Students Share Summer Stories

Whether they were performing community service work abroad, doing an internship at one of the top medical facilities in the U.S. or learning how to fight wildland fires, University of Northern Colorado students had a variety of rewarding experiences over the summer.

On-the-Job Training
In addition to helping fight one small forest fire, UNC junior Chris Clawson spent most of the summer helping mitigate the potential effects of wildland fires on federal land in northwestern Colorado.

Clawson was part of an Americorps-sponsored training program for military veterans coordinated by the Northwest Colorado Fire Management Unit, a consortium of county and federal agencies based in Craig.

He and seven other veterans camped where they learned and worked - in the middle of BLM lands - spending four 10-hour days each week clearing trees and brush to widen fire roads or create defensible spaces between BLM and private land. Part of their training included helping fight a one-acre fire that broke out near Craig.

"It was a pretty great way to spend the summer," said Clawson, a Sport and Exercise Science major who served two tours of duty in Iraq with the Marines.

At the Mayo Clinic
Nursing major Ashley Larson figured the best way to build on what she's learning in a nursing program with a reputation for excellence would be to try for a summer nursing internship with an even better reputation -- one offered for college juniors by the world-famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Although Larson thought "there was no way I would ever be selected for the program," she was one of 100 applicants from across the U.S. chosen for the highly competitive, 10-week paid internship.

Larson benefited from mentoring by an experienced registered nurse on the clinic's medical oncology floor, where she observed the teamwork, communication and commitment to quality healthcare that's earned the facility an international reputation for excellence.

Larson said she'll never forget her summer in Minnesota.

"I was given responsibility and was able to take the lead with my clinical coach to better a patient's healthcare experience and life," she said. "The opportunities for developing my critical thinking and prioritization skills, the relationships and the memories will never diminish and will help me develop as a nurse and person."

Making Belize Better
Friends Clayton Garner and Cara Givan helped build a new high school during a weeklong trip to Belmopan, Cayo in Belize this summer.

Garner, a Criminal Justice major and Givan, a Music Education major, were part of a group from the First United Methodist Church in Greeley who painted, laid tile, poured concrete, plumbed a bathroom and dug a drainage ditch for a high school scheduled to open this fall.

Although the pair, who are juniors, worked six of the seven days they were in Belize, the found time to visit a local wildlife sanctuary, swim in a jungle river and tour some Mayan ruins with a local youth who befriended them.

"It was a great experience for all of us who were able to go," Garner said.

Storytelling on Stage
Musical Theatre major Jeremiah Light stayed more than a little busy this summer performing in five plays at the Hangar Theatre in Ithaca, New York.

Light, a senior at UNC, said his greatest challenge of the summer came when he needed to memorize both the lines and choreography for 17 characters in the play Gypsy. He needed to be able to perform as any of the characters at a moment's notice, which required him to use his versatility as an actor.

Light said the experience taught him about the importance of storytelling within performing.

"It's important that other performers don't lose sight of that, that they can change people's lives through the stories they tell," Light said.

Making a Transition
Freshman Matt H. Anderson's father took him on a journey up and down the East Coast this summer as a high school graduation present. Here's a synopsis of the trip in Matt's own words.

We watched the Red Socks beat the Yankees from our tiny seats at Fenway Park, so close to the action that we could see the white of the pitcher's eyes.

We ate freshly made bruschetta in the Green Dragon Tavern, a popular watering hole for small names of the past like Paul Revere and John Hancock. Older than the United States itself with just as much history packed into its tiny walls, the contrast of the cool and calming tavern with the pulsing heat and humidity of the world outside is something I'll never forget.

We played football in the ocean of York Beach in Maine with the hot sun booming down on us.

We watched the Blue Man Group play with their silly instruments in Manhattan, where I was chosen to go on stage for one of their acts.

I fulfilled a dream of mine and played chess in the rain with the chess hustlers of Union Square. I was enlightened by a chess master there and felt like the Karate Kid trying to properly wax a car. Using his knowledge of language to form an analogy about proper chess, he said to me with a faint accent of his Asian homeland, "Many people can speak English. It is easy. But can you write it?" Well, he was a great writer and stomped me in less than 20 moves.

The last chapter in my book as a child was a wonderful one to say the least. From this experience, my heart has grown with an appreciation for my dad and all the beautiful things of this world.

Basketball in Estonia
Todd Unruh, a senior guard on UNC's basketball team, traveled to Tallinn, Estonia, in July to play in the Four Nations Cup as a member of the East Coast All-Stars, comprised of some of the top college players in the U.S.

In addition to playing with the likes of Russ Smith from national champs Louisville and competing against the national teams from Estonia, Belarus and Slovakia, Unruh enjoyed staying in a five-star hotel and experiencing the charm of the oldest capital city in northern Europe.

He reflected on what he considers the "trip of a lifetime" in a story on the UNC Athletics website.

- UNC News Service