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I never cease to be amazed by how locals shine when out in the world in large.
The most recent case in point is Fort Lewis College students Shawn Yazzie, Rebecca Thill, Jesse Maloney and Joshua Shipman. Thill, Maloney and Shipman are English majors, and Yazzie is a theater major.
The four students won John Woods Scholarships to attend the intensive and prestigious Prague Summer Program in the Czech Republic. The program offers students of writing and photography the chance to study with experts in the fields.
Woods was an influential writer and professor at Western Michigan University, and his scholarships go to promising writers. The university sponsors the
The students were encouraged to apply for the program by poet and FLC assistant professor Pamela Uschuk, who, along with her accomplished poet husband, William Pitt Root, taught workshops as featured writers.
My first meeting with Uschuk was when I recruited her to speak at the Durango Public Library's Books Sandwiched In program. Her work was both powerful and haunting, and I found myself choking back tears more than once as she read her work. They are lucky students to have such a talented teacher.
One of the things she said has stuck with me. In almost every country in the world, poets are treated as rock stars. Only in the U.S. do even the great talents labor in relative obscurity. Somehow, that makes it even more exciting that these students are pursuing that muse.
Because the program draws a high-powered group of writers and graduate students from around the world, Uschuk made sure her FLC young people were prepared by teaching them about European and American poetry.
The trip also was an adventure in other ways. Yazzie had never flown on a plane before, and he and two other students never had been out of the country. Thill said beginning each day with a walk across the Charles Bridge was "surreal."
As overwhelming and exciting as the trip was, the students soon found themselves immersed in their studies, with Yazzie and Thill enjoying Root's poetry workshop along the way.
"[Czech] poetry is very gray and dark, but it's still alive in a certain way," Yazzie said. "It was really different, the range of voices there."
Uschuk said if the students are planning to study writing at the graduate level, they've made a good start of making contacts at some of the major programs in the country.
The program ended on a high note, as the students gave a public reading of their own work. While anyone would have been a little intimidated, they soon got in the groove.
"The students from Fort Lewis were fantastic," Uschuk said. "People were complimenting them left and right on the job they did."
Congratulations to all of you, and good luck as you decide the paths you will take.
Happy birthday greetings go out to these balanced Libra folks - Ward Lee, Brendon Shaline, Steve Jackson, Jill Rogers, Anna Marie Bishop, Ruth Bingham, Irene Nix, Lee Bieth, Kim Caldwell, Jacob Beekman, Autumn Rymerson, Maya McManus, Richard Siegele, Don Oliver, Troy Moore, Danica Dudley, Sharyn Gebhard and Tyler Ruetschle.
Kudos go to Sandi Mitchell of Durango. She and her horse Luxury to Share, a 2007 Sorrel American Quarter Horse gelding, placed in the Top 10 in 2-year-old geldings at the 2009 Bayer Select World Championship Show.
The state of the world means politics always is front and center. It's true on both sides of the aisle, so it's no surprise that locals are passionate as well.
From Sept. 10 to 13, Velbeth Jones, the president of Southwest Republican Women, Terri Will, the SWRW treasurer, and Pat Wainwright, the vice chairwoman of the La Plata County Republican Central Committee, attended the National Federation of Republican Women Convention in Orlando, Fla.
More than 1,300 other Republican women leaders joined them at the event, which was one of the largest Republican gatherings this year. Attendees took advantage of leadership-training seminars, campaign-management schools and policy and political workshops.
Among the speakers were Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.
It must have been rewarding, because the women already are looking forward to the 2011 event in Kansas City, Mo. (The gatherings are held every other year.)
Whatever your political leanings are, getting informed and involved are the centerpieces of American civic life. This kind of commitment should be honored.
On Sept. 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month began. Of course, in a town named Durango, in a county named La Plata and with a score of other place names such as Florida Road, we see part of our local Hispanic heritage every day.
The activities began right away, with a Fiesta on the Mesa thrown by El Centro de Muchos Colores at Fort Lewis College on Sept. 15, along with El Grito at Ska Brewing Co. sponsored by Los Compa`F1eros that same day.
There still is a lot of fun to be had to honor the cultural heritage of the more than 46 million Latino-heritage Americans.
If you are a reader, Maria's Bookshop is donating 15 percent of Hispanic-themed titles sold during the month to Del Alma and its wonderful after-school and heritage programs. The organization also is hosting a special bilingual story time with activities Sept. 30 at the Durango Public Library.
Posters are up all over town, and a complete list of activities is available at www.laplataunity.org.
If you're wondering about the dates chosen, Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, they were picked to include the Independence Day celebrations of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile. The month also incorporates el D`EDa de la Raza, a holiday celebrated in Mexico on Oct. 12 that commemorates the colonization, exploration and multicultural heritage of the Americas. You can learn more about that at the National Council of La Raza Web site at http://nclr.org.
Thanks to Lee Ann Vallejo, the executive director of Del Alma for letting me know what's going on.
It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas! Well, not really, but the colder weather does remind all of us that the season is changing, which means anticipation for the holiday season.
That's what the residents of East Third Avenue are doing. For the last couple of decades, the residents have made Christmas Eve extra special with their magnificent display of luminarias along the median, but in 2008, the boulevard was, if not dark, a lot dimmer without them. There wasn't enough manpower to pull them off.
Who missed them the most? People who don't live on East Third but have made a stroll or drive there part of their holiday tradition. Residents are wondering if members of the community would be willing to help.
Several experienced hands will organize the effort if 30 families, who may live anywhere in the community, will commit to the intensive three-hour effort to place about 3,000 sand-filled bags on Christmas Eve afternoon, regardless of weather conditions. Cleanup by 5 p.m. Christmas Day also is required, but that only takes about an hour. Can't do both? Volunteer for one or the other.
Call Libby Culver at 385-0701 or email email@example.com or Karen Brucoli Anesi at firstname.lastname@example.org. If enough people volunteer by Oct. 15, there will be time to order the supplies and make the contacts for fundraising. If there aren't, the luminaria project will live on only in our memories.
Cuddling during our suddenly chilly nights for their anniversaries are David and Jan Reed, Nick and Anne Spencer, Ed and Suzanne Cash, Bill and Susan Flint, Tony and Whitney Burns, Chris and Jill Choate, Dave and Mary Pye and Jack and Mimi Smith.
For information about upcoming events and fundraisers, check Local Briefs.
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