Elyse in Elementaryland
So I think I must have died and gone to heaven because the past couple days I have literally been in pure joy and utter happiness. There are a lot of factors playing a part in this happiness… first of all, the road trip getting here. It is a very long drive to Kansas City but we have an amazing group of kids (or uh, young adults) which made for a very entertaining trip. We even had walkie-talkies to communicate between cars so that helped with the team bonding process. Secondly, actually getting here of course. I got to come on the Kansas City trip last year too so I was really looking forward to returning and continuing the friendships I had started. The minute we pulled up to the Xavier House (the sister’s house where we would be staying), I immediately thanked God for giving me the opportunity to return this year. Upon entering the house I just felt this overwhelming sense of comfort—a feeling one would get after returning home at the end of the day. It was good to be back☺
My happiness only continued when Monday came. Last year I got to help out at Cristo Rey High School, which was an amazing experience, but this year I was placed at the Diocesan Catholic School, Resurrection. Resurrection is a private PreK-8th grade inner city school in a Hispanic community. As I said, I had a great time at Cristo Rey, but being an elementary education major, I was slightly more than extremely excited to be placed at Resurrection. Not to mention, I was placed here with Emma and David, two of the most energetic, flamboyant individuals you will ever meet. Emma is always up for an adventure and David is an education major as well so it was cool to have other people share in my excitement.
It is now Tuesday so I wanted to share a little of what my experience has been like so far. I spend the first bit of the morning in a 1st grade classroom. The whole school starts the day off in the pledge of allegiance, the reading of that day’s gospel, and morning prayer. The 1st graders then proceed to have some silent reading time before they begin with calendar and weather. Today I got to have a small group read to me and we discussed the book together. In this small group, I had to ask one of the students to share her book with another little girl who didn’t have hers. After we were done reading and discussing, the little girl who didn’t have her book came up to me and apologized for not having it. She explained to me that the reason why she didn’t have it was because her house had been broken into over the weekend and everything was misplaced. This really took me aback and I had to think for a minute before I said anything. I do not tell you this to say that this community is bad or dangerous necessarily but to just illustrate that this is the reality here. It’s thought provoking to hear what is going on in other areas and eye opening to see how those occurrences affect people’s day to day lives.
At 9 o’clock, I head over to the Kindergarten class. Let me just say…holy bologna are these kids adorable… To illustrate this for you- I was helping one little boy with his worksheet and after we finished the problem, I asked him to tell me his name again. “Ezekiel. But, that’s not really my name.” I asked him what it really was then. His face immediately went from a big baby-tooth smile to a straight serious face. “I am Spiderman. I was bit by a red and blue spider.” I am a believer in Spiderman so I wasn’t about to question him. So instead I responded, “Spiderman, it is an honor to finally meet you; I’m a huge fan. Especially of your ability to shoot webs.” And then we both did the “Kt-ss, Kt-ss” sound and did the hand motion that Spiderman does to shoot webs. Now every time we see each other in the hallway we do this instead of waving.
Then there is Julio who is that kid who seems to always be off task… I feel bad because I seem to be exacerbating that problem… He gets up to give me a new picture probably every 10 minutes… I had a talk with him today and we agreed that he could only draw me pictures after all his work was done. Even still though, I’m pretty sure I will be able to cover my whole entire wall with pictures when I get back to my dorm room.
I wish I could tell you about every single kid in that class…they are all so great…they make me feel like a celebrity! When I come in the room they get all excited and yell, “Yay Elyse is here!” and then when I leave I get the world’s biggest group hug. It makes me smile that I am someone they can look up to- yes, literally, but also in the sense that I can be a positive role model in their lives.
I have so many more stories but this is already quite the lengthy blog so high-five for reading it!! I will write more later if I am allowed to 😉
Until next time,
Kirsten here for Kansas City, part 2. Up until now, I’ve become more and more excited…first, to participate in an epic trip with some really awesome people, then to see how things have changed since the last time I was here, two years ago. So far, the trip has definitely been a blast.
This being my fourth Headlights spring break trip, on the way to Guardian Angels school this morning, I caught myself thinking…yeah…I’ve seen it all (or at least a lot)…I’m a seasoned vet. But of course, we walked in the door, and about five minutes later I was proven wrong. A very special treat, I get to serve in the classroom of my dear friend Matea—or Miss daRosa. When it was time to go to class, we walked upstairs from the gym and found our sixteen students silently lined up waiting outside the open door. NEVER in my life have I seen a class do that. And I was especially not expecting it out of an inner city group of students. Basically that “shut me up” for the rest of the day.
This week, the students are doing some standardized testing, so my tasks have been laid out pretty simply: a bit of grading, a bulletin board or two, watching kids try to pass notes, sharpening pencils, and simply watching as class “happens”. Matea is a great teacher, and her students definitely know her expectations. However, that doesn’t necessarily keep them from testing the boundaries.
A very interesting part of my day was what they call “recess”. To me, it’s more of a loose interpretation of the word. Guardian Angels is a consolidation school, fed into from several churches in the area. It doesn’t however, have a playground for its students. So what happens is before lunch, the students line up silently and “peacefully” to go play in the large parking lot with only a few cars parked around the edges. They close the gates to the lot in order to better deter cars from entering. Today I watched them run a few laps, play soccer, play tag, chit-chat with friends, then walk a couple cool-down laps before heading inside for lunch. I’ve vowed that tomorrow, I’m going to try to get a rousing game of cat-and-mouse going!!!
I feel like I shouldn’t leave this post without mentioning our evening activities! Not only was there an incredible taco dinner with the Xavier community and a visitying prayer group, but there was also kitchen dancing/laughing during dessert and dinner. After evening prayer which included reflections on our day and what we planned to “bring” tomorrow, we got to go to the gym of Resurrection school next door! After a quick shoot-around, we began a VERY competitive game of basketball, followed by several games of Bump aka Lightning aka Knockout (whichever you prefer…)—the first of which I won, by the way!
Overall, we really are having a blast. As I type this before going to bed, we have almost half our group over in the chapel of the cathedral that is across the street, some are hanging out before going to bed, and others are getting in much-needed showers after our activity time. I can’t wait for work tomorrow! Thank you for keeping up with the Headlights groups via this blog; it means a lot to me (and to many others) that you care about us enough to read our silly inside jokes and reflections on our experiences.
Have a great rest of your week; love you all!
The last three days have been full of adventure, friendship, and singing to “This Girl is on Fire” by Alicia Keys. After madly studying for midterms, a two-day car ride forming new friendships full of laughter seemed to be the best medicine. We have a GREAT group of people full of love and joy and I cannot wait to serving alongside them!
The first day of travel, I was shunned to the “Dude Car”. I did not think that I would enjoy the eight-hour trip as they turned on the music styling of Blink 182. However, once they got bored of the boy band music and giving everyone walkie talkie nicknames, our conversations started to get interesting. The made up history lessons of different mountain ranges and creeks made me realize how much I enjoyed my banishment.
The second day started with breakfast at Wall Drug and a drive through the Badlands National Park. It was great to see the attractions of the Midwest! Saturday was a great day of building quality friendships with people that I would not have become friends with otherwise. After 12 hours of traveling, we were ready to get to our destination. Seven states and 6 lbs of gummy bears later, we arrived in Kansas City at the Xavier House (the house of living simply in community)
Today (Sunday) started with mass at the Cathedral. All the locals kept apologizing about the amount of snow on the ground; little did they know that we were familiar to the snowdrifts. After being welcomed into the community, we headed to the Kansas City Aquarium (apparently you need a child to get into Legoland and David and Mark don’t count). Still at my “wise adult age” of 21, the sharks and turtles were pretty awesome!
But in all seriousness, the last three days have been a blessing. Sharing quality time with truly joyous people makes me realize how great life can be. With all the stress that life has handed me, I have forgotten to enjoy the little things. These people have opened my eyes again. I can’t wait to start my immersion into the Kansas City culture in the morning! Hashtag excited!
Only a few days and spring break will be here! For the 38 travelers setting out next weekend there is much studying and packing to do. However, the group is excited for the experience of Immersion. Leading up to the trip we have been meeting each week to plan for our fundraisers as well as to learn about our trips to Kansas City, Rochester and Denver.
Please follow our blog as we travel next week. The Kansas City group will begin the 18 hour drive on Friday afternoon and the other two groups will leave on Saturday morning.
We are thankful for all who have helped us prepare both through prayer and financially and to those who will host and work with us.
Miranda Van Lieshout
Plans for this year’s Headlights Immersion trips are underway and students are beginning fundraising activities. This year we have 13 students going to Guatemala in May. On January 6th another 12 students are traveling to Browning, MT to spend a week at the De La Salle Blackfeet School. Over spring break we have the most students signed up for trips that I have seen in 9 years, which is great! Students will be going to Rochester, NY, Kansas City, KS, and Denver, CO and all trips are full!
Students are beginning fundraising this week by selling raffle tickets. For Guatemala, 300 tickets are being sold for a chance to win a weekend in Glacier Park, tickets are $20. For the spring trips we are raffling off gift certificates to local restaurants. To buy tickets email Colleen at email@example.com!
Important dates to keep in mind are February 9th for our annual spaghetti dinner at St. Mary’s church and then again on April 27th for a dinner and a silent auction to raise funds for the Guatemala trip.
Finally, we will be keeping our blog for all of these trips. Please check in at: https://carrollheadlights.org/ to see what the students are up to!
Miranda Van Lieshout
Phew! It’s been a long (but really rewarding) couple of days! Despite the 300 mph winds (okay so that might have been a bit of an exaggeration, but seriously the wind is killer) we are all loving Kansas City! For us Montana kids, the big city is a new and exciting experience! The four-lane merge we make every morning to get to Cristo Rey high school is even more exciting, especially when Colleen is behind the wheel. But if you were to ask any of us what the most exciting and most enjoyable part of our days here in Kansas City would be, we would all say without a doubt it is our time spent at Cristo Rey!
We have all created relationships with the students at Christo Rey and its pretty agreed throughout the group that we will be sad to leave. Some students have even made relationships that will extend beyond our week here in Kansas City. As a future math teacher, my favorite part of the day is getting to spend time with students one on one to work on their math skills. As Cristo Rey is a fairly new school in Kansas City (only 6 years old) many of the students have not received the basic math background they need to pass exams to graduate. Having the opportunity to work with these students individually and watch their math skills improve in even just the hour or two we get to spend with them really warms my heart.
Personally, I have a love for math because no matter where you are, no matter what your ethnic or socio-economic background you come from, and no matter what language you speak, math will always be the same. At Carroll College 6 X 8 will always be 48 and at Cristo Rey 6 X 8 will still always be 48. Math can be something that unites us all, no matter who we are. This is something I have really noticed during my time at Cristo Rey. No matter who we are and where we come from, there are a few things that still unite us all as human beings. It has been really amazing getting to make connections with students of different backgrounds and from different cultures. We are reminded everyday of the most important thing that unites us all as followers of Christ, our desire to love and serve the Lord.
Yesterday, Fred, Katie M., and I got to stay after school (while every one else went home to do yard work for the sisters ☺) and help with the “Geometry Recovery” Program. “Geometry Recover” is for seniors a Cristo Rey who have failed Geometry 2 times or more. We had the opportunity to sit down with a few of these seniors and help then to re-learn (and hopefully better understand) the concepts of geometry that they should have learned before. Even in the short amount of time we got to spend with these students, we saw their understanding of geometry improve tenfold. I think that is the most important thing that we can offer to any of the students at Cristo Rey, our time. What most of these students have lacked in their lives is positive role models taking the TIME to help them grow into responsible, intelligent and respectful adults. Giving the students this time is Cristo Rey’s number one mission and the good it has already done is clearly visible in the lives of the students. As much as we may feel that we served those seniors, I know Katie and Fred would agree with me that they served us even more.
Today, we had the opportunity to spend some time at the elementary school run by the sisters. When we first got there, the students were still at recess. We decided to go out to the playground and hang out with the kids. The 5th grade class asked us to play a harmless game of kickball. Being the college students, we decided that we should “take it easy on them”. Well I guess the joke was on us because those 5th graders…. SCHOOLED us in kickball! But we all had a blast regardless. We had the opportunity to spend the afternoon in the classroom with the kids. Being in the classroom with the elementary students was very different than our work at Christo Rey! But the students were just as inspiring! Elyse is an elementary education major and she was most definitely in her element. All the little girls loved her and were very sad to see her leave at the end of the day! Again I have to say, that while we were their to serve the students their enthusiasm and excitement for learning was even more inspiring to us!
It has been a very long couple of days and we are all very tired! However, I wouldn’t trade my experience here in Kansas City for anything! Thank you all for your love, support and prayers! We will continue to keep you updated until our arrival back to Helena on Saturday!
Elyse’s Update from Big Ol’ KC
Finally getting time to blog!! It has been such a busy week so far… full of driving, math and new adventures! I have been journaling and have lots of stories but Colleen tells me I should only write the highlights… So here goes!
So, we finally got here (it’s a longgg drive! But thank goodness we took it in two chunks- the first night we stayed in Denver and went the rest of the way the next day. We also took lots of stops – mostly due to Laura’s weak bladder… that girl would never make it on one of my dad’s roadtrips…where if we have to go to the bathroom, well gotta wait till the next gas station…). We have been having oodles of fun so far!
I am going to just hit on my school stories…seeing as what this trip is about☺ I will start out by saying Cristo Rey High School is very different than high schools we are familiar with. There are several things that make it so unique: It is a private Catholic school created only six years ago. It was designed as a college-prep school for culturally diverse students and aimed at giving them experiences they otherwise would not have. Being private, the school costs about $9,000 a semester. So if these students come from family’s that don’t really have that kind of money to spare, how do they pay for it?? That is where Cristo Rey’s awesomeness is evident. Upon entering the school, students are given a job in town and one day in their week, they go to their work sites. The money they make in their job goes to pay for their education. Pretty cool right? I wish I could write more about the history and what makes Cristo Rey unique but I better move on- P.S. though, you can check out a little more about the school from the following link. They were features on 60 minutes- they’re famous! But check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ev8kmPnzaY
Focusing on what I’ve specifically been doing…
I am helping out in Ms. Hotop’s Algebra 1 and 2 classes (boy, who made that placement?? 1+1= uh… just kidding but I am not the greatest at math…). Regardless, it has been actually really cool so far! Talk about blast from the past- we’re working on factoring binomials and graphing… exciting! Just wanna say really quick how happy I am to be in Ms. Hotop’s classroom. It is truly a privilege… This teacher has such an evident passion for what she does and that just radiates off her and rejuvenates and excites her students. Another difference at Cristo Rey is the classroom conversation. Ms. Hotop’s classroom is full of learning- you can hear it. If the students do not understand something, heck they “hold up” the teacher and ask for clarification. Ms. Hotop has impeccable classroom management though and can flow these, what some would view as interruptions, into a teaching point.
In short, even though I don’t enjoy math, I loved being in the classroom.
OK, sorry you’re probably getting tired of reading my blog but last thing I have to say- Today was especially awesome because I made a new friend!! Mrs. Hotop asked me to help a girl with her homework and I am so happy she did. (Ms. Hotop probably wasn’t though as we didn’t really get much homework done…shhh…). Her name is IKeyla and we decided I am pretty much the Montana version of her in a sense. We have a lot in common and have many of the same philosophies about life. I got to hang out with her in between classes and felt almost as if I was back in high school myself.
We already are making plans for her to come see what Montana is like☺
But enough from me, Nate is waiting to blog and I have to go make a sandwich for our transition over to Leavenworth tomorrow.
I will hopefully have time to blog again soon and give you more updates!
Thanks for reading!
SLFT (Still Looking For Todo)-
Today we spent the day in the school, once again. Once again, it was amazing. I have been in Ms. Hotop’s algebra 1 and 2 classes helping students with math problems. It has taken me some time to remember how to do some of the math problems, as it has been about 6 years since I have done algebra!! Thank God for Tessa, our math genius, for helping me to understand how to factor equations. Elyse and I also helped Ms. Hotop grade math quizzes and tests. Late in the morning, several of us, including myself, had the opportunity to tutor a student in math one-on-one. Math is the subject that many, many students at Cristo Rey are really struggling with and the school needs lot of extra hands to be able to give the students one-on-one opportunities to work on their math skills.
Anyway, the students here are very welcoming and curious about us Montanans. I have received very interesting questions. One student asked me if there were gangs and ghettos in Montana or if people fight in Montana. It was interesting to see how Montana is such a different world from a place such as urban Kansas City. It also shows how small of a perspective the students at Cristo Rey have on the rest of the world; their neighborhood is all they really know.
When we got back from school to the Xavier house, we helped the Sisters with yard work. We had fun doing it, too. We laid fertilizer on the lawn where it was needed.
Later this evening, we had the privilege of going to the home of Sister Irene, Sister Vicki, and Sister Therese. They fed us a wonderful homemade meal of grilled chicken, baked potatoes, green beans, and a fabulous chocolate cake with fruit. They were very welcoming to us. Sister Irene, who is about 80 years old, is planning to add us all on facebook! Together after dinner, we had a prayer session that focused on what brings us joy. It was wonderful. When we got back to the Xavier house, we went to adoration in the church across the street. It was a good time together.
Looking forward to more tomorrow.
Hello everyone! It is Monday morning in Kansas City and the weather is B-E-A-UTIFUL! We finally got to Kansas City around 7:30pm after two days of driving. There have been many fun stories about the trip so far, such as 25 miles left of fuel, with the closet gas station 30 miles away. It took us two days to figure out that we could actually plug the iPod into the car Fred was driving, and then that started a new adventure because the media player had voice command on it. Fred being Fred, had an interesting conversation with the voice command computer.
Today we woke up around 5:45, so we could leave our area of residents around 6:45. We then experienced the crazy city driving from Kansas City, Kansas to Kansas City, Missouri, where Colleen had to do split decision making in order to merge four lanes of traffic. Arriving at the school we were all excited and ready to start the day off.
We were first introduced to the student body of about 400 students, and then we began orientation for what we are scheduled to do here. I get to help in Chemistry classrooms, which I am super excited for. Although we are all excited to start, there is no one more excited than Tessa is about teaching math. At one moment she was as pink as her very bright pink shirt.
While most people have a classroom to be at during 2nd period, or were able to help with other work around the school, I had the pleasure of writing one of the first blogs about the experience. I am truly excited for this opportunity, and I cannot wait to get into the classroom next period. This school is one that promotes excellence, work ethic, community, and faith.
Have a wonderful week,
On Saturday we depart for our Spring Break Immersion Trips. We have groups traveling to Rochester, NY to visit the Sisters of Saint Joseph, to Kansas City, Missouri to visit the Sisters of Charity and to Cincinnati, OH to visit the Franciscans for the Poor. Aside from having to get to the airport at 4:45 AM all of the students are really excited for the new experiences and people they will meet.
Devan Hromcik – Helena, MT
Dan Minor – Helena, MT
Brittany Minor – Helena, MT
Chris Kiefer – Banks, OR
Travis Biedermann – Big Fork, MT
Kirsten Rotz – Rathdrum, ID
Natalie Stewart – Coeur d’ Alene, ID
Taylor Stewart – Couer d’ Alene, ID
Nicole Henry – Boise, ID
Andrea Ward – Springfield, OR
Jenessa Borodkin – Cordova, AK
Whitney Stormberg, Citrus Heights, CA
Kansas City, MO
Fred Collins – Helena, MT
Tessa Berg – Missoula, MT
Elyse Ramirez – Helena, MT
Tony Rosales – Great Falls, MT
Christina Frederick – Helena, MT
Nathan Kavanaugh – Cut Bank, MT
Colleen Dunne – Helena, MT
Katie Majerus – Valier, MT
Katie Hanson – Helena, MT
Laura Gillette – Miles City, MT
Chelsea Ford – Portland, OR
Kelsie Hahn – Olympia, WA
Cheney Gianarelli – Conrad, MT
Shelby Goodrich – Vancouver, WA
Maddie Woodruff – Banks, OR
Jessica Knapp – Olympia, WA
Raniece Richardson – Helena, MT
Angie Biskupiak – Helena, MT
Amy Reagor – Great Falls, MT
Thank you for following us as we travel!