Southern Colorado State is a university now, but when I enrolled there it was a college with a program that changed my life forever. The program, Teacher Corps, was a 2 year commitment of service in a public school, basically in practice teaching, while completing 2 years of college level education courses, while also any "spare" time was spent doing service in the community where you lived and worked.
While living in South Dakota, I learned about the Teacher Corps program in Colorado, grabbed a map and found the campus and the site for my 2 years of service was actually 2 mountain ranges away from the college campus, but with 7,000+ showing on the map, it looked to me like a nice sized town in the mountains. What could be better?
Those 3 months on the campus in Pueblo went quickly, and soon my team drove the 5 hours to my new home on the Southern Ute Reservation in Ignacio. I could hardly contain my anticipation and yes, excitement when I saw the city limits sign. Those same numbers I had seen on the map all those months ago... were the elevation. And the population? 303.
There was suddenly a moment of clarity. And the number that really resonated was the number 2, the commitment of 2 years in a town of 303 people.
As I said earlier, this experience changed my life forever. Most college students enrolled in teacher education have a semester, and sometimes even less time than that to experience life in the classroom and from that make the decision to pursue that career or not, based on that one experience. My team of 5 got to spend 2 whole years in a variety of classrooms, different levels, different subjects with really experience teachers. We all chose to stay in education until retirement. So we must have found education fit for each of us.
My college town of 3 months, if you want to call it that, was in the news this week. Why? Right there in the middle of town, blocks from where my little apartment must have been is their Superfund site. Yep, waste from what else? lead. There had been a lead smelter and EPA had been in the process of cleaning it up, and the town? getting yards remediated for lead! Just like us here!
Why was it in the news? Community members are afraid EPA is going to walk away and not finish the work. Yes, that can happen. That is why I hope while you might be home more, it might become more urgent for you to call DEQ at 1-800-522-0206 and ask for your yard to be added to the list to be checked for lead in the soil, and if found to give permission for that contaminated soil to be removed for FREE and replaced with soil you can grow a garden in, or have your children play safely in the dirt. We have been spoiled with that opportunity being out there, year after year. But 1995 was a long time ago, and EPA rarely funds what people WANT, but they are doing this, for as long as people WANT it and are calling in and asking for this service.
One third of my time in Teacher Corps was service in my community. Bnd this sounds like a Commercial, or an Ad for EPA to pay for this Service in our community, and it is. Take advantage of making sure you have a clean yard, and so your neighbors do too.
Years ago I heard the fact that almost a quarter of all the people living the U.S. live within 3 miles of a Superfund site. And yes, I have worked in Ottawa County for over 40 years, and the whole county now counts as one big superfund site because the mine waste was hauled all over it, but I don't live here, I live in Craig County on land untouched by industry or mining. But tonight, I found out the heart of my college town is a Superfund site, early in her OU's.
To check out that 3 mile theory, stating so many people live within 3 miles of a superfund site , I checked on where I had lived in Big Spring, Texas, and they got it wrong. The nearest superfund site is FOUR MILES AWAY, not three. It is at the Lake we would ride our bikes to.
This is a lot to settle in on. Those years in Teacher Corps changed my life, and my years here dealing with one of the largest superfund sites in the nation, one that is all around us. That blend of education and service was the training that has kept me focusing on our superfund site, but we are not alone. There are nearly two thousand sites on that list.
Let's keep learning, share what you learn, do what you can to help your neighbors and let's band together in service to make this place get cleaned and off that LIST so EPA can get on with helping our sister sites.
Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim