Allen College Service Learning Among Vulnerable Populations: Denver

June 4, 2014

alt Waterloo, IA -- A group of 12 energetic students and two equally energetic nursing professors, Kay Froehner and Jacki Jaspers, departed on May 11 for the “mile high city” of Denver.  The  nursing students were enrolled in a three-credit nursing course, Service Learning Among Vulnerable Populations, focusing on urban poverty and homelessness. After an unexpected snowstorm, weather delays and cancelled flights, the group was shuttled to the Kansas City International airport where they began an unplanned “homeless” simulation, spending twenty hours in the airport waiting for the next flight to Denver.  They arrived at Warburg College’s  West campus in Denver, one day later than expected, eager to  begin their week long service learning adventure in the greater Denver downtown area.

The trip was rich with experiences related to the homeless population.  They spent a very insightful day with the Denver Urban Mission, a non-profit organization that works with Denver’s homeless community.  Activities included a homeless simulation, a walking tour of the ‘five points area’ where the majority of the homeless population resides in Denver, and a tour of a free medical clinic that serves this population.  The simulation taught students and faculty the importance of treating the homeless with dignity and respect and provided insight into the human side of homelessness.  Students also had the opportunity to prepare and serve a meal for over 400 homeless people with the Denver Rescue Mission which offers food, shelter, and a very structured life skills program to help homeless men and women get off the streets and back into the workforce.  Students and professors alike were humbled and amazed by the resilience and fortitude of the staff of the Rescue Mission and those they served.

Students were also exposed to health-related issues facing Denver’s underserved residents. Activities included a tour of the Denver Health Medical Facility which primarily serves the indigent population, a discussion with a Health Care Navigator and a panel of nurse practitioners about practice issues and career opportunities.  Due to Colorado’s legalization of medical marijuana faculty wanted to expose students to the social, economic, political and health issues related to the use of medical marijuana.  Speakers representing SMART Colorado and the Marijuana Business Association educated the group about issues related to the legalization of  medical marijuana. Students toured a medical marijuana clinic and spoke with a health practitioner to gain a greater understanding of the prescriptive protocol.   During their visit, the Allen College group  had some time to experience Denver and the Colorado Rockies, including the splendor of Estes Park and the excitement of Coors Stadium.   The faculty summarized the trip by commenting “Our experience in Denver and our time spent at Wartburg West was educational and valuable, encouraging our future nursing professionals to gain new perspectives on the diverse world which they will care for in the future."

SEO Iowa