Music education can change a child's life, unlocking a gift that can carry them through a lifetime.
:I like the music academy because the teachers are really nice here and I love playing piano and I could be successful with it," said one student.
Inside First United Methodist Church on Nebraska Street, you can hear the tinkering of piano keys every Monday afternoon. It's part of the Music Academy at First, a new program teaching music to kids who may just need it most.
"It's where it really starts is in elementary," said academy director Gene Wagner. "Where do we get these kids involved in music and how do we get them started in music, especially for kids that are low income that can't afford to do some of that stuff? They don't have those opportunities. And that was kind of the kickoff for the music academy to provide those opportunities for kids who don't have the finances and can't afford to do any of this stuff."
The Music Academy officially launched this year offering free beginner piano lessons to students at Hunt Elementary who qualify for free and reduced lunch. Before the old Hunt Elementary was closed down, the church had a similar program going, offering free piano lessons to students. When the new Hunt Elementary opened its doors, creating the Music Academy was a no-brainer.
"It offers so many benefits for those kids, makes them better students and better prepares them for their future." Piano lessons expanded to hand chimes and string instruments. Several instructors also offer private lessons for kids who really want to keep learning and have a love for music.
"To see a kid brighten up and open up and be able to express themselves in this way means everything," said string instructor Eleanor May-Patterson. "To me, it means it's a lifelong learning experience, where it's not only just learning an instrument or learning how to sing, but it's learning history, and how and what the composers were doing, across time and globally."
"Music is not just a single thing, but it's so many skills together," said Wagner. "It's that focus. It's reading rhythms. It's reading notes. It's about working together, being on time and being supportive."
Instructors like Carolyn Rants teach because they want to help kids find purpose.
"You know, it gives you that expression of music and that love for music," Rants said. "And if we can give that to children who maybe, in today's society, don't have it in their home. There's a cacophony in society and so it's great to be able to provide some of that," she said, "which is why my cane and I come and volunteer."
'My heart just sings when I see these kids coming in," said piano instructor Emily Jasman. "It's after school, early out on a Monday. They could be going home and watching TV or doing other things but they chose to come here and continue these lessons."
Lessons are completely free for kids in the program with instruments and music funded by grants and donations. While its reach is small now, the hope is that the Music Academy can grow to more schools, more students, and more instruments. For those who are part of First United Methodist Church, having this program in their facilities is important.
"To see a child when they come here and never even have touched a piano and after the first lesson, they're playing Old MacDonald," said Pastor Roger Madden, "it's amazing. The next week, a little more, and the third week, they're just excited. And it's not just the music. It's also the relationship they build with their teacher."
These volunteers are teaching more than just the keys on the piano.
"Their confidence grows," said Jasman of the change she sees in her students. "They become better public speakers. They become more confident in decision-making because their reading is better. And they know they can express themselves."
"And there's a lot of camaraderie with kids that are in those programs and it gives them a space to be creative but also to stay safe in a safe environment. Well, I think it's an experience that they don't get any other way," said Rants. "To experience the creativity that comes from music, the sounds, the appreciation that you have. You don't realize how much you learn from that experience until later in your life."
The Music Academy at First is run entirely on grants and donations, to provide the instruments and music for the kids. The Academy hopes to grow its reach, to offer free music lessons to kids across the area from elementary through high school.
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On main street Le Mars alongside the coffee and ice cream, you'll find hidden gems with gifts galore.
"We always have our customers in the back of our minds when we are looking for that special something to bring into our store." Jill Mescher and Cary Penning have a clothing boutique, well, a few actually! And they are all under one roof.
Penning has Shop Cary Boutique, with clothing and gifts for women in all stages of their life. Mescher has Sugar and Spice Children's and Tween Boutique and Lily Zita Teen Boutique, with items for kids and teens of all ages.
"Everything is hand-picked," Penning said. "We go to markets and we sourced the items and if we love them we know that everybody else will love them too."
Down the block, sits Simpatico Decor, a "cool, funky store" as described by owner, Jennifer Scholten. Here you can find new and vintage pieces of decor, and many one-of-a-kind items you'll likely not find anywhere else.
"I don't like to buy a lot of any one thing I tend to be a one-and-done store," Scholten said while looking around her boutique. "There are a few things that I do like a lot and that I will order and bring back in. I have and my joke is it's David Bowie."
While there is a Bowie portrait hung on the wall for sale, Scholten also gives space for local artists around northwest Iowa.
Each of these shops brings shoppers a unique experience, and they aren't the only ones that do.
"We have everything from birth to 106 and we can prove it in writing!" Domingo Torres has built one of the biggest toy stores in the Siouxland area. Thinker Toys sits inside a castle in Sioux City's Singing Hills and he really does have something for everyone of every age.
"When somebody comes here, we are supposed to and we do know more about our toys than anybody that walks through the door," Torres said. "So, therefore, you can touch, feel and you know what exactly that toy or that item does or doesn't do."
Torres and his team, who have been in business for over 30 years, pick out every toy they sell, attending vendor shows nationwide, ensuring everyone who comes into the castle will walk out with the perfect item.
"Come on and just let us show you what store we have," Torres said, "because of the fact that we will try to make you look good when you get that precedent."
And during the season of giving, shopping locally doesn't just help you find the perfect gift. Supporting small businesses helps your hard-earned dollar go farther.
"I do hear people saying 'well downtown used to be this or used to be that'. Well, buying online depletes from the sales downtown," Scholten explained. "If you want a vibrant downtown that's going to support your community and attract people to your community, you should be down here shopping."
According to sustainableconnections.org, local businesses donate more per sales dollar to local nonprofits, events, and teams compared to national chains, keeping money in the local economy.
"I feel like there's a lot of small pieces that paint a big picture and with shopping small businesses, we paint the bigger picture of creating a community more like a home rather than somewhere just to live," said Mescher.
'Small businesses will donate to your charitable thing," Scholten said, using the town's little league team as an example, "I would be hard-pressed to see if Amazon's going to do that."
Shopping local also helps you find the right gift for your friend or family member, or even yourself, with help from those who hand-picked the items in their shop.
"We get to know the likes and dislikes of our customers and seek things out for them," said Scholten. "I'm always I always have a list of things that I'm hunting for someone's looking for a specific kind of a chair or they're looking for a piece of art or that sort of thing. So that's a personal touch. You definitely don't get in the in the big box stores."
"We always have our customers in the back of our minds when we are looking for that special something to bring into our store," said Mescher. Keeping money in the local economy means a better community overall," which is something the Le Mars Chamber of Commerce sees first-hand.
"One of the reasons I love shopping local is because you can't get the experience of walking into a shop being greeted by a community member who not only loves the community, but they want I mean their whole livelihood depends on it," said Michaela Brown, President of the Le Mars Chamber. "And so you're gonna get the best shopping experience when you shop local and come to your local shops."
"I think the community is seeing the benefit of that," said Scholten. "There's a lot of new businesses coming in downtown Le Mars and a lot of nice new growth with people buying buildings and wanting to bring in new businesses."
And when checking out a local shop for the first time, you may just find the perfect gift, maybe something you didn't know you were looking for.
"You're going to find some great gems," Brown said. "You're going to have a wonderful experience meeting the shop owners and some good food along the way. So you just can't beat shopping local."
"All we ask is that people give us a chance just look here first," Scholten said. "We're not going to have everything this is a nice little boutique. And if they give us a chance they might be surprised by what they would find."
"We're very proud and pleased to be here," Torres said.
To find a list of local businesses in your area, check your community's Chamber of Commerce website. And to learn more about each store listed here, you can find the links in their names within the story above.
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The Sioux City Police Department Citizen Police Academy has been part of the department since 1995 with the 44th class graduating earlier this month after 11 weeks of training.
This fall, Siouxland News Anchor Katie Copple went through the citizen academy to learn a little more about the work our brothers and sisters in uniform do.
The academy is held each fall, and after a pause for COVID-19, the 44th academy class met in August for the first of 11 weeks of hands-on training.
"It was very eye-opening to learn all the process they had to go through and we only got a glimpse of it." Kristen Sweeney is one of roughly two dozen Siouxlanders who took part. "It was just so exciting to go through some of the steps they went through in the training and it just really opened my eyes to the whole process together."
Each week brings a different lesson.. sometimes multiple in a night. We drove police cars through an obstacle course. Officers took us through firearm training giving us a chance to fire several different weapons. The Department's SWAT team suited up for a breaching drill at the training facility. They even showed us some of the equipment they have on hand for any scenario they may face.
And yes, we had the chance to try it all ourselves.
Department veterans teach specialized classes. Each one is tailored to give a first-hand look at how the men and women in uniform keep the community safe.
Trust is everything.
"In any relationship, the foundation is going to be trust and we have to have trust amongst each other of course, but if the police can't do the job of the public, it's the foundation of that relationship. The foundation of being able to operate in our society together. So we can't do without the citizens and the citizens from time to time need us and we need them and it's just a reciprocal relationship." Lieutenant Ryan Bertrand led several courses throughout the academy.
He and the other department leaders put us through scenarios officers could face showing how even a call that may seem minor can turn in an instant, making you think on your feet, trust your training and your gut.
"When we do the scenarios where we give a person like a fake gun that makes noise and we give them a scenario that they've never encountered before, it's so awesome to see like the genuine reactions to "how I would handle this" and sometimes it's over the top sometimes they don't do anything and sometimes they do way too much," Lt. Bertrand said. "But it's, either way, we all learn from it. That's the exact same process the police go through."
When we first gathered in August we were all strangers, but at graduation in November we left as friends with a new understanding of law enforcement.
"I think learning a lot about everything Police Department does I think we don't think about all the processes they go through and all the extra programs they do to help the community," said Sweeney. "So it really opened my eyes and realize that there's a lot that we can also volunteer to help it really out."
On the last week of class, I along with 5 others volunteered to be tased. You can see a video of that here!
The citizen police academy is a truly eye-opening experience and gave this journalist a new respect for our brothers and sisters in blue.
The Sioux City Police Department holds the academy each fall. Watch their Facebook page for when registration opens.
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Verizon is highlighting kindness this holiday season with local surprises that are set to be the talk around the Thanksgiving table and one of those surprises happened right here in Sioux City.
Verizon teamed up with Siouxland News and Hy-Vee to give out 25 $100 gift cards to unsuspecting customers at the local grocery chain. On Thursday, November 17th, Steve Van Dinter, Siouxland News Anchor Katie Copple hit the aisles of the Gordon Drive Hy-Vee to hand out those gift cards to those grabbing groceries.
This was all part of Verizon's nationwide Feeds the Love, Call for Kindness campaign, and the wireless retailer is stopping in cities all over the U.S. to spread a little holiday cheer.
Earlier this year Verizon and NextDoor conducted a research study with kindness.org to reveal the most appreciated and cost-effective ways neighbors can spread kindness in their communities. It turns out the #1 kindest act someone can do is buy groceries for a neighbor.
In the Kindness.org kindness project, Iowa ranked 47th out of the 50 states for the kindest people. Nebraska and South Dakota both were in the top 15. Read more about the project here.
Special thanks to Verizon, Hy-Vee, Siouxland News Anchor Diana Castillo, Siouxland News Reporter Taylor Deckert and Siouxland News Creative Services Producer Angel Morrow for their dedicated work in making this happen.
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You've heard their voices on the local air waves for years and now two radio personalities are being inducted into the "Midwest All Music Association Hall of Fame."
He's a big voice on the local airwaves playing the country hits we know and love, and now Y Country 101.3's Cowboy Bob will be the newest member of the Midwest All Music Association Hall of Fame.
"I never thought something like this was going to happen. I really didn't. And I'm really tickled that it's happening," Cowboy Bob Rounds said before his regular morning show on Y Country.
The Midwest All Music Association, or MAMA, began just a few years ago honoring those making an impact across all musical genres.
"I'm so excited that my broadcasting compadres Cowboy Bob could be put into this category because there's a guy that deserves it," Another big voice just down the hall from Y Country is Big Daddy on Classic Rock 99.5.
"Sioux City is so rich in music history and all types of musical formats. It's a pleasure to live in this area," Denny "Big Daddy" Anderson said as he let us into the Classic Rock studio during his popular morning show Thursday.
Big Daddy was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020. He is also being inducted into the Midwest All Music Association Hall of Fame on Saturday. There are a lot of talented and longtime personalities on the air at Powell Broadcasting, the parent company for Y Country, Classic Rock 99.5 and several other stations, but General Manager Denny Bullock says it best.
"Cowboy Bob is 101.3. Big Daddy is 99.5," Bullock said, "when we can be live and local in the in the community. That's what it's all about this is reflective of that."
"I think that every day that I come to work, I build a new memory and that kind of stuff," Cowboy Bob said, "there's no looking back at some real big monumental deal. It's just every day, you get to meet the people."
For Cowboy Bob, it's about the people he has met throughout his time on the air waves.
"They'll come out to see us at a remote. No say, Oh, it was really neat to put a face to the voice. And I'll say Well, it's nice to meet you," he said. "I do really like meeting the people around what we call Y Country, the Siouxland area. So just every day is kind of a great memory."
The Midwest All Music Association Hall of Fame induction will take place Saturday night at the Avalon Ballroom in Remsen, Iowa. Tickets are $20 at the door with proceeds staying here in Siouxland to help grow local music education.
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OKOBOJI, Iowa — Miles of beaches, crystal clear waters and dozens of local restaurants are just a few of the draws that bring thousands to the Iowa Great Lakes every summer.
"I always say if you haven't been here for 10 years, you really haven't been here," said Paul Plumb, "The park has had so many things happen in the last five years." Arnolds Park Amusement Park sits along the waterfront of West Lake Okoboji. Its historic wooden rollercoaster is an iconic lakefront feature, much like the cabins of Fillenwarth Beach.
"We have 96 different units here at Fillenwarth Beach. Most of them are right on the waterfront," said Director of Operations at the resort, Rachel Fandel.
Like the rest of the world, the Iowa Great Lakes Region was also impacted by COVID-19, and now with inflation and workforce challenges, this summer could throw another curveball.
"Workforce has always been a challenge for us in the Iowa Great Lakes Area just because we do have so many seasonal businesses," said Okoboji Tourism Director Rebecca Peters, "because of that, we have we've been able to kind of face this issue head on for so many years."
The summer season in Okoboji isn't just for Iowans and those who live in the Iowa Great Lakes. The region brings in students from across the world to get a taste of Iowa culture and experience a summer of fun they will never forget.
"We also are really fortunate to have a number of J1 Visa students join us in the Iowa Great Lakes Area to experience what this area is like and what the United States is like," said Peters.
A number of the students spend their summers with Arnolds Park. "I noticed because we use a visa program, a couple of different visa programs where we bring not only students but other HTB visas in from overseas and from other countries," said Plumb, marketing director for the park, "we have used that program extensively this year. Knowing that the job market is really tough right now. It's hard to find employees."
These students not only come to work, but experience summers in Iowa, bringing a little bit of their own culture and traditions along, too.
"We were blessed with their culture just as much as they were with ours," Plumb said, "being exposed to all the different cultures that we are because of that program has really helped us grow."
These businesses also work with area schools to bolster the workforce. And locals who live here year-round are dedicated to seeing the region thrive.
Fandel, who has been with Fillenwarth Beach since she was a teen, has seen the dedication firsthand. "You know the improvements that are continually made, the people that sink in hours and finances into this area is just really incredible."
"We are so fortunate for the investment that's been made in this community really over the last 5-10 years and more," said Peters. "This community is constantly looking for ways to improve but also to embrace the history that we have." Fillenwarth Beach has been part of the community for over 100 years, with cabins, cottages, and activities for people of all ages during the summer season.
"We have a very extensive recreation program where we have arts and crafts, we have chocolate tasting, beer tasting, wine tasting, there's always something fun to do for our guests," Fandel said.
And much like Fillenwarth Beach, Arnolds Park has been a stop for many families for generations.
"People come here for many years," Plumb said. "As you know, it's a generational place but not only parents bringing their kids but grandparents and great-grandparents are coming here and enjoying the same things that they enjoyed when they were kids and like you said just family memories that will last a lifetime."
The park is constantly making improvements, while also holding true to its historic roots.
"We tried to create that retro look to the park and just a place for people to bring their families and make memories that are going to last a lifetime," Plumb said as we walked up to The Legend rollercoaster. It's one of the oldest wooden coasters in the United States.
"Our goal is just to see people smile," said Peters as we stood in one of the many museums, this one housing some iconic pieces from Arnolds Park's early days. "This is such a family friendly destination and it has been for generations and so like I said, our goal is to see people having a great time making memories and smiling and enjoying everything that area has to offer." From Arnolds Park, to Fillenwarth Beach and everything in between, the Iowa Great Lakes community takes all challenges head-on to provide the best possible experience to anyone who stops by.
"2020 presented a huge challenge for a lot of us. And we were able to kind of reimagine the way that we do business in this area and it really allowed people the opportunity to still get out and still enjoy the Iowa Great Lakes even through the pandemic," Fandel said, "I'm just really proud of this community and their ability to adapt to those changes. And it's just been really wonderful working with business partners outside of the resort, and I'm really appreciative to all of those people."
Arnolds Park opened for the season on May 21st. The park is open to the public for free with ride tickets sold separately.
Fillenwarth Beach is quickly filling up reservations for the season, you can find more about their cabin rentals here.
The Arnolds Park Area is also home to the Iowa Rock and Roll Museum, the historic Roof Garden, and a new outdoor music venue that will be open this summer for free concerts and events.
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Serving Siouxland: Center For Siouxland empowers financial freedom for Siouxlanders
The Center For Siouxland is a home for many Siouxlanders, providing financial help and literacy to people from all walks of life.
"So our mission is to help people empowering lives and building futures through providing self-sufficiency," said Executive Director, Jonette Spurlock. "Helping people provide financial stability, and that doesn't always mean giving them cash to help them that means giving them the tools to do it themselves, being a resource being here if they have questions."
Spurlock says they help people from all across Siouxland, and often, see them come back to utilize various services, or just to say hello. "We'd like to develop relationships with our clients, we don't want to be a one and done."
One of the biggest programs the Center For Siouxland is known for is the VITA program, or the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which has been around in some form for about 40 years.
"The tax program really saves those households, anywhere between $250 and $400, per year," said Susan McGuire. "So that's money that they get to keep in their pockets."
VITA is completely volunteer-run and the need for the service has grown exponentially. McGuire, who helps oversee the program, said they helped more than 2,000 Siouxlanders last tax season.
"And there is so much more need," McGuire said, "I mean if we could get more volunteers and have, you know, more offices more times available. There are so many more families who could benefit from the service."
Alongside tax services, the Center For Siouxland also helps rebuild or rework finances for those who need a hand, from credit to mortgages and everything in between.
"Finances are a private thing, typically," said Lori Scott, who manages the financial arm of Center For Siouxland.
"People aren't typically just going out and telling all their friends, 'I'm struggling with making my payments'."Everything we do here is confidential," Scott said, "but our goal is just to let people know that we're here to help them and that they don't have to be alone."
She says the first and most important step for anyone in a financial struggle is asking for help.
"Typically, the most difficult part of this process is making the phone call originally, and then once the phone call is made, we get the ball rolling and help get them in as soon as possible," Scott said, "so that we can try to work with them and find a solution to their, their particular situation."
The Center for Siouxland also provides transitional housing with Bridges West, which celebrated 20 years in operation this year.
"We have 22 units of transitional housing for homeless families and individuals, and they can stay in our program for up to two years," McGuire said about Bridges West. "Our goal is to have them move through our program and exit to their own permanent housing within a year."
McGuire says while some at Bridges West are homeless, they come from different backgrounds and struggles. Some fleeing domestic violence or abuse, others have been evicted from their homes, or have just fallen on hard times. Each of them has a goal and a plan to get back on their feet.
"While they're in our program, folks work with our case managers to develop goals to help them with income, employment, education," she explained.
At Center For Siouxland, their mission is to help people navigate the crazy and ever-changing world we live in. Because helping one person, can change the entire course of their life.
To learn more about Center For Siouxland and its programs, visit their website here.
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Serving Siouxland: Boys and Girls Clubs teach kids to be the best they can be
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Siouxland have been a staple in the community for decades, helping Siouxland youth from all walks of life be the best humans they can be.
"You've actually been here for 53 years now in Siouxland and we have tremendous support within our community," said Kalynn Sortino.
"We're an after-school program," Jen Williams, "and so our mission is to have productive caring, responsible citizens."
Jen Williams is the Director of Operations at the Clubs and has spent many years within the national organization.
"We're not just you know, babysitting," Williams said. "We're an after-school program. We teach the kids different things that they might not get at school, and different life skills and social skills here at the club."
She's seen firsthand the positive impact a non-profit like the Boys and Girls Clubs of Siouxland can have on local kids.
"Some of the kids, when I first started, are graduating high school, going to college. Some of them are currently working for the club, so I get to see how they've gone through school, starting college their first jobs, maybe their first jobs here and they want to give back to the community," Williams said. "So that's just the thing that sticks out the most is just making the relationships with the kids."
The Boys and Girls Clubs of Siouxland offers something for everyone. From homework help to sports, reading and theater, there are activities that every kid can enjoy while building relationships that can last a lifetime.
"I think the biggest thing though is just for them to have a safe place to go after school, where they can truly be a kid." And it isn't just that, the team at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Siouxland are there for whatever the kids need, even if that's just lending an ear.
"If they're having something that they're dealing with at home or personally, and that they want to try to overcome, all of our staff is willing to listen and that is, I think, the best thing that we can provide for any child," said Sortino, the Resource Development Director at the Clubs.
Sortino says that while there is a fee to join, the Club makes sure their services, including after-school transportation, are available to anyone.
"We always have openings for families," Sortino said. "It is $10 to attend our club for the school year. So it's financially possible for any family to participate."
The staff and volunteers at the Club have created a nurturing environment where kids can be kids, each and every day.
To learn more about the Boys and Girls Clubs of Siouxland, visit their website here.
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Serving Siouxland: Mary J. Treglia Community House helps immigrants create a new home
"I came out of my office just for a break, and I walked out and there were five different conversations happening in this room, in five different languages. And that to me is incredible."
Becky Carlson is the Executive Director of the Mary J. Treglia Community House and her office sits right off of the lobby of the Jennings Street building.
"It's a community house," she said, describing the place the community house has called home for decades. "It's like the place you go when you need something, but also to socialize and to get integrated into your community."
The Mary J. Treglia Community House celebrated 100 years this year, a century of service helping generations of new Americans create a home in Siouxland.
"Sioux City is kind of a small town when you think about it," Carlson said, "like Chicago and different places like that, but we are a big community because we have so many different cultures here." Sioux City is one of the most diverse communities in Iowa and a big reason why is because of the community house. One of their biggest services is English classes, teaching non-native speakers the basics of the language.
"Some of them are non-speaking English at all, zero," said Halima Osman, the ESL instructor at the Community House. "Some can't even say hi."
She teaches basic English, two levels of courses, to Siouxlanders to help them navigate this new city and for many, this new country.
"I focus more on level one where "Hi my name is so and so", "I am from", just the very basics of what your name is, how old are you, what is your birthday."
Osman is also learning right along with her students, too. She says they teach her something new in each class.
The Community House continues to spread the message of the woman who shares their name, Mary J. Treglia dedicated her life to serving Siouxland's immigrant population.
"I mean, I can't imagine going to a foreign place and not really having somebody to go to for any needs that you have," said Mercedes Dimas, "and for them to come back and say hey, like, I know that you'll help me, that's just a great feeling.
The community house helps many in the Spanish-speaking community and that's where Dimas comes in as the Family Services Coordinator. She also helps refugees who now call Siouxland home.
Our primary goal and like what we focus on is really just empowering people that are coming in and hopefully," Dimas said, "with that empowerment, we're encouraging even more people to come into our communities." Andrea Paret has two main roles within the Community House. She's their accredited representative for the Department of Justice and works with those seeking American citizenship.
"The immigration system right now is very, very complicated and chaotic, and we have to explain to a lot of our clients now the wait times are very, very long, especially with COVID," Paret said. "But it is expensive and you have to bring a lot of documents and make sure you have everything correct and from now your whole immigration history. So they really look very, very strict into everything, if you're really eligible."
"They want to make sure you are entitled to citizenship, with all the responsibilities and advantages that come with it." She helps Siouxlanders through the process of becoming American citizens.
"There are a lot of requirements, and one of them is that you need to speak and write and understand English," Paret said, "So we also do offer English classes. But we're excited to help and encourage people who are eligible to apply for naturalization."
Along with citizenship services, Paret also teaches preschool at the Community House, which offers a DHS-licensed school to Siouxland kids.
"Currently we have children in our preschool from several different countries including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Marshall Islands, Mexico, El Salvador and the United States," Paret said, speaking of her class. "70% of communication is by body language and virtual and that was that preschool if you use a lot of visuals no pictures about everything you have like the daily routine and you have pictures, everybody's going on the circle or a book that's being read or, so that helps a lot."
In a preschool class with so much diversity, the students are immersed in a world different from their own, learning every day that their friends come from all over the world.
"And I think it helps children just from a young age to just to learn that it's okay if we come from different places if we wear different clothing. If we have different customs and it's just a given and fun to learn about each other," Paret said.
The Mary J. Treglia Community House offers so much to so many, with programming as diverse as the community they serve.
"Like this community, this entire country is really just made up of so many immigrants and it's so fascinating that we have all these cultures, right, like available for us to learn from," Dimas said.
"It's easy to forget that if you stay in your little bubbles," Carlson reflected back on all of the people she's met during her time at the Community House. "But if you open up and are able to like, get to know other people or the community you'll see there are some really amazing things that are happening from all different cultures."
If you'd like to learn about the services offered at the Mary J. Treglia Community House, visit their website marytreglia.org.
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Serving Siouxland: Girls Inc. shows girls that perfection is just being who you truly are
For young girls, the pressure to be perfect can be overwhelming, but there is one place in Siouxland girls can go where they can be themselves without those impossible standards.
"We know for example that girls are really impacted by perfectionism that they put on themselves or that maybe is from the outside, the influence of peers, and that is a big pressure in their lives. And then people-pleasing so all of those add up to really impossible standards to meet and can impact self-esteem."
Mandy Engel-Cartie is the Executive Director at Girls Inc., a local organization that has taught girls that being perfect is just being true to who you are.
"We want them to know it's okay to put a little bit of pressure on yourself to succeed to try harder to achieve, but that doesn't have to be the end of the story," Engel-Cartie said.
Girls Inc. has been a part of Siouxland for 35 years, helping hundreds of young girls find their true potential throughout the last three decades.
"That's kind of my role around here is to make sure that the girls' environment is positive, is always responding to whatever their needs may be, both within the organization, and outside in the world that they face, and also to make sure that we give them any kind of hand up that they might need," Engle-Cartie said as we sat in their science lab.
Girls Inc. is more than just an after-school or summer program. They give young girls the space and freedom to discover who they are in the presence of their friends, and mentors who help them along the way.
"I love Girls Inc. because they're able to assist kids not only with school and personal matters but pretty much in every aspect and however they need help, we're able to service them," said Program Director Olivia Ray.
Inside Girls Inc., girls are able to learn about things they otherwise wouldn't in school, like how taxes work and what to expect from their first job.
"This financial literacy course teaches kids about taxes, why we have to pay taxes and what that tax money is used for," said Ray. "They also learn how to fill out a W-4 form, and how to read their pay stub."
They also have a computer lab and a science lab, where the girls have a chance to create, make mistakes and learn along the way.
Engel-Cartie says science is a perfect example of how being perfect, isn't always the way to go. "We know science is not about perfection."
"Science is about experimenting and getting things wrong and then thinking how can I do that again and get it right, so you're focused more on what's going to happen and what you want to happen, and less on your failures." The staff at Girls Inc. lead by example, stepping out of their own comfort zones to show the girls that making mistakes and looking silly is not a bad thing.
"A big part of our mission here is saying to girls, we don't care if we look silly doing this for the first time or the 50th time," Engel-Cartie said. "The point is we're all in this together. We're all supporting each other and we don't want you to give up.
And many staff, like Ray, continue this work outside the walls of Girls Inc. Ray also works in the juvenile detention center, teaching critical skills needed in the outside world and an opportunity to learn from past mistakes.
"It gives them a chance to reflect on the decisions they made and also gives them time to move forward and make better decisions in the future." Ray teaches fitness at the detention center, and also a financial literacy class.
Back at Girls Inc., it's all about creating an environment where these young women can feel safe and empowered away from the pressures of social media.
"Body Dysmorphia is a huge problem with girls," Engel-Cartie said. "They're self-conscious very often about how they look because of the messages that they've received in their lives and we really want you to know that being a girl means that you have wonderful strengths, and you have an amazing future, and we want to be here to help you go the direction that you want to go."
More than three decades after the first girls walked through their doors, Girls Inc. continues to be a place where they can thrive.
"We want to learn to know that after 35 years, we believe in girls. We're the expert in girls, and we want your girls to come here, learn about themselves and be part of the supportive environment," Engel-Cartie said.
If you want to learn more about Girls Inc. or enroll your child visit their website at girlsincofsiouxcity.org.
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Serving Siouxland: Bigs & Littles come together at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland
Having a big brother or big sister is something many kids dream of. One Siouxland organization is helping them have that experience thanks to some generous volunteers.
"I hope to get close to him, you know, see him grown up and see what he becomes and just be there for him and know that he can count on me for anything they can needs."
Jesus Jimenez is a big brother to Tristan, but not in the way you may think. They are part of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland, an organization paring adults, or bigs, with local kids, or littles. It's a mentoring program that's created everlasting bonds.
"So it's been great just hearing all the success that our matches have had." Kristen Langel is the Program Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters and was a Big Sister herself. She knows firsthand how this program can change the lives of those involved.
"It's just having that extra person that a child can reach out to, can talk to," Langel said. "You know kind of share things that they don't have that quote-unquote big brother or big sister at home who they can share problems that they're dealing with friendships or school or their siblings bugging them, just kind of thing and get that one-on-one quality time with somebody else."
Matches are made based on interests, preferences, and commonalities.
"We make sure we find a big, who you know is interested in the same activities as a child, maybe has those same experiences, and we match them that way," Langel said.
Bigs are required to set up at least two outings a month with their littles, but many go above and beyond that. And those meetings can be anything from a movie day to a trip to the ballpark.
Jesus has a fun way to create memories with Tristan. "I met with Tristan and his grandma and we kind of thought of ideas to do, and I jotted them down on popsicle sticks and every week that I go visit him, he draws one out and see what we're doing."
Jesus and Tristan are a great pair and were heading to a picnic after our interview. Kristen says they are always looking for bigs and little with many on both sides waiting for that perfect match.
"I think it's just those connections, and especially in the last 18 months between children being out of school and virtual learning at home and through the pandemic, just the importance of having that person," Langel said.
If you'd like to volunteer to be a Big, or if you have a child who could benefit from being a little to someone in Siouxland, you can contact Big Brothers Big Sisters of Siouxland.
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Web articles from my time at Siouxland News.