Impressive Expressive Coffee House

Students perform spoken word pieces for Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week

Students in two sections of the Interpersonal Communication course at Inver Hills Community College hosted a Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week spoken word event called Impressive Expressive Coffee House late afternoon Tuesday, November 19, 2019, in the Green Room. The course is taught by Amy Zsohar, communication studies faculty at the college.

“My students met with Stephanie Plaster, program manager at the C.O.R.E. (Community, Outreach, Resources and Engagement) Drop In Center, to learn more about hunger and homelessness in Dakota County,” Amy reported. “The students toured the C.O.R.E. facility at Grace Lutheran Church in Apple Valley. They also volunteered with local organizations that work to combat food and housing insecurity.”

Amy added that her students were also tasked with reading a memoir of someone who has experienced food and housing insecurity. “They were to take all they learned from these different experiences along with their own lived experiences and create spoken word pieces,” she said. “Tish Jones, TruArtSpeaks founder and executive director, came to the Inver Hills campus and taught the students how to write spoken word pieces.”

The students then performed their pieces at the Impressive Expressive Coffee House and as pop-up sessions around campus throughout Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week (November 16–24, 2019).

COMM 1100 Interpersonal Communication  3.0 credits

Interpersonal Communication is a course that helps students recognize that we live and work in relationship with others and must communicate effectively with them to achieve our goals. This class helps students acquire the skills to effectively communicate with family members, intimate others, co-workers, friends, and acquaintances.

After reviewing relevant interpersonal theory, students will examine and identify their own communication attitudes and behaviors. Students will also learn and apply techniques for improving communication in their relationships through active practice.

Students will participate in multiple activities, both in and outside the classroom setting, to build their interpersonal communication skills. This course is open to all students and meets the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB) 8710.2000, Subp. 7, Standard 6C, D, F, & G.

Impressive Expressive Coffee House gallery

View more event photos by visiting the Inver Flickr album:

Impressive Expressive Coffee House

Student Spotlight: Ronnie Wakeen

Ronnie Wakeen
Ronnie Wakeen

Ronnie Wakeen, 19, is a freshman at Inver Hills. Ronnie is earning their Associate of Fine Arts (A.F.A.) in Theatre with plans to graduate in spring 2021. A native of West St. Paul, they graduated from Henry Sibley High School in 2018.

Ronnie has acted in three Inver Hills Theatre productions, Dracula, Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz, and Our Town. Most recently, they portrayed “Vixen,” one of the count’s three female vampires in Dracula. They played “Rebecca Gibbs” in Our Town and a “Flying Monkey” in Dorothy.

Ronnie’s transfer strategy so far includes attending the University of Winnipeg or St. Cloud State University to study theatre and art. They are looking forward to a career as a stage and film actor with a passion for doing freelance digital art. Ronnie is taking Drawing I at Inver this semester and that course has rekindled their love of art.

Ronnie did an Inver Instagram takeover in November 2018

More about Ronnie…

Ronnie works while going to Inver as a barista at Caribou Coffee. They just started at the new location in Little Canada. They have also worked as a sales associate at Spirit Halloween during the fall season for the past few years. Ronnie’s mom, Pam, works as an accountant at FPO Solutions. Their dad, John, is a corporate chef with Quality Bike Parts. The family has a 6-year old black cat named Merlin. Ronnie has a 7-month-old tortoiseshell kitten named Leia.

In their free time, Ronnie enjoys writing symphonic music for high school bands. They played flute, piccolo, baritone, trombone and percussion in marching band at Henry Sibley. Last semester, Ronnie sang in the Inver Hills Choir.

Ronnie is working on writing plays; their current project is called New Moon. They also enjoy playing videogames, especially Pokémon games. They are playing Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky right now. Ronnie resides with their family in West St. Paul.

Ronnie Wakeen’s Spoken Word Piece

Ronnie Wakeen
Ronnie Wakeen

Ronnie performed their spoken word piece four times, once during the Impressive Expressive Coffee House (Ronnie also emceed the event with a friend) and three times as pop-ups in the lobbies of Heritage Hall and the Fine Arts building.

“I felt a little awkward when I did my first pop-up performance,” Ronnie said. “People didn’t seem to know what was going on. Why is this person talking to me about homelessness?”

Ronnie had two pop-ups in the can by the time they did the coffee house performance.

“I felt confident at that point,” they said. “I did one more pop-up the next day. We had a lot of fun with this project.”


I’m ten years old. I’m driving with my mom to a grocery store in the cities and we’re surrounded by cardboard signs.
“Disabled veteran in need.”
“Mother of 4 kids.”
“Lost my job.”
“Don’t look them in the eye,” my mom says. “We can’t afford to give them all something.”
I still avert my eyes when I’m driving off the highway. As much as I’d like to give, I still can’t afford it.


I’m fourteen years old. I hear a knock at my door and am greeted by one of my best friends.
“I need help.
I’m not safe at home.
I don’t know where to go.”
My mom and I set up the living room for the night. She went back home the next day. “I’ll be fine. I think my mom’s calmed down.”
I still keep spare pillows and blankets with my spare mattress. There’s not much I can do, but if someone needs it, I can provide shelter. But only for the night. I live at home still.


I’m nineteen years old. I get a call from my friend that I can’t answer because my phone doesn’t work. I check the voicemail later.
“Hey, my parents kicked me out.
I was wondering if I could stay with you for a bit.
Please give me a call back.”
I reach out to anyone who might have a room for him. I keep him for the night, to my parents dismay. Eventually he gets an apartment.
I hear he’s trying to move out of the apartment into a different one. He’s still not as on his luck as he could be, but at least there’s a roof over his head.


I’m still nineteen years old. I’m hanging out with my friends, and we’re off to pick up another one, picking them up outside of a Lunds & Byerlys, where they sit with a trash bag of clothes. As we drive, they talk about their time in shelters and on the streets in the city.
“We had to kick someone out for starting fights.”
“I got caught behind a couch.”
“The bus driver let me eat on the bus!”
The last one shouldn’t have needed to make them so happy. But, the simplest thing made them happy, especially in this time where they’re jumping from shelter to shelter.
They’re gonna be moving close to me and our friend soon. An apartment. They asked us both to help them move. I couldn’t be happier for them.

Ronnie Wakeen at Inver Hills gallery

Ronnie Wakeen Q & A

Ronnie Wakeen
Ronnie Wakeen

Why did you choose your academic and career path?
Both theater and art are things that I’m passionate about. They’re things that I don’t want to stop doing after I leave a setting where it’s something I can regularly do, as I can in college with on campus plays and art club. I have friends that have had success in both industries, but I know that putting everything into just one of these industries is risky. They’re both super-risky careers to have, but I have a passion for them.

What has been your toughest challenge in life?
I grew up struggling with depression and anxiety, which has really gotten in the way of my ambitions and also made me think I was gonna die before I got to be 18, but now I’m 19 and didn’t anticipate getting—here so here I am.

What do you most want to accomplish in life?
Currently, I do things so my cats can thrive. Although acting on TV would be nice.

What person has influenced you the most in life?
My high school band teacher. She was like a mom to me and many of the kids in the band program, and the way she directed and taught the bands, including jazz and marching, really influenced me to be a better person.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
2039? That’s a real year? Again, I never anticipated myself getting to the point I am now, much less 20 years from now. I guess I see myself with a successful acting career, a loving spouse, a dog, a cat, and a ferret, at the very least.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

What do you like best about your Interpersonal Communication class?
As part of LGBT+ club I’ve gotten to know Amy really well since last fall. I love the way she teaches, and we’ve all gotten quite a few laughs out of the class.

What was your favorite part of the Impressive Expressive Coffee House project?
I loved being able to work personally with my peers, and work with members of the 10 a.m. class that worked on the project with us.

What did you learn about hunger and homelessness in Dakota County?
I learned a lot about the resources available, which I’m lucky to have learned about before needing them.

What did you take away from reading the memoir of someone who has experienced food and housing insecurity?
I guess the reality of the issue, and how it affects people other than those directly experiencing that. I read Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, which is written by a son about his father’s experience. It hit pretty hard with how much the son was affected by his father’s housing insecurity.

Where did you do your volunteer work and what did you like best about the experience?
So, I didn’t end up doing that part the way I thought I would due to transportation issues that I didn’t anticipate. I planned on working with Project Home at House of Hope Presbyterian Church, where anywhere from six to 10 homeless families stay in the church basement overnight for the month of October.

My home church, Salem Lutheran Church, participates in the program during the month of January, and I’ve volunteered there for the past few years. I love being able to bond with the families, as you know it’s going to be the same families every day during that month.

One word that describes your experience at Inver Hills:


Communication Studies Transfer Pathway A.A. Degree  60 Credits

The Communication Transfer Pathway Associate of Arts (A.A.) offers your a powerful option: the opportunity to complete an A.A. degree with course credits that directly transfer to designated communication bachelor’s degree programs at Minnesota State universities. The curriculum has been specifically designed so that when you complete the pathway degree and transfer to one of the seven Minnesota State Universities, you will enter the university with junior-year status.

All courses in this Transfer Pathway A.A. degree will directly transfer and apply to the designated bachelor’s degree programs in a related field. The Communication Studies Transfer Pathway consists of the Required Pathway Curriculum, the Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC), and the Health and Physical Fitness Requirement, to bring your credit total to 60.

Ronnie Wakeen 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity: Marching band
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
  3. Most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Representing Minnesota with the Sibley marching band at the National Independence Day Parade in Washington, D.C., last summer
  4. Three things you would do if you won a $1 billion lottery: 1) Pay off student loans 2) Buy a house 3) Start a global cat rescue organization
  5. Favorite TV show you’re watching now: BoJack Horseman
  6. Best movie you’ve seen lately: Charlie’s Angels (2019)
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Successful acting career
  8. Your national bird if you were your own country: Kiwi
  9. Dream occupation: Working with animals on my own schedule
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Elise Bauman
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Parkour
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Prejudice
Learn more about Communication Studies at Inver Hills by contacting:

Shiloh Gideon-Sjostrom
Communication Studies Faculty

To learn more about the A.F.A. in Theatre at Inver Hills, contact:

George M. Roesler
Theatre and Communication Studies Faculty

Learn more about the Impressive Expressive Coffee House by contacting:

Amy Zsohar
Communication Studies Faculty

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