I'm interning at The Herald for the next six months in the quaint little town of Jasper, IN. Tucked between forests and farmlands, life moves a little more slowly which gives me time to enjoy the subtle moments. I'm excited to see what opportunities unfold as I learn more about the community here.
My time in Flint has come to an end. Flint found its way into my heart through the warm laughs, shy smiles and strong voices that I encountered there. Every day I witnessed the resilience of this community and the love of its people. They found ways to encourage one another in the midst of difficulty and they welcomed me to be a small part by sharing their stories. It was hard to leave that vibrant community, but Flint will always be close to my heart.
A quick recap of some personal highlights from the last six months in Flint include:
- QUESTIONS -
- The Torch - Lofting - Late night trips to Meijer - Later night trips to Starlight - Flint City Council meetings - Taco Tuesdays - "Crappy" assignments - Refining my suppressed N64 Mario Kart skills - Krystal Jo's (best diner in town) - The weather ball - "Rachel's Revenge" (a.k.a. team Sharky's trivia domination) - CRIM runs - Editing at Wildroot - Post-edit water bottle basketball - Bat trapping -
April 20 became one of my happiest moments this year as I discovered I was going to be a Flintern.
In the joy I felt then, I could have never anticipated the respect and appreciation that I would developed for this community of Flint, Michigan.
After being here for almost a month, I have observed their love and strength. There are so many bold, vibrant individuals who are working to bring their community together.
These people have suffered more than most, but amidst their hurt, they continue to take a stand for their dreams.
Every day, this place and the people here challenge me and teach me new things. They are my inspiration, and I'm excited to see what I'll learn from them in these upcoming months.
"They came in and they checked everything and I thought the guy said everything was all right," Harris said. "Next thing I know, these people are coming in and telling me they were going to replace my pipes. I [still] have to stop and think, can I use the water for this? Can I use the water for that? I still take my showers, I guess it's safe, and I still wash my dishes, but I'm afraid as far as food is concerned - cooking and preparing food with that water - I still can't use it. They told me to wait until they notified me. I just wonder what was the point of replacing it if I still can't use [the water]...I'm still getting the water tested." City Spokeswoman Kristin Moore said the service line was replaced at the request of Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech, who is working with the city.
Taryn Shappell, a San Franciscan mother of three, helps her oldest son, Benton, 3, put on his shirt to get ready for preschool while her 21-month-old twins, Ezra and Eve, play on the iPad. San Francisco has one of the lowest child per capita percentages of any major city in the United States. Less than 14 percent of the city’s population is under the age of 18. The real estate prices continue to rise as new tech businesses move into the area, which puts pressure on families to move away from the city because of the high costs for limited space. The “middle class” San Franciscan family has become a scarcity.
“It feels like there’s a divide of people who come in for the short term to make money, but they never plan to stay,” said Taryn Shappell, a San Francisco resident. “And then there’s folks like us, who hope to be here for the long haul.” Shappell and her husband, Jarrod Shappell, moved to the Bay area in 2009 for their work. Four years ago, the couple settled into their current two bedroom apartment in San Francisco after finding out they were expecting their first child. About two years later, the couple found out they were having twins. “Figuring out how to raise a family, especially with more than one kid, it’s like a secret club,” Shappell said. Shappell said that it’s fairly easy to find a family with one child, two is rare, but having three children is practically unheard of in the city.
Shappell carries her twin 21-month olds, Eve and Ezra, down the stairs of their home in San Francisco to take her oldest son, Benton to preschool. “I love San Francisco,” Shappell said. “I can’t imagine moving.”Shappell said that the only reason she and her husband would consider moving their family were for their children’s education. The public schools work from a lottery system while the private schools are incredibly expensive. “It could cost us nearly $60,000 to send our kids to a private school for kindergarten,” Shappell said. “That’s more than what it cost for me to get my master’s degree.”
“One of the biggest challenges is that there aren’t many families here, [so] there’s not a lot of empathy for what it’s like to go to the grocery story with three kids and there’s not ramp places for strollers, there’s not doorways that are wide enough for strollers, there’s not grocery carts with more than one seat in it for a kid…and there’s rude looks from strangers like if my kids get to close to them on a bike or something,” Shappell said. “People don’t get it.”
Taryn encourages Ezra to grab a bell during music class with the other children while Eve lies on her lap. “For my kids…they are going to lean more about conflict resolution, and setting boundaries, and privacy, and living in a community, and what they do is important and matters, and they have a contribution to make,” Shappell said. “They’re going to learn that way more in our house and this town than they would living in a giant room with a walk in closet all to themselves. They wouldn’t learn those lessons the same way.”
Every Wednesday, Taryn meets up with other moms in the city for a play date. “It was a little slow going at first,” Shappell said about finding her network of friends. “I didn’t know this at the time, but there are really two San Francisco’s; there’s the tourist San Francisco and there’s the local’s San Francisco. People that live here don’t hangout at the places the tourist’s go…so once I figured that out and realized I was in the wrong places to make friends…that helped.”
Taryn plays with the twins, Eve and Ezra, on a playground in the city. “San Francisco’s is a big city, but…everyday I run into people I know,” Shappell said. “It’s a really fun way to live, and it feels very safe and very small.”
Taryn's husband, Jarrod Shappell, FaceTimes his family while he is working in L.A. for business.
Taryn asks her oldest son, Benton, and daughter, Eve, if they want to come outside to help her water the plants and pick blueberries from their little garden on the back deck.
Eve dumps "mud potion" on her twin brother, Ezra, while playing on the back deck of their home in the city.
Barb Feiereise, Taryn's mother-in-law, plays with Benton while she babysits, so that Taryn could meet up with friends that evening. Feiereise took a job in San Francisco shortly after the couple moved out there. Taryn said she feels incredibly fortunate to have them so close and to help with the kids. "They have been such a blessing to us," Shappell said. "The cost to hire a babysitter is outrageously expensive."
Taryn gives Eve a kiss as she wakes up from her nap. “The high schoolers that I’ve met and have lived here their whole lives, they’re the first ones to say I will never touch a drug because I see what drugs do to people, and I’ve seen that my whole life. Maybe it’s a loss of innocence, but I also think, for me the trade-off is a positive one for a more sophisticated view of the world and how to live in the world,” Shappell said. “It’s different, but I think it’s a good different.”
The Art Therapy Institute of North Carolina started its first refugee art groups seven years ago, which was shortly after Dacy Poe and her family moved to North Carolina. Dacy is a seventh grade Burmese refugee and was one of the first students to be apart of these refugee art therapy classes. She has used the art therapy program as a way to express her feelings and cope with her transition to the U.S.
With the help of her art therapist, Hillary Rubesin, Dacy put on her first solo art show for friends, teachers and family members to enjoy and to better understand the meaning of her artwork.
Having two children with Down Syndrome, Amy Wright was inspired to open Beau's Coffee in Wilmington, N.C., as a way to create jobs for people with Intellectual and Development Disabilities (IDD). Only about 30 percent of adults with IDD are employed. Wright wanted to create an opportunity for these individuals to contribute to the community, and to show their value and potential.
“The takeaway…is maybe we’ve changed one heart or one mind," Wright said. "We’ve given somebody some new perspective, and...maybe they’re going to go back and try to figure out a way that they can integrate someone with a disability into the workforce.”