UI students present community conscious pieces

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | MAY 03, 2012 6:30 AM

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Lara Netolicky retold the story of Vanessa, who spends two hours a day getting to school and back.
Vanessa, a West High student, lives approximately 3 miles from her high school.


The UI sophomore's project was only one of many stories told Wednesday evening to a local audience about issues Iowa City community members face as the culture of the city changes.

"I hope my project will be eye-opening for other students and Iowa City community members," said Netolicky at the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St. "I hope it exposes the difficulty of the transportation system. I hope it makes people question it and think about it."

"Return to Mayberry," the name of Wednesday's discussion, was the product of semester-long pieces gathered for an Interpretation of Literature class taught by UI graduate student Raquel Baker in collaboration with fellow graduate student Ted Gutsche.

The presentations followed the community performance of Mayberry — a play focusing on class and ethnic issues in Iowa City — at Southeast junior high Tuesday evening. Baker said the goal of the event was to allow students to reflect on their experiences in going out into the community and learning the art of storytelling.

"Storytelling defines us as human beings," she said. "And students were able to see how difficult it is to tell somebody's story."

Students used multimedia to tell the stories, including Netolicky's video shadowing Vanessa.

Netolicky said between Vanessa and her sister, their family spends roughly $400 a year on bus passes.

"I think that's unnecessary," Netolicky said. "It is too costly, considering other students who live in Iowa City can take the school bus and get to school free of charge."

UI freshman Jackie Seyring displayed a photo essay on individuals who had moved to Iowa City from Chicago.

"I was interested in the way the media portray the so-called 'Chicago problem,' " she said.

The stories she uncovered made her feel more aware of ethnic issues that exist, Seyring said.

"I talked to one girl who said she feels like people don't want to talk to her solely because she's black," she said. "I didn't think racism was still a problem today."

City Councilor Jim Throgmorton was among those who attended.

"I think this is an important topic," he said. "These issues are a challenge for all of us, not just a problem of one particular part of the city."

Gutsche said discussions like these could lead to change.

"Part of it is, we have such a hard time talking about race in this community that anytime we can get conversations started, that is doing something," he said. "What we would really hope for, and what the producers of the play hope for, are that those conversations do lead to change."

Baker said she was pleased with the students' projects.

"I think they did a good job of finding real people dealing with the issues," she said. "I think they found out things they didn't know before they started these projects. I'm really excited by the bits I have seen. I feel the students are excited too, and I've never had a student be so excited about a final paper."

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