Cool name Jenna! :) How are you? Yes, this is a very humble invitation that I feel very honored and definitely interested! I get this question a lot since I've graduated back in 99' and still ponder about it. As I was riding my bike this evening to my job, I decided to reply with these answers:
Why do you choose to live and work in greater Minnesota?
Journey on finding my identity (purpose in life) ("One won't know where to go in the future, unless they know where they came from (past)")
I never expected to "stay" in Morris this long. In fact, when I graduated from UMM in 99', I took a summer job to get me through the summer during this "ministry school" my current local church offered. I was then planning on moving to the Twin Cities to do "God's work" or something. Well, as you know, I'm still here :) I somewhat fell in love with my then job (group home with Prairie Community Services)-more of the "people" I work with (both co-workers and "clients" or "consumers"). I got involved with various church "outreach' activities: See You at the Party (annual "new year's eve" event for youth in the west-central and surrounding area), Special Touch Ministries (once a month activity event for developmentally disabled adults in our county and surrounding counties, Good News Radio Show (did this for 2 summers via KUMM), Iglesia Nueva Vida (e.g. inviting friends to just one of many Spanish service opportunities) , etc.. Then a guy from my local church asked me to be part of this community "discussion" (Blandin Foundation group that now started the PRCA -Prairie Renaissance Cultural Alliance or Art gallery in town). From there, it just went from one "community forum or group to another" (e.g. All American City Finalist in 04' (attended a conference in Atlanta, Georgia: to share why I stayed in Morris because I wanted a "better" community after my past racism experience), Blandin Community Leadership 2004, COPC: Community Dialogue on Cultural Diversity (partially sponsored/funded by my employer-PCS to attend a COPC Conference in Baltimore, MD: asked to do a Diversity in the Workplace session to PCS employees afterwards), Stevens County Youth Mentoring (didn't "bear fruit", but would share experience with now then Kinship county-wide mentoring program that's "developing" right now), similar with the Morris Area Elementary School Property Vision; Morris Community Ed: started as a volunteer (offered part-time teaching "paid" position just the past 2 years or so) back in 04' due to my commitment to see "we" as a community can "reach out" to the growing "Spanish-speaking" community via literacy project: ESL, G.E.D.-help young "adults" and others get that high school diploma and continuing ed topic (e.g. computer, skills, driver ed, etc..), Hersehys Track & Field volunteer; Stevens Forward, etc.., etc..
After I wrote the above response, I thought about the college years that was the "backbone" on getting me "prepped" to "stay" in Morris. It all started my freshmen year, when we had to do some "community project". It's been a long time, so I can't really remember the details on how I got involved. However, I remember we went to some neighborhood and helped planted a tree. This is why I bring a digital camera with me everywhere I go now, so I can remember where and when. Anyways, it was some neighborhood (new development in the outskirts of "suburbia" Morris). This was just the beginning of the many community projects I participated (e.g. Campus Compact with "community connector" Carol McCannon of Student Activities-this prior to the current UMM Community Engagement that "awesome" Argie Manolis runs now!) in as a college student. I would then meet many people from the local churches in town that invited me to their "church activities" (e.g. Catholic Campus Ministry, Morris Evangelical Free Church Bible study, Morris Community Church services-potlucks, Hossana Worship Center (a.k.a. Assembly of God-name back then) services that were at the Science Auditorium, etc..). Just meeting people in the "community" outside of campus just built a lot of relationships that was very helpful as a college student away from my "family" back at my "other" home in St. Paul. Then I was involved with MCSA as a rep and the year I joined (97-98'), we went over to the Capitol and lobbied for the Regional Fitness Center. This was probably the biggest community project that I feel very grateful to this day as I'm an avid user and blessed to "stay" to see the "results". There has been challenges, but it's "not" "I", but "we" that works together for a better campus-community.
One of the the "other" reasons for "staying" here are the many benefits compared to where I grew-up ("bigger" city of St. Paul), such as: less traffic, so I can ride my bike (great exercise, save gas, etc..); meeting "all types" of people in our small rural college town community: elderly folks that have taught me lots of "wisdom" in life and love meeting WWII Vets, who has inspired me to re"search" my own parent's WWII past back in the Philippines; my current involvement in the community that has made it harder to "want" to leave with all what's going on. I current rent my bedrooms, which I love meeting and getting to know the "mostly" college-age students (particularly international students). I'm not as "busy" in the past, so I'm doing more of "discovering" and "practicing" my creativity (e.g. drawing, singing at my local church and making music-art videos on various topics that I have a passion for, etc..->sharing it via blog)
How do you think you are making it a more resilient place?
First, I'm not doing it alone! I constantly get-together with folks in the community over a meal (e.g. Don's Cafe), emailing notes (e.g. websites I've made as an archive), and networking via (e.g. photography facebook groups, like "Community Needs" or blogs, like Stevens County (Alberta, Chokio, Donnelly, Hancock, Morris) Community, GoodnewsEverybody Com, Health & Fitness: Benefits of Biking,, etc..)
Cont...stay tune for more!