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Unity in the Community brings students together

April 23, 2010

UW-River Falls held the 17th annual Unity in the Community event, a campus and city-wide celebration of diversity and inclusivity, on April 15.

It started with monks creating a mandala sand painting and ended with a drag show. This year there were some new events, which included the clothing and shoe drive, Courage Center and Minnesota Northstars Quad Rugby Demonstration and a Community Art Project, along with some returners like the Asian American Student Association egg roll sale, stage performances, and the UWRF Gay Straight Alliance bi-annual drag show.

The events officially began with the opening ceremony for the mandala sand painting at noon on April 12. The mandala sand painting was created by the Buddhist monks of Drepung Loseling. Student Senate passed a resolution to provide funding in conjunction with Falcon Programs to bring the monks to create the mandala sand painting, which focused on conflict resolution and peace.

The central day of unity kicked off with Bike to Uganda starting at 8a.m. Bike to Uganda allows UWRF and the River Falls community to attempt to “bike” the 7,873 miles from River Falls to Kampala, Uganda for the second time. This year more than 75 people biked on stationary bikes and nearly $1,400 was raised, which put the total earnings for Bike to Uganda over the two years it has been held to over $15,000.

There was a group of students already working with the nation-wide non-profit Building Tomorrow and Bike to Uganda was a new event started last year to raise money for the academies being building around the community of Kampala, Uganda , according to the Event Coordinator Ali Funk.

“Holding events on campus like this makes giving back easy and convenient for students,” Coordinator of Bike to Uganda Ali Funk said. “Two Lattes are nearly worth $10 which was the donation we were asking for so making that sacrifice and also giving up 30 minutes of your day to bike really isn’t asking too much..”

A group of five students from communication studies Professor Dr. James Pratt’s persuasion class came up with a way to combine a class project and a way to help the community. The students had to create a campaign that involves persuading people to do something; their campaign persuaded people to donate clothes and shoes to the Courage Center in River Falls as part of the Unity in the Community events, according to one of the students, Amanda Kogle.

“I love the fact that this event is very unifying for the different types of people in our community and it also reminds you that we do have a community,” Kogle said. “It takes people away from their own internally-focused selves and kind of opens their eyes to other things and other people, whether it be through channels of diversity or just different students coming together. It’s good to take the focus off oneself for a day, if not more than one day.”

Another important component of the event was the community art project headed by student Lauren Evans. The idea was to create a project that anyone from the campus and the community could contribute to, according to Evans. Students and community members had the opportunity to stop by and paint a small square canvas that will become part of a giant portrait of a hot air balloon to be displayed somewhere in the University Center.

“I think this is a great project, because it allows so many people to put their work into something
with other people,” Evans said. “This is a perfect example of unity in the community.”

The Falcon Fellows, a group of mostly freshman and sophomore students completing 300 hours of volunteer service in the community within one year through the AmeriCorps Programs, decided to do an Earth Day bag project this year for Unity. The project allowed participants to decorate a coloring sheet displaying earth-friendly facts and attach it to a paper grocery bag to be distributed at the local EconoFoods, according to Falcon Fellow Kathy Boldt.

“Unity in the Community helps get the campus involved with the community and help volunteer, because volunteering is so important and donating is as well,” Boldt said.

Another new addition to Unity in the Community was the Courage Center and Minnesota Northstars Quad Rugby Demonstration. The demonstration even allowed some students to participate in the demonstration by bringing extra chairs for students to use.

The celebration of unity included many more activities and opportunities for students and community members. There were many hands-on activities, such as henna tattoos, a sushi class and demonstration and food demonstrations with recipe cards and samples. There were several stage performances going on throughout the day as well that included the Native Pride Dancers, Mu Daiko Drumming and several student performances,
such as belly dancing, slam poetry, hip-hop and other various forms of dance. The day finished off with a night performance of the UWRF Gay Straight Alliance bi-annual drag show.

“I think Unity in the Community is a great way to be aware of all the diversity that is in the River Falls community,” student performer Marwa Fayez said. “It’s a great way to share different performances that represent different cultures and to show people the beauty of difference and how it all comes together to make an amazing and tasteful environment.”