Once again, we’ve assembled a list of ways you, your friends, and colleagues can celebrate and support the Durango Adult Education Center’s three decades of galvanizing the community through continuous learning opportunities. You’ll see that as we approach the top ten items in our 30-for-30 Challenge, we offer this caution: some of these ideas are downright death-defying!

The Countdown

No. 15 “Way” Your Choices

In 1887 a priest, two ministers, and a Rabbi meet in Denver. This may sound like the opening of a raunchy joke, but actually it is how one of the nation’s largest charity organizations got its start. The religious leaders who convened in Denver saw a need to collectively solve the city’s welfare problems. They envisioned one large association acting as a community chest. Essentially, it could collect and consolidate donations to be dispersed among smaller aid groups, coordinate services, and make emergency assistance grants. That first year, the new organization raised $21,700—a monumental sum at a time when the average daily wage was $2 and some change! From there, the movement spread across the United States and the United Way was born.

In 1974, the United Way raised over $1 billion in their annual campaign, setting an historic record in the U.S. and Canada. Today, Durangoans and their rural neighbors in Cortez can contact their own United Way of Southwest Colorado and receive help finding and affording services like child care, tax assistance, healthcare, education, emergency funding, and more. If you already make a regular contribution to the United Way, you can designate the Durango Adult Education Center as the recipient of that gift.

No. 14 Control the Universe

On August 21st, our little Moon completely eclipsed the massive Sun. It did not matter that the Sun’s diameter is 400 times larger than the Moon’s—magic happens when great things align.

Those in the path of totality saw a night-like shadow spread across the landscape. For a few minutes the opaque turquoise sky opened up to reveal the glittering stars and luminous planets. Onlookers cheered, oohed, and awed. Some even wept because a cosmic event shifted their perspective of the larger world and their special place in it.

We believe when employers provide a job shadow experience for a DAEC student, they create an opportunity very similar to a total eclipse. The student’s insights suddenly dwarf their inexperience. Their entire perspective shifts as they see their chosen career field in a whole new light. Most important of all, they see the path to their future as open and limitless as the sky! Interested employers are encouraged to contact Sierra DiMarco, Career Advisor, at sdimarco@durangoadulted.org and discover what great alignments are possible.

No. 13 Cheat Death

As animals go, people are pretty unique. Not only do we enjoy art, culture, and religion, but also we are have brains that enable us to contemplate our own demise. A gazelle, for instance, only thinks about death when a predator chases it. Humans can (and do) ruminate over their death long before it ever arrives.

For many people, thinking about death stirs up varying levels of terror or anxiety. To ease the angst, people employ a wide range of soothing or distracting behaviors like shopping, pumping iron at the gym, or art, culture, and religion. Psychology researchers catalog these behaviors under the Terror-Management Theory. Another fascinating way people deal with the fear of death is to enrich their community. Naming charities in a will enables us to symbolically live on after death. If you would like to taste immortality and name the DAEC in your will, contact Kelly Quach at 970-385-4354.

No. 12 Use Your Common Cents

What can you buy with three quarters, a dime, and two pennies? Surprisingly, the DAEC uses those coins to support over 200 people annually prepping for a high school equivalent diploma. They receive highly effective, individualized instruction in day and evening courses. They work with qualified instructors and committed volunteers. The funds also support another hundred or so individuals learning English as a second language. All students enjoy a suite of wraparound services ranging from childcare to hot meals—aspects representing some of the biggest barriers for adult learners. Finally, donations cover testing fees, which for the GED and HiSET exams range from $137-$150.

If you are in a position to give back to your local community and want to fortify its very foundation, we encourage you to join the 300 Club. These sustaining supporters give $25 a month (or $0.87 a day) via secure, electronic funds transfers. In other words, this Club exercises some amazing buying power using three quarters, a dime, and two pennies! To join, contact Kelly Quach at 970-385-4354.

No. 11 Drop the Chopsticks

What do you picture when you envision a tutor? For many, a tutor is a highly skilled, private teacher with extensive training and education, like Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid or Sean Connery in Finding Forrester or Merlin in The Sword in the Stone. This perception makes the idea of tutoring extremely intimidating. Luckily, tutoring does not require a toffee-rich Scottish accent, fly-snatching chopstick skills, or any other magical powers. It needs only a dedication to helping another person better understand a small lesson in a big way. For instance, helping an adult learner at the DAEC master a list of tricky spelling words is a small lesson, but once mastered, it enables that person to communicate with the larger world with greater poise, power, and impact.

Tim Miller has been a volunteer tutor with the DAEC long enough to know its ups and downs. “Tutoring ain’t always a walk in the park,” he says. “It’s frustrating when a student cancels at the last minute or when students I know have to suspend pursuit of their GEDs to support his family, or her kids, or….. BUT, when a 25 year-old student writes his first decent paragraph, or when I attend the semi-annual DAEC graduation ceremonies at the library and watch another 12-15 young people receive their GED credential, it fills the heart to bursting.”

So, how about it? Put down your chopsticks and see what it’s really like to change someone’s life for the better.