Monthly Archives: February 2012

Vote for University of Minnesota Student in White House Contest

Matt Norris, at student at the University of Minnesota, is a finalist for the White House Campus Champions of Change Challenge. Matt is a co-founder of The A-List.

The A-list’s mission is to provide a cool yet safe environment for teens to hang out and develop themselves personally and professionally in a youth-led environment.  It’s based on a new and revolutionary model of youth engagement.

They provide employment opportunities for youth through their snack and apparel business units.  Guided by their Employee Development Curriculum, as youth are promoted through our various teen employee positions, they build eight key employment skills identified by the Carlson School of Management.

The organization runs after school programs that promote education and employment.  These programs include daily tutoring sessions, courses to help youth explore post-secondary opportunities, lessons on how to apply successfully for jobs, and opportunities to interact with business mentors. They also host evening events for teens to build and showcase their talents such as dances, battle of the bands, open mic nights, and hip hop classes.

The deadline to cast your vote is Saturday, March 3rd. Read more and vote here.

Good luck Matt!

Vote for St. Cloud State Student in White House Contest

Re-blogged from the American Democracy Project blog

St. Cloud State University student Kurtis Neu needs your vote to make it to the White House.

Kurt Neu, a senior anthropology major, is one of 15 finalists chosen in the 2011 White House Campus “Champions of Change” Challenge, which invited college and university students from across the country to demonstrate how their student-led project is improving their campus community and helping America win the future.

After reviewing a record number of entries, 15 finalists were named, including Neu’s which is titled “Our Promise: Building a Better Community Together.”

Neu’s project was put into action last summer providing bagged lunches for children in a multi-ethnic, low-income neighborhood who would normally qualify for lunch assistance during the academic year at a local elementary school. After receiving a grant from the campus food supplier, Neu and his team began making bagged lunches in the campus cafeteria every morning Monday through Friday. College students and volunteers from the community worked together to prepare meals which students then distributed to children in the neighborhood. What started as only a few hundred meals and a handful of volunteers grew to nearly 1000 meals and dozens of volunteers as awareness of the lunch program spread. Delivering the meals to various locations throughout the neighborhood made it possible for students and residents to meet face-to-face and to have purposeful conversations and to work towards establishing relationships based on trust, compassion and a general concern for the well-being of all community members.

Via email, Kurt indicated that the “Our Promise” project represents the collective efforts of “a fantastic group of individuals who are committed to improving the community.” He views St. Cloud State University as “an exceptional place to earn a degree and to discover how to see the world in a different light” and hopes that his project encourages other students to “make the best of their time in college and truly have a positive impact on campus and in the community.”

Go here to learn more and to vote.

The top five winners will largely be selected based on voting and named Campus Champions of Change and will be invited to a culminating event at the White House. The Challenge winners, in addition to the concluding event, will be highlighted by mtvU and MTV Act and also host an episode of mtvU’s signature program, “The Dean’s List.”

The deadline to cast your vote is Saturday, March 3.

Best of luck to you, Kurt, and to St. Cloud State University!

My Thoughts on Women Survivors Unite in Exercise at Winona State University

By Kasia Kilijanek, Winona State University

According to, “one in eight women in the U.S. will develop invasive breast cancer in her lifetime.” Cancer affects nearly everyone in the U.S. some way or another. Two summers ago, I met Ashley. Her mother was just diagnosed with breast cancer and we were just about to board an airplane to England for a study abroad trip. We wouldn’t be back for about three weeks. When I was 11 years old, my grandmother went through chemotherapy and radiation to fight her breast cancer. My grandfather passed away from colon cancer. A long-time family friend was diagnosed with blood cancer and was told he had only six months left.

With cancer comes treatment, which can sometimes be worse than the cancer itself. Research is beginning to show that one of the best ways to combat the side effects of cancer treatments is to move. Exercise! Although empirical research is not yet available, there is an abundance of anecdotal evidence that exercise can help reduce the feeling of fatigue, keep functional abilities, maintain a healthy body weight, and increase overall quality of life for cancer patients.

Several universities have programs where breast cancer survivors exercise with students in training for various health fields. When Ashley informed me the next in 2010 that she was going to try to get this program started Winona State University, I immediately volunteered to help. We are proud to announce that this coming May marks the first full year of Women Survivors Unite in Exercise (WSUE) at Winona State University.

Participating as a fitness trainer in our WSUE program at Winona State University has been an incredibly fulfilling experience. The movement science major at WSU is mainly for preparing students for graduate school, rather than teaching practical skills for a specific career. With the WSUE program movement science students now have the opportunity to get hands-on by creating exercise programs for cancer patients in the Winona community. With this comes a great deal of learning how to act as professionals. Also, the volunteer experience looks good on resumes and applications to graduate schools, which is a goal of mine in pursuit of a career in physical therapy.

The overall experience of being a student cancer fitness trainer is fun. Though the early mornings are sometimes difficult, I love showing up to help someone improve their health and gain or regain their physical fitness. Each survivor is assigned one or two personal student trainers. We start our morning by taking resting blood pressure and heart rate, and then warming up with some basic lymphedema stretches. The students lead their survivors through a 40 minute individualized exercise regimen, which includes aerobic, resistance and balance exercises. Oftentimes, the students will do the exercises along with the survivors. The motivation in our survivors is strong and the support from other members of the group is remarkable. For example, when one of our survivors and her student trainers began to jog around the track one morning, we all clapped and cheered her on. Though she may have completed only half a lap, the strides she has made are uplifting to us all. Another survivor, Peggy, had to have been inspiring to everyone. She walked at least four miles a day outside of WSUE and could probably do more sit-ups than the average college student.


I have come to realize that our survivors have so much to give and teach us as well. I signed up for my first-ever 5k race and casually mentioned it one morning at WSUE, because two other students were also running. Without announcement, Giselle was there at the end of our race to cheer for all of us. When it came time to listen to each survivor’s cancer story, every one of use was moved with emotion. My eyes were opened to what hardships cancer patients go through; from each cycle of radiation or chemotherapy to every new medication to every doctor visit. The stories varied, as cancer does, as each survivor described different challenges and setbacks that they had to overcome in their battle with the disease.  They have the opportunity to grasp life once again. Every one of our survivors has developed a newfound sense of what is important in life. Many times, we heard that the small things that used to matter don’t anymore. What they used to fuss or complain about no longer bothers them. Family and friends and doing things that you love and make you feel good are what matter the most.

Even if I didn’t gain an ounce of experience as a cancer fitness trainer, I know I have still learned a great deal about life’s priorities. I am excited to check back in a few years to see how the program has grown. It doesn’t take much to understand what a good thing WSUE has going for both the survivors and students in the community of Winona.


Student Profile: Pertesia Gadson, University of Minnesota, Rochester

Pertesia Gadson

As a student working towards obtaining my bachelor’s degree, it did not seem like there was much I could do for my community until I started volunteering. When I started volunteering, I learned about the needs of my community, and I got to aid in correcting the problems. For instance, I have been volunteering at the Salvation Army for the past two years. However, it is just recently that I had my most meaningful experience there. I was serving as a volunteer in the Social Services Department of the Salvation Army. My duties included ensuring that the clients presented their appropriate forms of identification and that they were enrolled in the appropriate programs.

This role allowed me to have contact alone with many people who were under resourced and who had physical and mental impairments. It was a meaningful experience because I felt a sense of wholeness by being able to provide people with help during the holiday season. One of my fondest memories of this position occurred when a gentleman who was visually impaired came to apply for services with his autistic child. The gentleman was living below the poverty line, yet he was happy and grateful for the small amount of services that the Salvation Army could provide him and his family. Before he left my office, he seemed to have thanked me at least six times. His happiness surprised me because his circumstances appeared really grim to me. However, his happiness showed me that by volunteering at the Salvation Army, I was actually meeting the needs of my community and my community was very pleased with the services that I was able to provide them through volunteering. Hopefully, once the visually impaired gentleman and his son left my office they were able to have a gratifying holiday season because the happiness they shared with me made my holiday much more enjoyable.

Lastly, being able to meet the needs of my community has always been an important guiding principle in my life. In the future I aspire to work in a career that allows me to do this because the wholeness I found after meeting the visually impaired gentleman and his child is something I want to experience each day going to and from work.


The Artist as Citizen: Dance and Theater in the Community, Carleton College

To launch their residency at Carleton during this winter quarter, the directors of the Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater Company (SPDT) gave an opening talk in the Weitz Center, the new arts and creativity center on campus.  Stuart Pimsler and Suzanne Costello’s talk “The Artist as Citizen” was well attended with over fifty Carleton students and faculty, and several community partners from Northfield.  People came to hear about Stuart and Suzanne’s experiences helping a wide range of communities – such as stroke survivors, caregivers in hospitals and hospice programs, and elementary school students – experience a new form of dance and movement. (see more about the event here)

Stuart emphasized that unlike a traditional dance experience, which is focused on the final performance, his community projects are focused on process and collaboration.  Suzanne elaborated on how and why an artistic or creative experience has the power to transform people who don’t typically think of themselves as dancers.  They called upon all of us to think about our bodies and our role supporting and participating in the arts and community engagement.

While dancing can often be thought of as a difficult skill that requires lots of training, over their many years and collaborations Stuart and Suzanne have found that dance can be surprisingly relatable to many newcomers.  In their talk, they shared many lessons that they have learned along the way.  For example, after dancing and creating with caregivers in hospitals, Suzanne has found that caregivers and dancers have a lot in common. They are both underappreciated, female dominated professions that are focused on the body. Stuart and Suzanne have found that younger boys, whose fidgeting and bouncing are too often seen as problematic by their teachers, make phenomenal dancers. When the social process of preparing a dance harnesses these individual tendencies, the performers can undergo tremendous change. Children learn more naturally through movement. The group of stroke survivors expressed moments of their experience that they could not articulate before, and many of them made some physical recoveries as a result of the artistic process.

Stuart and Suzanne will continue to share their experiences and knowledge with Carleton students and community partners over the next ten weeks.  Stuart is offering a class this quarter entitled “Performing Politics” which will partner with three community partners including a local school district, a local free clinic and a senior citizen assisted living facility.  Students in the class will observe the Community Workshops by the SPDT Company while creating their own pieces.  Their residency provides a chance for all of us to learn more about the arts and community engagement. Learn more about an upcoming performance at Carleton.

By: Henry Neuwirth

Strategies and Resources for Nonpartisan Voter Registration and Engagement

As we all seek to encourage full participation in the electoral process, we’re grateful to Claire Wilson, Voter Director in the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State, and Laura Frederick Wang, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters Minnesota/LWV Minnesota Education Fund, for providing an overview of new tools, opportunities for collaboration, and other key resources and information.

Voter Registration

  • Voter registration forms can be downloaded from the website, or the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State will mail them out upon request, or forms can be picked up from local election officials.
  • Send voter registration cards in within 10 days of when they’re dated.
  • It also helps to include the voter’s email or phone number on the voter registration form so a local election official can get in touch if they can’t read some of the information.
  • People who do have a driver’s license are encouraged to put the license number on the card, since providing it allows the verification process to go much more quickly.
  • People not sure whether they are already registered to vote can easily look themselves up on a new tool at  You just need to enter your name, date of birth, and zip code or county.  (There is no harm in registering more than once since the system will catch duplicates, but it’s now easy to check first.)
  • Students who might be studying or traveling abroad should get in touch with Overseas Vote Foundation ( to register and request a ballot electronically.
  • For students who want to vote absentee, a new Absentee Ballot Lookup tool ( enables voters to check whether their application was accepted, then whether their ballot was accepted.
  • Many campuses send a list of resident students to local elected officials, which allows students on such a list to register at the poll site with a student ID.

Voter Education

  • To prepare for voting, students and others can go to to get a sample ballot off the precinct finder.
  • Since this is a redistricting year, it’s important to pay attention to whether polling places change.  Current polling places can be found at  Registered voters should also receive a postcard identifying their polling place.
  • The League of Women Voters Minnesota produces a Voter Guide every year, sending questions to all candidates and conveying candidates’ positions in their own words.
    • Print copies of the voter guide include candidates for statewide office, congressional seats, and contested judicial offices.  They will be available in all Target stores, and anyone can request copies (as many as needed) from the League’s state office.
    • An online guide is available at or the League’s national site,  The online version covers more races, including state legislative races, and at, you can produce a customized guide for each voter, based on their address.
  • The League also hosts debates and forums, with the state office organizing debates for statewide offices (U.S. Senate and congressional seats this year and the local chapters hosting more.  All events are free and open to the public, and they are often broadcast on cable access television as well.
  • On election day (and usually the day before), the League partners with KSTP to offer a live hotline, available to anyone statewide, with volunteers who can answer questions—e.g., which IDs will allow you to vote, various options to get to the polls, what to do if your right to vote is challenged.

Get Involved

  • Claire Wilson will come to any interested campus and lead a voting rights workshop to share information, address questions about the implications of voter ID law for students, and clarify what is actually required to vote now.  Secretary of State Mark Ritchie loves to get out and talk to larger gatherings of students.  Please contact Claire at or 651-201-1339 with any questions or requests.
  • The 42 local chapters of the League of Women Voters Minnesota would be very happy to partner with student groups or campuses on candidate debates and forums.  A list of local Leagues, including contact information, is available at
  • Serve as an election judge on election day.  For more information, see

Other Resources of Interest
•    Best Practices to Help Students Register and Vote:  A Guide for Colleges and Universities and Student Groups (
•    Young Voter Mobilization Tactics:  A Compilation of the Most Recent Research on Traditional and Innovative Voter Turnout Techniques (
•    Campus Compact’s national Campus Vote Initiative offers some program examples (