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R.I.S.E. UP comes to River Falls

April 26, 2007

The Ride to Inspire Student Engagement (R.I.S.E. UP Wisconsin) event came to UW-River Falls Thursday in hopes of increasing youth’s commitment to civic responsibility. This one-time event consisted of workshops geared toward college and high school students, faculty, staff and community members of River Falls.

The big, yellow school bus, filled with service-learning, community resources and 20 AmeriCorps volunteers from across the state visited five Wisconsin cities in total. In addition to River Falls, the R.I.S.E. UP bus drove to Milwaukee, Fox Valley, La Crosse and Wausau.

Each of the stops featured hands-on, service-learning workshops.

Lauren Hauser, an AmeriCorps*VISTA with UW Colleges and UW-Extension in Madison said she visited the UWRF campus April 25 in preparation for the event.

“We’ll be checking out the site, talking with our regional coordinator, Aaron Gilbee, and making sure everything is all set for the visit,” she said.

Hauser is the co-director of R.I.S.E. UP along with Jamie Racine.

“Our R.I.S.E. UP tour originated in the north woods of Wisconsin at an AmeriCorps retreat when my fellow VISTA member thought up an idea to take a bus around the state,” she said. “I jumped on board. How could I not?”

Hauser said at a media workshop roundtable, a small group was brainstorming ideas to help raise awareness of what AmeriCorps does and awareness about the programs and people they work for.

“Me, being the person I am, drawn to the light of a great idea, joined right on board,” she said. “Many of our fellow VISTAs felt slightly skeptical, but Jamie and I wanted it to work.”

After receiving approval from the project director, Hauser and Racine got to work.

“We made partnerships across the state, and R.I.S.E. UP became what it is today,” Hauser said. “It became a pretty awesome idea, but with a focus on some pretty awesome people.”

R.I.S.E. UP’s Web site states its mission is involving youth in improving their educational opportunities and participation in their communities.

Hauser said the event should be of interest to everyone.

“We wanted this bus tour to bring back the visuals we used to see of social change movements,” she said. “In this day and age, we are bombarded with messages and media telling us what to do, what to wear and who to like, but rarely are we bombarded with real issues and real excitement such as student engagement and social change.”

Hauser said though River Falls was the smallest city that R.I.S.E. UP visited, the community has the largest turnout.

“This is incredible and speaks to the state as a whole,” she said. “This will put River Falls up there in the state-wide tour and it will be highlighted at the Wisconsin State Capitol and with our state superintendent.”

Hauser said being an AmeriCorps member is an amazing experience.

“I have been given infinite possibilities and connections,” she said. “I have been able to not only accomplish major goals at my host site, but I have been able to help direct this awesome project.”

Though registration was necessary to participate in the event, the visit was free of cost.

Hauser said the training spots were full, but other activities were open to all of River Falls for about an hour.

The event was sponsored by the UW-Extension, Wisconsin Campus Compact, Department of Public Instruction, Serve Wisconsin and State Farm. For more information on a next possible visit, the Web site http://riseupwisc.org/ is available.

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