Mistress Valerie: Interview with a Helpful Dominatrix

“I had one person come to my BDSM party who had a really bad day at work in tears. I spanked her and we cuddled, she cried and told me about her day.”

Mistress Valerie, a dominatrix in the metro Denver kink community, recalled one encounter that demonstrated the therapeutic benefits of BDSM play parties. I met Mistress Valerie when I attended one of her play parties. I was interested in building my photography portfolio and offering photos at her events. Later that month I found myself struggling with lighting during another darkly lit BDSM party which featured a St. Andrews Cross.

While the only photos I got were of Mistress Valerie and a table of impact toys. I was curious about understanding Mistress Valerie and this part of the kink community. In a lengthy in-depth interview, we discussed the recent curiosity with the kink community’s play parties.

For the uninitiated, BDSM is a variety of erotic roleplaying involving bondage, discipline, dominance, and submission. Play parties are simply events to meet fellow members in the kink community. A dominatrix holds a central and dominating role in BDSM and play parties, often leading participants in these activities.

What a better way to connect with a partner(s), yourself or even someone you never thought you would meet than to visit a play party. These parties are for adults who are 21 or older and want to explore the kink community. Each party is catered to what the host wants the party to feel like.

One night a host might hold a BDSM party whereas another host might be holding a trans play party. This is what makes this experience unique and unlike any other; you get to connect with people who share or are curious about the same kinks. Each party has its own personality. The structure of the play party varies depending on the interest of the host and their guests.

Mistress Valerie, who also goes by Miss Valerie, has been frequently hosting parties since April 2022. She usually hosts parties once a week to once a month.  Her parties tend to tilt towards a house party aesthetic to make people feel comfortable.

She said, “You’re going to see people sitting on comfortable furniture talking getting to know each other. I try to have board games out, Jenga, or something to help people interact and socialize. Generally, drinks, possible snacks, but it’s not as intimidating as you think. You might see a scene, someone on the cross. Possibly someone getting flogged or spanked or electrocuted.”.

Obviously, safety and consent are critically important to have a good party. These are two of her main focuses as a host. The intentions are to make sure that everyone who attends a party knows the rules of consent. This is a shared responsibility of each person who attends the party.

As a savvy host, Miss Valerie has developed a keen sense of how to make sure safety and consent are embraced by party participants. She suggests having proper consent conversations before parties and even screening members to ensure that they know what consent looks like to them.

She also suggests having a party partner. This helps guest keep each other safe. If you see that your partner is uncomfortable speak up.  The knowledge that these parties are others safe space is important to recognize.

Miss Valerie opened up about her experiences as a host. “I think that’s a really big thing and that’s part of my drive. I’ve had so many people who have said that. The energy is there, and the vibe is there, the safety and sense of community. I’ve had so many people tell me they feel home.”

The goal of these play parties to develop a sense of community that doesn’t judge someone because of who they are. Rather they empower you for being human. Sex is very much part of the human experience and Miss Valerie wants to empower people though being a dominatrix as a life coach.

This is probably the most startling revelation of my interview with Miss Valerie. The role of helpfully empowering people through her services as a dominatrix (domme). To the point that she hopes to one day be a life coach by leveraging her services and knowledge as a domme.

Miss Valerie explained that people are often faced with life’s hard things they need to take care of but can’t due to procrastination. For example, creating a living will is a hard thing for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. It involves so many complicated emotions and a good deal of mental anguish. People don’t want to deal with it, especially if you have a kid.

Miss Valerie imagines a business model of accountability through BDSM, where people who are faced with this kind of difficult decisions would hire her as a means of, well, “strongly encouraging” them to complete these hard tasks. “We would set up a plan. I’d check in with you like once a week and if you haven’t done it we’re going to have a session and you’re going to pay me for it. Hopefully you’ve been able to write your will and done a few more on the list of errands. I’ve made some money and we both feel good about our relationship, you got some kinks out that you get to enjoy! It’s like accountability through BDSM.”

This is an intriguing business model. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome is the stigma of kink and BDSM. Hopefully that will change as time passes and more people are comfortable talking about kink.

Miss Valerie wants the world to embrace and better understand the kink. She said, “I wish the world would just be not so judgmental. There is a little bit of kink in everyone and if it doesn’t hurt you, and if it doesn’t affect you, and all parties are agreeing and consenting adults then why should it matter what they do?”

Reflecting on the world of kink, Miss Valerie wondered, “What is so wrong with liking sex, with liking being spanked?”

Let’s Go Skydiving!

The first time I decided to go skydiving, I needed to feel something bigger and gain a new perspective and outlook on life.

When I got to the Skydive Orange Skies skydiving outfit located in Fort Morgan off State Highway 52, the only thing I could see was an open field with a big stable-like building. The staff said to come an hour earlier to make sure I was eligible to jump by getting weighed. I also needed to fill out paperwork and sign a waiver.

After filling out the paperwork, I had time to sit and watch as the group before mine started to float down. At first no one could see them, but a staff member told me those birds flying were skydivers. They were just up so high.

That's when it really hit me, I was next.

Once that group landed the instructor came up to me, handed me goggles, and went over a brief demonstration of what to expect during a tandem skydiving jump. This is where two people are strapped together during the entire skydiving descent. Pretty common for instructors and first timers like myself.

Our group loaded quickly on the plane. My instructor and I were the first ones on, so we’d be the last ones to jump.

I was getting anxious. My instructor and I weren’t going to be connected until the halfway point to the skydiving jump spot. And after passing through the clouds, we were still not connected.

At the jump spot, I learned that the plane was at an altitude of 14,000 feet. One by one people started jumping out of the open door. All I could hear was the plane and wind.

When it was our turn, we squatted at the door of the plane. We got to the edge, and I knew at any moment he was going to jump. It got oddly completely quiet where I couldn't even hear myself think.

It was silent for 10 seconds, and then we jumped.

When we fell out of the plane, we were falling around 120mph for about 60 seconds. Then my instructor who was tightly tethered to me pulled the cord to release our parachute. He tapped my shoulders twice signaling me to shift into the spread-out starfish position known in skydiving.

Once in position, the parachute opened, and we were thrown into the sky like a football.

After that I just floated. I can't even begin to express the feeling. It was just pure revitalizing joy. I couldn’t see any people, or buildings or anything small, and suddenly all of those big things don't seem so big.

Usually, after a few minutes of floating, you're supposed to put your feet up like you're sitting with your feet out.  Then you get tapped twice on the shoulders to prompt you to start running, so you won't crash into the ground.

But because I'm so short my instructor told me I could just continue to float there for a little while longer.

I absolutely loved skydiving. It changed my outlook on life. I think everyone should go skydiving at least once in their life.

The Perks of Being a Sports Podcaster:At the Bar with DNVR Podcaster Adam Mares

The perks of being a sports podcaster in a Denver sports bar are many.

Sports podcaster, Adam Mares, helps hosts the DNVR Denver Nuggets Podcast, located in the DNVR bar near East High School off Colfax. As it just so happens to be, he is my cousin. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him at the DNVR bar and asking him a few questions about his career and the podcast. 

Adam has established his name as a credible sports-writer and podcaster in the media world of Denver sports.  He is a Colorado native originally from Thornton. He majored in philosophy and played basketball at the Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

After college, he started writing about the NBA as a passionate hobby and developed quite a following. Adam has always loved Denver sports, especially basketball. It wasn’t until a couple years after he started writing that he thought he could actually make money off of it. Adam recalls, “The only reason I made it in is because I was doing it because I wanted to, because how many people would take a three-year unpaid internship, which was basically what I did, even though I didn’t have an internship I was writing unpaid for several years.”

At the time, podcasts were just starting to get big. For the uninitiated, podcasts are pre-recorded audio shows that discusses specific topics relating to the show’s theme. Subscribers can download and listen podcasts to on their own schedule, making them accessible and popular.

The first podcast he made was called the Pick Axe Podcast and he made it to try and get his name out there and practice his skills in podcasting. Eventually this paid off because he got hired by a startup called Locked On Sports. Locked On Sports has since grown into a big company and Mares still does a podcast there called Locked On Nuggets.

The DNVR Denver Nuggets podcast is an intensive in-depth daily podcast that covers the Nuggets five days a week. Adam said there are five journalists who help host the podcast at various times with usually only three or four of them hosting for any show. The five of them are all genuine friends who share a passion for the Nuggets. Adam said, “Our audience feels like they're hanging out with their friends talking about the Nuggets.”

After every game, they discuss each of their perspectives and narratives. It covers analysis, news, and the community revolving around the Nuggets. Their podcast is the number one Nuggets podcast in the world.

One of the perks and (Adam’s favorite thing about the podcast), is the nicknames. Adam said they get to come up with a lot of the culture for Denver sports, like the nicknames and sayings that make the Nuggets who they are. For example, every year they nominate a player and call them ‘Mr. Nugget’. The player can’t be the star, or the best player, but it’s somebody who embodies the spirit, best aspects, and traits of the team.

The week before this interview, they decided Aaron Gordon, who has been with the Nuggets since 2021, was going to be ‘Mr. Nugget’. After they made the decision, they interviewed Gordon for the podcast and announced he was Mr. Nugget. At the next game, Ball Arena also introduced him as ‘Mr. Nugget’! Adam said, “That’s my favorite thing about this is that we add to the experience and create these things that then become ubiquitous and universal and everyone adopts.” 

Another key perks of being the number one sports podcast is access. The hosts get to meet and interview the players from the team. In fact, Adam has interviewed every player on the Nuggets at least once, if not more than once. He has also interviewed Michael Malone who is the coach for the Nuggets, and who is his favorite person to interview. Adam said, “Michael Malone is so charismatic and hilarious, and sometimes pointed… he’s just a really good interview.”

Adam’s most memorable experience since being with DNVR has been taking the DNVR podcast on the road to Serbia in 2022. Last year a group of staff from DNVR went to Serbia to learn about the history of basketball in the country. Five people from the show went including Adam, and two producers. Adam said, “As far as professional things I’ve done it was my favorite, we went out there to learn all about the history of basketball, we made a documentary on it, and we did a bunch of interviews and met a bunch of people.”

While they were there they even met up with Adam’s favorite player, Denver Nugget star player and Serbian, Nikola Jokic. Adam said when they went out there, they had a small following, but over the time they were out there it got bigger and bigger. Adam said, “We went on both of the national morning shows, they just called us up because we had gone so viral while we were out there and made such a big splash that they were like you guys have to come on.” He said the last day in Serbia, they got stopped about ten times to talk to fans or take photos. This was all just on their one mile walk to lunch.

Adam offered a lot of sage advice for anyone that wants to go into sports media. One piece of advice resonated the most with me and my own interest in journalism was about passion. Adam said, “Some of this is just life advice, and some of it is sports media advice, but you need to love something if you’re going to do it.”

A second piece of advice focused on getting better at doing the thing you love. Adam advised, “Just do it and it doesn’t matter if you have an audience or not, because your first article is going to suck, your first podcast is going to suck, your first everything is going to suck, so is your second, third, fourth or 100th but eventually you’ll be like ‘oh wow I’m way better at this’.”

All in all, I gained a lot of perspective from my time spent talking with Adam Mares. I find him inspiring because he’s someone that is successful in the field of work. I would hope to be just as successful doing this kind of work in the future. He makes pursuing a career within media and journalism seem more attainable.

The perks like working at a bar in Denver sounds nice, too!

Street Fighter

Two million dollars is a crazy amount of money to win playing a video game!

Capcom Studios, the video game company that developed the video game Street Fighter, has put together a 2-million-dollar prize pool for the upcoming 2023 Capcom Cup X video game tournament this February.

This is a big deal- it is the largest prize pool any gaming event has ever received. The largest cash prize for a major event in gaming was a tournament held in the Dominican Republic for $300,000 dollars.

Since 1987, the popular martial arts, arcade-style video game is known to having shaken up usual the videogame formula up with every game Capcom produces. And not to mention, Street Fighter franchise is very accepting of people from all walks of life. The videogame was one of the first franchise to include characters from over twelve regions of the world. The franchise has a unique influence within the videogame world and pop culture.

The news of the tournament is huge for all fans of Street Fighter in the Denver area. Many students around the Denver campus (myself included), have already decided to participate. The opportunity to play these games more openly with a wider audience will be great for people from all over to connect with each other.

Because Street Fighter is no stranger to embracing all peoples, the tournament itself reflects that as this will be Street Fighters first even open entrance tournament. Therefore, anyone can enter, no matter what age, race, gender or ethnicity they are.

Many e-gamers in the Denver area are going to try their best to enter and win as many rounds as they can so they can take home the cash for themselves. And while it is unlikely that any of them will win the grand prize, it is almost certain that the Denver area will be seeing a lot more gaming content and events in the near future. 

Participants will play the newest installment of the series, Street Fighter 6, which is to be released this June. It is also worth adding that Street Fighter 6 will be the most accessible franchise in over a decade, meaning the price will be affordable to everyone interested in obtaining it.

The characters in Street Fighter are well known. Guile is the hot-headed and charismatic soldier from America, Dhalsim is the calm and collected monk from India. Chun-Li is the Chinese kickboxer who is one of the most iconic fictional women of color. Poison is the first transgendered character to appear in gaming history.

Capcom Studios is interested in expanding e-Sports gaming worldwide and to help it to be more mainstream. They are working on hosting major tournaments in California, New York, Colorado, Texas, and Florida.

Is there anyone betting on me to win two million dollars?!

Jo Koy is my Elvis

There are only two people who have their own day in Honolulu. Elvis Presley and one of my favorite comedians, Jo Koy.

Jo Koy is a Filipino-American observational comedian who has captivated the nation. If you’re into the raunchy and the relatable, Koy is the guy for you. It was also his adoration and connection to his Filipino roots is what shot him into stardom. Koy is someone who stayed true to himself and his art in a world that adores masks. The masks that executives put on stars so they can be more ‘culturally accessible’ to audiences. But Jo Koy refused to be another casualty.

Because he stayed true to his culture and his art, he’s brought a plethora of different kinds of people into his fan base. I remember myself watching him for the first time and realizing how hooked I was when he was connecting the Mexican and the Filipino cultures as one in the same. His experiences were so much like mine- I saw myself in him. That doesn’t happen a lot for me.

In this different world, he reminds you to laugh at yourself and to not take things too seriously. His bubbly storytelling and light-hearted fluidity to connect with the audience is what makes it so easy to gravitate to him.

This inspired me to attend his stand-up show at the Ball Arena on Saturday, March 4. Forgetting the struggles I had all night with my hair, I was ready to watch his “Funny is Funny” tour stop here in Denver. I can remember sitting on the light rail and mentally crossing my fingers for a lot of people to come see him. I cringed at myself for being such a fan girl, but whatever!

After a long chat with a girl in line about Supernatural, I checked in and weaseled my way through the ocean of people. I was so happy to know that all these people who knew Koy, found him equally admirable.

Snagging my Truly hard seltzer and nachos with haste (don’t ask how much they were), I rushed to my seat. I heard the crowds cheering as the signal that he had finally come out. I was floored to see the big man himself for the first time! Even though his face was a blur from the balcony seats, I was just happy to be there. It had been a long time since I could enjoy going to an event without the fear of getting sick or having a mask to muffle my laughter and cheers. It was good to be back.

One instance, he called out a gentleman named Cameron in the nosebleed section. Koy could not get enough from the fact that Cameron looked like he borrowed his tiny shirt from his girlfriend, and neither could we. It was all in good fun and throughout the night, we all laughed about Koy’s microscopic butt, his son, and much more.

Towards the end of the show, he jumped to the subject of today’s youth. Everything that the generation before us had enjoyed, was lost in time. They did not know the cosmic prowess of 90s music or what a phonebook was. Despite being a 2000s baby, I agreed! The laugh-drunken arena enthusiastically followed his lead in singing songs from TLC, Boyz II Men, and K-Ci and Jojo. Not once did I feel awkward when belting the lyrics to ‘No Scrubs’. This man reached down into our inner child and brought them out to play. There was oneness throughout the arena, and I felt at home. Not just anyone can do that, but Koy did that for me.

He was loving and gracious when he was bidding us his farewells. It was like leaving your friend’s house, feeling on top of the world from having a good night. There was a tinge of hope in me when he said that one day, he might do a special here in Denver. All I knew was that if that were to happen, I would be there!

Walking through the hordes of people, I admired the merchandise so meticulously laid out. I silently laughed to myself looking at the prices, but I remembered that a gift of comedy like that doesn’t come cheap.

Humming to myself with a big smile, I practically skipped to the light rail. I left feeling inspired and ready for life again. The transparency for his love for fun and people is what makes those very things embrace him. We all have a gift that wants to be seen as we all contribute something to the world. Jo Koy is someone who shines through with his gift, bombastically and unapologetically.

Thank you Jo Koy  I think you deserve your own day here in Denver!

Capturing Emotion with a Ready Lens: Profile of a Compassionate Photojournalist

As a new addition to the Talon this past fall, Photo Editor, Stephenie Baker has been busy taking pictures for the magazine and telling the stories of communities impacted by the overturning of Roe v Wade and the national celebration of PRIDE.

This has been a shift for Baker herself. Before last year, her photography focused on lifestyle (family, couples, and boudoir). However, she has embraced this as a new challenge. 

Her work and goals offer representation of students of all kinds at the Community College of Denver, capturing emotions, and leaving you with something to think about. "I want to capture emotions. From styled shoots to candid. As much as I love lifestyle and enjoy the people I work with, I want people to feel something from the photos I take," said Baker.

Stephenie grew up in Buena Vista, a town with a population of under 3,000. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community she felt as if the representation of those like her was limited. However, her experiences at CCD and in Denver have been different. And when it comes to Roe V Wade, she has the freedoms and rights of herself, her daughter, and society itself to think about.

How long have you been a photographer for the Talon?  
I have been a photographer for Talon for about a month. 

How long have you been doing photography overall?  
I have been doing professional photography for almost a year. Though I have mostly done lifestyle (family, couples, boudoir).  

These are two national topics; how did you try to localize them to the community in Denver?  

In terms of localizing them I took photos of Denver’s capitol building. I also localize them in discussions pertaining to the photos. Most of the people who follow me are from Denver. 

Why was it important for you personally to cover these events?  

It was important for me to cover these events, because they are part of who I am. I am a woman, and I am a woman who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. 

What equipment did you use?  

I used a Canon EOS TI7 with a 70mm-200mm telephoto lens. 

Where was this event held?  
This event was held at Colfax next to the Capitol Building.

Why did you decide to photograph the Pride festival?  

We go to pride every year. We go to celebrate my partner's grandmas and we go to celebrate ourselves.

I see that most of the pictures seem to be of the parade, did you take pictures of/go to any other activities?  

These were during the parade! I got a couple photos at the events after, but we did not stay long. I have a cranky three-year-old who needed a break.  

I see that most of the pictures are candids as well, is it mostly the people walking in the parade or the crowd?   

All of the photos taken were people in the parade itself. I ended up finding a few of them through social media and got to send them their photos! 

Did you feel like people were accepting of you being there taking their picture?  
With me taking photos of the parade itself, people generally expected it. They weren’t shocked at all and some even stopped to pose. Though I do believe that if I had been taking photos of people in the crowd without permission, that would have been a different story.  

What was the story you wanted to tell and why?  

I grew up in a small rural town, Buena Vista, so being seen as part of the LGBTQ+ community wasn’t always accepted. It’s more of a statement than a story, we are here, we do exist, and we are proud. It’s important to see people in the media that you relate to.

Why are these pictures important to CCD?  

These are important to everyone, not just CCD. In terms of their importance to the school it is important that people are represented. Some CCD students relate to these photos.

These are photos of people in the community they deserve to be celebrated.

Do you have a favorite of these pictures, if so, is there a story that goes along with it?  
My favorite photo is of a gorgeous drag queen with a flowing rainbow gown. She has a white wig on with a sequin dress under the gown. She almost made me cry. I found her on Instagram and sent the photos: she responded. She not only loved the photos, but told me that the photo that I had taken captured every emotion they were feeling in that moment and that has really stuck with me.  

Roe V Wade  

What equipment did you use?  

I used a Canon EOS TI7 with a 70mm-200mm telephoto lens.

Where was this event held?  

This was held at the Capitol building 

Why did you decide to photograph the Roe V Wade protest?  

As a woman with a daughter, my rights are actively being taken away along with hers. I wanted to photograph this because this is a change in history. The overturning of Roe V Wade is dangerous and detrimental to society so the documentation of it is important.

What was the most interesting story someone told you?  

One story that will always be in the back of my mind is the woman who needed to have an abortion due to the fetus passing in her womb. This baby was wanted, loved and would have been taken care of, but if she did not have an abortion, it would have killed her. This is important because people think that an abortion means you had unprotected sex and just didn’t want a child. Which is far from the truth, sometimes an abortion is a lifesaving procedure. So, when people are chastising others for being “pro-choice” on social media they forget that these are real people, and no one will ever know the full story or reason why they had an abortion.

How did being in the middle of the protest make you feel - scared, concerned at all?  

I wasn’t scared. Even when people driving by were screaming “baby killer” out the window. I don’t know if it’s ignorance, or lack of safety concern; maybe the anger overshadowed all of it. I felt like the people I was surrounded by would protect me, like I would protect them. Being in the middle of a protest is powerful. You’re surrounded by people who care about what you care about. 

Were there counterdemonstrators? If so, how did that make you feel?  

There were not, to my knowledge, any at the protest. There were people who drove by yelling out their window, but nothing passed that. I feel indifferent about people who do not support Roe V Wade. I can only give information and support to those in my life who support me. I do not view them differently than my 50-year-old uncle who does not support it. Why would they? It does not affect them. They are not the ones who need birth control or access to cervical cancer screening. The overturn has nothing to do with their rights.

Do you have a favorite of these pictures, if so, is there a story that goes along with it?  

My favorite photo from these is the photo of a woman yelling with bold black eyeliner. There isn’t a story other than she was leading in the chants. This is my favorite because it holds a lot of power to it. When I look at it, I can feel the emotion behind it.

Did you feel like people were accepting of you being there taking their picture?  With a protest people take photos so generally speaking many people showed up knowing that others would take photos. I usually hold my camera up, make eye contact and get a head nod when taking photos so I would say it was accepted pretty well. I also had the intention of being in the protest, so I believe that helped people feel comfortable with me taking their photos.

What was the story you wanted to tell and why?  

Roe V Wade is not the end of taking away human rights. It is only the start. I wanted to give people information and I wanted it to be known where I stand in the matter. I wanted to show that these are real people, and this protest is important.

Why are these pictures important to CCD?  

These are important to CCD because the overturning of Roe V Wade affects students who attend CCD. The students at CCD need to be supported and represented in the school.  

Mr. Cardenas Goes to Washington

I still remember where I was when I heard the news. My dad told me to go upstairs immediately, which is never good. He told me cryptically that "the government was calling" about me. I got the rundown from my parents about what that actually meant. They were informed that Senator John Hickenlooper's office was looking for a Senate Page for the fall 2022 semester, and my now-former principal had recommended that I fill this slot.

The first place I turned? Wikipedia. "Page of the United States Senate" turned up some interesting results. I found that Pages had their own school and dorm, but their hours were long and the programs had received much scrutiny over the years. On top of everything else, Pages didn't have access to their phones during the entirety of their stay in Washington, D.C.

My parents told me I pretty much had to do this program, and I'm not sure why, but I obliged. I say no to just about everything, but this time felt different. Maybe in the back of my mind, I didn't think it would amount to anything. All I know is that I agreed.

That was a Sunday. The next few days were pretty hectic, because the turnaround was dangerously fast. In between some Britannica research on what the Senate actually does, I completed an application, got a letter of recommendation from the Denver Public Schools superintendent, and did an interview with Hickenlooper's chief of staff. By Wednesday, she had called me back saying that they wanted to offer me their Page slot. I thanked her and excitedly told my parents.

Not even a month later, I stood in line outside our dorm, Webster Hall. I was with the other 25 pages, all from different states and across the political spectrum. It was just my dad and I, and I felt a strong sense of unease being around so many people I didn't know and in an environment I had never been to.

By the time we were introduced to the Senate floor and toured the dorm, all the families had left, and the Pages were shuffled into the dayroom to meet each other formally. I sat in the back of the room, only speaking when spoken to and trying to avoid being front and center. Not only did I not know much about politics, but it took me a long time to open up in such an unfamiliar environment.

Thankfully, I was glad to see that it did indeed get better over time. Even though I didn't have much in common with any of my five roommates, we came to share a brotherly bond. And despite my work shift being quiet in our first days, we gradually came to show off our individual personalities, no matter how emotional, outrageous or overachieving we were.

The coolest moments started pretty much immediately. During our first month, Sonceria Ann Berry, the Secretary of the Senate, presented us each with pins to wear on our blue uniforms. We each got a photo with her and listened to her share her words of wisdom. The long hours weren't as bad as they were made to seem. I still remember the reactions people had upon seeing the more famous members of the Senate, but we quickly got used to working side by side with them

School was unlike any other education I had ever experienced - that's ignoring the fact that class typically started at 6 A.M. and never ran past 10 A.M.  All the teachers had their own quirks and interests. Our science teacher, Dr. Johnson, was always there to make sure we understood the material, and we had lots of laughs poking fun at our social studies teacher, Mr. Fiorill. The math teacher, Ms. Glines, had a vocabulary all her own that the rest of us Pages came to adopt. She laughed if we were ‘weak sauce’ or making ‘J.V. moves’. And I had never met anyone like the English teacher, Mrs. Owens, who had been with the Page Program since 2000. She had the most unapologetic and dry wit. But it was clear underneath it all, she loved her students.

In between school and work, the residence staff made sure that we had time to have fun and get to know each other. During our first weekend, we did a cool team building activity in Maryland. We enjoyed zip lining and being dropped from heights merely being held by a thread. Sometime during the first month, we were taken to a production of Hamilton at the Kennedy Center. Despite the fact that I am not a "musicals" person, I was so enthralled by the show that I found myself forgetting where I was during the intermission. In general, D.C. has lots of cool sights, many of which we were lucky to have toured, like the Library of Congress and Georgetown University. School field trips were fun too, like Mount Vernon and Williamsburg, even if we mostly resented the fact that we were still there to learn and would get quizzed on them.

Every Page got the chance to meet their Senator, and my meeting with Hickenlooper was nothing short of ethereal. I got to talk to him in his private office, and was glad to see that he remembered things like where I go to school when we spoke. I saw him a number of times throughout my service as a Page, and every time he made sure to say hi to me and ask how I was doing.

Our class of Pages was unique in that the Senate spent a lot of time in recess, meaning we had no work to do and had more flexible hours. Recess weeks were filled to the brim with field trips; places like the National Air and Space Museum and the Planet Word Museum. Perhaps my favorite field trip of the entire program was when we went to Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania on a Saturday. It was fun to be able to let loose with my new friends, snacking and riding roller coasters with a sense of freedom that I had never felt before. During recess weeks, I got to work alongside Hickenlooper's incredible staff in his office, sorting constituent mail or organizing team press releases. On one recess day, myself and two of my friends snuck to the House side to take pictures in front of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's office.

All the fun we had didn't mean that we weren't committed to our work. I worked past midnight a number of times.  The Capitol at 12 A.M. is truly a sight to behold. It's every bit as composed as you would think it is, and could easily get creepy. Such long hours likely would have deterred most people from doing it, but everyone was there for each other. The Senators were nice on the floor; even a simple thanks from Mitt Romney or Elizabeth Warren after holding the door for them was much appreciated. The littlest moments were always some of the most important to us. I can't even describe my excitement when Bernie Sanders passed by me and said hello. The Secretary even let us go to her Christmas office party in December!

By the last month of the program, things were starting to feel final, but that didn't mean anything was slowing down. We got to tour the White House and view all of its decorations in their glory. Perhaps the single most important day of the program (and what I would already consider one of the most important days of my life), was the swearing in of the new senators for the 118th Congress. On January 3rd, 2023, we saw the swearing in of the first ever female President Pro Tempore of the Senate, Patty Murray. And the actual President of the Senate was there - Vice President Kamala Harris. One of my friends got to serve her water, and she gave her an enthusiastic thanks. Needless to say, we all felt so much secondhand pride.

The program was beginning to wind down starting with final exams week. They weren't as bad as everyone thought they would be, and they lifted tons of stress from our shoulders. We got to just hang out at work for the final few times, each day more bittersweet than the last. On the last day of work, Senator Cory Booker, who was known to be a great friend of the pages, gave us a tribute and asked that our names be submitted to the Congressional Record. I tried to hold back my tears upon hearing his speech, but seeing my friends cry made me fail. He stayed in the lobby with us afterwards, happily taking pictures and signing our yearbooks.

January 27, 2023 was the hardest day. It meant that we were packed and ready to leave, saying goodbye to all of our teachers and favorite staffers. We traveled to the Capitol for the last time as a class for the closing ceremony. It was a moment of bittersweet peace - everyone got their awards and speeches were delivered on behalf of our class. Hickenlooper spoke, and I even got a shout out during his speech. Once it was over, I got to introduce my family to the other families as well as my always-cool supervisor, Toussaint. I gave them a special tour of the Senate side before we left.

As I wished my fellow Pages farewell, we put my things in the car and drove off. I stared at our dorm and then the Capitol until they were out of sight, and let a few tears roll down my face.

Even if I was sad to leave behind what had become my life, I would be forever grateful that this program opened the doors that it did for me. Though it's physically over now, I know that I will let the memories live on in my mind forever.

A Garage Band’s Origin Story

Every garage band has an origin story. These stories start with a small group of teenagers interested in making music in the garage and expecting no audience. Yet dreaming of the sounds of the crowds who line up for hours to hear them, chant their name, and enjoy their music.

There is a local garage band that is just setting out on the journey. No name has been chosen. The music style is still undecided. To understand this band’s music is to understand the bandmates and how their different personalities bringing forth their own talents and skills to create a new form of music and perhaps style.

Jakob, Louis, Myles, and Josh, friends since middle school, recently decided to form a band in their junior year of high school. All of them have their own particular story behind the music that they create and how they came to love the art. The essence of their music is derived from both the sense of self-love and the love for their loved ones, making powerful sounds. This compels me to tell their story. 


Jakob describes music as “just [a] kind of an escape as emo.” To him the most awesome part of the music is “how you can put these certain sounds together and it hits a chord in you”. He started playing the guitar when he was in sixth grade due to seeing his older brother play it.

Soon, his older brother started teaching Jakob which sparked his love for creating art. He also loves a variety of music but more specifically “jazz like Jaco Pastorius, Bill Evans, Rick James and Sly and the Family Stone to black metal like Darkthrone, Meshuggah, and Terrorizer”. He carries on this list to inspirations such as Animals as Leaders, Acid Bath, MF Doom, Thundercat, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, the Prodigy, and Death Grips which are artists that Jakob loves “…it’s hard to pick a certain one I like more than the other”.

His MP3 holds both the music his family liked and the music he liked, setting the foundation of his individual sound- “There was a period of time I completely forgot I had that MP3 player, so I got a lot more into rap and hip hop then rock and s--- like that but then around like 7th grade. I discovered it again and just jumped right back into all that stuff.”  The band that they are forming, he describes more as “just a couple friends who like music getting together and messing around”, making music for fun. As Jakob expresses in his laid-back way, “Music’s pretty cool”. And creating it makes it even better. 


Starting 3 years ago with his own instruments, Louis finds that music is fun to play with and loves to see how it “communicates” with those around him. He learned to play guitar, electric guitar, and piano as well as editing the music to make it fit together.

He enjoys any type of music, but punk rock is his favorite- “Just those bands who are for the music and playing for the fans”, he says as I asked for his favorite. Above all, he loves Vansire because of “his very surreal style”.

Surreal, meaning that it revolutionizes the human experience and perhaps even brings in the power of the unconscious mind and invokes beauty from the uncanny. This is a recurring theme for the band itself that Louis helps provide. For Louis, creating this band served the purpose of not just making music but having one day of the entire hard week from school and relaxing with his friends. 


Myles enjoys music because it is a way for people to express themselves- “Regardless of whether or not that what I write has some significant and deep meaning, each piece of writing sets the framework for who I am. Anything I couldn’t formulate to others, I could articulate within music”, he says.

Myles has been writing songs his whole life, but it was at 13 years old where he discovered music production and his own love for music saying, “ I gravitated towards it due to the comfort I felt in knowing there’s others who have the same feelings as I did. It was that feeling that I wanted to capture myself, resulting in me being more serious about songwriting”.

As he began to learn how, the passion for music grew so much that he had finally convinced his mom (through a lot of late-night singing) to let him get singing lessons in order to improve his voice. It was since then that singing had been all he did.

Enjoying every kind of music, he explains, “I believe every genre holds importance in its own respect. I view music as human nature. Each artist and band has music full of human expression exercised in various ways. There’s not a genre I don’t listen to”. Also adding that he is not exactly fond of the music that feels “unauthentic or industrially fabricated for the sake of attention only”.

Myles expresses his gratitude in joining the band, to which he had no hesitation of saying ‘yes’ when asked to join. He is, “happy in deciding to join due to the wider diversity of ideas thrown about to create something personal to all of us” and is heavily inspired by David Bowie and others.


Lastly, Josh explains that his own love for music comes from the fact that it is able to bring people together and that he enjoys it more that way rather than just listening to it. While he had been enjoying music and had learned lots about it, he also just began to play the ukulele this past summer out of boredom and because of it “collecting dust”.

He enjoys a lot of classic rock, hip hop, and “a little bit of modern/lofi? Like metamodernity type stuff”.  All of this is thanks to his older brother who introduced him to most of what he listens to today.

For him the band was both a way to share what he had learned and is a “nice excuse to hang out”. And while he doesn’t have many inspirations for music, Josh does say “I admire the story and backgrounds of certain artists like Capital STEEZ or Nujabes… maybe not inspired but definitely piqued my interest” and adds, “my favorite artist is producer Nujabes. he's very influential and I admire his ability to produce and produce well. He was on a lot of the soundtrack to one of my favorite shows, Samurai Champloo. And also, the fact he used to sample with physical records and collected them- s---- was cool to me, very traditional. Shame he died so early.”

The Music
While they don’t think the world is quite ready for them yet, the question remains: are there any original songs? The answer is yes.

Louis says the music they make is called “stressitself”- all spelled into one word. What began as a sort of joke and a way for them to mess around with their music has now grown deeper. As Louis explains “stressitself” as a“joke song that kinda weirds out the listener.  It purposely weirds them out for a unique experience”.

The sound they want to create is always changing, but there is one thing that Louis knows for certain- “I think we’re definitely gonna be heavy hitting with emotional segments as a band.” With all of them undergoing through their own personal hardships, it has given way for new inspiration and the purpose of their band. However, they still want to spread messages through their music and inspire other bands and songwriters to “love yourself and put it into your craft no matter what it is.” 

I wish this band all the best of luck to keep moving forward, especially in their hard times and hopefully someday we can all see them perform. My message to them is that those struggles are the best inspiration for making art. Whatever type of art they are doing, it is in the hard times that wonderful masterpieces can be created.  

An Ourglass Story

A literary magazine’s purpose is to present stories, poetry, and art in as pure a creative form as possible. The Ourglass, Community College of Denver’s decades-long-running lit mag, holds sacred the artistic vision of their contributors. When the editorial staff accepts a piece for publication, there are no further edits. If it is executed with precision and emotion, it stands out to the editors who can envision it blossoming on the page exactly as the writer intended.

As a fledgling writer and CCD student as well, I often wonder if I could be capable enough to build a career out of crafting words for the page. It’s an easy habit to look back at my writing and see how my sentences drag on and clunk into each other, how some transitions feel more senseless than seamless. Despite my self-criticism and doubt (and also being required to for a creative writing assignment), I ended up submitting several poems and promptly putting it out of mind.

Investigating what happens after you hit submit, I discovered that my poems likely ended up in the hands of Riley Nguyen, fellow CCD student and one of the editors on the editorial team. After talking with her, it was clear how much goes into this review process. She’s been busy preparing this year’s publication, receiving, reviewing, and making the judgment call on submissions to the magazine.

Riley’s background in charity fundraising is the perfect foundation for this type of editorial work. She knows how to sharpen a message, direct it at the correct audience, and earn the investment capital needed to sustain an organization. She sees her role in fundraising as that of liaison, where the visions of a non-profit organization or entrepreneur get translated and forwarded to the powerful minds and hands that can dole out investment dollars. The stakes are real, and she is dependable.

Her skills of communication and detailed wordcraft have transferred nicely into the literary sphere. The currency and stakes she now deals in are emotions. Making clear her priorities, Riley said, “You want to have a connection between the artist and the reader and my job is to mediate between the two because, yes, the artist can make a brilliant piece of work, but it's really difficult for a reader to understand if it's chaotically organized.” 

She leans forward in her chair focused on her open laptop, critically experiencing one story after another, balancing how long a piece is with the potential value it might bring to readers. Every accepted entry must be justified — after all the reality of the form of the magazine means printing space is limited. Out of an estimated 300 pieces, only 30, or perhaps as many as 40, will make it in. Their standards make it clear there is no room for incompleteness or slop. 

Riley, ever the empathetic editor, acknowledges the range and depth of the submissions. Noting one particularly emotional and delicate story that struggled to meet the magazine’s standards, Riley said, “I recognize that this is a very vulnerable story… and unfortunately, I have to be the arbitrator of these standards, but also that doesn't mean that I haven't been touched by these stories. I've had several stories that didn't make it in for one reason or another… that totally made me cry.” 

Graceful or stumbling, readable or not — these stories are real and full of meaning, and at these soulful moments, they reach out and touch an audience, one set of eyes and emotions at a time. Some stories just require more cultivation and work to accomplish this goal.

Once selections are made and the drafts and design are finalized, it will get digitally bundled together and sent to the printers to be printed out in its physical form and dispersed throughout Auraria Campus. The students and readers who eventually open a copy will have the same chance to experience the stories, just as Riley did, but more carefully curated.

To be honest, when I contacted Riley for an interview, I had completely forgotten that I had submitted to the magazine. I was reminded only a few days ago, while working on the piece you’re reading now, because I discovered an Ourglass rejection letter in my student email inbox. I could have felt disappointed, but, on reflection, I could more easily imagine Riley, with her laptop, leaning into my poems, understanding how they’re not the right fit, still appreciating that another whole human being took the time to write themselves onto the page for her careful consideration.

First Friday

First Friday Art Walks are always a hit. The Denver art district of Santa Fe is a unique corner of Denver that provides the satisfaction of gorgeous art, culture, local food and music that makes the perfect combination of a relaxed and fun environment. On Santa Fe, not only can you look around Denver’s local art galleries, but shops like Moon Dance Botanicals greet you with open doors and a hot cup of healthy herbal tea. You are urged to explore the small local businesses such as Katya Candles. This establishment is well-known for their signature homemade candles, beautifully crafted to look like food or the shape of curvy bodies. The colorful and undemanding atmosphere compels your own inventiveness to be stimulated. The First Friday Art Walks remind you to work hard and play harder within your own life- let loose!  If you're an artist suffering from creative block or just need a fun night out, come to this side of town! This event is held every first Friday of the month.