FAYETTE, Iowa (February 20, 2013) – Upper Iowa University faculty and students are putting the tenets of global citizenship into practice this semester as they work hand-in-hand across the country with high school students in Bridgeport, Conn.
Together, they are planning a 1,700-mile bike ride and raising awareness for the organizations of Partners In Development (PID) and Teach For America (TFA). Their mantra is: "Changing the world one pedal at a time."
Riding from Fayette, Iowa, to Bridgeport are Dr. Katrina Farren-Eller, UIU assistant professor of English, and Jessica Racine, a former student of Farren-Eller's at Michigan Technological University. Racine was selected by Teach For America for a position as a ninth-grade science educator at Warren Harding High School in Bridgeport. Teach For America is a competitive program that pairs educators with schools in the United States where poverty and other demographics make it difficult for students to be actively engaged at school. Many drop out and do not plan to attend college.
Taking an active role as an educator, Racine very much wants to present opportunities to her students that will help engage them globally, as well as provide them with a glimpse of college life.
At UIU, Farren-Eller, along with Dr. Melissa Maier, assistant professor of communications, is hoping to do something similar. "We want Upper Iowa students to experience the joys of giving back to the global community," said Farren-Eller. "This project has several long-term goals, which we hope will make a positive impact in the lives of so many people."
UIU ENACTUS and Communications Club students will work with the Warren Harding students through a mentor/mentee relationship with the main goal of assisting Farren-Eller and Racine plan their bike ride to raise awareness and funding for PID and TFA. This relationship will foster so much more, Farren-Eller hopes.
"We want to establish a higher learning scholarship program for these high school students, as well as a long-term mentoring relationship between UIU and Warren Harding High School," she said. "Hopefully our college students will become inspired and these high schoolers will get excited about community service and the world around them."
To coordinate the bike ride, the high school students will be in charge of planning the route and scheduling events at key stops along the route that gives Farren-Eller and Racine the opportunity to engage people in talking about the work PID does in Guatemala and Haiti, as well as raise and sustain awareness for TFA.
In May, Farren-Eller will travel with Dr. Gina Kuker, UIU associate professor of education, and a handful of UIU students to Guatemala to work with the non-governmental organization. PID strives to help the extreme poor attain independence and whole life improvement. Previous work by PID has been conducted in Haiti, where Farren-Eller and her husband, Dr. Eric Eller, UIU associate professor of international business, as well as several UIU students have volunteered over the past four years during May term. Through child sponsorships, small business loans, housing opportunities and medical care, PID aims to transform communities so they can be self-sufficient.
What UIU and PID do in Haiti is of particular interest to Racine's students as several are first generation Haitian Americans. The connection between them and the island nation helps engage them in the project more readily. Part of their assignment, in addition to planning, includes researching and writing about Haiti, putting a committee together to develop T-shirt and web site designs, fundraising and contacting the newspapers of the towns Farren-Eller and Racine will ride through. They will also develop a video diary of what life is like for them in Bridgeport.
"Jess and I are so excited about this! We want people to ride with us, even if it is just for the day," said Farren-Eller. "This will not be a pleasure trip! We will be biking 75 plus miles a day, camping and not eating a whole lot of expensive food. It's going to be bare-bones so that most of the money raised can be donated to PID."
The pair leaves from Fayette, Iowa, July 8 and is expected to take about a month before they reach their destination in Bridgeport. They are also scheduling a stop at PID headquarters in Ipswich, Mass.
To support their endeavor, contact Farren-Eller at firstname.lastname@example.org or Racine at email@example.com.
About Upper Iowa University Founded in 1857, Upper Iowa University is a private, not-for-profit university providing undergraduate and graduate degree programs and leadership development opportunities to some 6,200 students—nationally and internationally—at its Fayette campus and learning centers worldwide. Upper Iowa University is a recognized innovator in offering accredited, quality programs through flexible, multiple delivery systems, including online and independent study. For more information, visit www.uiu.edu.