Eat, Brain, Nog (Pt 5 in the 30-for-30 Challenge)

Here it is, at last! The top ten fun, exciting, mysterious ways you can support the Durango Adult Education Center as we celebrate our 30th year of excellence in education and community transformation.  The remaining five is printed in our fall newsletter located on our webpage.  Please contact us at info@durangoadulted.org if you want to receive a hard copy of our newsletters.

Top ten lists are really the tops, aren’t they? Vacation destinations, best-selling books and movies, MTV music videos, even amateur bakers on the Great British Baking Show strive to hit those coveted rungs on the ranking scale.

These challenges are sure to be our most “deca”dent to date! Try one or brave them all and you’ll either get to drink in the holidays or go to jail…

Ready? Let’s go!

The Countdown…

No. 10 Change Your Brain

Strolling along the river trail or seated at your favorite local restaurant or brew pub, you and your dearest friend strike up a riveting conversation. Topics fractal in odd directions, bouncing between tangents. Insights arise. Ideas spark. Laughter, sympathy, echoes of, “Me too!” all collude to melt away hours that feel like mere minutes.

Nothing beats a great conversation! These special interactions, whether with a loved one or a total stranger, can make us feel so in sync and in tune with another being. Amazingly, neuroscientists have discovered the synchronization is more than just a feeling.

Our brain waves actually sync up with our conversation partners. Think of the constant electrical signals rattling through your brain like music. Let’s say your brain is playing Bach while your friend’s brain is playing Aerosmith. Your friend starts to chat and pretty soon, your brain is playing the exact same Aerosmith frequency! Researchers believe this phenomenon accounts for why we tend to walk in step, mimic gestures, or adopt the speech patterns of the people we talk to intently.

Volunteering as a Spanish Conversation Partner at the DAEC is not only a way to experience this remarkable brain activity, but also it allows you to practice your Spanish with one of our students, who will then practice English with you.

Kathleen Pierson began volunteering last Fall. “I was taking a beginning Spanish Conversation class at the Adult Education Center and it was there that I was offered the opportunity to practice English and Spanish with Eveling.”

Over time, Kathleen’s weekly practice sessions developed a solid friendship.

“I got to meet Eveling family on FaceTime. I got a tour of their home and small store. I thought that I would love to meet them in person someday.”

To learn more about our conversation classes or to volunteer as a conversation partner, contact Libby Baumchen at lbaumchen@durangoadulted.org.

 No. 9 Sip Some Eggnog

Ahh, eggnog, that old holiday classic. That style of thick, creamy, boozy drinks dates back at least to the medieval “posset.” How our modern version of the liquid custard came to be called “eggnog” is not at all clear to etymologists. At one time, nog referred to a strong beer whereas a noggin was a small cup.

We’re happy to report that if you choose to donate stock to the DAEC, you can actually relax and enjoy a noggin of eggnog while Congress gears up for a potentially combative tax plan show down. Donating stock is a pretty painless process and generally requires a  phone call and some paperwork.

Best of all, there are significant income tax savings linked to donating stock instead of cash. Specifically, if you have owned stock for over a year which has gained in value, you can take a charitable deduction for the stock’s fair market value (effective the day you give). By contrast, opting to sell the stock and donate the cash proceeds would incur the capital-gains taxes. Depending on your income bracket and the value of the stock, the donation can generate an additional $1,500-$3,000 in savings on top of the charitable deduction.

Ultimately, the less your gift is taxed, the more your chosen charity will have available, enabling significant change and greater impact. The mission of the DAEC results in powerful changes throughout our community and the surrounding region. Studies show increased education leads to increased earnings, which in turn, fortifies the tax base. In simplest terms, that means our tax burdens decrease.  Donation of stocks to the DAEC can easily be facilitated by The Community Foundation serving Southwest Colorado.  For more information, contact Kelly Quach at kquach@durangoadulted.org.

 No. 8 Go to Jail

In Margaret Atwood’s novel Hag-Seed, a once renowned Shakespearean actor and director loses all his prestige and goes to work teaching remedial theater at a small, minimum security prison in Canada. His students are gruff and skeptical, but they adopt the classroom rule of no cursing, lest it be in Shakespeare’s slang. As a result, many things are scurvy and plagued!

When Jenny Mason, DAEC’s Test Proctor and Copywriter, was asked to begin administering tests at the La Plata County Jail, she was not sure what to expect: the unusual Hag-Seed setting or something darker, à la Silence of the Lambs.

“Except for taking a tour of the old Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland, I had never been in a jail,” Jenny reports. But she knew that the students working towards their GED were taking huge steps to set their futures on a better track. So she signed on.

According to educateandelevate.org, inmate participation in adult education reduces recidivism by 29%. Decreases in recidivism make communities safer.

In the end, what Jenny encountered while proctoring tests was neither from fiction nor Hollywood, but a simple reality: the students were hardworking individuals focused on better outcomes for themselves.

You can support our Center, improve a person’s future, and make your community safer by volunteering to tutor GED students at the La Plata County Jail. To get started, contact Jill Colburn-Bernard, GED Volunteer Coordinator at 970.385.4354.

 No. 7 Take More Breaks

Did you know most Americans struggle to ask for time off or breaks at work? This hesitancy holds true even inside companies that offer generous well-being benefit packages. Some are reluctant to face all the stress of catching up after an absence. Others fear the time off or breaks reflect negatively on their work performance or dedication to the company. To be sure, these fears are not completely unfounded—some companies do pass over or lay off workers who take time away.

Of course we hope everyone in our community enjoys a healthy work-life balance. But if you have a hard time asking for time off, perhaps all you need is practice. Maybe start with a way easier question and ask your employer to sponsor a DAEC event, like Spellebration or graduation. To learn more, contact Kelly Quach at kquach@durangoadulted.org.

 No. 6 Get a Free Lunch

Here’s an interesting experiment. The next time you are idling in line at the grocery store, tally the people in front of and behind you and those waiting in neighboring lines. Every time you reach the number six, stop and consider: one of the six you counted is likely facing food insecurity home.

Some estimates indicate as many as 49 million Americans face hunger every day. According to Kathy Tonnessen, Executive Director of the Manna Soup Kitchen, hunger preys heavily on La Plata County, the 11th most impoverished county in the state of Colorado. Between 2007 and 2014, the number of families and individuals seeking food stamps doubled to 43,000.

Armed with this knowledge, the DAEC regularly provides hot meals for all its students. We understand that great learning and real progress rarely coincide with an empty stomach. To that end, we partnered with Manna, which prepares fresh, nutritious lunches for our students every day.

If you would like to bite back at the local hunger crisis, volunteer to pick up the DAEC’s Manna lunches and deliver them to our Center. Simply contact Chloe Boehke, Student Services Specialist at 970.385.4354.