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itsme / Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio 

In this 2015 photo, a bag of corn seed sits ready for spring planting near Moorhead, Minn. 


Ines Crespo explains how she got out from under $10,000 of credit card debt. Crespo, seen Friday at Twin Beans Coffee Co. in Twin Falls, is now saving for a trip to Guatemala.

Keeping New Year's resolutions: Folks give advice on making lifestyle changes

TWIN FALLS — Resolutions; schmesolutions. Who can keep them?

“They get broke anyway,” Rebecca Overlin said. “That is why I do not make any.”

Overlin isn’t alone in her resolution not to make resolutions.

“I have not kept one single resolution in all of my 67 years,” Erlene “Happy” Ford told the Times-News.

But others are more successful at keeping theirs.

“Just make resolutions that are fun and easy to keep,” Roger Bolton said. “Don’t try to change the world.”

Bolton’s resolution this year: “To ride my motorcycle as often as possible.”

Common resolutions

A random sampling by the Times-News heard the usual resolutions: to lose weight, to exercise more, to quit smoking, and to reduce stress. A growing number of folks, however, are focusing on organizing their homes and workplaces.

“Most people want to be organized, they just don’t know where to start,” Cindy Rafn said.

Rafn is a personal organizer who helps the disorganized put their lives in order. Breaking old habits means making lifestyle changes, she said.

“The key to making lasting changes in your life is to determine the real reason that you are not succeeding at a specific goal,” she said. “Then implement solutions that reduce the underlying issue.”

The process takes some introspection.

You must figure out what you want, what is in your way, then how to remove the obstacle, Rafn said. The process, while seemingly simplistic, can be used to tackle complex problems.

Vera Newnham is another Magic Valley organizer who says clutter — a major obstacle to an orderly environment — is an easy fix.

“If you haven’t used something in the past year (toss it), you won’t miss it.”

Financial goals

Freelance bookkeeper Ines Crespo, at age 30, found herself mired in credit card debt to the tune of $10,000.

Crespo made a resolution to pay off her debt and started by giving up things she didn’t absolutely need to survive.

“Coffee at coffee shops. Netflix,” she said. “The little bills you don’t think about. It all adds up.”


Ines Crespo's daily planner sits on the table Friday at Twin Beans Coffee Co. in Twin Falls. Crespo says organizing her life with a planner was a major step in getting herself out of her $10,000 credit card debt.

She also worked “no spend” days into her calendar.

For nearly two years, she whittled away at her debt. Paying off her bills gave her new confidence.

“It became addictive,” said Crespo, president of Rotary Club of Twin Falls After Hours. “I thought, ‘If I can do this, what else can I do?’”

She’s been free of debt for several years and is saving up for a trip to Guatemala. She pays off her bills every Friday. Anything left in her checking account after paying her bills goes into her online savings account.

No more resolutions

Crespo no longer makes resolutions; she set small goals that build up to a bigger one.

“And once I complete a big goal, I set another one,” she said. She now hangs out online with folks with similar mindsets.

That philosophy also works for Tiffany Scott, who lost 110 pounds in 15 months by making nutritional changes to her diet.

“I didn’t want to be the ‘fat mom’ when my kids started school,” Scott said.

“I set obtainable goals at 60, 90 and 120 days,” Scott said. “I never lost more than two pounds a week.”


Tiffany Scott poses for a portrait Friday at The Pack CrossFit in Twin Falls. Scott made a resolution in 2014 to lose 110 pounds. By making nutritional changes to her diet, Scott lost the weight and is now enjoying a healthy lifestyle.

“Being overweight, I couldn’t do a lot,” she said. But after she reached her goal weight of 164 pounds, she ran a Spartan Race. She then joined The Pack CrossFit in Twin Falls.

Scott is now four months pregnant with her third child and works out six days a week.

She also coaches others who want to adopt a healthy style. “I’ve helped 260 clients start their fitness journey,” Scott said.


“I never make resolutions because I always break them,” Linda Burgess said. “I make a list of hopes. For instance, I hope to get organized or I hope to lose weight.”

But is it enough to hope for results?

No, says Kade Andrews. If you want to make changes, you have to get in there and participate in your own progress.

“Buy a daily planner or just get a piece of paper and write down the goals you’d like to accomplish for New Year’s,” Andrews said. “I think people’s problems are not holding themselves accountable and they don’t have enough self-discipline.

“I believe it’s the mindset toward the goals you want to accomplish.”

And if you fail, try again. Resolutions aren’t just for New Years, he said.

PHOTOS: Resolved resolutions


Ines Crespo's daily planner sits on the table Friday at Twin Beans Coffee Co. in Twin Falls. Crespo says organizing her life with a planner was a major step in getting herself out of her $10,000 credit card debt.

‘We need to look systemically:’ bridging Native American student achievement gaps

Originally posted on on Nov. 29.As an American Indian, a mother and a State Department of Education official, Johanna Jones hates talking about deficit models in education.

Native American students can compete in any education setting, and Jones sees plenty of examples and success stories. But at the same time, if the state is ever going to address achievement gaps, people need to understand that they exist.

“Sometimes you do have to show that deficit model,” said Jones, the head of the SDE’s Indian education program.

There is an abundance of troubling numbers:

  • Idaho Native American students lagged well behind their peers on the SAT — Idaho’s college placement exam of choice, offered to high school juniors at state expense.
  • Only 37 percent of Native American high school graduates went on to college in 2017, compared to 46 percent of white students. And the postsecondary completion gap is far wider — a whopping 27 percentage points.
  • Idaho’s latest data drop again illustrated wide gaps from kindergarten through third grade. This fall, only 30 percent of Native American and Alaskan Native students scored at grade level on Idaho’s new reading test. By contrast, 57 percent of white students scored at grade level. The Idaho Reading Indicator scores are a particular concern to many educators, including Jones. If students lag behind in reading by the end of third grade, they are liable to struggle through the rest of their school years.

In two Eastern Idaho schools serving the Fort Hall Indian Reservation, the fall reading scores were even lower. At Fort Hall Elementary School, operated by the Blackfoot School District, only 22 percent of all students read at grade level. At Chief Taghee Elementary School, a charter school that teaches the Shoshoni language through an immersion program, only 17 percent of students hit grade level. Chief Taghee Administrator Joel Weaver attributed the low fall scores to the immersion program, since students spend about three-fourths of their day learning in Shoshoni.

Weaver also sees the need to instill a college- and career-ready mindset, using test scores to identify student potential. The job, he said, is to help students “see their potential through us.”

Weaver recalled a conversation he had with one student who scored well on the IRI — but aspired only to work as a cashier at the convenience store where a relative works. “’You should not be clerking at the Merc,’” Weaver said, as he encouraged his student to aim for a high-paying job at the Idaho National Laboratory, a U.S. Department of Energy research site northwest of Fort Hall.

However, some numbers show promise.

In 2017, 39 percent of Native American students who applied for an Idaho Opportunity Scholarship qualified for a share of the money. By contrast, only 26 percent of white applicants qualified for one of the state’s need-based scholarships. The trouble is, very few Native American students apply in the first place, a symptom of academic struggles in the early grades, said Tracie Bent, the State Board of Education’s chief planning and policy officer.

Meanwhile, 212 Native Americans took courses through Idaho’s advanced opportunities program, which allows junior and senior high school students to earn college credits at taxpayer expense. Native American students still aren’t signing up in proportion to their share of overall enrollment, but the raw numbers are trending upward. In 2016-17, Jones said, only 189 Native American students took advantage of the program.

Another bright spot is Shoshone-Bannock Junior-Senior High School — a federal Bureau of Indian Education school serving Fort Hall.

Taking advantage of an Idaho State University program that encourages high school students to take advanced opportunities courses on campus, nine Sho-Ban students boarded a minivan every day in the spring to attend classes at ISU. All nine students passed their classes with a grade of C-plus or better, said Kandi Turley-Ames, the dean of ISU’s College of Arts and Letters.

Since then, three of the nine students moved on to college, while three more will take additional dual-credit classes in 2018-19, said Matt Wilson, the counselor at Sho-Ban. Two moved to Wyoming, but are positioned to continue their education, he said. The ninth student is now a primary caregiver for young children.

The Sho-Ban student enrollment does not count toward the state’s numbers, since the school operates as a sovereign entity. Still, Jones is encouraged by what she sees happening — from ISU’s efforts to reach out to the Native American students to an anonymous donation covering the cost of textbooks. “It really has become a communitywide effort,” she said.

While the state can ramp up scholarships and dual-credit programs to make college more affordable, students still have to make the personal transition to campus life. And that can be difficult, particularly for students experiencing a culture shock.

For Wetalu Rodriguez, the move was particularly difficult.

She left Lapwai — a town of about 1,200, on north-central Idaho’s Nez Perce Indian Reservation — for Seattle and the University of Washington.

She chose to withdraw from UW’s unfamiliar campus culture — she was “too scared to be involved,” she told students and teachers at an SDE Indian education summit this summer — and eventually flunked out. She flunked out of college a second time, had a daughter and took a five-year break from college. 

Wetalu Rodriguez

She returned to school, and closer to home, attending Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston. She is more involved now. She is president of LCSC’s Native American club, and would rather spend time with fellow Native American students.

“It’s really just because we’re comfortable,” she said. “They get my jokes. They get my tone.”

But now, Rodriguez finds herself struggling to get students involved. Out of 100 or so Native American students at LCSC, only a half a dozen or so are active club members.

Rodriguez took a circuitous route through college, but she is now a senior, majoring in psychology.

Jones believes there are jobs waiting for Native Americans who complete a postsecondary education, and close to home, on Indian reservations. One key is making sure students see connections — between a biology class, for example, and a potential job at a tribal fishery.

And while Jones doesn’t like talking about deficit models, some deficits are impossible to overlook. Too many teachers who work in public schools located in or near Idaho’s reservations are inexperienced, or commuting to their schools.

“We need to look systemically,” she said.

If you do one thing

If you do one thing: A community dance will feature music by the Shadows Band from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Snake River Elks Lodge, 412 E. 200 S., Jerome. Admission is $5.

Be evergreen: How to recycle your Christmas tree in the Magic Valley

TWIN FALLS — Don’t toss that Christmas tree.

The Twin Falls County Parks and Waterways Department has a better plan to dispose of those dead spruce, fir and pine leftovers from the holiday.

Director Rick Novacek is asking that folks give their retired trees — with a $5 suggested donation to the College of Southern Idaho’s horticulture program — to the county parks department, where the trees will be chipped and used for mulch on county properties such as County West and landscaping at the county courthouse.

The parks department will take whole trees — just be sure to remove all the ornaments and lights — from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 4 and Jan. 5. at 1234 Highland Ave., Twin Falls. Horticulture students will chip the trees, Novacek said.

Trees don’t belong buried at the landfill, Novacek said, especially when it can be turned into a win-win for two beneficiaries. Novacek and Chance Munns, assistant professor of horticulture at CSI, came up with the idea to raise money for the college’s horticulture program.

Southern Idaho Solid Waste will also take whole trees, says environmental manager Nate Francisco, at its landfill at 1050 W. 400 S. off U.S. 30 east of Murtaugh. The tipping fee for wood products is a $5 minimum to $37.50 per ton.

The waste district’s wood waste program will accept tree branches and lumber year-round if kept separate from trash, Francisco said. The wood is recycled into mulch and sold back to the public.

“Clean, green yard waste,” such as branches and shrubs, is recycled separately from lumber, he said, but both are used for landscaping mulch. Lumber is also sold for livestock bedding.

Trash collection services such as Western Waste Services and PSI Waste Systems don’t pick up whole trees at the curb, nor do wood products in their waste streams get recycled. Christmas trees are treated as any other trash, however, if cut up in three-foot lengths and are placed in the trash collection bins.

In Rupert, a long-held tradition continues in January as the Rupert Fire Department holds its annual community hot dog roast and Christmas tree bonfire.

“The fire department has been doing this... I honestly don’t know how long,” Chief Roger Davis told the Times-News. “I know it’s been going on since the 70s, but I can’t say when and where it started.”

Davis, who has been with the fire department for 28 years, expects a large crowd at the bonfire at noon on Jan. 26.

If Rupert residents leave stripped trees at the curb, the garbage trucks will pick them up on their regular routes, or folks in the country can drop them off near the swimming pool at Neptune Park anytime before the bonfire, he said.

“We’re quite excited,” Davis said. “We’ve also got that new ice-skating rink at Neptune Park. We’ll have hot dogs and hot chocolate — all free to the public.”

Trump's promise of a wall may not be fulfilled as advertised

WASHINGTON — Three confidantes of President Donald Trump, including his departing chief of staff, indicated that the president's signature campaign pledge to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border would not be fulfilled as advertised.

Trump sparked fervent chants of "Build that wall!" at rallies before and after his election and more recently cited a lack of funding for a border wall as the reason for partially shutting down the government. At times the president waved off the idea that the wall be anything but a wall.

However, White House chief of staff John Kelly told the Los Angeles Times in an interview published Sunday that Trump abandoned the notion of "a solid concrete wall early on in the administration."

"To be honest, it's not a wall," Kelly said, adding that the mix of technological enhancements and "steel slat" barriers the president now wants along the border resulted from conversations with law enforcement professionals.

Along the same lines, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway called discussion of the apparent contradiction "a silly semantic argument."

"There may be a wall in some places, there may be steel slats, there may be technological enhancements," Conway told "Fox News Sunday." "But only saying 'wall or no wall' is being very disingenuous and turning a complete blind eye to what is a crisis at the border."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who is close to the president, emerged from a Sunday lunch at the White House to tell reporters that "the wall has become a metaphor for border security" and referred to "a physical barrier along the border."

Graham said Trump was "open-minded" about a broader immigration agreement, saying the budget impasse presented an opportunity to address issues beyond the border wall. But a previous attempt to reach a compromise that addressed the status of "Dreamers" — young immigrants brought to the U.S. as children— broke down last year as a result of escalating White House demands.

Graham said he hoped to end the shutdown by offering Democrats incentives to get them to vote for wall funding and told CNN before his lunch with Trump that "there will never be a deal without wall funding."

Graham proposed to help two groups of immigrants get approval to continue living in the U.S: about 700,000 young "Dreamers" brought into the U.S. illegally as children and about 400,000 people receiving temporary protected status because they are from countries struggling with natural disasters or armed conflicts. He also said the compromise should include changes in federal law to discourage people from trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

"Democrats have a chance here to work with me and others, including the president, to bring legal status to people who have very uncertain lives," Graham said.

The partial government shutdown began Dec. 22 after Trump bowed to conservative demands that he fight to make good on his vow and secure funding for the wall before Republicans lose control of the House on Wednesday. Democrats remained committed to blocking the president's priority, and with neither side engaging in substantive negotiation, the effect of the partial shutdown was set to spread and to extend into the new year.

In August 2015 during his presidential campaign, Trump made his expectations for the border explicitly clear, as he parried criticism from rival Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor.

"Jeb Bush just talked about my border proposal to build a 'fence,'" he tweeted. "It's not a fence, Jeb, it's a WALL, and there's a BIG difference!"

Trump suggested as much again in a tweet on Sunday: "President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound. I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security. The U.S. needs the same thing, slightly larger version!"

Talks have been at a stalemate for more than a week, after Democrats said the White House offered to accept $2.5 billion for border security. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer told Vice President Mike Pence that it wasn't acceptable, nor was it guaranteed that Trump, under intense pressure from his conservative base to fulfill his signature campaign promise, would settle for that amount.

Conway claimed Sunday that "the president has already compromised" by dropping his request for the wall from $25 billion, and she called on Democrats to return to the negotiating table.

"It is with them," she said, explaining why Trump was not reaching out to Democrats.

Democrats maintain that they already presented the White House with three options to end the shutdown, none of which fund the wall, and insist that it's Trump's move.

"At this point, it's clear the White House doesn't know what they want when it comes to border security," said Justin Goodman, Schumer's spokesman. "While one White House official says they're willing to compromise, another says the president is holding firm at no less than $5 billion for the wall. Meanwhile, the president tweets blaming everyone but himself for a shutdown he called for more than 25 times."