students (the class of 2020) read Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories, a book that explores how stories shape who we are and how we understand others. Students then responded to a prompt that asked them to consider who they are and how they’ve been changed by an encounter with the unfamiliar. The prompt asked writers to reflect on our backgrounds and explore our identities, so that together we can wrestle with the challenges and rewards of building a diverse and inclusive community. Though the pilot project was initially limited to incoming students, we expanded it to include the broader DU community. Many Voices, One DU brings together twelve reflections about identity, difference, and community inspired by a common prompt. We want to showcase and celebrate the vastly different life experiences, perspectives, and voices that combine to form our DU community.

http://imagine.du.edu/du-impact-2025

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Introduction:

Storying the Strange

Above all else, college offers—or surely should—stimulating encounters with the unfamiliar and strange, from ideas to aesthetics, from texts to people. So should lives richly led, of course. But college distills new opportunities and encourages our reflections on them. Those were the ideas I had in mind while considering what writing invitation might befit Thomas King’s The Truth About Stories. That DU members should write their own stories struck me as obvious, as it clearly did others on campus before me. American universities have sponsored one-book programs for a couple decades now, but none of them (at least to my limited knowledge) had gone the step further: asking people on their campuses to write themselves into new texts. That seemed a missed opportunity on two levels. First, while college is certainly a place for transmitting knowledge, it’s more focally a place for making it. Textbooks don’t spring from vacuums, after all, but rather from the studios, studies, labs, field stations, archives, experiences, observations, analyses, critiques—the minds—of faculty and students. Even after many years of teaching, I still get a kick out of watching students come to realize that their mission as writers wasn’t merely to repeat ideas or facts but to make something of them: to contribute to what Kenneth Burke characterizes as the ongoing parlors of knowledge. Second, stories themselves constitute an important form and source of knowledge, if we tell them well and pay attention. Each of us—first-year student to full professor, building worker to chancellor—inhabits a particular

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set of experiences and circumstances. If we don’t tell our stories, we’re poorer for it, missing a chance to craft what Clifford Geertz might characterize as a thick description of our own lives. But poorer, too, is the community that cannot see its peoples’ pasts. In drafting the original call to write, I worried that folks might see only profound and unique encounters as worth writing. Those make for great stories, of course, but there’s as much potential in the plain and mundane. As an example, let me share a story of my own. Some twenty years ago, I found myself divorced as the parent of a junior high son and a high school daughter. My son had a part in the school play (as the Prince in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, actually). A note had gone out to cast parents that there’d be a meeting at school to organize ways to support the production. So I showed up at 7:00 one Wednesday night, in the home economics room of Thomas Metcalf School, Normal, Illinois, and found myself the only dad in a place full of moms. When I realized that no other men were showing up, I considered leaving. Not only did I feel self-conscious, I felt like an intruder and worried about disrupting the dynamic. Now, everyone was warm and welcoming. After all, I’d been acquainted with many of these women more than ten years, through our kids. But I discerned as much confusion in them as I did in myself. What to do with me? In retrospect after a few years, I realized that I’d embodied some level of instability, even threat as a newly single man. I ended up staying. Most of the tasks were then gendered in some way. Who would sew what costumes? Who would organize the cooking for afterschool rehearsals? Who would make decorations to hang with magnets on cast member lockers? Who would make craft items to sell at intermission? I remember princess tiaras and wands and Christmas ornaments glitter-painted with Cinderella logos. In the end, I joined a table with three other women. We had a stack of candy bars from a fundraising company, each of them simply wrapped in plain foil, purchased at 42 cents each. And we had a stack of paper wrappers printed “Cinderella: A Metcalf Arts Production.” Our job was to fold the wrappers around the foiled candy, glue-sticking the ends together. Voila! A dollar souvenir. I stuck with the group through the production, becoming a sort of honorary Metcalf Mom. A few years later, I was the chair of the high school

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theatre parents group, which remained mostly women, though there were a few couples by then. But what struck me most about that 1995 Wednesday night was how foreign that group of women was to me. The moms knew what seemed astonishing details about each others’ families and lives, far more than I knew—and I’d spent hours in concert audiences, on swimming meet bleachers. Their work, which was extensive and accomplished, happened through and around these personal conversations. Whether I inflected the “normal” topics or mode of discussion, I can’t say, but clearly some deep histories and interactions lay beneath the work that Wednesday night. Men in that situation would have set the tasks, usually in deference to some clear leader, and done them, the less fuss the better, with side conversations focused on third-party topics like sports or politics, not family life. I was and remain more introvert than not, so I have to be careful about attributing any strangeness only to gender differences. But in a world I didn’t know, I experienced, at least for the tiniest of glimmers, what it might be like to be, say, the only woman at a faculty meeting. Are school parent spaces and activities still today so marked by gender? Was what I felt part of something larger or just an aspect of my personality? I can’t fully say. Make of this modest story what you will. What follows in this collection are several encounters, most more insightfully told than mine. I hope that you read them all and that, in doing so, you recognize the wide range of experience gathered in the DU community as it continuously reconstitutes itself. I hope these stories provide one more encounter with the unfamiliar, as college performs its best role on its unique set. — Doug Hesse, Director of the University Writing Program

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Tell the story of a time you encountered something unfamiliar. This doesn’t need to be a “profound” encounter; in fact, something “small” might well yield the most interesting story. Perhaps it was an unfamiliar situation or viewpoint, an unfamiliar type of person, an unfamiliar idea, an unfamiliar book or film or performance. Perhaps, even, something caused you to see yourself in an unfamiliar way, as if you came to some surprising realization about yourself.

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What Should You Wear to a Mass Grave? by Ann Petrila, M.S.W., M.P.A.

You haven’t felt cold until you’ve been to rural Bosnia in December, to Srebrenica, where over 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed in the 1995 genocide. My friend Hasan Hasanović, himself a genocide survivor, and I sit, day after day, across a table from each man who tells us his story. One by one they come to talk, and there are only ten of them in all. Over 8,000 men and boys tried to escape the genocide, and there are only ten survivors who somehow escaped the slaughter of execution sites outside of Srebrenica those nine days in July just over 20 years ago. When asked why he thinks he survived, each man answers the same way. It was “sudbina,” the Bosnian word for destiny. It was God’s plan for me, they say. They’ve never shared their entire stories with anyone, although some of these men told specific details when they testified as protected witnesses at the War Crimes Tribunal at The Hague. They talk to us because they know that we have a plan to preserve their stories for the world to hear. They trust us. The stories are brutal. Each man feels guilty for surviving. I feel guilty for asking them to talk, for being in a place where I’m not sure I belong. Is it wrong to ask people about things that bring such pain in the telling? Am I being ethical in my work? Should I even be here? But these stories need to be preserved and shared, especially in the current climate of genocide denial. Those who were responsible for all of the killing still deny that it ever happened.

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It’s several days later, our interviews are finished, and I find myself at a newly discovered mass gravesite. Someone with a guilty conscience finally revealed the location of this grave, where it is estimated that over 200 murdered civilians are buried. On this day, many people with backhoes and shovels are sifting through the dirt, layer upon layer, uncovering human remains and personal artifacts that were dumped in this grave 20 years ago. It is a systematic, scientific process, in which each step is documented by the International Commission on Missing Persons. The body bags start to fill one whole area of the field. Should I even be here? On this cloudy, rainy, grey, overcast day at this most somber setting on the bank of a river, am I really wearing my bright pink ski parka? Will it stand out in the pictures that the press photographers are taking? I try to stay out of the pictures, in the background where I belong—it’s where I always try and stay in situations like this—but my coat is so bright. It’s the only coat I have with me in Bosnia. What should I wear to a mass gravesite? Why would such a question ever need to be asked? I mean, a mass grave? The Bosnian women who invited me that day are all wearing long, dark woolen coats and patterned headscarves, women still waiting to get word of the husbands and sons and brothers who were killed in the genocide and whose remains have not yet been found. They are hoping that this grave will finally give them an answer. I’ve known many of these women from summers before, when they gather to pray outside of Srebrenica at the Genocide Memorial every July 11th, the day when men and boys who have been identified from the mass graves

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all over this part of the country are laid to rest. The first time I was at the July 11th burial day, I felt deeply like I didn’t belong. I stood far in the corner of the building where over 400 wooden coffins, all identical and all covered by green cloth, were lined up, waiting to be taken outside to the cemetery. The women insisted that I join them up front while they prayed. These were not my prayers, and this was not my story, yet they wanted me to be with them. They thought I belonged in that place, while inside my head I was screaming that I had no right to be there witnessing such extreme and personal sorrow. Their desire to have me there with them contradicted the reluctance that I have always felt in situations like this. That was the summer that I began to realize the importance of bearing witness, of honoring and acknowledging this horrendous genocide and its aftermath. I felt the weight of my own privilege and knew that I needed to understand and spread this story in any way that I could. This story needs to be told, again and again. Note:

The Bosnian War began in 1992, when Bosnia declared independence from the former Yugoslavia. For the next 3 ½ years, the entire country was ravaged, including the capital city of Sarajevo, which was under siege for the entire war. One hundred thousand people were killed during this war, including over 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys who were killed in the Srebrenica genocide over nine days in July 1995. Mass graves are still being discovered, and the identification of the victims is ongoing.

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About Ann Petrila

Ann Petrila is a Professor of the Practice at the Grad-

uate School of Social Work. She is the Assistant Dean for Field Education and the Director of Global Practice Bosnia. Every summer she takes DU students to Bosnia for a 2-week immersion course or an 8-week internship. She is delighted that her son and daughterin-law live close to her in Denver, frequently visit when she is in Bosnia, and help take care of KovaÄ?i, a former street dog from Sarajevo.

Professor of the Practice of Social Work in the Graduate School of Social Work

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The Illusion Behind Stability by Walid Hedidar

I grew up wanting to become a doctor. I had good grades, my older brother had just gotten accepted into medical school, and my decision seemed to get me a lot of positive reactions. I was content thinking I had just found my dream job. Becoming a doctor, being attached to prestige and high income, is considered the one and only source of happiness in Tunisia. For that reason, I later learned, the dream that I thought to be so unique to me was also every other Tunisian teenager’s dream. Unaccustomed to questioning what is around me and unwilling to give up this social stability, I spent years living what ultimately turned out to be an illusion. I was not very talkative when I was young—not that I had nothing on my mind; I actually had tons of questions floating in my head, but because I grew up in a culture where kids’ opinions are considered immature and of no value, I had no choice but to become an observer. Indeed, in the postcolonial Tunisia where I spent my childhood, and which was governed by dictatorship, there was much for me to observe. I remember seeing my parents fearfully shutting off cell phones whenever they talked about politics. I remember watching my primary school teacher cruelly forcing my poor friend to make the compulsory yearly donation towards “alleviating poverty,” which did nothing over the years but increase his family’s economic struggle. I remember noticing youth, in the few soccer games that I attended, jumping and screaming instead of sitting calmly and watching as they were normally expected to. These scenes often played in my head, causing

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me to feel confused. I alleviated this confusion by submissively following the rules by which I was taught to live, sinking deeper into my illusionary dream of becoming doctor. When the illusion behind stability is finally discovered, it has to be followed by the most justified form of instability: rebellion. The first protests that erupted around the country in December of 2010 transformed my usual observations of Tunisia. Many Tunisians, with their ingrained belief in the impossibility of change, doubted that these protests would result in anything but more oppression. Only a few saw these demonstrations as a spark of hope toward freedom. For me, I watched these movements in awe. They challenged my understanding of pursuit. As these protests escalated and propagated across the country, police resistance arose. Many people were killed during the protests, transforming these small independent movements into a unified rebellion calling for change: a concept so strange to my fourteen-year-old self. As the Facebook videos and the political debates on media channels no longer satisfied my curiosity, I decided instead to go down to the streets and observe. I saw a young girl with a red flower in her hair and a white candle in her hand singing a song about freedom. I saw fearless and excited youth carrying signs and cages, peacefully demonstrating their needs. I saw men and women holding hands while courageously voicing their political demands. Watching these protests in the central avenue in Tunis, I remember being approached suddenly by an older man. He had a focused look in his eyes, different from the determined yet worried looks on the faces of ordinary civilians. He was a member of the Tunisian intellectual elite. Despite my young age, he asked me what I wanted to see happen in my country after this rebellion. I had no answer. Once again, I was trapped in confusion. However, this time, escaping to the comfort of conformity was no longer an option. The rules that long controlled my life were being directly challenged and broken down in front of me, leaving me lost and overwhelmed amid something as unfamiliar, chaotic, and powerful as rebellion. On January 14th, 2011, the protests ended with the president fleeing the country. During the following days, I woke up every morning with a part of my ordinary life gone. There were no certainties as to what the outcome

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of this victory was going to be, no clear results to be expected. But there were also no constant rules to be followed and no specific boundaries to be respected. I was finally emancipated. The rebels’ sense of animosity towards the past, challenge towards the present, and hope towards the future created a boundless cultural dynamic. It took me out of my stable life and into a new and unstable reality. Through reflecting on the observations I made throughout my life, I was able to embark on a transformational process that shaped my understanding of my identity. Through looking critically at life in the dictatorship, I started to understand that conformity to social norms was just a source of fake satisfaction. Seeing the joy on my people’s faces during the announcement of the president’s escape, feeling my people’s passion for freedom during the rebellion, I realized that identity does not revolve around ethnicity or native language. Rebellion offered me a chance to be transported from a world where identity is passively acquired to one where identity is actively and dynamically built. Rebellion helped me realize that by wanting to become a doctor, I was just one of many Tunisian teenagers who were unconsciously controlled by cultural and societal norms that give so much importance to money and prestige at the expense of one’s passions. Rebellion changed me but, unfortunately, not everyone else around me. The transformational impact of rebellion did not succeed in altering the deeply rooted cultural beliefs of the majority of Tunisians. The struggle for change was so overwhelming and risky that it made many people choose to sink back into their ordinary lives. Walking down the streets of Tunis after the revolution, my excitement over what I had been able to accomplish was suppressed by the sadness and disappointment of many who felt betrayed by the same rebellion that empowered me. I was raised from a young age to dream big and chase my ambitions. However, as soon as I made sense of my passions, making my first steps in my journey of self-fulfillment, I was steered back towards a common path followed by everyone. As I announced that I no longer wanted to become a doctor, people saw my new dream as illegitimate, unacceptable, and incompatible with my reality. Soon enough, people around me started treating me as if I was crazy. To force me into altering my views, they linked my new un-

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derstanding of my identity with failure, regret, and ingratitude. Everywhere I went I was bombarded by the same questions over and over: How dare I give up the privilege of attending medical school when many are sacrificing everything to become doctors? How dare I forget the struggles of my parents and turn down such opportunity for social prestige and financial prosperity? How dare I, with my little life experience, think I would find happiness elsewhere? I knew that my answers would in no way be satisfactory to the people around me. My contrarian view of my culture made me too unorthodox to be understood. Holding to a distinct paradigm of thinking compared to everyone else made it hard to communicate. The more committed I grew to abandoning medicine and following my unique path to self-fulfillment and personal happiness, the more disconnected I became from my own society. I became merely a stranger to my family, friends, and community. Hoping to heal these broken ties, I tried to bring the excitement and joy of self-discovery into other people’s lives. On my train rides to school every day, I would sometimes share my thoughts on happiness and my dreams with my friends. Some would laugh at me, and some would look at me in despair. To both, life was very much like the train on which they went to school every day. Although there might be several stops, the destination and journey is always the same. However, my understanding of life was different. I chose my own destination. While I was in western Africa teaching English at a youth camp, I came across a sign written on a rusty metal box on the shore of a Senegalese fishing river. On my journey of self-fulfillment, in a country where English is not commonly spoken, and in a location that stands as proof of Senegal’s economic struggle, the sign read “Happiness Club 100%.” Ever since I came across that sign, I became obsessed with figuring out the story behind it. The word “happiness” transcribed my dreams and aspirations, the “100%” epitomized my determination to keep my identity, and the rusty metal wagon on the river resembled the paradox of my country’s reality. To this day, the making of this sign still sparks my curiosity, but more importantly the message of the words still resonates with me. That is how I learned that sto-

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ries themselves might not be as important as the meanings and values that they carry. Regardless of the story that resulted in making it, what the sign communicated to me was the urgent need to spread happiness across Africa and the world. To do that, it is important that we reunite people with their passions and true identities as well as equip them with the rebellious skills and values they need to stand against conformity and fulfill their dreams. Last summer, in one of the youth camps that I ran, I spent two weeks with 16 high school students from different parts of Tunisia. By immersing them in an inspirational program that included reflection sessions, discussions, and group activities, I helped the students see the bubble inside which they have been unconsciously raised to live. Eager, as I had been, to discover the outside, they started their journeys of self-discovery. With a rebellious determination, they marched towards an empowering transformation that was fueled by an exposure to the unfamiliar: that same little instability that transported me from what it is common to what is unique.

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Walid Hedidar

About Walid Hedidar

Walid Hedidar is an international student from Tunisia

double majoring in Anthropology and International Studies. He has a passion for education and currently runs two education reform initiatives that target teachers and students in Tunisia. Walid is a believer in the importance of an empowering education system to inspire youth and spark development. He is also compelled by the existent interconnections among culture, globalization, and education in the developing world that many tend to overlook. As a Tunisian, African, Arab, and Berber man, who happens to also like traveling, Walid lives everyday with multiple identities, languages, and thoughts floating in his head. He makes sense of these multiple identities through writing.

Class of 2020

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Magic is Real by Nick Tarasewicz

Hello. My name is Nick Tarasewicz, and I am a magician. For my first feat, let me predict what you’re thinking. You’re picturing Weird Uncle Bill at the family reunion, doing some card trick that bores you to sleep; or a balding, sweaty, middle-aged man in a tuxedo, pulling a rabbit out of an obviously fake hat for Timmy’s seventh birthday party. You might be picturing your friend who’s trying to use sleight of hand to pick up a girl at a bar or imply that he is better than everyone else because he knows how the trick is done and you do not. I used to think the exact same things about magic, even when I began learning some basic card tricks. Until, that is, my eyes were opened to the truth. To start off, let me give you a little background in what drew me to magic in the first place. Middle school is a hard time for everyone, but it was an especially hard time for me. Every school has that one kid who was picked on and bullied, and that kid was me. I grew up in a small mountain town deep in the San Juans of Colorado. I was one of a class of six, and we were all best friends. We’d known each other since the days of diapers and were incredibly close. That is, we were close until the end of sixth grade. In such a small school, the same five teachers taught all of the middle and high school classes. Considering that the combination of sixth, seventh, and eighth grades amounted to only 12 students, all of us had the same

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teachers with each other all of the time. The science teacher—let’s call him Greg—was also in charge of all of our athletic events. And when you grow up in a small town and go to a small school where there isn’t much to do, team sports are everything. Greg was obsessed with coaching sports, more so than teaching science. Every student had to try out for every event; otherwise, there wouldn’t be enough students to have a functional team. Despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t force myself to enjoy track or basketball, which didn’t make Greg very happy. He would go home and complain to his two children: one was in my class, and the other was in the grade below. Because their father was the coach, they were the “cool kids,” and everyone was enslaved to doing whatever they wanted. As a result of Greg’s disliking me, so did his children, and because his kids did, so did everyone in the school. One of the highlights of seventh grade was being hog-tied, duct-taped, blind-folded, verbally abused, and thrown into a janitorial closet for three hours (but it felt like 12). This was carried out by Greg’s two sons and the people who had previously been my closest, and only, friends. So how does all of this play into a story about magic? Well, in order to lessen the severity of my ex-friends’ jeers, I realized that if I distracted them before they carried out whatever taunts they had planned, they’d get sidetracked and leave me alone. This misdirection was, of course, in the form of doing card tricks and making coins appear and vanish. It turned me from the nerdy kid who doesn’t like basketball into the dorky kid who knows something others didn’t. I used magic to show that I was cool and not worth hurting. Fast forward a couple of years. Along with moving to a bigger town, with different people, I was still doing magic: not because I needed it to avoid abuse but because it had grown into more than just a survival mechanism. At my new high school, I was one of the popular ones, and magic made it easy to go up to anyone and introduce myself. I used sleight of hand as a social crutch, a protective shell to help develop communication skills. Eventually, I got to a point where I didn’t even need the cards anymore, and I could initiate and hold a conversation without them. However, I did still perform because I enjoyed sharing something I was passionate about with others.

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One summer, I went to Duke University in North Carolina for a twoweek summer camp. At the camp, I made a number of friends without once revealing the fact that I could perform miracles with pasteboard. One of these very close friends was my roommate, Diego. Although we had only known each other for less than a couple weeks, we grew incredibly close. On the last day of the camp, the counselors threw a big dance celebration with games and movies and such. Halfway through I noticed that Diego got a call and stepped outside but didn’t return. I went out to find him hunched over in the corner in tears. Apparently, the call had been from his mother, who had informed him that his dog, whom he’d had since infancy and was inseparable from, had just died. And that his parents were getting a divorce. When Diego returned home the next day, life as he knew it was forever over. Wow. How do you console someone in that situation? I had no idea what to do, so I did the first thing that came to my mind. I pulled out my pack of cards and asked him to pick one. What I proceeded to do with the card wasn’t important (although I can hint that it had something to do with the card appearing in a tree across the quad); it was his reaction to the effect that was important. To my surprise, Diego began laughing uncontrollably. It wasn’t the courteous laugh you give to a friend for making a terrible joke; it was the fullbody, deep, unstoppable kind of laughter. His world was coming apart at the seams, and yet in less than two minutes his emotions polarized, leaving him smiling. It was at that moment that I realized that I was wrong. Wrong about what magic was. I believed that magic was the ability to take normal, everyday objects, and make them do something extraordinary through means of sleight of hand and subterfuge. However, magic is more than that. Magic is more than trickery. More than a social crutch. Magic is the art of feeling. Magicians are able to take normal, everyday objects and use them to elicit emotions in their purest forms. These emotions can be anything from sadness to awe, wonder, hate, intrigue, and, in the case of Diego, glee. Before we parted ways, Diego thanked me for reminding him that light can always be found in the darkest of situations.

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As sad as the circumstances may have been, it was Diego who redefined my definition of magic, and since that day I have worked towards making my effects resonate on the deepest, most emotional levels. Diego was able to show me that magic is real, and it is a gift: the gift of feeling. Thank you, Diego.

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About Nick Tarasewicz

Nick Tarasewicz grew up deep in the Rocky Moun-

tains of Colorado. He attended Animas High School in Durango, Colorado, and is currently a first year student at the University of Denver. His major is as-yet undeclared, but Nick has a keen interest in social sciences, history, and storytelling/writing. He has a passion for backpacking and skiing, as well as immersing himself in a robust novel on a snowy winter day.

Class of 2020

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Many Voices, One DU

2 Wind by Jessi Jones

The forlorn sound of Switchfoot echoed my own loneliness through cheaply made plane headphones. I was lately home, and the familiarity of the Denver skyline felt less comforting and more smothering. The soft, lonely voice danced with the gentle pluck of the guitar strings… “and it all seems so helpless/ that I have no plans/ I’m a plane in the sunset/ with nowhere to land.” My thoughts drifted to my own plan-less situation, en route to a foreign country. The music in my ears drowned out the confusion of voices in my mind. Parents, mentors, friends, and professors…I didn’t have answers for anyone, let alone myself. “We will be landing in Istanbul shortly,” the pilot’s voice interrupted my thoughts, and a brusque flight attendant shoved a declaration form into my hand. She mumbled something about a visa and continued down the aisle before I could ask a follow-up question. I found my apartment complex with little difficulty. A kind dolmus driver took pity on the look of terror on my face as I emerged from the airport terminal and offered me a ride, pointing out important landmarks along the way. The landlord handed me a key and disappeared into the maze of tunnels beneath the building. So I walked solo along the hallways, painted a deep and rich burgundy, and through the shared kitchen/dining area with brand-new stainless steel appliances. Since the apartment building had been recently completed, I was one of the first residents to move in. Five floors of mostly empty rooms, and the hollow reverberations of my every step bouncing off the walls were my only company for the first four days I lived in Turkey.

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Early on, I found an elderly gentleman with a food cart who started his route at dawn and passed my way before cruise ships docked and an influx of tipsy passengers crowded the streets. He had a little blue cooler, full of fresh-caught fish that he de-boned expertly in fluid motions, right in front of you. He was a baker by trade, selling mostly bread and bagels, and only for friends would he cook a fish over the glowing embers on his cart-grill. Three days of me nervously stumbling over the proper words to place my order, and he considered me a friend. After watching him process the fish, I purchased a Turkish bagel and a pomegranate to eat as I wove my way up and down the hilly cobblestone streets. My love affair with the pomegranate began and ended in Turkey. At first attempt, I could not understand why anyone would find the fruit useful, but multiple tries led me to find solace in it. The pomegranate is not a social fruit: it required my patience, focus, and diligence to pull out each tiny juice pod, pop it in my mouth, and press the pod until it burst—flooding me with the sweet delicious goodness. Then I would discreetly spit out the seeds to be pawed at by a street cat. I had no friends, no time constraints, and an incredibly limited ability to communicate, so the pomegranate became my favorite fruit. It gave me something to do as I wandered the city for miles each day, learning Turkish words and customs and watching people. I found a small music store tucked away on the Golden Horn where I regularly purchased CDs of local folk musicians to listen to. It was a dusty shop with feral cats roaming the aisles, sleeping on books swathed in peals of sunlight. The wall on one side of the store was buttressed against an old crumbling section of a wall built in the time of Constantine. Walking through its musty shelves, I felt like I was brushing up against living history. On a stroke of luck, the store clerk gave me a new album he had discovered called In Istanbul, with each of its 18 songs named after a different district in the city. The album cover featured a dark silhouette of the Istanbul skyline against a majestic purple sky. On my way out of the store, a patron excitedly handed me a CD copy of Beethoven’s nine symphonies. He was speaking much too quickly in Turkish for me to catch a single word, but his gestures were familiar. His enthusiasm seemed to come from an adoration of the music, a feeling I could relate to deeply. I spent that evening and many others after on the rooftop of my apart-

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Many Voices, One DU

ment building. It was a large glass-rimmed deck facing the most popular street in Istanbul, Istiklal. I poured hot water into a small paper cup and dropped in four sugar cubes. The air around me smelled of the salty Bosphorus brine, mixed with a smattering of street food and fish aromas. That night my loneliness caught up to me, and I listened to the plaintive cry of the call to prayer while the sun set the sky on fire with flames of red, yellow, pink, and the rest of the atmosphere settled into a deep blue. I couldn’t help but wonder how I could be alone so far away from everything I’d known and still feel closer to myself then I’d ever been. I realized solitude wasn’t always unfavorable. As the last call to prayer faded into seagull cries, I heard a faint tapping noise coming from the base of the stairs that led to the roof. I ignored it and buried myself in emails, staring intently at my computer screen. The noise got louder and louder until, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a shadowy figure emerge with the telltale red and white walking stick. He fumbled around a bit on the far side of the roof top but eventually stopped and turned his face out into the wind. I had seen him in the hall a few times and knew he was a Turkish law student who spoke almost no English. I loudly banged my fingers around on the keyboard and randomly selected a Debussy “Clair de Lune” from my iTunes playlist to play quietly, so that he would know someone was there. Once he heard the music, he turned towards me with a look of pure joy, the same look I’d seen earlier in the day over Beethoven, and he started cautiously my way. He shuffled his feet over the artificial turf and swayed his stick from side to side. It took him a minute to reach me, and the entire time, he was speed-talking in his native tongue. I panicked inwardly; until then I’d been safely shrouded in my communication bubble, safe from being forced to speak a language I didn’t know. I shook my head urgently, but realizing he couldn’t see, I blurted, “I don’t know…I can’t…I don’t understand….” By the time he reached me, we both were confused and frustrated. He stood awkwardly next to my small table and shifted his weight back and forth. It took me a moment to realize what he needed from me. I quickly jumped up and pulled a chair around to him, then took his hand and guided it to the chair armrest. He smiled a warm toothy grin and said, “Teşekkür ederim.” I nodded and rolled my eyes at myself. He couldn’t

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Jessi Jones

see; how would I let him know “you’re welcome?” I paused and then tapped the top of his hand twice in acknowledgment. He hesitated a moment, then sat back and turned his face into the gentle breeze again. Three Debussy songs went by, and I switched to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” searching for a thread of connection and recalling the moment from the music shop earlier. He sat upright with the excited expression again and pointed in the direction of the music: —“Beethoven!”—then placed his hands strategically on the table in front of him. He mimed playing the piano along to the song with each flourish and pedal break. When the song finished, he wiped a band of mock sweat from his eyebrow as I clapped wildly and shouted “Bravo” to his blushing and seated bowing. He murmured, “eeehhh, hmmm. Music…mu?” I could see him struggling to communicate his thought to me. But somehow I understood his question. I reached over and with my finger drew a heart on his hand again and again. He smiled when I was finished and tapped my hand twice. I selected a few indie rock tunes with the dull throb and melodic weaving that mimicked the strangeness of my feelings at the moment. He listened carefully, his fingers tapping the table in sync or flitting through the air as if he were playing an instrument. We proceeded to spend the next hour picking songs, with him miming the main instrument through each and every one. It turned out that he knew how to play the piano, cello, violin, viola, trumpet, and guitar. He introduced me to İsmail Altunsaray, and the longing and intimate notes of the guitar struck me as we listened to his entire first album; as I, hungry for the feeling of belonging it evoked, felt every note. He tolerated me playing a few garage punk band favorites, including the Mats and Nirvana, but we finally settled on Baroque period symphonies as a mutual love. When he liked a song, he would tap his fingers on the back of my hand twice, and I would do the same for him. When he didn’t particularly care for my choice, he would sit and turn his face into the wind, and I would simply change the song. It didn’t take long for me to realize that neither of us needed to say a word. Everything we could or would express was in between the notes and spoke to both of us in a clear third language. Through his selection of songs and the look that would take over his face while it played, I could discern his spirit, his warm vitality, and the inner peace that hung on

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every chord. I glanced up at the sky at one point, while Koray Avcı Mükemmel wound the sound of a clarinet around a song filled with yearning, to see a crescent moon hanging in the sky, just above the Galata tower. Eventually, an apologetic friend whom he was supposed to meet ran up the stairs to fetch him, and we parted ways, with a timid, hurried goodbye. Over the six months I spent in Istanbul, my musician friend and I would meet, never by design, on the rooftop of our shared building and play music for each other. Our sole vernacular was melody, and it was months before we learned each other’s names. Even as my Turkish improved, it felt inadequate compared to the depth of expression a song could provide. In the process of my musical and cultural expansion, I found pieces of myself, in songs that spoke my heart, and I discovered my inner peace. My life is once again busy, and I have to constantly fight against the eradication of what little peace I maintain, but every once in a while, I’ll open my overflowing Gmail inbox, dreading the list of to-dos and questions to answer. And there will be an email with the subject “2” or “wind” with no words in the body, just a link to a song I’ve never heard before, a song that feels, for all the world, just like me.

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About Jessi Jones

Jessi Jones is the program coordinator at the Re-

source Center for Medieval Slavic Studies at the Ohio State University. She received her B.A. in International Studies from DU in 2010 and her M.A. in Slavic Studies at OSU in 2013. In her spare time, she writes, daydreams, volunteers, and hikes. Listening to music is her constant state of being.

Class of 2010

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Many Voices, One DU

Cogs, Springs, and Broken Things by Alex Young

Robots are the most interesting creations in the world. A system of electricity, levers, pulleys, mechanical springs and cogs, smashed together in whatever configuration suits the task at hand. Perhaps we ourselves are machines. A system of biological levers and springs, cogs within a larger scheme, slowly following a single, monotonous command. Early September in Southern Colorado is very, very boring. In other regions, you may see trees start to turn shades of yellow as the world prepares for its long slumber. Perhaps you hear the birds chirp less; the children begin to stay inside instead of playing ball. In Southern Colorado? Nothing. There is no change. The world is almost stagnant. Each day drifts slowly between the last and the next. Lazy, uneventful. There is a certain comfort in repetition, an ability to know the outcome of your actions. Maybe that certainty is why I used to follow such strict programming. Every day I woke up early in the morning, five minutes before my alarm would sound. I would fight myself to roll out of bed and take a shower. Lukewarm water—never cold, never hot. I would wear khakis and a button up t-shirt—red or blue, with checkers or stripes. I would always consider eating breakfast but instead rush to school. I would attend class—barely paying attention. I’d get lunch, a chicken sandwich every day of the week except Thursday, which was honey butter bagel day. I’d go to work, where I would set upon my task of cleaning up the children’s section. Finally, I’d go home. A pattern. Repetition. A well-oiled machine.

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Alex Young

I enjoyed it for the most part. Patterns are boring. Uneventful. Repetitious. Comforting. I woke up, I went to school, I went to work, I went home. One cold evening in early September, as the weather began to slowly drag into not-quite-winter but definitely-not-summer, I was working late, helping close up. As I walked towards my car, I pulled out my phone to tell my father that I was on my way home, as I had done every night before. However, when my screen flashed to life, I saw something unexpected: about 20 or so text messages from my friends and multiple missed calls. At first, I assumed it was one of them worrying about an assignment that was due the next day, as they always do. But as I read the texts, I became more frantic. Someone was in trouble. I rushed home, barreling down the empty streets, my tires screaming as I called one of my friends. “Come to my house, come to my house,” she cried, her voice shaking. “You have to come over, now, you have to.” Of course, I began to panic. This wasn’t part of the routine. I sped over, jumping over bumps, scraping the bottom of my car on the concrete. I missed my turn, and my friend had to call me again to tell me she saw me drive by. When I finally pulled into her driveway, I was greeted with something unsettling. All my friends, together, standing outside. Waiting for me. As I got out of my car, I called over to them “Hey, what’s happening?” One of my friends rushed over to me, collapsing into my arms. She told me in an unsteady voice, wracked with anguish, “Ryan…” She was choking back tears. “Ryan committed suicide earlier today.” I stopped. This wasn’t in the plan. This wasn’t part of the script. My brain went into overdrive. It tried so hard to think, so hard to find something to say. All I heard was white noise.

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Many Voices, One DU

All I could muster from that chaos was an uncertain “are you sure?” All of my friends nodded. They were devastated, wailing. I didn’t react; all my cogs came grinding to a halt. I couldn’t do anything at all. How could I? He was here that morning. I had even talked to him. He was fine. We had an entire conversation—we made jokes. I asked him about the game he was playing lately—how I had seen him playing it recently. He smiled and laughed, telling me stories about characters in the game and all the dumb things he did. He was happy. They were pulling a cruel prank. I knew it. But I bit my tongue. I sat with them as they wailed. As they screamed at the stars. I was silent. The next day, I woke up, I went to school, I skipped a class, I went to work, I went home. I logged onto my computer and saw Ryan’s user name flash onto the screen, as if he were still here. Last Online: A Day Ago. I went to bed. The next day I woke up late, I went to school, I skipped a class, I went to work. A customer smiled at me, wishing me a wonderful day. I hated her so much for being happy—for not knowing he was gone. I went home, I went to bed. The next week I woke up late, I missed class, I cried in my car, I went to work, I went home. My friends were posting on Facebook about how they missed him.

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Alex Young

I couldn’t stand his picture. I went to bed. The next week I woke up late, went to school, I cried in my car, I quit my job. We held a wake for him. I told everyone I was all right. I could barely stand as I told everyone how amazing he was. My friends looked at me with pain in their eyes, as if trying to say, “We understand.” I went home. My friends asked me time and time again, “Are you all right?” I always smiled and laughed it off. Of course I was all right. I had to be. I was programmed to be. You can’t deviate from the script. But you can’t laugh off something like that. What I used to rely on was no longer there. The plan had changed. The routine was broken. My entire life was working as part of a machine—every friend was a cog, making sure that every process was repeated time and time again, and now a piece was missing, as if it had never existed in the first place. I was a robot, a herald of a mechanical god that only existed in my brain. My processes began to fail—my chains began to slip. The cranks and pulleys that twisted and twirled within the rhythm of my life began to fall apart. My dead friend made me realize that I wasn’t human. So I began to change. I replaced my parts with bits and pieces of my friends. I let their words act as glue, let their love act as oil. We shared this pain together, this burden. I was broken—a shell of my former self—but I was able to cobble myself together. I learned that friendship isn’t just being there for each other’s highs

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Many Voices, One DU

but supporting each other through the lows, and by not letting my friends help me, I was pushing them away. A machine is only as good as its parts, and for better or worse, my friends were part of me. Their love, their anguish, their hopes, and their nightmares were all the broken parts of me. Alone, robots without a function, without a script. But we had each other, we could rely on each other. We fixed each other—because that’s what we had to do. The next month, I woke up, I went to school, I went home. And I felt human again. For the first time in a long time, I felt free. I felt like a machine without a purpose. A robot without a script. I was happy. My friends taught me that I was okay being broken sometimes.

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Alex Young

About Alex Young

Alex Young grew up in the suburbs of Littleton, Col-

orado. He was young, wild, and sort of lazy. It was a glorious time. However, he was home schooled for most of his life. Starting in 7th Grade, Alex began attending public school. There, he found his voice—in gore-tastic volumes of a self-insert zombie fantasy novel. Yes, he was that guy, and yes, he read them out loud. After only a year in 7th grade, Alex’s family upended their lives and moved to Pueblo West. Like any other teenager, Alex wrote a lot of very sarcastic fiction, and his years of life experience (read: 18) have given him a lot to write about (read: Like two things at most). Alex hopes to share his voice with as many people as possible, and maybe—just maybe—they realize that he, too, is just like them—but slightly cooler.

Class of 2020

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Many Voices, One DU

Rejoice in Choice by Ciera Blehm

1. THE UNKNOWN It was the moment when my heart was beating so fast that my chest felt as though it was caving in. My lack of medical expertise led me to determine that I was having a heart attack. I was certain of it. I had locked myself in a bathroom stall and was trying to breathe, but the air felt absent. My mom’s voice in the back of my mind reminded me, “Deep breath in…1…2…3…deep breath out.” I leaned against the bathroom stall and covered my mouth with both hands. I started to cry so hard I couldn’t stand up straight. The moments I couldn’t catch my breath caused a soft echo to move through the space I had taken up. I didn’t want anyone to hear me or know that I was there. I embraced being alone. It was the first time in a long time that I had found comfort in having no one else with me. There was chaos resonating through the stillness, yet confusion was the only recognizable emotion I could identify. I was fighting my mind to make the equation fit. “How could A lead to D, without B and C? What was B and C? What was even A and D?” I wondered to myself. I couldn’t understand what had just happened, but I knew it had. After a few moments, and regaining as much composure as I could, I took one shaking hand and placed it on the lock to the stall. I stared at it very intently as I realized that as soon as I turned that lock, the world as I knew it would be different, because everything about me felt destroyed. I

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knew I would have to make choices, even though I was not fully aware of what those choices would be. I closed my eyes, I counted to five, I opened my eyes, and I opened the door. When I saw my reflection in the mirror of the bathroom, I lost my breath. I knew it was me, but I no longer looked familiar. It was the face of an unknown friend. I sympathized with her, I felt distantly connected to her, but I didn’t know her. When I approached the sink, I had to clasp the sides to not collapse. My whole body was trembling. Looking down at the drain, I was beginning to feel a type of anger that I had never felt before. “I didn’t ask for this,” I told myself. “Please be okay,” I prayed to myself. I couldn’t breathe again. I looked at the stranger in the mirror. I analyzed the depth in her eyes. I observed the little details on her face. I noticed a mark, one of many that would later be found, on her neck. I noticed the pain that now rested deep within her soul. I listened to her silence, for it spoke a million words. I saw her hair rest upon her shoulders in a scattered manner. I acknowledged her fear, and that reminded me: she was me. I stared long enough hoping that I would reconnect with my body. But it didn’t take long for me to realize the old me was gone. I noticed a tear roll down my face. I caught it right before it fell off my chin. To me, it symbolized a “goodbye” to who I had been.

2. FAST FORWARD…TWELVE WEEKS I was at the airport looking out at the runways. I felt relief in knowing that I was leaving Denver behind for an internship outside of Chicago. I was going to a place where few people would know me or my story. I felt the freedom in running away, even though freedom should have come long before this moment. I felt a strong disconnect from the world I was living in, more so than on the day in the bathroom. I had been on a roller coaster of ups and downs for the last two months. I begged to get off multiple times, but life reminded me there were lessons I would learn when all of this was over. I prepared to board the plane barely knowing who I was. I had been fiercely fighting for her: the girl I met in the mirror. It might have been me

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Many Voices, One DU

denying the reality of what my life was, but it was easier to focus on addressing the issue than recognizing and accepting who I was after what happened. As I boarded the plane, I started to cry. And it wasn’t the soft tears that roll down your face as you choke back the urge to let your emotions eat you alive in that very moment, no. This was the type of crying that is usually done best in a soundproof room, because all those awkward sounds that escape when you try to catch your breath were there. I was crying the same way I had that day in the stall, but the only difference was I didn’t mind people seeing me. There was no shame. There was a sense of relief. The walk onto the plane was an opportunity for me to no longer live in fear. I would be able to breathe. I was going to a place where I would have to become one with myself again. I sat on the plane and made the conscious decision to live a life without pain in this new place. The pain couldn’t exist unless I dragged it there with me, and I refused to continue living with so much of it. As the pre-flight safety demonstration was given, I took my first deep breath. I closed my eyes, I counted to five, and I didn’t look back.

3. FAST FORWARD…TWELVE MORE WEEKS Throughout the twelve weeks that I was away for the summer, I found myself. I traveled and explored new places. I had an internship that motivated and distracted me, and I dreamed and lived life without hesitation. I no longer felt trapped. I forced myself to have an open mind and to see

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when the world was giving me signs of hope and moments to repair myself. While the pain was still there, I forced it to live in the shadows and to only be present when necessary. I learned about the magic of finding places where you willingly leave a part of yourself, simply for the sake of knowing that you must return. During the summer, the places I visited helped me grow and identify new pieces of myself. In turn, I left parts of the old me at each stop. I was letting go of what didn’t make sense. I listened for the soft whispers that guided me toward who I was becoming. I willingly listened to each one. There was the coffee shop in a hidden Chicago neighborhood where I would sit at a little French table sipping on bourbon vanilla chai tea. This place reminded me of the beauty often found in simplicity. Yet the elegance of the chandelier that hung above the mis-matched furniture demonstrated the validity of extravagance existing in subtlety. I noticed my own inner voice grasping onto the me from before. I heard the gentle cries begging to have the pain vanish and for me to be what used to be normal. There was a compassionate nudge from the wind that ruffled the napkins on my table, forcing me to see what was in front of me: this coffee shop in Chicago, and nothing else. A place that forgot the “norm” and accepted its fate, its beauty. This place reminded me that there is an art in letting go of the things we once knew to accept the knowledge of what is. Then there was the car ride that showed me what I hadn’t seen before. As my friend and I were heading to lunch, the driver asked us, “how do you

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walk through and away from conflict?” At first, I felt my throat tighten. I hoped he wouldn’t directly ask me for my opinion, because I wasn’t sure how I would answer. The conflict I was currently in made me feel like I was all over the place in dealing with it. But he did ask. So I took a deep breath and responded by explaining to him that with each conflict, there must be a degree of empathy. We must be willing to try to understand why the other person feels the way they do. If we don’t, how do we learn the root of the issue? I also told him that with any conflict, we must forgive before we move forward. I urged the thought that forgiveness does not have to be known publicly to count: forgiveness is a choice that we make for ourselves to let go of the anger. After all, we are the only ones that go to bed with our own anger each night, no one else. Anger is not worth holding onto to the point that it invades our life. Finally, I told him that in every conflict, you must be willing to walk through with grace, confidence, and hope that things will work out and that lessons will be learned. This conversation showed me what I wasn’t willing to see before but had been seeing unconsciously all along. Grace, empathy, confidence, and hope allow us to fight without violence and anger. These traits give us the strength to look at issues with a degree of rationality that can eliminate the need to be cruel to those who hurt us. Those traits are chosen to be used in conflict; they are not always naturally given. It is a choice to address conflict with either anger or strength. Depending on which one you choose to support you, in my opinion, ultimately determines how you walk away from conflict. One of the final lessons I learned while I was away happened while I was out on a morning run. An old man was sitting on a park bench, struggling to reach his untied shoe laces, when I approached him and asked him if he needed help. After I introduced myself and explained the work I was doing for the summer, I asked him about his life. This man told me about the worst advice he had ever received and how it changed his life for the better. He told me that taking calculated risks cannot be a good strategy for everything, that sometimes jumping into life and hoping it all works out is far more valuable than always knowing the “what-ifs.” He reminded me that life has a way of ruining you—but only if you let it. He advised me to carry the following thought with me always: “Don’t let life’s hard times ruin you. Find a way to fight for whatever it is that made you join the war in the first place.”

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On that bench, I left my fear of the future. I chose to let my fear of not knowing “what may be� go to remain focused on my fight, which was finding myself and growing into myself. The places and the people that I met that summer helped to mold and uncover the pieces that comprised the new me. The reluctance that I had so desperately clenched before, in not wanting to figure out who that new me was, was no longer present. As I boarded the plane to go home, I found myself thinking about my trip twelve weeks earlier. I was then sitting on a plane with little hope, with fear, and with pain. My heart had been heavy, and I had been running away from everything that didn’t make sense. As the flight attendant walked by and asked me to put my computer away, I found myself sitting on a new plane with a thankful heart. I had learned who I was. I was vastly different from the old me, but I no longer wanted the old me back. I sat with a confirmed sense of strength, grace, hope, and confidence for the unknown. I had empathy for what I knew to be my greatest pain, but I also affirmed my acceptance of it too.

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4. THE WALK BACK When I returned from Chicago, it ended. After five months, a conclusion had been reached that provided me comfort in returning to the University of Denver. I decided one day to revisit campus alone. I wanted to embrace the new me, in the very place where the old me once existed. As I stood in the middle of campus, I began to slowly turn my feet in a circle, with my eyes tightly holding the gaze of everything I saw. I was taking deep breaths without hesitation or restraint. There was a silence that became distantly familiar, although I quickly reminded myself of all that I know now. I found comfort in what once destroyed me. I found solace in all the places that I believed would forever haunt me. I picked up my bag and began to wander along the brick paths past vaguely familiar buildings. I found myself in front of the building in which my world fell apart. I sat down in a lawn chair and looked at it. I observed the walls and the markings that proved its age. I wondered who would move into the room that once felt like my cage. I recalled all the moments that I’d had in that building. I remembered the good and chose to let go of the bad. As I sat there with a new sense of self, I closed my eyes and found comfort in knowing that laughter and goodness can fill a space after pain and destruction have vacated. I walked away from that place with a profound sense of gratitude. As I took my first step on my walk back, I acknowledged that the journey I had been walking on allowed me to feel almost every emotion I could think of. However, I had chosen to find something positive in the negativity. I chose to forgive, to move forward. It was during that walk back when I finally had to make a choice: to use my voice and strength for good or to be silent. I knew in that moment that my experience could not be my own; rather, it could move through me, into the lives of others. I could not be silent, even though I wanted to be. I stopped and turned around right before I knew that the building would no longer be visible. It was in that very moment that I acknowledged I would forever have a scar indicating what had happened. However, I could not let the scar define me. I wouldn’t let what happened silence me because of fear.

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The unfamiliar face that I had seen in the mirror long ago was the face of someone who, moments before, had become one of the one in five women who will be sexually assaulted during their college years. The marks on my body would later validate the incident. My scar is the statistic. My scar is the memory of what happened. But the scar does not define me. The scar will never define me.

5. REJOICE IN CHOICE The unfamiliar silence that introduced me to the massive changes that would come into my life reminded me of the daily promise I will forever carry with me: every day we change, and that alone changes everything. Rejoice in choice. That moment when I was in the bathroom, I contemplated the choices in front of me. It was then that I had the choice to break, to truly collapse and allow the pain and confusion to take over. But I also had the “other choice,” which changed the trajectory of my life. I chose to fight for what was right. I chose to ignore the straight and narrow path that encouraged me to be silent. Instead, I chose the path that was curved, chaotic, and disrupted everything that made me feel safe. I chose to trust myself when others didn’t. More importantly, I now choose to walk through life with grace, patience, and confidence when opposition is staring me in the face, and I constantly rejoice in knowing that there will always be a choice as to when I can break and give up. I remind myself that there is hope in the stillness of chaos, no matter how dark it may seem. There is strength in choosing to allow my most terrifying moment to be the driving force to create change. We must welcome challenge and commit ourselves to not fearing what we might think is a wrong or controversial thing to do. I’m forever grateful for my life, because it’s mine. And that is the most beautiful part of life itself. It’s all of ours, yet uniquely ours alone.

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About Ciera Blehm

Originally from Fort Collins, Ciera Blehm is an undergraduate student at the University of Denver who is working towards degrees in Business Information and Analytics and Socio-Legal Studies. As an advocate for social justice, Ciera is a Puksta Scholar through the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, holds a position on the Undergraduate Student Government, is the Gender Violence Prevention Program Intern with DU’s Health and Counseling Center, and is the Co-Chair of the Take Back the Night Taskforce. Compelled to expand upon her blog-like posts on Instagram, Ciera wrote “Rejoice in Choice” to inspire change and help reshape the narrative of the DU community. Ciera continues to work on the issues that are close to her, looking for ways to bridge technology with social issues.

Class of 2019

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Many Voices, One DU

Ka Huakaʻ‘i ma Kololako (The Journey in Colorado): Reflections of a Hawaiian’s DU Experience by Halena Kapuni-Reynolds

Before I begin, I would like to recognize the Cheyenne and Arapaho peoples, whose traditional lands include those on which the University of Denver is currently situated. Their stories of displacement, persistence, and resilience mirror the experiences of Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian). E ola kākou! Let us live! Let our peoples thrive for generations to come.

HE MELE NO KOLOLAKO (A SONG FOR COLORADO) Ho‘omana‘o a‘ela au I ku‘u wā i Kololako He ‘āina palena ‘ole He ‘āina na ka pu‘uwai

I fondly remember My time in Colorado A land so vast A land forever in my heart

Hanohano ‘o Keaukaha Home uluwehi o ka ‘ohana Punana aloha o ka manu heu Kīkaha lā i ka lani lipolipo

Keaukaha is honored Verdant home of my ‘ohana The loving nest of the fledgling Soaring through the dark night

He aloha no Maila Haila Kūlanakauhale i ka ‘iu ‘Iu ‘iu ka home o ka wahine lā I ke alo ‘o Mauna Pohaku

Beloved is the Mile High City The city high up above The majestic home of the woman At the edge of the Rocky Mountains

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Kaulana nō ke kulanui ‘o Kenewa Home winihapa o nā paionia Paipai mau ‘ia e nā kumu Noi‘i nowelo aku

The University of Denver is infamous [It is] the brick home of the Pioneers Always supported by the teachers Seeking and delving into knowledge

‘O ka Hui Sivila ka‘u i aloha Nā ‘elele ha‘aheo a Pi‘ilani Nā mamo hiwahiwa o Hawai‘i He kumu i lau a lehu

Beloved is the Civic Club The proud representatives of Pi‘ ilani The precious children of Hawai‘ i [Like] a tree full of vibrant leaves

Ha‘ina mai ka puana No Maila Haila lā ‘eā He ‘āina palena ‘ole He ‘āina na ka pu‘uwai

Tell the refrain For the Mile High City A land so vast A land forever in my heart

INTRODUCTION Inspired by the call for Many Voices, One DU, I composed a mele Hawai‘i (Hawaiian song)1 to reflect on my time at the University of Denver.2 Titled “He Mele No Kololako” (A Song for Colorado), the mele reveals a narrative that highlights how one can experience aloha (love, compassion, kindness) in unexpected places.3 At a time in America where hate, fear, and bigotry are becoming too commonplace within politics and everyday life, this mo‘olelo (story) reminds us of the aloha that exists in our world. Sometimes, we just need to know where to find it or how to cultivate it. E ho‘omaka kākou. Let us begin. Ho‘omana‘o a‘ela au I ku‘u wā i Kololako He ‘āina palena ‘ole He ‘āina na ka pu‘uwai 1

I fondly remember My time in Colorado A land so vast A land forever in my heart

Typically, mele Hawai‘i use various poetic techniques to aid in memorizing song lyrics. These techniques, such as the incorporation of place names and the use of repetition, can also convey stories about particular places, persons, or events. By composing a new mele Hawai‘i, I practice the teachings of my elders and ancestors through the perpetuation of one of Hawai‘i’s treasured art forms.

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Many Voices, One DU

DEPARTURE I departed for Denver in the summer of 2013 after graduating with a degree in anthropology and Hawaiian Studies from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. My undergraduate experience was atypical of most students: I and my eldest sister were the primary caregivers for our terminally-ill parents. Balancing coursework and internships with various doctors’ appointments and at-home treatments was emotionally and physically taxing for me. Yet life as a university student served as a means for me to make my parents proud of my achievements while also serving as a temporary escape from the monumental task of caring for the two lives that faced me at home. In 2011, my mother passed away, followed by my father in 2012. Neither of them lived to see my graduation. Although they are no longer physically with me, they continue to offer me guidance and protection. It is in their names that I continued my education beyond the undergraduate level. When I was preparing to leave Hawai‘i and live elsewhere for the first time, I sat in my grandmother’s pala,4 contemplating whether I made the right choice to move to Denver. My concern was not my preparedness for graduate studies. I was more conflicted about leaving my grandmother behind. 2

Composing mele Hawai‘i reflects my cultural upbringing as part-Hawaiian born and raised on the island of Hawai‘i. Although I lived with my parents in the mist-ladened rain forest of ‘Ōla‘a, I went to school 30 miles away in Keaukaha, a small Hawaiian community on the outskirts of Hilo Town. My mother is from Keaukaha, and going to school in Keaukaha allowed us to do two things. First, it allowed us to see and learn from our grandparents on a daily basis. And second, it allowed us to attend Ke Kula Kaiapuni o Keaukaha, a Hawaiian language immersion school where students learn math, science, history, art, and even English all through the Hawaiian language. The school has since converted into a charter school. As a Hawaiian language immersion student, I never learned the Pledge of Allegiance or songs like “Yankee Doodle”; I learned Hawaiian songs like Hawai‘i Pono‘ī, the national anthem of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, as well as numerous oli (chants) to ask our ancestors to grant us wisdom, knowledge, and protection. It was from these experiences of singing and chanting daily that I developed an insatiable thirst for composing mele Hawai‘i. 3

Although I define “aloha” in simplistic terms here, it is a concept that has multiple and oftentimes overlapping meanings. Not only is it a way of life, it is also a spiritual practice that recognizes the importance of maintaining our connections to kanaka (people), akua (God(s)), and ‘āina (land). Aloha is not just about caring for the here and now: It is a reminder of our responsibilities to our ancestors and future generations. 4

A localized pronunciation of the word “parlor.”

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A spunky, 87-year old at the time, my Gramma, as I call her, is the epitome of what it means to be a Kānaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian). Hardworking. Family-oriented. Humble. Mindful. She reminds me of the importance of working hard and appreciating the little details of life. When I was an ‘ōpio (adolescent), for instance, I oftentimes saw her raking the leaves of the ylang ylang tree that grew in our yard, carefully ensuring that each and every leaf was piled up and taken away. When I saw her doing this, I would run out of the house, grab my tiny red rake, and join her to rake the leaves by her side. In this same yard, she taught me how to sew the delicate flowers into lei (garland) that we would give to relatives and friends. Beyond being my grandmother, my Gramma is my best friend. We laugh. We cry. We bicker. We fight. We do all of these things and still have time to reminisce about the old days while eating her favorite meal of poke and poi.5 On the day of my departure, I finally had to admit that I was going to leave Gramma for the first time: Would she be okay in my absence? What would Denver be like? Would the people at DU like me? Did I make the right choice? Hours turned to minutes, and the time came for me to bid a hui hou6 (adieu) to my dearest Gramma. I held back tears of love that threatened to swell into an ocean, knowing that I was leaving my island home without knowing when I would return.7 Hanohano ‘o Keaukaha Home uluwehi o ka ‘ohana Punana aloha o ka manu heu Kīkaha lā i ka lani lipolipo

Keaukaha is honored Verdant home of my ‘ohana The loving nest of the fledgling Soaring through the dark night

5

Poke is raw fish (typically ahi, more commonly known as tuna) that is cubed and seasoned with seaweed, salt, and a variety of other spices and condiments. Poi is a starchy paste made from taro that has been steamed and pounded. 6

Although “a hui hou” is how we say “goodbye” in the Hawaiian language, it literally means “until we meet again.” 7

My reference to the ocean here is an homage to my Gramma. When she wrote to me while I was in Denver, she would always end her letters with the signature line, “Oceans of love.”

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Many Voices, One DU

Gramma and I in her pala. “I held back tears of love that threatened to swell into an ocean, knowing that I was leaving my island home without knowing when I would return.”

ARRIVAL Touchdown. After 12 hours of travel and waiting in airports, I finally arrived at Maila Haila, the Mile High City.8 After deplaning, catching the airport train, and ascending the escalator to the main terminal, I was on the lookout for the first person that I would meet in this new land. Her name was “Auntie Terry.” 9 I will never forget our first physical interaction. When I arrived, she bought me a bouquet of flowers, kissed me on the cheek, and gave me a hug. She said, “I couldn’t find a lei, so this was the next best thing.” Curiously, Auntie Terry and I met under peculiar and perhaps serendipitous circumstances via the site of a thousand services, Craigslist. In short, I was looking for a place to stay in Denver, and she was looking for someone 8

I created this name by “Hawaiianizing” the name “Mile High.”

9

In Hawai‘i, anyone who is older than you, whether they are your blood relative or not, is bestowed the title of “Auntie” or “Uncle” as a sign of respect. However, beyond calling her “Auntie” out of cultural tradition, I saw Auntie Terry as one of my extended family members in the ways that she sincerely cared for my wellbeing as a “Local boy” far from his islands.

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to care for her home and her four animals while she was in Maui (she lives there part-time). Her response when I asked her about the rent continues to boggle my mind: “Well. You don’t have to pay for anything, really. I just need someone to be here and to make sure that the house is still standing and the pets are cared for. You would live in the master bedroom, and you could use my car if you’d like. But we can talk about an amount when you get here. Okay?” Zip. Zero. ‘Ole.10 At that moment, I figured that our chance encounter was a hō‘ailona (sign).11 Something (or someone) brought our lives together.

One of the many spring flowers in Auntie Terry’s pāhale (yard). Having grown up all my life around tropical and Hawaiian plants, I later learned that it was a peony.

10 11

“‘Ole” is the Hawaiian word for zero.

I was raised to believe that everything happens for a reason. And sometimes, those reasons may not manifest in the present but will make themselves known in the future. Rather than viewing this belief as a sort of “mysticism,” I prefer to think of it as a practice of being mindful of your surroundings.

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Many Voices, One DU

I spent two years living at Auntie Terry’s hale (house) with my partner Ikaika and Auntie Terry’s four pets: Dawn, Kaley, Sweet Tea, and Sweet Pea. We eventually came to love these animals and to treat Auntie Terry’s home as if it were our own, tending to her flowers, cleaning her yard, and making sure it was cozy and ready for her return. It was a perfect arrangement. Auntie Terry’s selflessness and aloha for others reminds me of my older Hawaiian female relatives, like my Gramma. It is because of these qualities that I truly consider Auntie Terry to be part of my extended ‘ohana. I lived in Auntie Terry’s home for about two years, until I moved back home to Hawai‘i. During that time, she never made Ikaika or me pay a single penny of rent. Such are the ways of a woman whose kindness and love are immeasurable, stretching far above the tallest snow-laden peaks of the Rocky Mountains. He aloha no Maila Haila Kūlanakauhale i ka ‘iu ‘Iu ‘iu ka home o ka wahine lā I ke alo ‘o Mauna Pohaku

Beloved is the Mile High City The city high up above The majestic home of the woman At the edge of the Rocky Mountains

ADJUSTMENTS I came to DU to work with Dr. Christina Kreps, an anthropology professor and the director of the University of Denver Museum of Anthropology. Since I was interested in studying non-Western forms of curation, it only seemed fitting to study under someone whose scholarship centered around that very topic. After having a phone conversation with Dr. Kreps, I submitted my application to DU. It was the only graduate program that I applied to. As a DU student, I became increasingly aware of my own marginalization as a person of color and as a person of native ancestry. Coming from an island community and a university that boasted one of the most ethnically diverse college campuses in the nation, I already anticipated being one of a few Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders on campus. Little did I know that out of 11,778 graduate and undergraduate students enrolled at DU in 2013, I was one of only twelve students who identified as Pacific Islander.12 One of twelve. This statistic was exacerbated by the fact that I came from a com-

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pletely different cultural world from many of the other graduate students who eventually became my friends and colleagues. Their references to alternative music, popular culture, and TV sitcoms were unfamiliar to me, as were my love for Hawaiian history and Hawaiian music to them.13

A typical, picturesque spring sunset at Sturm Hall. 12

Although most of the students were primarily from the midwest and California, by some odd twist of fate, there was another person from Hawai‘ i Island who entered the same MA program that I did—an unprecedented occurrence in the department of Anthropology at DU. Her name was Kelley. Through her friendship, I was able to find solace in having someone in my department who understood my cultural references and shared my love for Hawaiian food. I remember, for instance, the day that we drove to Aurora, excited to eat at L & L’s Hawaiian Barbeque, a chain restaurant with origins in Hawai‘i that makes a variety of plate lunches, typically including some type of deep-fried or BBQ meat with rice and macaroni salad. I remember ordering a chicken katsu plate with white rice and two scoops of mac salad. Moni ka hā‘ae. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. 13

It is also important to note that Ikaika and I were racialized here in ways that we were not in Hawai‘i. For example, Ikaika was oftentimes racialized as being Hispanic because of his skin color and facial features, with strangers frequently walking up to him and speaking to him in Spanish. A more insidious occasion was when our racialization turned into racism; on our way home from Jerusalem, a white male driving by in a black Toyota Forerunner called us “Fucking Ni**ers.”

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Many Voices, One DU

In spite of these differences, DU was a place where I flourished as a budding intellectual. Faculty and staff in the anthropology department were overwhelmingly supportive of my research, offering constructive criticism and helpful advice.14 Most importantly, perhaps, they wholeheartedly supported my attempts to “indigenize” anthropology to work within my own worldview. In Hawai‘i, we have a saying: I ulu no ka lālā i ke kumu. Branches (lālā) will grow when they are a part of a tree (kumu). Likewise, students can only grow when their teachers are supportive of their education. I am indebted to the faculty and staff of the Anthropology Department at DU for being my kumu. Had I gone to a different program, had I decided to stay in Hawai‘i to pursue my MA, my ideas and confidence may not have blossomed and flourished as they did. Kaulana nō ke kulanui ‘o Kenewa The University of Denver is infamous Home winihapa o nā paionia [It is] the brick home of the Pioneers Paipai mau ‘ia e nā kumu Always supported by the teachers Noi‘i nowelo aku Seeking and delving into knowledge

COMMUNITY Although I was one of a few Pacific Islanders at DU, I quickly discovered pockets in Denver where Hawaiian/Pacific Islander food, culture, and people flourished.15 Of the many places that I discovered, the most impactful

14

Some of the most influential courses that I took through the Anthropology Department were Dr. Christina Kreps’s “Museum Anthropology,” Dr. Richard Clemmer-Smith’s “Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Dr. Bonnie Clark’s “Historical Archaeology” and “Cultural Narratives,” Dr. Alejandro Cerón’s “Qualitative Analysis,” and Brooke Rohde and Anne Amati’s “Managing Collections.” 15

In downtown Denver, for instance, I learned that the Japanese grocery store Pacific Mercantile Company sold a selection of the Hawaiian food I ate growing up. Perhaps the most exciting find for me was that they carried Amano Fish Cake Company tenpura (fried fish cake) and kamaboko (steamed fish cake). Amano is a company based in Hilo, Hawai‘i Island.

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on my life was the Pi‘ilani Hawaiian Civic Club of Colorado.16 At Pi‘ilani events, I always felt at home.17 Whether it was how younger members called the older members “Auntie” or “Uncle,” or the mo‘olelo (stories) that longtime resident of Colorado from Hawai‘i shared about their experiences of leaving Hawai‘i in search of a better life, Pi‘ilani was a space where I could be around others who shared my experience of being a kama‘āina18 of Hawai‘i. To all of the people that I met through Pi‘ilani, mahalo iā ‘oukou pākahi a pau. Thank you all for making Denver less of a scary place and truly a second home for me. ‘O ka Hui Sivila ka‘u i aloha Nā ‘elele ha‘aheo a Pi‘ilani Nā mamo hiwahiwa o Hawai‘i He kumu i lau a lehu

Beloved is the Civic Club The proud representatives of Pi‘ ilani The precious children of Hawai‘ i [Like] a tree full of vibrant leaves

RETURN In May of 2016, I found myself on a one-way flight back to Hawai‘i. After I landed at the Kona International Airport, my brother picked me up and we made the two-hour drive to Hilo. Immediately upon reaching Keaukaha around midnight, I saw her: my Gramma, waiting at the door to embrace me once more. I was home. In learning to live and to love in Denver, I learned that my marginalization did not define who I was. Rather, I made the effort to be a part of a community, whether it was the Department of Anthropology at DU or 16

Pi‘ilani is an organization committed to promoting the Hawaiian cultural value of pono (living equitably and in harmony with one another) through various educational and charitable activities throughout Colorado. Pi‘ilani is also a member of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, a network of Hawaiian civic clubs found throughout the Hawaiian Islands and the US continent that educates their communities about Hawaiian history and culture. 17

While I was in Colorado, I was an active member of the Pi‘ilani Hawaiian Civic Club, participating in various club events like our bi-monthly membership meeting and our annual fundraiser lū‘au (feast). Eventually, I was elected to serve a one-year directorship on Pi‘ilani’s board, in which I managed the club’s Facebook page and website (piilani.org/aloha). 18

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Kama‘āina literally translates to “child of the land.”


Many Voices, One DU

the Pi‘ilani Hawaiian Civic Club, that made me feel welcomed to this new place. In Hawai‘i, we teach our children the following saying: “Nānā ka maka, ho‘olohe ka pepeiao, pa‘a ka waha.” It literally means to watch with one’s eyes, listen with one’s ears, and shut one’s mouth when necessary. This saying reminds us of the importance of being mindful and open. Sometimes, by practicing these skills, we can be led to people who will truly care for our spiritual and physical well-being in ways that affect us for the rest of our lives. Ultimately, I found aloha in Denver in unexpected places by paying attention, learning, and being open-minded. I now share my mo‘olelo (story) with you as a challenge: Pay close attention to whom you surround yourself with, and always work towards a world of aloha. Ha‘ina mai ka puana No Maila Haila lā ‘eā He ‘āina palena ‘ole He ‘āina na ka pu‘uwai

Tell the refrain For the Mile High City A land so vast A land forever in my heart

Pīpī holo ka‘ao. Sprinkled, the tale runs.19

19

In the Hawaiian language, stories usually end with the line “pīpī holo ka‘ao” rather than “the end.” This line reminds us of the power of telling stories, how these stories travel from person to person, generation to generation, through our storytelling.

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About Halena Kapuni-Reynolds

Halena Kapuni-Reynolds is a Kanaka Maoli (Native

Hawaiian) with ancestral roots that tie him to the island of Hawai‘i and the lands of central Nebraska. In 2013, Halena graduated with an undergraduate degree in Hawaiian Studies and Anthropology from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. He later received his M.A. in Anthropology with a focus in Museum and Heritage Studies from the University of Denver in 2015. While at DU, Halena was a board member of the Pi‘ilani Hawaiian Civic Club of Colorado and the Kumulau Foundation. Halena is currently a doctoral student in American Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, specializing in museum studies and indigenous studies. He flies back frequently to Hawai‘i Island to spend time with his family, especially his grandmother.

Class of 2015 (M.A.)

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Many Voices, One DU

A Change of Scenery by Gillian Schultz

I woke up that late August morning to start my before-school routine a week earlier than usual. Typically, I would wake up twenty minutes before the start of a school day, giving myself just enough time to change out of my pajamas, brush my teeth, and tie my hair into a messy bun. But today, I took a shower, brushed some makeup on my face and did my hair, just like any ordinary sixteen-year-old girl on the first day of their junior year of high school. I hopped over to my closet, too prideful to grab my crutches for such a short walk, and stared up at my clothes, organized by color and season. Instead of carefully crafting a first-day outfit as I had in the past, I grabbed a black polo shirt and a pair of khaki pants. Shirts must be solid with a collar, buttons, and sleeves. Pants must be solid colored and non-denim. I threw my black backpack over my shoulder, grabbed my crutches, and hobbled upstairs. My mom was in the kitchen, way too bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for six-thirty in the morning at the Schultz household. There was even a blueberry muffin and a glass of orange juice sitting on the counter. She was loving every second of this. I, on the other hand, had a lump in my throat that was almost as big as the resentment I had felt towards her in the weeks leading up to this very morning, of this very day, in this very bland, boring, and extremely uncomfortable outfit. My mom helped me into the passenger seat of her brand-new Acadia. She loaded my backpack and crutches into the backseat, flashing me a big,

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toothy grin, and practically skipped around the car to the driver’s side door. I stared blankly out the windshield at my dad, standing in the garage in his pajamas, hair a mess, holding a half-eaten bowl of cereal. He’d rolled out of bed to see me off and earn his daily “I’m a Good Dad” points. Unnecessary, but I appreciated his lack of enthusiasm; he knew how I really felt. “You ready?” “I have to be. I don’t have a choice.” I was born and raised in Viroqua, Wisconsin, a rural town about an hour and a half southeast of Madison, Wisconsin’s capital. Viroqua’s population rarely rises above four thousand—it’s one of those places where you don’t have to lock your doors. You can leave your car running while you go into the grocery store for a loaf of bread, even though there is a one hundred percent chance you will run into at least three other people you know and will have ten-minute conversations with each of them. Every citizen is on a firstname basis with local law enforcement, and there’s a pretty good chance you might share a beer or two with the sheriff on a Friday night after the high school football game. It’s just a different way of life there. Many people have lived in Viroqua for their entire lives, and even their parents and their parents’ parents were Viroqua High School alums. The community is small, and the lifestyle is simple, making it seem like the perfect place to raise a well-rounded, typical, cookie-cutter American family. If you ask me what I think of Viroqua, however, I will explicitly and confidently tell you that Viroqua, Wisconsin was and will always be the haunting setting of my worst nightmare, my end all be all, my personal hell on earth. The Schultz family—everybody knows the Schultz family. Bill Schultz, the successful business man who owns three grocery stores, a Culver’s Frozen Custard and Butterburgers, and a movie theater, and who was recently in the process of opening a gas station. The man who “owns half the county,” the man who’s often perceived as filthy rich from the oblivious, judgmental public eye. Bill Schultz, the man with three spoiled rotten, filthy rich kids who get everything they could ever have wanted handed to them on a silver platter.

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Many Voices, One DU

My childhood was the exact opposite of my father’s, and he intended it to be that way. I was blessed with a beautiful upbringing, with a mother and father who loved me and my siblings more than their next breaths, with a middle-class roof over my head and a home-cooked meal on the table every night. My father was one of six children, having grown up in a home plagued by alcoholism and domestic abuse. His father was in and out of their home until he was thirteen years old, when the deadbeat stopped dropping by the house to throw plates at my father’s mom or use his children as punching bags. My father was a talented artist, but he gave up his dream of going to art school at fourteen to work forty-hour weeks to aid his mother support their struggling family. By seventeen, my father was managing his hometown grocery store, climbing the ladder to success despite being burdened by adversity. Though I didn’t know my grandmother well, I know from my father’s stories that she was his childhood definition and embodiment of all things superhuman. She was nothing short of a total badass: working three jobs to keep the heat on in at least one room of her family’s home, creating seemingly-gourmet meals out of spaghetti noodles and a packet of cheese powder from a half-opened box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, raising her six children on her own. From the few details I remember of her and from all the beautiful things my dad has shared with me, I know my grandmother was the type of woman that took each and every day in stride and never failed to do so without a smile. And to top it off, she held her spirits high while living smack-dab in the middle of a living hell. She was unshaken and strong-willed. Some of the strength I have come to discover within myself had to have come from her. My mother’s childhood was far from a walk in the park, as well, though her family dynamic differed tremendously from my father’s. She was the youngest of five children and the epitome of “daddy’s little girl.” She and her siblings were extremely close, and they were no strangers to the typical troublemaking of curious children, but she, being the youngest, always found her own way out of things. Her own way out of things just happened to be running to her father. She watched cartoons with her feet up while her brothers and sisters raked leaves as punishment for coming home late the night before, even though she was just guilty of breaking the rules.

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Her father had served in the Korean War as a member of the United States Navy. He died when she was only sixteen, and this shattered her. Oftentimes, I find myself looking at my mom, and I cannot even imagine what I would have done if I’d lost her or my father at 16. To this day, I often take a moment to silently admire her resilience and perseverance through the majority of her life without my grandpa by her side. Though I was not alive to meet him, I know from the relationship I have with my own father that the day he or my mom is taken from me will forever change my life. I inherited the remaining portion of my strength from her, as well as the inheritance of having my father wrapped around my finger. Nobody in small-town Viroqua knows this about my family’s background. Viroqua knows my parents as the people parading through 24-7 Wall Street’s “poorest city in Wisconsin” in their company cars, opening new businesses left and right because “the twelve they already have just don’t make enough money for them.” Viroqua knows my siblings and me as the reapers of the benefits, the kids who fill up their gas tanks for free and who can order a burger from what is arguably the best fast casual restaurant food chain in existence with the 100% manager discount. Few people in this world know the trials and tribulations of my parents’ childhoods. I have seen first-hand how their privacy about their pasts has contributed to the negativity that surrounds their names and their local reputations. With this background, this experience with false judgment, you would think that I would not be fooled by stereotypes, or the way people look, act, or seem from the outside. In the car, I sat silently as my mom listened to The Blend on Sirius XM. I tugged at my khakis, attempting to make them fit comfortably inside the air cast protecting my broken leg. Normally, the second I sit down in any vehicle, I lunge at the radio to take control of the music, but that morning I sat listening to my mom sing quietly along to Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen, without a single complaint. She knew something was off for that reason; I always complain, especially to her. “Okay Gilli, you have to go in there with a smile on your face. You have to act like you want to be there. This is your chance to turn this all around, all on your own, thanks to the help of no one else but yourself. It will only

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be as good as you make it.” I looked down at the collar of my black polo shirt. I could hear her talking, but my infatuation with the purple stripe lining the inside collar had my undivided attention. I don’t like purple. I don’t like any color, really. I like the grey scale. I also don’t like when my mother is right, so I glanced at her, give her a satisfactory “yeah, Mom, I got it” head nod, and continued to stare at Highway 14 through the morning fog. I knew that everything she was saying had merit, but as her daughter, it’s my life-long duty to do my best to fight the fact that she has always been, and will always be, right. About anything. I don’t like when she calls me Gilli, either. There was next to no traffic, as the public schools in the district would not begin the 2014–2015 school year until the following week. I slouched in the passenger seat, unsure of how to feel at this moment. When my mom asked, a few seconds later, how I was feeling, all I could muster up was “pretty good.” She smiled and went back to tapping the steering wheel to the beat. I may have not been the happiest about the situation that was lying ahead, but I knew my mom was beyond proud of me for what I was about to throw myself into. Moments later, the car rolled to a stop, and I realized I could no longer hide in the familiar comfort of my mom’s company. But I couldn’t get out of the car; my mom had to grab my crutches first. Unbuckling my seatbelt while giving the building a once-over, I noticed the vines that dominated the outside wall of the east wing; the massive, looming statue of the Virgin Mary next to the empty bike rack; and the crucifix that hung to the right of the main entrance. My mom opened the door and handed me my crutches. As I stepped out of the car and situated my crutches comfortably underneath my arms, my eyes kept wandering back to that crucifix. As I stared up at the building, my mom slid my backpack under my arm, signaling to me to start moving toward the entrance. My mom opened one of the six blue doors that line the front of the building, and I hobbled inside. As I followed her to the elevator, I looked around; in a sea of solid-color polos, I locked eyes with a blonde haired, blue eyed girl who looked vaguely familiar, which made no sense because I didn’t know another soul there. She nudged her friends, who all glanced over at

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me. I’d forgotten; not only was I the kid no one’s ever seen in the building before, but I was on crutches. It was an invitation for everyone to stare. The elevator came and transported my mom, myself, and another student sporting crutches and a galaxy print backpack with a cat on it to the second floor. “What happened to you?” he asked. “Got stepped on in a mosh pit at a concert.” My mom rolled her eyes, but the boy smiled and said, “Dude, sick.” Sam, a senior at the time, later became one of my good friends. On the second floor, hobbling my way down a hallway lined with students on both the left and right sides, I kept my eyes locked on the back of my mom’s head. I occasionally broke my gaze to see if there was anybody in the building not wearing one of these hideous shirts. In the main office, we were greeted by two overly-friendly middle-aged women and a short, heavyset man with a mustache. The man extended his hand to me. “Are you Gillian?” I nod, and flashed him a nervous smile. “Gillian, welcome to Aquinas Catholic Schools. We are so blessed to have you.” After attending public school with the same sixty kids in the same rural Wisconsin town for my entire life, I was beginning my first day at a Catholic High School forty-five minutes away, and not for religious reasons. Growing up, I had been slightly and lazily immersed into religious life. My parents had my brothers and me in Sunday school classes, but we only went periodically to keep up appearances. We went to Sunday morning services on special occasions, such as Easter, and each year my mom bought me a new itchy dress for my part in the Immanuel Lutheran Church Christmas program. As we grew older, we were all enrolled in confirmation classes—fundamental religion courses that prepare young believers to become “adults” in the Lutheran church. My brothers had no problem with the elements of Lutheranism my parents enforced, whereas I constantly found myself questioning them. I rarely voiced my opinion, afraid of offending my Catholic-raised mother, but silently asked myself questions about God, about faith, and about the Bible. That isn’t exactly uncommon for a typical

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teenager, but my slipping away from religion was heavily influenced by my life in school. My already questionable faith had been tested countless times as I struggled with relentless bullying and torment from the seventh grade up to my decision to switch schools after sophomore year. When I approached the classroom door where my first course, photography, would be taking place, I saw the girl I’d locked eyes with in earlier. There was only one empty chair in the room, and it was right next to her. I halted in the doorway for a moment, thanked the overly-friendly office employees for walking me to class, and made my way to the empty chair. I smiled at her while I situated my crutches beside me and pulled out a brand new notebook and a pencil: she either didn’t see me, or didn’t care to associate with me at this particular point in time. I didn’t let the shunned interaction stop me from attempting to socialize. “Good morning, Aquinas High School staff and students, may I have your attention for daily announcements.” I stood amongst my classmates, who each made the sign of the cross and listened to the morning prayer. I stood tall and silent with my hands behind my back, and as I did, I noticed students giving me a confused look while reciting the Hail Mary. I’m sure they were wondering why I didn’t make the sign of the cross, why my hands weren’t folded, and why I wasn’t effortlessly rattling off the words to a prayer I now know by heart just from hearing it so often. After prayer, everyone placed their right hand on their heart to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I continued standing tall, took my right hand from behind my back, and participated in one of the two morning rituals. This became a habit. The day went on, and as it did, I made new friends of all ages. Most students who make up the Aquinas Catholic Schools system have been there for their entire lives, so the “new kid” was fascinating, a rare concept to them. The students and faculty I encountered on my first day and on all the days following, with the exception of the blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl in photography, were all welcoming, helpful, and talkative. I kept seeing the girl in my classes throughout the day. We continued to exchange glances, and finally, in the early afternoon, she approached me. “Are you Gillian?”

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“Yeah, I’m Gill. What’s your name?” “I’m Amanda. Want to grab food after school? I’m starving already.” I texted my mom to let her know I would need to be picked up later if I was going to go get food with Amanda. She was ecstatic, as any mother would be if she had spent seven hours worrying about her previously-bullied daughter making friends on her first day at her new school. She agreed to pick me up at the hole-in-the-wall burrito joint we were headed to around 4:30 that afternoon, giving me plenty of time to make or break the potential for my first new friendship. I followed Amanda out of the school, backpack slung over my shoulder. We stopped along the way several times for her to talk to her friends, whom she introduced me to in passing. We made our way out of the school and down the street to her white Ford Explorer. It was a late August afternoon, and I was sporting a polo and khaki pants. A hideous polo and khaki pants, at that. Instantly panicked, I remembered I didn’t bring public school people clothes to change into at the end of the school day. In my defense, I never thought I’d be going for an afterschool snack with a potential friend on my first day. When I sat down in Amanda’s car, I quickly glanced to see if she had a change of clothes. I didn’t see anything. “Do you not care if people see you in your school uniform?” “Not at all. I’ve been in this uniform since I was in preschool. Everyone who knows me knows I go to Aquinas; it isn’t something you can hide.” She buckled her seatbelt, started the car, and the local Top 100 radio station began blaring Taylor Swift. “I hate the radio. They play the same ten songs. Want to plug in your phone, play your own music?” I knew I was going to like this girl, but this polos in public thing was going to take some getting used to. Sitting at the table at B.A. Burrito Co., which I was informed actually stands for “Big Ass Burrito Company,” Amanda and I engaged in small talk about typical teenage girl topics; music, pop culture, sales at the local mall, and all the boys that keep us, and girls like us, from focusing on things that

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actually matter. The small talk lasted almost as long as it took me to bite off and finish a mere three bites of one of my hard shell tacos. “So Gillian, why did you really come to Aquinas?” In that moment, against my will, I was taken back to the darkest and most horrific places of my teenage mind. I remembered that day in the locker room after hockey practice that I had discovered all of my belongings strewn about the locker room, drenched in cold water, cut up by the blades of hockey skates. Thousands of dollars in hockey gear, ruined by my teammates because I’d scored a varsity starting position. As a freshman year walk-on, in the eyes of my teammates, my position was not earned but was bought for me, just like everything else in my life. I remembered being thrown face first into a garbage can on the playground by four other girls. I remembered the countless tweets, texts, Facebook messages, and emails that were sent to me and that my parents had printed and filed away to provide as evidence in the cyberbullying case they were diligently building in my defense, but against my will. I remembered all the times I was pulled out of class to color in coloring books in the in-school suspension hall as administration’s way to “diffuse the situation,” instead of receiving my secondary education. I remembered all the days I ate lunch in the bathroom, all the days I called my mom begging her to tell the school I had an appointment so I could come home, and all the nights I spent confined in the comfort of my bedroom, hoping that maybe my parents just wouldn’t have the heart to wake me up for school the next day. These memories and their instantaneous return to the forefront of my conscious mind caused me to abruptly and visibly change my seemingly-calm, cool, and collected demeanor. “Gill?” “Oh, right. I just needed a change of scenery.” “That’s cool, I guess,” she said, and took a bite of her burrito bowl. She proceeded to tell me about the cute senior boy in her art class. This wasn’t the last time the “Why did you come to Aquinas?” question would surface. Several people, teachers and students alike, were curious as to where I came from and why, and I don’t blame them; I was a sudden addition to their tight-knit community. I was often able to successfully dodge

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the question, but as I grew closer with Amanda, she actually asked me if I came to Aquinas as a result of bullying, and I responded honestly. I spared her the details, but I recounted my experience briefly and asked her how she found out about the real reason I’d mysteriously showed up that fall. She had heard my story from friends from my hometown and admitted to knowing all the details when she locked eyes with me on that first day of school. I asked her why she allowed me to blatantly lie to her. “No one wants to admit they’re running from a dark past. I don’t blame you for running, either. People aren’t always nice, except here. People are always pretty nice here.” Today, she’s one of my very best friends, and I don’t know if she will ever understand what she did for me by grabbing food with me after school that day. She is the person I will always think of when asked to reflect on true, genuine friendship, which is something I temporarily thought didn’t exist during the intensely dark period of my adolescent life. I’m also still convinced she never saw me smile at her on that first day of photography class, either. While I made new friends and made a completely new name for myself at Aquinas, I was still an outsider, just not in the same ways I had been prior to moving. The aftermath of my experiences at my first school left me conflicted in the realm of faith. I asked myself ridiculous questions like, “If God is real, why would he let this happen to me?” or I’d think things like, “Everyone talks about God saving them from all their troubles, why didn’t he ever help me out?” To the others, Aquinas and its Catholic teachings had been the norm for the entirety of their lives. I had never been required to take Theology classes, had never attended a Catholic mass or seen a Catholic priest or nun in real life. Though I went from knowing nothing about the Catholic lifestyle to being thrown in the midst of it all, I never swayed from my pre-established beliefs or practices. But my transition to Aquinas taught me so many important lessons about respect and stereotypes. I have religious friends, and I no longer view them differently than my friends whose religious views correlate with my own. I did not verbally participate in the masses, but I remained respectful while my peers were praying, taking communion, or listening to the homily. In hindsight, I am ashamed of having

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been so unwilling to join the Aquinas community before knowing anything about the people who were a part of it. Unwilling is an understatement—I refused to speak to my mom for at least a week. As I sit on a dilapidated red picnic bench outside my residence hall, in the company of my closest friends here at the University of Denver, I often think about how my experiences have led me to where I am today; happily living my life in a city much bigger than the one I call home, surrounded by people who share my pursuit of the refreshing unfamiliarity that is leaving home for the first time. While my transfer into the Aquinas Catholic Schools system taught me obvious lessons about the importance of not playing into stereotypes, I credit the Aquinas community for helping me come to terms with my adolescence and the lingering pain it caused me. Though the social situation I grew up in was dehumanizing, I credit my hardships with giving me the courage to immerse myself in a community which I was convinced I did not identify with, the strength to further embrace the beauty that is all the differences among people, and for slowly but surely leading me to all the true friendships I’ve formed at DU. It is clear to me that Aquinas is the reason I am the happiest, best version of myself today: from lessons in mathematics and theology to how to coexist alongside people who aren’t the same as myself, my Aquinas experience didn’t just teach me core curriculum. Instead, it will always be what I use to define the first time I experienced genuine love and friendship. And not only that, but private school taught me how to rock a dress code: I was named best dressed of the class of 2016.

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About Gillian Schultz

Gillian Schultz is an undergraduate student at the Uni-

versity of Denver, pursuing a double major in Psychology and Criminology and a minor in Spanish. Born and raised in rural Wisconsin, her love for snowboarding, the Rocky Mountains, and all things outdoors led her to the state of Colorado for her post-secondary education. When she isn’t in the mountains, Gillian can be found painting, drawing, reading, or playing a variety of musical instruments. Gillian’s work in the Many Voices, One DU project is her first ever publication.

Class of 2020

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Inside the Mind of a Black Man by Rory Moore

THE BLACK STRUGGLE I looked at the list of fifty scholarship applications on my computer in a state of despair. It was the first week of April in my senior year at Northglenn High School, and I had until May 1st to decide which college I was going to attend. Most of my high school friends knew where they were going. I was torn between the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Denver. Every time I viewed my financial aid award letters from both universities, the remaining balance for both left me stunned as to how I could cover the gap. I told my nana, “I can’t go to college because I can’t pay for my tuition. It just sucks how you can work so hard and not attain anything.” She responded, “Stop worrying and have faith in God. You need to pray and ask for his help.” I took her advice and asked God to please help me get to college because that was all I had ever dreamed of accomplishing. A week went by, and I received nothing. But then, on April 15th, I received a packet in the mail from the Gates Millennium Scholarship Program. I opened the packet and found a folder with a congratulations letter with my name on it. The letter had been mailed on my birthday, and when I saw that, I knew that God had answered my prayers. At that point, I learned that when life seems impossible, you must be persistent and determined to achieve success. This gave me the assurance that I could accomplish anything that I set my mind to.

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Two weeks later, I received another packet, this time from the Daniels Fund Scholarship Program. I was grateful that I was a Gates Millennium Scholar and Daniels Fund Scholar because it meant that college was no longer a dream, but a reality. Both of these scholarships showed me that closing the achievement gap for black students was possible. Also, it gave me the opportunity to attend a private school. All my life I’d had a public education, but I had the perception that attending private schools gave you certain advantages that public schools lacked. For one, students at private schools seemed to attain better grades and higher state test scores. Thus, I confirmed that I would attend DU because I wanted the opportunity to be at a private university and join a community of Daniels Fund Scholars. I was so scared and nervous at this point because no one in my family had gone to college. As a first-generation student, I didn’t know the academic difference between high school and college, and I wasn’t ready to leave behind my nana, mom, auntie Jeannie, sister, papa, and uncle Bill to live somewhere foreign. To help make my transition into this unfamiliar territory easier, I decided to apply to leadership programs like the Excelling Leaders Institute (ELI), which accentuates the strengths of its students to help them successfully graduate within four years. ELI focuses on recognizing what your story is, and how you can utilize it to make change, in a week-long retreat prior to DU’s First-Year Orientation Week.

ATTENDING A PWI (PREDOMINANTLY WHITE INSTITUTION) ELI made me feel like I had a family on campus, which was crucial for me. I felt like I could achieve anything with the support of the program. After the ELI retreat, I was excited to begin my education at DU because I knew that I was making strides on doing things that my family never got the opportunity to do. I wanted to prevail for them, myself, and my race. Yet, this courage began to diminish as soon as I went to find my orientation group on the DU Pioneer Field. As I came close to the gate, I saw a field of what looked like complete whiteness. This sense of unfamiliarity made me feel like I was not wanted at DU, like I didn’t belong because no one looked like me. Initially, it caught me off guard because my high school was

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predominately of color. I was able to reach my orientation group, but my feelings of discomfort didn’t change. I soon came to realize that I was one of only a few black students at the school. I felt that DU needed to do something to recruit more black students. It essentially appalled me. Even though I was part of an underserved population at DU, I found contentment in the DU Black Student Alliance. BSA allowed me to be with other black students and express my sentiments of being alone in my classes, of struggling with the unfamiliar. My feeling of inferiority never went away; when it came to my fifty-student science classes, I would look around and see that I was the only black student, which was discouraging. The pressure to excel in science against the stigma that, as an African American, I would not excel alienated me. I thought that by taking arts and humanities classes, I would find better luck, but that was not the case. In fact, I had the same feeling in those classes, too. When it came to talking about issues regarding people of color, I felt obliged to discuss it because I was not going to let these marginalized communities get swept under the rug. I remember once going to the Nelson dining hall and a guy asking me, “Are you on a basketball scholarship?” I was agitated that he questioned me because I knew that most students assume that black students attending college must be on a basketball scholarship. I told him, “No, I am not on a basketball scholarship. I got a full-ride academic scholarship.” He replied, “Oh, cool.” But it was not just “oh, cool,” because to me it was a jab at me as a black student. I interpreted it as him telling me he was shocked that I was intelligent enough to get an academic scholarship. This micro-aggression set the framework for what I was to expect at a PWI.

THE DISCOURSE OF BEING BLACK AT A PWI These micro-aggressions made me look negatively at DU and initially dislike it. Nevertheless, my campus involvement and social life caused me to push these feelings aside. I had the opportunity to run for freshman senator at DU, which in my opinion is the hardest race because only two out of sixty students win. For my campaign, I chalked my name on the brick sidewalks of DU to gain support. When the votes were tallied, I showed up

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to the results room, and my name was announced as one of the freshman senators. I was fortunate to win the election with a landslide victory due to my social networks of ELI and the Pioneer Leadership Program (PLP). I was grateful for this opportunity, but the excitement flipped as soon as I left the scene. I was told that one of the other candidates said, “I cannot believe that a nigger won.” I was furious when I heard this. It solidified that I could not escape racism. From that point, the initial notion of “unfamiliarity” continued to persist, becoming all too familiar. During my sophomore year, I remember being turned away from a DU party. My friends and I were not told why explicitly, but we knew just by the way everyone was looking at us that it was because we were black. That same year, DU students were making ignorant and racist posts on Yik Yak about cultural appropriation and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, because they knew that their posts were anonymous and they could get away with it. In my junior year, the DU Black Student Alliance stood in solidarity with the University of Missouri and acknowledged it by writing it on The DU free speech wall. Yet, a fraternity immediately wrote over it, disregarding the message, not giving it space to essentially breathe. The DU Queer Student Alliance’s message of “#Trans Lives Matter” was also spray-painted over, as if to suggest that they don’t matter. This made me upset because I felt as though minority voices were already silenced on campus, and this was another mechanism of doing so. In fall 2016, the DU Black Student Alliance wrote a call for action on The DU Free Speech Wall stating, “White People Do Something. #Black Lives Matter.” Then, the words “White” and “Black” were crossed out. Their message was not heard and was disregarded, so, on October 5th, the DU Black Student Alliance wrote a new call for support and action. On October 6th, a student wrote over the message and stated that “I am sorry for something I did not do. Lynched Somebody. But I did not know who. Guilty of Being White. Guilty of Being White. Guilty of Being White,” the lyrics to a Minor Threat song. Suddenly, another student group on campus wrote to the entire student body expressing agreement with the statement but not taking ownership of it. They advocated for the unknown student’s right to write over the original message. They were being ignorant of people of color’s feelings and didn’t respect the message that was displayed. As a

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senior studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, at the time, it was difficult to only be able to use my voice on Facebook, rather than physically standing in solidarity with the DU Black Student Alliance. On October 7th, the DU Black Student Alliance met with the student who vandalized their message before meeting with the Chancellor. Restorative Justice took place as a result of this action. However, the familiarity of those not listening to what you have to say as a person of color continues to persist. This systemic oppression of people of color not only occurs at DU but at other colleges as well. Not to mention, President Donald Trump institutes policies that disenfranchise and marginalize communities that are not white, male, cis-gendered, and heterosexual. This is problematic because history continues to repeat itself, and it needs to stop. This will only happen when people stop being self-centered and start being willing to learn about their privilege. Additionally, discussion surrounding race, ethnicity, sexuality, sex, gender, and nationality needs to be at the forefront of everyone’s most pressing issues. These discussions need to take place in order to foster a more inclusive environment for all. DU needs to be an agent of change and mandate that all students take a race, gender, and sexuality class to gain a more nuanced understanding of other identities. Thank you for taking the time to read this, Rory Moore

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About Rory Moore

Rory Moore is a senior at the University of Denver

majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing. He is minoring in Leadership Studies, Chemistry, and Psychology. He is a Gates Millennium Scholar and Daniels Fund Scholar of the Class of 2013. Currently, he serves as the Excelling Leaders Institute (ELI) Coordinator at the University of Denver. He lives in Northglenn, Colorado, and is passionate about social justice, public health advocacy, and the nonprofit sector. In his spare time, he loves singing and spending time with his family, boyfriend, and friends.

Class of 2017

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Side Character by Miciah Lewis

… There’s this idea that everyone thinks that they’re the protagonist of their own story, and their friends are just their sidekicks. … Back then it all moved forward in short, clipped sentences. They were dating. They were engaged. They were married. … To recognize someone else’s story, you have to recognize that you’re not always the protagonist. Recognizing you’re not the only protagonist in the world is the problem. … I met him in middle school at a youth conference. I lost my phone, and he called it to help me find it. We decided we would be friends. It grew forward from there. Entering high school, our relationship changed. People joked about us. We blushed. Our parents watched us more carefully while we tried to balance hormones and appropriate actions. We held hands in secret; he picked me flowers from the park behind his house. I sat in the doorway to his bedroom while we talked, so I wasn’t alone in a room with him. Discretion and all that.

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My best friend Payton joked with me about my romantic inclinations and insisted that if any couple stayed together, it would be us. (She was on “Team Carl.” He was mine. Everyone knew this.) At some point, his thought process must have changed. It had been three years of committed nothingness, and although I was content to avoid flirting with other boys until marriage, he had a different idea about what relationships are. … I can’t pinpoint when my dreams changed. Suddenly, in every dream I had, I was on the sidelines. I wasn’t front and center. Even in dreams where I had superpowers, I never saved anyone. I helped the people who did. … One day, he’s sitting at my kitchen table with my best friend. She smiles at him, leans over, makes a joke I can’t hear. I don’t think about it—they’ve done this before, they’ve made jokes about me in front of me because they love me. My mom turns around to see them having some conversation with their eyes. “What’s going on over there?” Payton speaks up, grinning, “Oh, it’s this thing we do. We like to tease Miciah by having conversations without using words. She hates it.” It’s the kind of thing I’m used to, but my mom isn’t. She shakes her head, smiling a bit. “I knew a couple like you in high school.” Carl jumps in: “We’re not a couple.” “That’s what they said. They’re married now, with kids.” My closest friends are ignoring me, and she doesn’t like it. They exchange glances. My mom notes it. “You’re like the Wonder Twins, with all your eye-conversations! I think they called it mind-melding or something.”

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I feel like I’m interrupting a conversation every time I break the silence. … I’ve never been exceptionally introspective about my own feelings. I focus on other people’s feelings to avoid my own. Writing is the reason I look inside my head. How far away can you get away from your own life before you stop recognizing it? … It should be noted that there was no tertiary Wonder Twin, only a monkey who followed them around. I think I’ve forgotten its name on purpose. My best friend is staring at the ceiling. We’re lying on her bed. Her new kitten is clinking the tea cups and saucers we left on the floor. A recent falling-out, a result of her and Carl’s sudden insistence upon ignoring me, had led to this awkward and halted plan for a sleepover. Her boyfriend broke up with her for the second time three weeks earlier. “I’ve always been jealous of you and Carl. You’ll always come back to each other.” Her hand is on her stomach. “I don’t think he’s coming back to me. He thinks I’m pretty boring.” Some other sentence hangs in the air, but I can’t manage to materialize it. She turned to me, “He’ll come back to you.”

… Maybe the best way to find yourself is in someone else’s story. … When they started dating, I guess I was surprised. I didn’t believe her when she said they were engaged. She asked me to be a bridesmaid a week before the wedding. By now, writing it all out, I can separate it.

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She maintains that she had never thought about him romantically until he kissed her on the cheek one night. She did tell me the day they got engaged; I just didn’t believe her. She was laughing too much and speaking too harshly. I went to the rehearsal dinner three days after being invited to be a bridesmaid. But back then, it was all in short, clipped, sentences. They were dating. They were engaged. They were married. I was alone. But they were happy. She lit up his world. They smiled when they kissed. … Another person’s story is always unfamiliar territory. But it’s a journey well worth making. Any true protagonist is willing to venture outside their comfort zone. And any good sidekick knows their story is worth telling, too. … It wouldn’t be long before we re-kindled an awkward friendship. I moved on in my own ways, but the three of us kept in touch. Their lives moved on very quickly; they turned into adults with jobs and the desire for other adultlike things, like two cats and an apartment with a broken stove and a floor perfect for board games. Next came the desire for the more adult-like things that I hadn’t even thought of. They wanted a baby. I joked that I’d teach their children not to jaywalk. One day, I get a phone call, So, I have something to ask you. It’s a really big decision to make, and so you don’t have to answer it right now. But I wanted to ask you so you have time to think about it.

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Many Voices, One DU

What are you asking?

If anything happened to us, we’d need someone to take care of baby. That’s what a Godmother is for. I know it’s a big decision— Yes. You don’t have to answer right away, it’s a really big commitment to make— Absolutely. Of course. The conversation continued basically that way, me overflowing happiness at the idea of my connection to a not-yet born child, and her worried I was jumping in too quickly. But that thought still hasn’t really struck me. It was more important that she cared enough to ask. I spent the next few months writing letters to a future Godchild. They made me the Godmother of their baby boy. More importantly, they had a baby boy. They dated, and got engaged, and got married. And they had a child. And I get to watch someone else’s story unfold. … The most unfamiliar way I’ve seen myself is in someone else’s story. …

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About Miciah Lewis

Miciah Lewis is a first-year student at the University

of Denver with a heart for creative writing. She’s kept a diary since she was nine, because otherwise she’d forget everything. She’s the oldest of five children and the daughter of two brilliant artists. Miciah’s mother taught her practically everything she knows about writing. Her non-literary obsessions include astronomy, taquitos, various personality typing theories, and her fiancé.

Class of 2020

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Deep Roots by Andrew Fox

One day after class last spring, I decided to eat at a local food truck. As I stood and looked at the 38 options listed for lunch, I felt a line forming behind me. In my nervousness, I imagined the lunch crowd forming an angry mob. I turned and, to my relief, saw there was only one person, a fellow student, standing behind me; I quickly let him go first while I set my gaze back on the colorful menu. I was woken from my stare when I heard the person I’d let go in front of me get harassed, ordered to pay before his food was even made. From the little experience I’d had with ordering from food trucks, I no-doubt understood that it is customary to pay upon completion of the order. However, on this particular day, I observed that a black student was asked to pay before the order was even started. Thinking this was strange, I was attentive to my place in line (I was next to order) and I wondered if the requirement to pay before the order would apply to me as a white male. It didn’t. “Why did I pay after I got my food, but the other gentleman had to pay before he got his order was even started?” I asked. The cashier just chuckled at almost anything I said. I understood this to be a plea to not continue any conversation. As I noticed this example of injustice, an internal tension arose. I was conflicted: I could either vocally point out this injustice that I just witnessed to the person who it was committed against—a complete stranger—or let it go. Bringing this injustice to light for this person, who seemingly did

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not notice the situation the same way I did, would inevitably mandate this individual to confront injustice. In the end, I remember this event as a cliffhanger of injustice. *** Life experiences shape our epistemology, but it is up to us to fight misconceptions. A few examples stand out to me as a parallel to my own journey toward identity and understanding. In my own journey, I have encountered this same cynicism when it comes to different races trying to achieve common goals. I have learned that racism causes misconceptions and, mixed with uncertainties, can drive policy and alter social interactions so that rules are applicable to some people and not others. Even worse, some people claim they saw the devastation coming, as if they were clairvoyant. When I was living in the West African nation of Ghana, I took a local taxi to celebrate a friend’s last week in the country. When I arrived, I was met with a vibrant and energetic celebration. The summer air was hot, the music was loud, the food was spicy, the beer was cold, and the sound of laughter triumphed over the horns and drums of the music. It seemed that upon my arrival, my wallet slipped out of my pocket, and I walked away unknowingly. When I realized I had lost my wallet, it was too late. When the bill came, I had no means of paying for the night. Thankfully, my friends covered the tab without hesitation. Afterword, everyone I talk to assured me that the wallet was gone forever. There are thousands of taxi drivers, many of whom do not own cell phones, and there is not a direct way to report lost items. I had no grounds not to rush to believe their judgment, after all, I was living in a new country. To say the least, I was devastated. The very next day, I was completing my reports when I received a knock on my office door from my close friend Kuaku. He came running into my office and started speaking so fast I could hardly understand him. “Slow down and start all over again,� I said. He proceeded to tell me that my taxi driver from the night before had contacted him and was now on his way to return my wallet. To put this in context, it was not easy for the taxi driver to find me. In order for this person to find me, he had to investigate the contents of my wallet and pick the only contact information I had from Ghana. Everything else I had was from the United States. Once he found my contact information, he

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drove 30 minutes to return my wallet. He expected nothing in return: “It was you today but could be me tomorrow,” he said. This experience gave me a new lens on the kindness of the world, and I’m forever grateful. *** Early one Wednesday morning, I was in my living room when I noticed a person standing in my front yard. I opened my door and saw that it was my neighbor, Wendy. Smiling and wearing tattered overalls with patches over the knees, she said in a joyful voice, “I have flowers that have budded, and I have no space for them…I would like to give them to you!” Although this was a nice offer, I had a full schedule that day, and planting was not part of the plan. However, if the flowers were not planted that day, they would wither up and die. So I had no choice but to plant. I hurried all of my obligations and came back that afternoon to care for the new and colorful additions to my yard. After two hours in the hot afternoon sun, my yard looked completely different than it had when I’d started. That afternoon I dug and rushed the flowers into the soil before sundown. In all honesty, I forgot all about my previous frustrations because the flowers looked great when they were finally in. For the next few weeks, I diligently watered and cared for the new garden. However, after some time, the plants started to deteriorate. They were burnt from the sun, and some started falling over. Their once vibrant green turned to a dull brown. In disbelief, I talked with my friends and family about what had gone wrong. During those conversations, we discussed who was at fault and why. Instead of celebrating the garden, I was forced to assign blame for the situation. It only took weeks before the plants were no longer alive. Some people focused on the strength of the stems and the ability for the leaves to absorb the sun. When the plants drooped, they called them a failure. They claimed that the plants were not strong enough to survive a transition to an unfamiliar environment. Uprooting and transplanting flowers into new and foreign regions can be a difficult transition, just as moving the plants from Wendy’s yard to mine proved to be disastrous. As was the case with my own flowers, often a new and unfamiliar region is completely surprised by new changes and has to rush to get ready for the newcomers. In a garden, rocks may impede and pervert the soil.

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*** I offer a new perspective: how about the soil? My garden was full of rocks, and rocks prevent plant roots from finding a water source and obtaining nutrients from the soil. Soil has nutrients, but those have to be exposed to the roots of the plants in order to be productive. Yet a garden is not the only environment in which we encounter enemies of deep roots. Identity and culture must also face the unfamiliar while constantly being tested by social and political blockades. Our identity is first made in our homes and during childhood, but every day we are growing our ontological stance. One way to do this is by learning about new cultures as we deepen our identity. By intentionally navigating the unfamiliar, we inherently nurture the soil around us. Like the garden, however, blockades exist in our environment. Racism, both personally mediated and institutionalized, exists in each of our lives. At times, the blockades are obvious, just as the rocks were constant reminders that my soil was not fertile. In other cases, the blockades are implicit and can cause once strong and vibrant communities to wither away. I noticed how devastating implicit bias could be, as it was that day at the food truck. At the same time, misconceptions can be broken, as my own were shattered when I was met with kindness and selflessness in Ghana. In identity, a person must have a connection to be rooted in nutrients in the environment. As a PhD student studying education policy at the University of Denver, I am concerned about the nutrients of our soil. We have to take the rocks out and focus on the health of the environment around us. Do policies that are nurtured by money and power have a higher success rate than policies nurtured by social justice? What is the purpose of policy if it does not help grow our identities in the midst of uncertainty? Without an understanding of what binds us together, much like soil binding together a garden, how can we grow together and thrive in the unfamiliar future?

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About Andrew Fox

Growing up in Denver, Andrew Fox saw the University of Denver from his driveway every day of his childhood. In those times, DU served as a constant source of bewilderment. The edifice village that makes up DU seemed a hard juxtaposition with the homes surrounding the campus. Andrew grew up in one of these homes. During the hours after school, he would often travel to campus with a skateboard and about eight friends. Skateboarding on the DU campus became the time Andrew felt the most free—until security would kick them out, that is. After earning a B.S.B.A from Colorado State University-Peublo, Andrew earned a Master in Public Health from Drexel University. He is now in his first year of a doctoral program in education with aspirations to give back to his Colorado community.

Doctoral student in the Morgridge College of Education

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How One Committed Teacher Changed My Life by Dr. Bud Bilanich

They say that one person can change your life. It’s true for me. That person was a teacher. In the Spring of 1967, I was a high school junior, coasting through Mrs. Yothers’s English class. But something happened in that class that changed my life forever. More about that in a minute, but first some background. I grew up in a company town. Ambridge, PA, was so named because the American Bridge Division of US Steel was headquartered there. My dad starting working at Bridgeworks in late 1945, just after he left the army after serving in WWII. Most of my friends’ fathers worked there or in one of the other steel plants in the area. The high school saw its mission as preparing boys to work in one of the local factories and girls to be secretaries–until they got married, when they would stay home and raise a family. The revolution in social mores called the 60s arrived late in Ambridge. My grandparents lived upstairs from us in a small apartment that had a kitchen, bedroom, and bath. This wasn’t unusual in Ambridge. Many of my friends’ grandparents lived with them. Most of them spoke another language. My dad’s parents, who lived upstairs, spoke Russian. My mom’s mother lived upstairs from my uncle and his family. She spoke Polish. The next-door neighbors had grandparents who spoke Greek and lived upstairs. The grandmothers all were great cooks and would often make homemade treats for the neighborhood kids. I was fortunate. My parents encouraged me to go to college. Some of my

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friends weren’t as fortunate. Johnny and Stevie (we all used the diminutives; I was Buddy) lived next door. Johnny was a very bright guy and a good athlete. But his father told him, “You don’t need college, just get a job; that’s what I did. If it was good enough for me, it will be good enough for you.” Both Johnny and Stevie ended up in Vietnam. John was safe. He spent most of his time in Saigon stringing telephone cables in military offices. Stevie, unfortunately, was wounded severely. He survived but died at 40 due to complications from those wounds. My best friend Jack died there. College not only helped me grow into the man I’ve become; it was also a safe haven, keeping me out of the carnage in Southeast Asia. I was a pretty popular guy in high school. I ran with what we called “the in crowd,” after the Dobie Gray song. Most of my friends weren’t the bright kids. In fact, a couple of them didn’t even graduate from high school. They spent most of their time in Benny’s, the local pool hall. I can remember dropping into one of my friend’s houses one day. His mother told me that he was at Benny’s house studying. He had her hoodwinked. I didn’t rat him out. I spent some time in Benny’s shining shoes. I also set pins in the local bowling alley and wiped down cars at the car wash. I caddied in the summer. Life was good. We had only one car, but my dad let me use it on weekends, so I never had trouble getting dates—and doing a little parking. About 60 of the 400 kids who graduated with me were planning on going to college. I was one of them. I was pretty bright, but I spent a lot of my time trying to hide it. I was editor of the school paper and on the yearbook staff—geek stuff. I did my best to counteract that perception by being a smart ass in class, often paying visits to the Vice Principal, who would give me two whacks and send me on my way. Our school still practiced corporal punishment in those days. I was always a voracious reader. I kept my visits to the local library a secret from my cool friends as I didn’t want to be seen as too geeky. During elementary and junior high school, I read all of the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift books. I then went through the Nancy Drew series. I finally gave up on books written for girls when I started reading Cherry Ames. I also read lots of books about sports and sports heroes. This carried on into my high school years. I wrote book reports on books like The Autobiography of Wilt Chamberlain or The History of Pitt Football.

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In the spring of 1967, I was a student in Mrs. Yothers’s college prep English class. Mrs. Yothers, who began the year as Miss Bloss, was a young teacher. This was her second year at Ambridge High School. She wasn’t all that much older than me. I thought she was pretty cool. She was the only teacher who I asked to sign my yearbook. That spring she decided that she was going to do individual verbal book reports. This meant that I had to read a book and then discuss it with her. At our preliminary meeting, she asked if I had chosen a book yet. I hadn’t, but figured I’d go to the library and pick up another sports book. She told me that she had picked out a book for me to read. I wasn’t too happy about this but figured it was best to go along to get along. She gave me her copy of Catcher in the Rye. I had never heard of the book but was stuck with it. Being the smart aleck that I was in those days, the first thing I did after school was go to the local office supply/bookstore and buy the CliffsNotes for Catcher. I went home and began reading the CliffsNotes and thought to myself, “This sounds like a good book.” I had left the actual book in my locker at school. I went back to the school and to the custodian’s room, where Thomas, one of my caddying friends, worked. Thomas had a big family, so in addition to his custodial job, he caddied to pick up extra money. He let me into the building, and I went to my locker and retrieved the book. I thanked Thomas, went home, and started reading. I finished Catcher in one sitting, reading the final pages under my covers by flashlight, as my parents insisted that I turn off the light and go to sleep. When I finished it, I thought to myself, “Mrs. Yothers gave me a real adult book to read. She must think I’m pretty smart and mature.” Looking back on it now, I realize that Catcher is a young adult novel. But in those days, it felt pretty grown up to me. Unlike a lot of high school boys, I didn’t identify with Holden Caulfield. He and I lived in completely different worlds. In fact, I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as the prep school world from which he escaped for his trip to New York. I just thought that the book dealt with some pretty adult subjects. I remember Mrs. Yothers testing my comprehension by asking me about the scene where Holden is propositioned by a man. I hadn’t read any books that dealt openly with homosexuality up to that point, but I

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was smart enough to figure out what was happening in that scene. After I finished my book report, I asked Mrs. Yothers why she had assigned Catcher to me. She said that she thought I was wasting my time reading the kinds of books I was reading. That I was too smart for them. That I should start familiarizing myself with more literary books. She said that she saw a lot of promise in me but that I was wasting my time trying to pretend that I had no brains just so I could hang around with my friends—many of whom were going nowhere, in her opinion. This was a shock to me. The nuns who taught me in elementary school were always complaining to my parents that I “wasn’t working up to my capacity.” They never actually did anything but complain, so I thought I would go through life not working up to my capacity. I had seen a whole lot of my friends’ older brothers head off to college one fall but be back working in American Bridge the next. My cousin was one of them. They came from very strict homes—as did I—and went wild drinking and partying when they got away from home. I assumed that this was the fate that was in store for me. But after my conversation with Mrs. Yothers, I realized that things didn’t have to work out this way. I began a reading binge. I devoured all of the books Mrs. Yothers suggested: To Kill a Mockingbird, The Fire Next Time, In Cold Blood, Manchild in the Promised Land, From Here to Eternity, Fahrenheit 451, Lolita (she leant me her copy), Exodus, Doctor Zhivago, and The Grapes of Wrath—which I still consider to be the best American novel. By assigning that one book and engaging in conversation with me after I read it, Mrs. Yothers changed my life. I started to see that there was a whole world out there that was bigger than my little town. I realized that I wanted to explore as much of it as possible. I also figured out that being part of the in crowd in high school wasn’t much of an aspiration. I began to embrace and use the talents I was given. I entered the Optimist International Oratory Contest and won my section. I competed for, and won, a scholarship to the High School Press Institute and got to spend a week at a local college with kids from all over Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. I scored well on the SAT. I won a caddy scholarship and got admitted to Pitt and Penn State. I chose Penn State because Pitt was just too close to home. I didn’t flunk out of Penn State. I was on the Dean’s List nine out of

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twelve quarters. I took leadership roles in my fraternity. I had a news show on the campus radio station. I won an internship with a television station in Scranton. And I still had time to have a lot of fun. I continued my education as an adult. I received an MA in Communication from UCD and an EdD (Doctor of Education) from Harvard. I’ve worked for three Fortune 500 companies. In 1988, I founded an organization effectiveness consulting and executive coaching practice. I was fortunate. I never lacked for work. I had clients all over the US, in Europe, Asia, Australia and Latin America. I met interesting people, did interesting work, and came to appreciate the fact that, although there are cultural differences, as people we are more similar than different. I came to DU and Daniels in 2013. I was introduced to Cindi Fukami in the Daniels Management Department. Cindi and Dennis Wittmer invited me to teach an Organizational Behavior course to first year MBAs. Since then, I’ve been teaching a couple of courses every quarter. I love being a part of the DU and Daniels communities. As I look back, I see one major turning point: Mrs. Yothers’s book report assignment, and the conversation we had—about the book and, more importantly, my potential. Without that conversation, I may have ended up a steelworker in Ambridge, PA, and out of a job when the plant closed. Mrs. Yothers truly changed my life, and I’m forever grateful to her.

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About Bud Bilanich

Dr. Bud Bilanich is an Adjunct Professor of Manage-

ment in the Daniels College of Business, where he teaches courses in Management and Organizational Behavior. He also is an internationally known management consultant and speaker, having worked with Fortune 500 companies in the USA, Canada, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. He is the author of 19 books on leadership and career success and serves on the editorial board of PM 360, a monthly healthcare marketing magazine. Bud is a retired rugby player, cyclist, and cancer survivor who lives in Denver with his wife, Cathy.

Adjunct Professor of Management in the Daniels College of Business

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About the Cover

In continuing the theme of this collection—a portrait of DU created by a diverse collection of voices—we’ve invited members of the class of 2020 to submit snapshots for a mosaic of campus. We specifically targeted the class of 2020 because they were the first group of incoming students to participate in the One Book, One DU project. We felt the cover should reflect their perspectives of the university. Photographs on front cover taken by: Da Laina Cameron, Patty Dougherty, Emily Elsey, Alyssa Hopf, Xin Huang, Minzheng Jiang, Kiki Kalasountas, Sam Lindsey, Zijia Meng, Regina Pierce, Grace Rolecek, McKenna Sandoval, Elizabeth Settipani, & Song Zhang Photograph on page iii by: Ryan Keenan Other photographs taken by: Josiah Aklilu, Veronique Calmels, Emily Campbell, Courtney DiPietro, Meghan Garrant, Yanyi Gong, Breanne Harkins, Beth He, Kaylene Khosla, Victoria Kidd, Robin Kuebler, Madi Laird (class of 2019), Katie Miscioscia, Mikie Romero, Alana Rubinsky, Melissa Shamback, Minghui Sun, Nick Tarasewicz, Julia Taylor, Elizabeth Wagner, & Seungjoo Yi (class of 2019)

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Acknowledgments

When we began this project, our goal was to celebrate the vibrant voices that combine to form our community. These twelve stories reflect the diverse experiences and perspectives of our students, faculty, and alumni. The collection also represents the collaborative spirit of DU. I’d like to thank the people whose dedication and passion made this book possible. Juli Parrish, Sarah Hart Micke, and Doug Hesse helped turn a whim into a fully formed idea—without their insight, enthusiasm, and support, Many Voices, One DU would have remained a passing fancy. Throughout the entire process, Brad Cochi offered me feedback and encouragement. My colleagues in the Writing Program—Jennifer Campbell, Libby Catchings, David J. Daniels, Heather Martin, Keith Rhodes, and Zoe Tobier—read submissions, selected our final essays, and edited the stories collected here. Words cannot express how invaluable their efforts have been. University Writing Center consultants—Vincent Carafano, Jana Domanico, Brian Laidlaw, Alicia Mountain, Paige Murray, Emily Pettit, Kyle Przybylski, Maggie Sava, and Ashlyn Stewart—graciously participated during the revision stage, helping our authors find and reveal the heart of their essays. John Tiedemann, whose early work shaped the initial One Book, One DU project, offered valuable insight on the new prompt and the design of the collection. I am deeply grateful to Jennifer Karas and Sarah Hoffman, whose roles

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in shaping and funding this project were fundamental. Thank you also to Rebecca Chopp, Ed Rowe, and the Chancellor’s Office for their ongoing support. And finally, thanks to all of the faculty, staff, and student groups around campus who helped spread the word about it.

LP Picard, Editor

Teaching Assistant Professor University Writing Program

For a digital version of this collection, please visit: www.issuu.com/DU_Writing_Program/docs/MVOD2017

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MVOD2017  

Many Voices, One DU - volume 1 (2017) This collection celebrates the many voices that combine to form our DU community, bringing together t...

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