Tag Archives: Missouri

Home away from home: German student attends MHS to improve language and gain new experiences

picking-jenny-up-at-the-airportBy Jacki Wood for the Nodaway News Leader

Jenny Ahlgrimm describes her hometown of Hamburg, Germany, as “ big, modern and busy.”

With a population of 1.7 million, it’s sure to be a bit different from Maryville, where she is living during the 2016-17 school year as an exchange student.

But calling it a bit different might be an understatement.

“Pretty much everything is different,” she said. “Maryville is small and peaceful. Everything is green. The climate and the sky are so different. The school is completely different and the activities you do after school. In the US, everyone drives everywhere, and in Germany, you walk or take public transit.”

‘it’s America!’
Experiencing all of these differences is one of the reasons Ahlgrimm decided to become an exchange student.

“(I wanted) to see what it is like to start over where you don’t know anybody,” she said, adding she wanted to improve her English and gain more experiences. “And it’s America!”

At home in Germany, she works as a lifeguard and swimming instructor and also babysits. She enjoys running, something she has been able to continue at Maryville High School where she was on the cross country team in the fall and plans to be a member of the track team this spring.

During her time in Missouri, she has enjoyed attending Kansas City Royals and Chiefs games, taking senior pictures, hanging out with new friends, kayaking and spending time with her host family, Paul and Cathy Rybolt and Dalylah and Shayleigh.

She’s also has fallen in love with Reese’s peanut butter cups and Sonic blue raspberry slushes with rainbow Nerds.

‘I am torn’
But Ahlgrimm said she misses things from home. German tap water, German chocolate, her family and friends and swimming.

And she’s faced a few challenges as well.

“The language barrier; I have a hard time coming up with the correct English word sometimes,” she said. “American History is extremely difficult if you are not American. I also had a hard time with the heat and humidity when I got here in July.”

She’s also had some interesting and humorous experiences since she’s arrived.

“Someone really asked me if we have electricity in Germany,” she said. “The answer is yes. Someone else said that being from Hamburg is not that special because it is only one hour away.”

And in case you were wondering… Hamburg, IA, is 60 miles from Maryville and Hamburg, Germany, is 4,567 miles from Maryville.

With all of her experiences – the good, the challenging and the odd – Ahlgrimm has mixed feelings but is grateful.

“I am torn,” she said. “Part of me can’t imagine living here a whole year, but the other part of me can’t imagine having to leave my family here.

“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

‘I was intrigued’
Cathy Rybolt said a friend suggested she look into it becoming a host family.

“I was intrigued,” she said, and after sharing the information with her husband, Paul, they decided to do it.

Paul is a student at Northwest and Cathy is the outreach director/MIS team leader at Community Services in Maryville. Dalylah is in fourth grade and Shayleigh is in third grade at Eugene Field.

“We have enjoyed sharing our love for the outdoors with Jenny,” she said. “Since she has been here we have been camping, boating and kayaking at Mozingo Lake. We also took her hiking at Indian Caves State Park.”

She said it’s been enlightening and educational for their family as well.

“In school you learn about different cultures but living with someone from another culture is very different,” she said. “Teenagers from different countries are most definitely not like American teens.”

Dalylah and Shayleigh are enjoying their time with Jenny and learning new things from her.

“I like having an older sister,” Dalylah said. “She has never had any siblings, so I am glad that I get to be her younger sibling.”

Shayleigh said: “I love my Sissy Jenny because she gave me a birthday present and she makes crafts with me. I like Jenny spending time with me and tickling me. She is teaching me German. We love her accent.”

And everyone loves that she shares her German chocolates with them.

    To learn more about becoming a host family or being an exchange student, visit ciee.org.

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‘Add color to otherwise black and white memories’

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Peninah

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”

It’s a quote from Squire Bill Widener, although widely misattributed to Theodore Roosevelt who shared it in his autobiography.

Over the past year, it has kept me moving forward.

Because of my health issues, and the fact that I spend most of my life in bed now, I’ve been trying to focus on what I can do, with what I have, and with where I’m at.

One thing I’ve recently discovered I can do is family history. I mean, I can’t go out and wander around cemeteries. But I’ve got a laptop and the internet.

Growing up, my grandma was very into genealogy. My mom, too, and then my younger sister as well. I had no interest in it whatsoever.

One day last fall, however, trying to figure out what I can do, with what I have, where I’m at, family history popped into my head. And I decided to give it a go.

I’m still learning. And I don’t spend as much time with it as I’d like. But finding my ancestors and learning their stories and making connections that hadn’t yet been discovered by our family has been quite life-changing.

One connection is from my Eckerson family line. America Pulliam jumped out at me because of her patriotic name. She died in 1905 in Sullivan County, MO. The work that had previously been done by my grandma had ended with her. We didn’t know who her parents were so I started digging.

After several weeks of searching and working, I found them. And that opened up several lines, one going back 27 generations to Guillaume DeBray who was born in 1054 in England.

The line from America to Guillaume included other ancestors such as Captain Thomas Warren, born in Kent, England, who came to Virginia in 1640 and purchased land from Thomas Rolfe, the son of John Rolfe and Pocahontas. And 1st Baron Edmund Braye, born in 1484, who was in attendance when King Henry VIII and King Francois I met following the Anglo-French Treaty of 1514.

Another fascinating story for me has been from my husband’s side.

The granddaughter of a Cherokee Indian and a descendant of those who came on the Mayflower, Peninah Cotton was born in 1827 in Illinois. She married Daniel Wood, and because of their Mormon faith, they were driven out of their home by a mob, leaving behind everything they couldn’t carry and journeyed westward to escape persecution. They arrived in Salt Lake in 1848 and Daniel later founded the community of Woods Cross, Utah.

I’ve also found I’m related to several famous people through a fun family history website, RelativeFinder.org. I’m cousins with Walt Disney, Mark Twain, Henry David Thoreau and Orville and Wilbur Wright as well as several US Presidents including FDR, John Adams, William Howard Taft and a few more.

In just the few short months since I began this new adventure, it’s also been fun to share these stories with my kids.

A study conducted at Emory University and published in 2010 found the more children knew about their family history, the higher their self-esteem and the better able they were to deal with the effects of stress.

“Family stories provide a sense of identity through time and help children understand who they are in the world,” the researchers said.

During RootsTech 2016, a global family history event, blogger Miryelle Resek wrote: “For many of us, the thrill of researching our ancestors comes from learning about their stories. Glimpses of what their everyday life looked like, the challenges they overcame and the hopes and dreams they worked toward add color to otherwise black and white memories.”

Reading from Daniel Wood’s journal and how difficult the journey to Utah was for them helps our family have strength to get through rough times.

Maya Angelou said: “We are braver and wiser because they existed, those strong women and strong men. We are who we are because they were who they were.”

So if I’ve piqued your interest at all in family history, you can get started at familysearch.org and/or ancestry.com.

If your history includes Nodaway County, the historical society is a valuable resource and is open from 1 to 4 pm, Tuesday to Friday, or by appointment. Call 660.582.8176 for more information.

There’s also a Family History Center at the LDS Church in Maryville. Call 660.541.0124 and leave a message.

Several local genealogists are also willing to help including Mandi Brown who can be contacted at brownmandi0911@yahoo.com.

So get out there and start digging. Explore where you came from, link your past to your present and build a bridge to your future. You won’t regret it.

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‘I am still worth the full 20 dollars’

By Jacki Wood, “That they might have joy” column for the Nodaway News Leader

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Our family recently returned from a two-week summer road trip to California to see family, visit the beach, Disneyland, our favorite restaurants and some new things, too.

We love to road trip and I could write for days about the adventures we had. But for this column, I’d like to share something we’ve started doing recently – packing comfort kits to pass out if we come across someone in need along our way.

It didn’t take long to hand out the first one on this trip. We were approached by a man at a gas station in New Mexico. He was asking for money but we offered him the Ziploc of food, water and essentials. He quickly opened the bag, grabbed the crackers and thanked us as he began devouring the food.

The exchange was a bit bizarre but he was obviously hungry and we were happy to help.

This topic – helping the homeless who stand outside of a business or along a highway off ramp – seems to be somewhat of a controversial subject.

Some people say they’re just trying to take advantage of us, that they beg all day long and then go home to a comfortable life.

In my very limited experience, I do not believe that to be true in most cases. I’m not naive enough to think that it doesn’t happen. But I feel there are many people who could use a little help.

I shared a story last Thanksgiving on my Facebook page that reaffirmed my stance for helping those in need. Here’s a portion of what I wrote then:

***

His hands were rough and cold, surprisingly cold, on an unusually warm November day.

I had stopped in Cameron to fill up with gas on the way to my mom’s for Thanksgiving and he was standing on the corner shivering.

“I’m Jacki,” I said, as I stuck my hand out to shake his.

“Dennis,” he said.

He seemed shy, hesitant, ashamed.

“Where are you headed?” I asked, reading his cardboard sign.

“South.”

Dennis was a veteran. He had served during the 1970s and had been in Omaha for a medical procedure. Now he was trying to “get someplace warm,” he said.

Family? No. He had no family.

We spoke a little more and I learned he had a dry sense of humor, kind of like my dad’s. He seemed to warm up to me the longer we talked.

We had made some comfort kits as a family to keep in the car for instances just like this. The bag had ripped recently so I had taken it out to replace it but kept forgetting to put it back in the car.

When I saw Dennis, I thought it was a missed opportunity and felt I needed to talk with him.

I only spent a few moments with him. I don’t know his whole story. I don’t know what specific circumstances and choices led to him being there in that situation. But I do know that he is my brother and I wanted to help him.

I gave him a little money (something I normally do not do), which he humbly thanked me for with tears in his eyes, and I wished him good luck.

***

We don’t know the circumstances that lead people to stand on a corner asking for help. We haven’t walked in their shoes. But if we could just really see them for who they are, how would we act?

In a speech given at BYU in 2015, Sondra D. Heaston said: “What if we could really see into each other’s hearts? Would we understand each other better? By feeling what others feel, seeing what others see and hearing what others hear…would we treat them with more patience, more kindness and more tolerance?”

I recently read a story of a woman who had endured years of trial and sorrow. She said: “I have come to realize that I am like an old $20 bill — crumpled, torn, dirty, abused and scarred. But I am still a $20 bill. I am worth something. Even though I may not look like much and even though I have been battered and used, I am still worth the full 20 dollars.”

***

Comfort kits are easy and relatively inexpensive to make. You can find many ideas online. Ours include a pair of socks, toothbrush and paste, comb, wet wipes, water, gum and a few snack items like granola bars, crackers and cheese, tuna salad and fun fruits. There are many other essentials you could pack as well as a list of local resources and gift cards.

One site I like is the Portland Rescue Mission (portlandrescuemission.org/get-involved/learn). It shares several ways to provide practical help to the homeless.

***

The second comfort kit we handed out on our road trip was in Kansas on our way home. As I rolled down the window and asked the man if he’d like the bag, his eyes lit up with joy and gratitude.

I will never forget those eyes. I saw a glimpse into his heart.

Not that I knew his circumstances. That didn’t matter.

By serving him in that very small capacity, even though he may have been crumpled, torn, dirty and scarred, we saw that he was indeed still worth the full 20 dollars.


prescription addiction: small towns not immune to rising opioid epidemic, Part 4

By Jacki Wood, written for the Nodaway News Leader, March 2016

Editor’s note: this is the last part in the series; the names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Nine days after law enforcement officers and Family Services visited Bethany’s home and issued a stern warning to her step-father about getting help, her family moved halfway across the country.

A new state, larger city and several hospitals to frequent, her step-father’s drug abuse only worsened.

Soon thereafter, Bethany was sent to live with her grandparents where it would be “safer for her to stay.”
“That was the healthiest and best thing that ever happened in my childhood,” she said.

***

For the 2016 legislative session, Missouri State Senator Holly Rehder proposed HB 1892, a prescription drug monitoring program, after similar bills she had proposed the last couple of years failed.

During a Senate Special Committee Meeting to highlight the opioid epidemic in January, Rehder told the personal story of her daughter’s drug addiction which began with prescription painkillers.

“I tell you this story to show that drug addiction is no respecter of persons,” she said. “It crosses all socioeconomic statuses. When you go into a high school and ask the kids, ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ The answers are ‘a doctor,’ ‘a lawyer,’ ‘a business owner.’ None say, ‘I want to be an addict.’

“Yet addiction is the growing epidemic of our time.”

***

After Adrianna’s mom moved out and she cut ties with her, the effects of her mom’s prescription drug abuse continued to plague her.

“I struggled with depression,” she said. “My attitude toward everything became negative. And I still have trust and confidence issues.”

The one person that was supposed to teach her how to love and be loved was gone, she said.

***

In 2014, Missouri State Representative Steve Lynch helped pass legislation that allowed qualified first responders to use Naloxone, an antidote for heroin overdoses.

Lynch has filed three bills this legislative session to continue to fight opioid overdoses.

HB 1568 would allow pharmacists to dispense Naloxone to individuals.

“Massachusetts passed a similar law and saw opiate-related deaths cut nearly in half as a result,” Lynch said. “We have the opportunity to put a safe, non-addictive drug in the hands of folks who can use it to save lives.”

HB 1569 would provide immunity to those who seek medical attention for someone suffering from an overdose and HB 1570 would authorize a $5 fee for drug-related court cases to fund rehabilitation programs.

***

Emergency Department Nurse Manager Pat Giffin, RN, said SSM Health St. Francis uses Naloxone when an opioid overdose case comes to the hospital.

“The problem is getting so severe that another one of the Suggested Emergency Department Prescribing Practice Recommendations is that healthcare providers should encourage policies that allow providers to prescribe and dispense Naloxone to public health, law enforcement and families as an antidote for opioid overdoses,” she said. “We have the advantage of also having a physician who is specially trained so he can prescribe Suboxone to help those with addictions get off the opioids.”

Suboxone contains Naloxone as well as buprenorphine, a controlled substance to treat pain and addiction to narcotic pain relievers.

Another option for those dealing with opioid addiction is Methadone, a pain reliever used as part of drug addiction detox and maintenance. It is only available from certified pharmacies and there are several Methadone clinics across the state.

***

It’s been a year now since Adrianna’s mom moved out.

“I have been growing up on my own, teaching myself how to be an adult and I have missed out on so many things that I would have done with her,” she said. “She will never get this time back with me.”

Looking back, Adrianna is still struggling with how to deal with it all.

“My mom became a prescription drug abuser,” she said. “And it tore my family and my life apart.”

***

But there is hope.

Bethany has been there. She understands, at least to some extent, what Adrianna is going through.

“In all the books I have read over the years, for my own healing or to make sure my children never experience anything like I did, one thing stood out to me,” she said.

“A child who has at least one adult in their life – it only has to be one – who they have bonded with and who believes in them and adores them, they absolutely can heal and have a ‘normal’ life with healthy relationships.

“My advice would be to embrace that adult – that aunt, grandmother, teacher, coach or pastor who embraces them for who they are – and try to make a strong connection with them.”


prescription addiction: small towns not immune to rising opioid epidemic, Part 3

By Jacki Wood, written for the Nodaway News Leader, March 2016

Editor’s note: this is the third part in the series; the names have been changed to protect their privacy.

An estimated 1.9 million people abused or were addicted to prescription opioid pain medication in 2014.

Those findings from SAMHSA were highlighted March 15 when the CDC released new guidelines aimed to reduce the risk of opioid addiction.

The voluntary guidelines are based on emerging evidence for patients with chronic pain not related to cancer treatment, palliative or end-of-life care.

Among the recommendations are that doctors try pain relievers like ibuprofen before prescribing highly addictive painkillers such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Other recommendations include non-prescription treatments such as exercise therapy, tai chi, yoga, weight loss, psychological therapies, interventions to improve sleep and certain procedures.

“It has become increasingly clear that opioids carry substantial risk but only uncertain benefits,” Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, CDC director, said, “especially compared with other treatments for chronic pain.”

***

As Adrianna’s mom became more addicted to the pain meds prescribed by her doctors for her chronic illness, the worse things got at home.

She began seeing problems in her parents’ marriage and her mom finally moved out which surprisingly was a relief for Adrianna.

Her mom had been texting hateful, degrading messages and posting belittling statuses on social media about her. She eventually had to block her phone number and report and block her on social media sites.

“I wanted her out of my life,” she said. “It wasn’t my mom; it was a monster in my mom’s body.”

***

Pat Giffin, RN and emergency department nurse manager at SSM Health St. Francis Hospital, said people don’t intend to become addicted to opioids, they just want something to take away their pain.

“Opioid addiction can make people do things they never would have thought of doing before the addiction, just to get more of the drug,” she said.

The hospital is currently working with SSM Health’s legal department to develop a notice for the emergency department stating that the hospital will not prescribe narcotics unless there is an acute reason.

“Prescribing opioids to patients who do not need them for acute pain only results in addiction and more problems for the patient,” Giffin said. “Chronic pain issues need to be handled by one physician so that the usage can be monitored and controlled.”

***

That was the issue with Bethany’s step-father. His opioid use was not being carefully monitored or controlled by his doctors and the hospital.

And even though everyone around her seemed to know about it, she said, no one would talk.

Until someone finally did.

“Looking back now, as a mother of three, I am in shock that it took someone as long as it did to make the call,” she said.

After hearing that Bethany’s dad was slurring his words and saying really hateful things to her, a friend’s mom spoke up.

“It was humiliating, and at the same time, I felt like I was going to be in trouble for exposing our family secret,” she said.

***

Six organizations representing Missouri healthcare providers issued recommendations in December to reduce opioid painkiller misuse and abuse.

The Missouri Academy of Family Physicians, Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons, Missouri College of Emergency Physicians, Missouri Dental Association, Missouri Hospital Association and Missouri State Medical Association jointly recommended that healthcare providers adopt the recommendations.

Many of the state’s emergency departments have existing systems, however, there has not been a consistent set of guidelines statewide for providers throughout the state.

Dr. Evan Schwarz, Fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians and MD at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, said emergency physicians deal with opioid misuse and abuse on a daily basis.

“This is an important initial effort to address the problem of prescription drug abuse,” he said. “However, in the long run, it will require a multi-disciplinary, public-private approach to provide treatment, reduce abuse and its costs.”

***

Shortly after the call about her step-father’s behavior, law enforcement officers and a Family Services representative visited Bethany’s home.

They discussed what had been reported and her mom reassured them they were fine and that Bethany had exaggerated the situation.

“A pot of coffee later, they were driving away,” she said, feeling even more hopeless about the situation.

However, a follow-up visit came shortly thereafter, and with it, a stern warning that her step-father needed to get help.

Nine days later, they moved halfway across the country.


prescription addiction: small towns not immune to rising opioid epidemic, Part 2

By Jacki Wood, written for the Nodaway News Leader, March 2016

Editor’s note: this is the second part in the series; the names have been changed to protect their privacy.

“The opioid epidemic has been called the worst drug crisis in American history,” wrote Dan Nolan and Chris Amico in their Frontline special, “Chasing Heroin,” on February 23.

“Death rates now rival those of AIDS during the 1990s, and with overdoses from heroin and other opioids now killing more than 27,000 people a year, the crisis has led to urgent calls for action.”

***

Adrianna
After being diagnosed with the chronic illness, Adrianna’s mom received a prescription to deal with the pain and their way of life changed very quickly.

Gone were the days of shopping and getting their nails done together, doing makeovers, talking until two in the morning.

“I started noticing a real difference in her,” Adrianna said. “She would come home (from work) and go straight to bed.”

Barely 16, Adrianna wasn’t really sure what was happening.

“My mom was either yelling at me or ignoring me,” she said. “She would tell me she didn’t love me. And never did. She would tell me she never wanted to see me again.

“Then a couple of hours later, she would say she was sorry.”

And that was just the beginning.

***

Over the last 15 years, opioid deaths have jumped 369 percent while heroin deaths have risen 439 percent, the CDC reports.

Heroin use is growing in popularity as a direct result of prescription painkillers.

Ninety-four percent of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they started using heroin because it was far cheaper and easier to get than prescriptions painkillers.

Nolan and Amico wrote: “Over the course of more than a decade, it has grown into a problem destroying lives across the nation, regardless of age, race, wealth or location.

“Nearly 90 percent of the people who tried heroin for the first time in the past decade were white. And a growing number are middle-class or wealthy.”

The opioid epidemic is erasing the stereotypes of drug abuse. It’s soccer moms and CEOs and even grandmothers.

Last July, the CDC found “significant increases in heroin use were found in groups with historically low rates, including women and people with private insurance and higher incomes. The gaps between men and women, low and higher incomes and people with Medicaid and private insurance have narrowed.”

***

Emergency departments across the country are also feeling the effects of the growing problem.

Between 2005 and 2014, the rate of hospitalizations and emergency department visits from opioid overuse in Missouri has more than doubled, according to the Missouri Hospital Association.

Pat Giffin, RN and emergency department nurse manager at SSM Health St. Francis, said the hospital in Maryville is dealing with similar trends.

“We are seeing a lot of Norco (hydrocodone) use and abuse,” Giffin said. “It has substantially increased in the past couple of years.”

***

Bethany
More than 20 years after her step-father’s car accident, where he was initially prescribed opioids for the pain, Bethany’s younger brother finally learned the truth about those emergency room visits from his childhood.

The 30-year-old youth pastor and father of four was astounded by the revelation.

“Do you realize I spent most of my childhood in an emergency room?” he said to her. “Mom had to drag me along to the ER when he had to get a shot for the ‘pain.’ All the soccer and baseball and basketball games missed…

“All because he was a drug seeker? It was preventable? It was all a lie?”

While Bethany was saddened by his disappointment, she was not surprised.

“Those physician-prescribed drugs ruled our life, and sadly, destroyed relationships and severed family ties,” she said.

***

Missouri is the only state in the nation, Giffin said, without a prescription drug monitoring program.

She said MHA issued a policy in November stating: “The absence of a prescription drug monitoring program through a registry system impedes the ability of physicians, pharmacists and hospitals to evaluate patients’ complete prescription and utilization profile.

“The use of a prescription drug monitoring program may be one effective strategy to help identify patients who may be seeking multiple providers and would benefit from opioid diversion.”

***

The chronic illness became too much for Adrianna’s mom to handle.

“It felt like she gave up on everything,” she said.

And that’s when she started abusing the medicine prescribed by her doctors.

“She held herself differently and sometimes I could barely understand what she was saying,” Adrianna said. “I tried to talk to her about it but she didn’t care about me or my opinion.”

With her dad working long hours – and not feeling like she could share her situation with her friends – Adrianna began to feel very alone.

“My life wasn’t supposed to end up like this,” she said.


prescription addiction: small towns not immune to rising opioid epidemic, Part 1

Drug Overdose Deaths

By Jacki Wood, written for the Nodaway News Leader, March 2016

Editor’s note: the names in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

Adrianna

The grass had just started to turn green that March and Adrianna could hear a tractor in the pasture, preparing for spring planting, as she pulled into her driveway after track practice.

It was, by most accounts, a beautiful spring day in Northwest Missouri.

For Adrianna, though, that brightness and hope of spring quickly turned dark as she found her mom lying on the lawn.

“I remember shaking her to wake her up,” she said. “I wanted to scream for help, but I didn’t want to cause attention to the situation.”

Her pupils were dilated and she reeked of smoke as she laid there limp.

After months of prescription drug abuse, her mom barely weighed 90 pounds. Sixteen-year-old Adrianna managed to get her into the car and drive her to the hospital.

“I had been waiting for something big to happen for awhile,” Adrianna said, “so I wasn’t surprised.”

Still, it wasn’t how the small-town teenager perceived life a few months before.

She and her mom loved shopping and getting their nails done together, trying new recipes, doing makeovers, talking until two in the morning, laughing, watching movies.

“My mom was my best friend,” she said. “She was the person who I told everything to and did everything with.”

***

Forty-four people die from prescription drug overdoses every day in the United States, largely due to prescription painkillers called opioids, the US Department of Health and Human Services reports.

Hydrocodone (Vicodin) and oxycodone (OxyContin) are the most common ones involved.

Since 2000, the death rate from opioid drug overdoses has increased 200 percent.

Senator Claire McCaskill has been bringing the issue to the forefront in recent months.

“This has reached epidemic proportions in our state,” she said at a hearing held February 8 in Jefferson City.

Missouri ranks number one in the rate of prescription opioids sold among Midwestern states and is the only state in the country without a prescription drug monitoring program.

***

Bethany

Bethany’s family went to church. Her mother was a teacher and she and her brother were on the honor roll. They said please and thank you, took their hats off when they entered buildings and wrote thank you notes.

On the outside, everything seemed normal. Charming, even.

But on the inside, there was a hidden addiction devastating their lives.

“Once in the privacy of our home, my step-father would be nothing short of cruel,” Bethany said, a Nodaway County resident who also grew up in the area during her teenage years.

Her step-father’s addiction to prescription pain medicine began in the late 1980s after he was in a car accident and was initially put on Demerol for pain.

“He kept returning for more, and when he couldn’t get his prescription filled, he’d go to the emergency room,” she said. “Since pain can’t be proven, the ER staff pretty much had their hands tied and he would leave with, at minimum, a shot of pain meds and usually a week’s supply of pills.”

Demerol, Morphine, Oxycodone, Percocet. Anything he could get a physician to prescribe for him.

“Unfortunately in a small town, where there were only a couple of doctors, it was easier to give him a prescription and send him on his way,” she said.

***

Opioids also include the illegal drug heroin.

Four in five new heroin users started out misusing prescription painkillers, according to the Drug Enforcement Agency.

From 2000 to 2013, the rate of heroin overdose deaths nearly quadrupled in the US.

And in a 2014 survey by JAMA, 94 percent of people in treatment for opioid addiction said they went from prescription painkillers to heroin because the prescriptions were “far more expensive and harder to obtain.”

***

Just a few months before, Adrianna would have described her family as normal. Her parents had good jobs and they were well-known and well-liked in the community.

And then her mom was diagnosed with a chronic illness and prescribed painkillers to help deal with the disease.

“She saw more than one doctor and was prescribed more than one pain medication,” Adrianna said.

It didn’t take long before she began to see changes in her mom.

“The disease, combined with the drug use, was taking control of her life at home as well as at work,” she said.

***

At a roundtable discussion on February 16 in St. Louis, McCaskill said: “We are drunk on pain medication in this country.

“There’s a reason that 49 states have implemented a prescription drug monitoring database — because the positives far outweigh the negatives.”

Last week, the Missouri House sent a prescription drug monitoring program bill to the Senate, where similar proposals have stalled in the past.

***

Bethany’s step-father’s addiction tragically led to verbal and sexual abuse in their home.

“Those physician-prescribed drugs ruled our life,” she said. “Everyone seemed to know — aunts, cousins, teachers, community members …

“But no one would talk.”


Australian exchange student finds unexpected success at Nodaway-Holt

By Jacki Wood, written for the Nodaway News Leader

NaliSmilesWhen Nali Tattersall arrived in Missouri in January, the 17-year-old exchange student had never participated in track and field, never attempted the high jump nor the long jump, never even seen how to do the triple jump.

Now, the Nodaway-Holt junior from Darwin, Australia, will be competing at state this weekend after qualifying in all three events at sectionals.

“(I) feel overwhelmed to receive all the attention,” Tattersall said. “I enjoy seeing everyone’s athletic ability and getting to meet others I compete with and build relationships with them.

“I’m also excited to be able to help my team with points and hopefully continue this journey as far as I can.”

Tattersall’s host family, Erick and Heather Thornton and their son, Derick, have enjoyed watching him compete.

“He is a natural to jumping events, and having never done it before, we didn’t expect him to be doing so well,” Heather said. “It’s been great to celebrate with him each time he sets a new personal record or see his face light up when he gets another trophy or medal.”

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Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territory of Australia and has a population of 136,000.

Tattersall said while the language is the same and western culture is shared, there are several differences between his home country and the US.

“We drive on different sides of the road and (there are) changes in climate. Here it gets really cold and I’m used to it being hot year round,” he said.

The food is also different.

“Americans have so many choices,” he said. “There are so many different kinds of snacks and restaurants in the states. In Australia, we don’t have free refills and very few candy bars. I love trying it all.

“I do miss vegemite, though.”

Vegemite is a popular spread for sandwiches, toast and crackers in Australia. It’s dark brown, tastes salty and slightly bitter and is made from leftover brewers’ yeast extract with vegetable and spice additives.

Tattersall has also found that school is somewhat different.

“There are no sports in schools in Australia and here there is something to do all year,” he said.

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The students at Nodaway-Holt, however, are mostly the same as those in Australia.

“(They) like similar things such as hanging out on the weekends, playing video games and they like to fish and hunt,” Tattersall said.

Sarcasm has been a bit of a challenge for him, he said, understanding when it’s being used and what is meant by it. But he is really enjoying his time at Nodaway-Holt especially participating in athletics and making new friends.

“My school is amazing,” he said. “And I’ve built so many friendships that will last a lifetime.”

That includes his host family.

“I have been placed with an awesome host family who are very supportive and keep my family in Australia involved with pictures and videos on Facebook,” he said.

Heather said they are grateful for the opportunity to have him in their home.

“He is a great kid, very funny and easy going, polite and enjoys interacting with others,” she said. “He has taught us many things about his culture and answers your questions, even if it’s the 500th time he had answered it. Watching him experience new things is a joy.

“We are grateful for the experience and know he will be a part of our family for many years.”

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Track

While there were no athletics offered at school in Australia, Tattersall did play basketball in what would be equivalent to a YMCA or community center league.

In addition to track and field, he participated in part of the basketball season at Nodaway-Holt after he arrived, and because he will be here until November, he plans to also play football in the fall.

Before Tattersall arrived in Missouri, a few students had shown Coach Josh Petersen video clips of him dunking a basketball from right inside the free throw line.

“When he started school here, I think it was his first or second day of basketball practice, I asked to see him dunk it,” Petersen said. “And I was just amazed at how high he could jump.”

So when track season rolled around, Petersen said he couldn’t wait to see how well he could or would do in the jumping events.

“Long jump and high jump weren’t really an issue but I was curious to see how he would do in triple jump,” he said. “The day before our first meet, I showed him the technique. And after seeing the look on his face and him saying ‘far out’ in that Australian accent of his, I figured he would like it.”

Not only did he like it, he excelled at it.

The day after learning how to triple jump, Tattersall participated in his first meet and jumped around 38 feet. Now, he’s jumping nearly 43 feet.

His long jump started at around 18 feet and now he’s jumping 20’2”.

In high jump, Petersen said he was stuck on 6’2” for awhile but he eventually got 6’4” at the Mound City meet which is his best and a Nodaway-Holt school record.

He was also a part of the 4×200-meter relay team, which Petersen said fared pretty well in every meet.

“Nali has been a very big part in the success of our track team this year,” Petersen said. “We only had six guys out and he was usually first or second in every event he was in. He has been our high point guy in every track meet, usually scoring 26 to 30 points by himself.

“I have really enjoyed watching him do his events and couldn’t have asked for a better person to coach in my first year. It’s been exciting to watch him perform.”

With his unexpected success, Tattersall is now considering the sport as a potential part of his future.

“Participating in track at the collegiate level is not a possibility (at home); they don’t have sports in college there,” he said. “I could continue track in Australia, however, it would be very limited and difficult.”

So after he finishes high school, he said he will consider returning to the US to further his education and participate in track while doing so.

“This has been amazing,” Tattersall said, “and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

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Hunter’s story

By Jacki Wood ~ written for a college assignment in 2010

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Tears roll down his cheeks like steady raindrops sliding down a window during a spring thunderstorm.

“I HATE YOU, DAD, I HATE YOU,” he yells from behind his closed bedroom door.

Hunter’s tears mix with the mess on his face and he wipes it with his shirtsleeve, leaving streaks of it across his cheek. He coughs and lets out one last wail before trying to compose himself.

He sniffs hard, wipes his face again and licks his dry lips.

“Mom,” he whimpers, knowing I’m standing outside his door. “Can I come out now?”

~

This is not a toddler temper tantrum. This is the winding down after a rage, after the shoving of his sister, the throwing of furniture, the growling and yelling and screaming and flailing.

This is 11-year-old Hunter who lives with bipolar disorder, one of an estimated 10 percent of children who deal with serious emotional and mental disorders, according to the US Surgeon General.

~

Bipolar is a brain disorder that causes unusual changes in mood, from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, and can also be known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression.

In children, it is sometimes confused with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder because of the many similar symptoms when they are manic, according to the National Alliance for Mental Illness. The difference, though, includes elated mood, grandiose behaviors, flight of ideas, extreme changes in behavior and energy levels and decreased need for sleep. Then there is the depressive and even suicidal opposite side of the disorder.

During mania, children and teens can “feel very happy or act silly in a way that’s unusual, have a very short temper, talk really fast about a lot of different things, have trouble sleeping but not feel tired, have trouble staying focused, talk and think about sex more often and do risky things.”

During depressive episodes, they can “feel very sad, complain about pain a lot, sleep too little or too much, feel guilty and worthless, eat too little or too much, have little energy and no interest in fun activities and think about death or suicide.”

Other symptoms can include impulsive behavior, psychotic symptoms like delusions, hallucinations, and disorganized thinking and cognitive disturbances.

~

Mere minutes from his raging, things seem to have changed inside Hunter’s brain as I sit with him on his bedroom floor. He’s laughing, smiling and showing the dimple that dots his right cheek as he describes his latest car design to me. His fiery red hair seems a softer orange now. He drags out a sketch pad with curled edges and begins drawing.

And just like that, all seems to be well again.

At least for a few moments.

~

One of the biggest differences between children and adults with bipolar disorder is that an adult can go for weeks or months before they cycle from high to low or vice versa. With children, though, they can have multiple cycles during a single day. It’s really a roller coaster of emotions on a daily basis, from giddy highs down to depressive lows. Children and teens with bipolar disorder may also have mixed episodes that have both manic and depressive symptoms.

In the past several years, I’ve done plenty of reading and studying up on the illness, trying to figure out how best to raise Hunter and how to teach him to deal with it all. Most of the time I feel lucky that his symptoms aren’t as serious as others who I read about. Still, as he grows and gets older, I’m concerned how the illness will change and affect him in other more serious ways.

“My brain works differently than other people’s brains,” Hunter said. “Sometimes I go all crazy.”

Crazy, for Hunter, means he feels mad, sad, scared and even sometimes confused.

And then there’s the opposite of those feelings.

“Sometimes when I feel good, I think I can do anything,” he said.

That translates into him feeling that sometimes he is smarter than his teacher at school or his classmates, who don’t like it when he gets overly excited or yells out all the answers in class. It can also mean that he feels he knows better or more than his parents.

That’s not all that different than other kids, but it can be a little more difficult with him because of the other symptoms he experiences.

~

A couple of hours have passed since Hunter’s blowup with his dad. He is still in his room but has moved from drawing the car to building it using K’nex that litter his carpeted floor. The incident that led to him screaming his hatred toward his dad was about one of his Saturday chores – vacuuming the family room floor.

Saturdays are tough for Hunter. After breakfast, the chores begin. On his list for the day was to clean his bedroom, put his clean clothes away, clean the upstairs bathroom and vacuum the family room floor.

A reasonable amount of time for his younger sister to do the same chores is usually two hours or less.

But Hunter says he hates to work and drags it out nearly the entire day, even though he has been reminded that once his chores are completed he can do whatever he likes until bedtime.

“I don’t really like to do work,” he said. “I just want to get it done, but most of the time I don’t want to do it all.”

His seven-year-old sister completes her comparable chores well before lunchtime and is off to ride her bike and play outside with the dog.

By 11:30, Hunter has yet to complete even one of the tasks. He’s in the family room now, where he should be vacuuming. But instead of the cleaning, he’s sprawled out on the floor flipping through a car magazine, completely enthralled.

He goes all out for the things he enjoys and I love that about him. But I also believe he needs to learn the value of work, regardless of his illness.

His dad enters the room and quietly reminds him of his chores.

Hunter begins with whining and complaining about all the work he has to do. Then he starts looking for excuses. He’s hungry. He’s tired. His foot hurts. He’s thirsty. His head hurts.

He soon moves to crying. Then screaming. Then all-out raging returns. And finally, his dad must drag him off to his room so he can calm down and not hurt anything or anyone else.

~

“I told my dad I hate him because I didn’t like him when I was really angry,” Hunter said. “I don’t want to cry, but sometimes I feel like I can’t control it.”

The crying comes with the lows but can change without notice to euphoric highs. And when the mania hits, so do the ideas and the feeling he can do or be anything.

“I have lots of ideas of things I want to do,” he said, talking about his future. “I am excited when I feel good. I want to be an inventor or an engineer or an architect or a chef.”

He wants to build the biggest mall in the world. He wants to design the fastest racecar. He wants to own the best bakery in the country.

Everything is a superlative with him. It has to be the biggest or the fastest or the best.

While many of his classmates are busy playing video games, watching TV, playing sports or hanging out with each other, Hunter is setting goals, making plans and creating new ideas to help people and change the world.

Those grandiose ideas are typical of others with bipolar. The goals and ideas aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but not being able to accomplish them all, right now and with great success, is a difficult concept for Hunter to grasp. He wants it all. And he wants it all right now.

~

The dichotomy of the disorder seems to be seen in all aspects of his life, especially at school, where he attends Tri-County in Jamesport.

He likes math and excels in it, his fifth grade teacher Connie Critten said, although his grade card doesn’t always show it.

“Hunter has very good mental math skills and enjoys helping other students who are struggling with math,” she said. “He is usually patient with his classmates while helping them. But he doesn’t like doing homework and his scores are generally lower because he doesn’t finish his work.”

While receiving the highest MAP test in math in his class, his grades are consistently Cs in the subject.

“I don’t like doing homework,” he said, “because I don’t like work.”

We’ve tried many different ideas to help with this – things we’ve read from other parents and things from both his school counselor and his clinical counselor – without a whole lot of success.

More serious than his academic performance, however, is the way the disorder affects his behavior at school.

When Hunter is at his best, he is compassionate, caring and has a positive and uplifting attitude, his resource room instructor Debbie LaFerney said.

“He has a contagious smile and loves to please his peers,” she said. “Hunter knows where he wants to be in the future with his behavior, with school and with his career. He has a creative and imaginative mind and is always thinking about some invention he is going to work on.”

But being at his best – kind, imaginative, helpful – can change quickly, his school counselor LeAnna Wilcox said. He can be happy one minute and crying or in a rage the next.

“His mood swings could be associated with a ticking time bomb; you never know when they are going to go off,” she said. “When he gets upset, he tends to totally shut down. He becomes agitated and logic does not take place.”

Whatever the reason, his explosions disrupt the classroom and sometimes even the school.

“Hunter sometimes becomes very aggressive, throwing chairs, yelling or pushing other students,” Critten said. “He has been known to cause physical harm to others. And his crying can disrupt our classroom and the entire elementary building.”

He also appears to have a high anxiety level most of the time, she said, because he has so many goals he wants to achieve.

“He is afraid he will mess up or that his peers are looking at him and judging him,” she said. “Then he has an outburst as a way of protecting himself.”

~

Hunter walks out of his bedroom, the red blotches that dotted his face from his excessive crying have begun to disappear and his orange freckles shine once again. I offer him a hug and he presents both his newly constructed car and the drawing from his book.

And then as if nothing has happened, he begins telling me about his latest idea of making a more fuel-efficient car.

~

As bad as it was on this particular Saturday morning, it has been much worse.

We feel fortunate to have found help in recent years through the North Central Missouri Mental Health Center in Trenton where Hunter has received new medications, counseling and support.

He currently takes three mood stabilizer prescription drugs: Abilify, which he has been on since he was first diagnosed, Strattera and Lamictal.

“I don’t like to take my medicine,” Hunter said. “But my mom keeps telling me it helps me be better.”

In addition to the medication, he visits a psychiatrist every three months, meets with a clinical counselor each month and receives visits from a caseworker both at home and at school.

~

Hunter’s eyes light up as he describes the components of his new car idea. His words fly out of his mouth, one right after the other, faster than I can keep up with. I smile and sigh to myself. So many ideas – too many ideas. Hunter copies my gentle smile with a wide, toothy genuine grin of his own.

When he has finished explaining the idea, he shrugs, a little embarrassed and then waits, seeking approval. I reach out and give him that approval with another hug and smile.

I think it’s time to apologize to dad, I whisper to him.

Hesitant, he plops his car and sketch pad on his desk of overflowing ideas, papers, pads, cars and creations. He strolls out of the room, head down, and quietly calls out for his dad who is in the kitchen.

~

“Did you finish vacuuming the family room,” his dad asks, after Hunter had apologized for his actions.

“Yes,” he lies, with a blank stare on his face, trying not to make any moves to show his deceit.

It doesn’t matter. We all know he’s lying. Lately, most everything coming out of his mouth seems to be a lie. That’s an exaggeration, of course, but we’re tired and we don’t know what to do about it. There’s other deceitful behavior, like sneaking food from the kitchen during the night and stealing money from my wallet.

Consequences don’t seem to matter much to Hunter. And logic is lost on him most of the time.

There are so many facets to bipolar, and it seems when we figure out how to deal with one thing, something else pops up.

The lying is also something his caseworker Terri Westover has seen with Hunter when she visits him at school.

“One of the main things I’ve noticed lately about Hunter is his easiness in not being truthful,” she said. “I always talk to teachers before or after I talk to him about whatever the current incident is and the stories are usually quite different. Part of it is probably him minimalizing what actually took place. I don’t think he’s necessarily being conniving with his untruthfulness, but it keeps him in an alternate reality. He gets quite angry when confronted, but that’s what we’ve been working on at school and at home, bringing him back to reality.”

~

Hunter sulks back to the family room, this time without the dramatics. He seems to be too exhausted for another outburst. He grabs the vacuum, turns it on and roughly and quickly pushes it back and forth around the couch, TV and the magazine that’s still lying wide open on the floor. A few toys also dot the floor, some of which he threw in his earlier anger. There’s also the chair he knocked over in his rage.

I walk in and sit on the couch. He turns off the vacuum when he sees me. I encourage him, telling him I know he can do it and do it well. His dimple resurfaces with his smile as he picks up the toys, the magazine and the chair – and he finishes the vacuuming.

He really is a great kid, but it’s so hard to know if what we are doing is right with him or for him. It’s also hard because it feels like a lot of people don’t see the good in him with his dramatic changes in mood. I feel a lot of judgmental stares from others who get annoyed by his behavior, like I’m being a bad parent or no parent at all. We’ve made lots of mistakes with him, but it’s really frustrating when others don’t give him a chance or enough time to show who he is when he’s at his best.

So we just keep taking one day at a time. Some days are good, some are more of a struggle.

But even with the struggles and the mistakes, we feel like we’ve come a long way since he was first diagnosed.

“It’s difficult for me to describe the difference between the past couple of years and how it was in the beginning,” his dad says. “It’s like night and day.”

~

While Hunter knows bipolar disorder is something that will affect him his entire life, he is grateful for the help he is receiving.

“I’m a little afraid of my future because of bipolar,” he said. “But I know my family loves me even when my brain is crazy.”

(note from 2015: while we were blessed with wonderful mental healthcare resources and services when we lived near Jamesport back in 2010, we haven’t been so lucky where we live now. Due to the lack of resources here, we’ve had to make some major changes in dealing with Hunter’s illness. So we face new challenges while we continue to take one day at a time with him. Lack of adequate mental healthcare services affects thousands of people across the country. I encourage you to contact your legislator in support of mental healthcare and not be afraid to talk about mental illness.)


Working Abroad: MHS grad teaches in France to further education

Written for the Nodaway News Leader By Jacki Wood

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“Je suis Charlie” helped unite a country and the world following the January 7 attack on the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices in France.

And a Maryville High graduate felt its effects much closer as she is currently a teaching assistant there.

Ruth Boettner has seen “Je suis Charlie” signs throughout Clermont-Ferrand, the city where she is working. The phrase, which means “I am Charlie,” was first seen on social media as a way to support freedom of speech and the victims of the attack. The movement has grown with marches throughout France and around the world.

“It’s truly a sad, terrible thing that’s happened,” she said. “The saddest part for the assistants in Clermont is that one of the victims, Michel Renaud, is from Clermont-Ferrand. His daughter is a student here.”

She said it’s always sad when people and organizations are targeted for the viewpoints they express.

“It’s felt even more when you are just a few degrees of separation away from someone who was killed,” she said.

***

Boettner was born in the Philippines but grew up in Maryville, the daughter of Richard and Bing Boettner. She graduated from MHS in 2009 and then attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she had majors in French and global studies and minors in African studies and music.

Her background in French began during her sophomore year at Maryville High when she started studying the language. She also took a trip to France after her senior year with her classmates and their teacher, Linda Ferris.

“I thought maybe I’d minor in French when I went to UNL at the most, but I quickly realized how much I loved the language,” she said. “After one semester, I realized I liked the French curriculum (and) decided to be a French major.

“It really helped me with my global studies and African studies curriculum but especially my honors thesis, as I spent a lot of time translating primary source documents from French to English.”

She participated in a Study Abroad program in France at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie in 2012.

“While at Caen, I more or less studied French as a foreign language,” she said. “It was really what pushed me over the hump in terms of learning the language. You don’t really know how well you know it until you actually have to speak it every day.”

Altogether, Boettner has spent about eight years learning French and considered herself nearly fluent. When she graduated from UNL in May 2014 and another opportunity to continue her education fell through, she applied for the Teaching Assistant Program. She said she hopes to finally attain that fluency through this opportunity.

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***

While continuing to learn the French language is a large part of why she is in France, her education is going far beyond as she is learning more about the world around her.

“There have been multiple anti-Muslim attacks throughout France since the Charlie Hebdo attack,” she said. “Of course, they may not all be directly related. Still, I worry about how this will affect France’s relationships with its Muslim citizens and residents.”

***

Ruth Boettner applied for the Teaching Assistant Program in France last January to continue her education.

“I really wanted to go back to France,” she said. “And I worked with kids all through college and loved it, so it just made sense.”

Boettner received notification in April that she had been hired to teach in Clermont-Ferrand, and after graduating in May from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, she began preparing for her return to France.

Her teaching contract is from October 1 to April 30 but she arrived in mid-September and plans to stay through the latter part of May so she can do some extra traveling before returning home.

Before she left for France last fall, she said her goals included finally becoming fluent in French, traveling and enjoying the opportunity to return to the country.

“I only spent about three months in France when I studied abroad,” she said. “And now I’m hungry for more, I suppose you could say.”

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She continued: “I love working with elementary-aged kids, watching them learn and grow, and I hope I can do that for my future students.”

***

Boettner has been teaching in France for roughly three months now and said it has been going really well.

“I had a little trouble getting into the swing of things when I first started out,” she said. “I’ve worked with kids in after-school programs and summer camps for several years before this, but teaching solo in a classroom setting is really a different ball game.”

She said her biggest struggle was starting with things that were too difficult too quickly.

“It takes time, of course,” she said. “You get a grasp on where each individual class is in their learning and how they learn best and you go from there.”

Boettner works two days a week – at one school on Tuesdays where she teaches six classes and at another on Fridays where she teaches three.

“The students at my Friday school are in a specialized English program in which they have English classes four days a week, so they’re more advanced than my Tuesday students,” she said.

Boettner said her favorite part of teaching has been watching the students succeed.

“When my students get so much joy from their little victories,” she said, “it’s great to see that kind of excitement from learning.”

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One of her favorite experiences has been with a Thanksgiving lesson she gave, where she made big hand-shaped turkeys for each class. She asked the students what they were thankful for and then wrote those things on the turkey.

“They would usually give me the French word and I would write the English word next to it,” she said. “A few of them even said ‘We are thankful for Ruth’ and for their English lessons. I was feeling particularly homesick that week so it definitely cheered me up.”

The rest of her work time is spent fulfilling duties for the conseillers pédagogiques, who are the people who train the teaching assistants and new teachers.

So far, she has translated training documents and recorded her voice for use as a teaching tool for them. She, of course, also spends a few hours a week planning lessons and said she may begin a weekly English discussion group for volunteer teachers.

***

Outside of her work commitments, Boettner said she has enjoyed getting to know the other language assistants and exploring the city.

“The region is absolutely beautiful,” she said. “I feel really lucky regarding where I am and the people I’m sharing this whole experience with.”

She also spends her free time studying for the GRE and applying to graduate schools, which she hopes to begin following this teaching assistance opportunity.

“Fingers crossed, I’ll be entering a doctoral program in African history,” she said. “I’ll still be using my French. I’m planning on focusing on French-speaking African countries in my future research.”