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TMCC to Present Tiny House Plans to City Officials

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Jim Severt, an architecture student at Truckee Meadows Community College (TMCC) is working in coordination with TMCC Instructors, Kreg Mebust and Todd Copenhaver, to help generate plans for a tiny house community for the homeless youth in Reno, Nevada. While the project started off as Severt’s independent study class, Severt said that both instructors have pulled in their classes to help work on the project. “Now we have this conglomeration of people all working together,” he said.

According to Severt, the students are working on designs for single occupancy, temporary dwellings. “I’ve made contact with council members, we’ve contacted the mayor’s office,” said Severt, “Our goal is to come up with the idea for this dwelling, this pod, and May 4th we’re going to present it to city council members and other people in the area.”

Severt says the students have plans for about 100 dwellings, with eight by ten foot dimensions. “I could give them this idea for this pod, and if it’s inexpensive, they could mass produce it and just expedite the process,” said Severt. He suggests that the units are not big, but that they safe. “They’re just beds that are safe, secure, warm in the winter, cool in the summer,” Severt said, “We are at the end of our design phase, and now we’re going into our build phase. We’re going to build a model.”

Severt said the students are focusing on housing for homeless youth specifically. “The adult homeless population abuses the homeless youth population. It’s about a hundred percent abuse rate. Personally, I can’t accept that,” said Severt, “There’s another percentage, a very high percentage, where if you get to [the homeless youth] from 18-24, they’ll never be homeless again.”

Severt suggests that the potential future site could be an opportunity for the homeless youth to focus on their future goals, and he hopes to include features on the site that facilitate this. Severt imagines a wall where occupants can paint and a computer area where they can learn computer skills. Severt hopes that occupants are able to find what they are passionate about while living there. “Any human spark can take you and lead you through your life and career,” said Severt.

Severt hopes that more people will get involved in the project. To Severt, “If people want to get involved with [the project], they can email me.” Severt also hopes that more people become involved in helping the community in general. “I’m real big on community, and creating a community for the homeless youth to have a place to be and know that they’re safe,” said Severt.

Contact info:


closeup of a book being read

Northern Nevada Literacy Council Helps Create New Workforce

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Northern Nevada Literacy Council (NNLC) is a local nonprofit that seeks to educate adult learners and accepts students 17 years of age and older. NNLC’s free programming includes Citizenship classes, High School Equivalency (HSE) classes, English as a Second Language (ESL) classes, and Career Pathways, which helps students and graduates of HSE to further their education or find a career.

Susan Robinson, the Executive Director, expects an influx of new jobs in the Reno area. She said, “There’s 45,000 adults in Washoe County without a high school diploma, not children, adults. How many of those 45,000 people that live here already, how many of them can we educate and train to take those jobs?”

Robinson said that helping people get their high school diplomas and enter the workforce helps the economy as well as the individual.

Robinson urges people to consider taking HSE classes and recommends commiting to 50 hours of work. “We allow new people to start every two weeks. The average of our graduates has been five to six weeks [in class]. For some people it’s as little as one to two weeks,” said Robinson. Patty Aragona, the Career Pathways Coordinator, said, “It’s a short time, for a long term gain.”

HSE students and graduates can take advantage of the Career Pathways programming. Aragona said, “[Career Pathways] gives them a goal to shoot for, to complete their classes, get their equivalency, and know that there’s a next step.”

She said that programming helps students to become, “Excited about careers, seeing the difference in pay that they’ll get having their credential, and then their options that open for them once they get into higher education, as far as scholarships and financial aid.”

Robinson suggests that an important aspect of NNLC’s programming is creating a brighter future for the participants. She said, “We have to have the mentality and the position that it’s going to be about getting them a job, or into college, or into training.” Aragona added, “It’s to improve their quality of life.”

Robinson said she would like to see NNLC continue to grow. “We don’t have to stay here in the mothership, as I call it. We could have satellite classrooms,” said Robinson.

Aragona said she would like to see more of the community become involved with NNLC, suggesting University of Nevada students could teach there. Aragona said, “We love having volunteers for tutoring. I got my degree in education [at UNR], so I know that you need to have teaching hours. We could give them as many hours as they want.”

Robinson said, “When I started here five years ago, [NNLC] had about 290 students, and now we’re over a thousand.” Robinson would like for the trend to continue, and for the community to know what NNLC has to offer. NNLC is committed to increasing education and opportunities for adult learners in Nevada. According to Robinson, graduates often go on to attain higher paying jobs, more stable employment, and to attend college.

If you’re interested in volunteering for the Northern Nevada Literacy Council email


silhouette of a father and son sitting side by side

A Premature Journey

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Mac Frost and his newborn son

When I was 17, I became a father.

I made a difficult decision that resulted in a life-changing experience that was embarrassing and frightening, and left me disillusioned. Many such experiences stemmed from that decision, like opening a can of worms.

I was a high school student with my sights set on screenwriting, drumming, acting, and filmmaking. I hung out with friends, but I spent most of my time in my room honing myself by drumming, writing, and working out.

I found out my girlfriend was pregnant. She decided to have it. If I decided to embark on this life-long quest, my entire world would turn upside-down and inside-out. My dad tried several times to convince me to abandon all ties with her and deny everything, to protect my future and myself. My mom agreed it would be better for me. It’s strange how people are quick to judge deadbeat dads, yet when it’s their own child becoming a father, they may change their mindset.

I had grown up without a dad around, and I was not going to let my child suffer the same life. I had no mentor but my ideals. I definitely was not going to leave this child to be raised by his mother alone. I knew then that despite her claims she could do it all on her own, she was just a girl who wanted to play house.

Jack Alexander Putman was born June 11, 2005, three months premature. He weighed two pounds, fifteen ounces. His face cried but no sound came out, for his lungs had not yet fully developed.

He came home from the NICU two months later on an oxygen tank and a heart monitor. People complain so much about babies waking them up at night. What a bunch of wimps. Were you woken up by an alarm every hour signifying your child’s heart had stopped beating?

I was seventeen, working, and spending all my money on formula and diapers. When I turned 18, my mom started charging me rent. When I turned 19, I got an apartment for Jack, his mom, and me. You think being 19 is tough? I was fully supporting three people with a ten-dollar an hour job.

When I left Jack’s mother in 2008, I was a defeated man. I’ve always struggled with depression, but during this time, at my lowest, I was overcome by it. Jack’s mom took him out of state, to Oregon. I could have done something about that at any time, but I did not. I believed Jack would be better off without me in my current state, and I let him go.

His mother moved back to Nevada maybe five months later, but five months is a world of difference to a three-year-old. It seemed Jack had all but forgotten me. His mom stopped by to get money from me, of course, and Jack was with her. Seeing him again sparked my paternal fire I had laid to rest, and I knew I could never give him up again.

Jack’s mother was so irresponsible I paid her child support one, sometimes two months, in advance, in addition to gas money. I still bought Jack supplies he needed – clothes and whatnot. His mom unfortunately made many bad decisions and they snowballed until I could no longer sit by and watch. I took action.

By early 2012, Jack’s mother was living in a motel with her boyfriend and Jack. Jack told me about unsanitary living conditions. He said at times he had to use a bucket as a bathroom. When he was with me, he said things like, “I like being at your house. There’s always enough food and there’s always clean clothes.” It was heartbreaking. I knew what I had to do. I filed for sole physical and legal custody, but had to wait three months for a court date.

Then in March of 2012, something terrible yet magical happened, as if a sign from God that I was on the right path. Jack’s mom told me her boyfriend had been arrested for unpaid traffic tickets. I knew better than to trust her, so I went online and found the real charges: Sexual Assault of a Child and Lewdness with a Minor under 16.

It was not Jack, thank God. It was his mother’s teenage sister. Still, this was cause for an emergency ex parte motion for temporary sole custody, which I immediately filed and had served. My emergency motion was granted. On those courthouse steps, reading the order granting temporary sole custody, I cried a little bit, tears of hardship, pain, relief, joy, and validation.

I have always been poor, so I had to represent myself in court, for the first of what would be many occasions over the years to come. I had to prove Jack’s wellbeing and safety was at stake, and his mother an unfit parent. I printed out the criminal charges against her boyfriend. I testified to the living conditions Jack had described. I even went to Jack’s school to retrieve his school records – this was a juicy detail.

Jack’s school had no idea I was his father. His mom had not put my name or information on a single form, but had instead written in the name of her sex offender boyfriend as Jack’s father. What was perhaps more offensive was Jack had missed more than half the school year. She had started him months late into the school year, and frequently kept him home insisting he was sick. Jack would have to repeat the first grade, at no fault of his own, but by the intentional failure of his mother.

I was granted primary physical custody with joint legal custody, and now his mom would have to pay me child support. This was a huge victory, but the war was far from over.

I rearranged my entire life to accommodate full-time parenting. I was ruthless in my restructuring. I told my work I could no longer work random hours of random days. I would need a set schedule with set hours and set days off – I would need a regular schedule of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to accommodate childcare hours.

Walmart of course told me they could not promise any such thing, that I would receive almost no work hours and become so poor I would not be able to support myself. I called their bluff and told them so be it. I was one of their most valuable, knowledgeable, and experienced employees. It would be foolish of them to not have me on the clock as much as possible. I was given a full 40-hour regular work-hours schedule.

Childcare was set up. My work schedule was accommodated. I bought Jack all the clothes and supplies he was missing and needed. I set him up at the school by my residence. I had risen to the challenge, assumed greater responsibility, and as a result we were both thriving. Jack was safe and well cared-for, and remains as such to this day.

I fought many court battles for years to keep my son safe and healthy. I’ve had primary physical custody for six years. Jack’s mom owes tens of thousands of dollars in back child support. No one knows her current whereabouts. The government has been unable to locate her. I was finally granted sole legal and physical custody in 2015. Jack’s mom has been completely out of the picture for three years or so now. Both he and I are far better off without her involvement in either of our lives.

Almost four years ago I quit working full-time to invest in an easier future for us by enrolling in college full-time. I go to school while Jack is in school. I work random part-time jobs when I am able to, and summer jobs when I can actually get hired somewhere. We go to school, we get home, I make dinner, I clean, I do all the things traditionally considered “women’s work.” I’m not just a dad; I also hold the role of a mom. I’m a very affectionate and nourishing caregiver, and I enjoy that role; however, there is a strange stigma attached to male caregivers.

Many people, but mostly men, look down on me as a full-time single parent. Some talk down to or insult me. It is not traditionally viewed as masculine to “mother” children, or to cook and clean or even to parent so actively. People are understanding and supportive when single mothers pursue higher education, but when it comes to single fathers, it is unthinkable for a man to do anything other than work full-time.

There are two people I grew up calling Dad even though neither were active parents or even completely present in my life. Both my dads often show disappointment that I am somehow unable to parent and support a person entirely by myself, while going to college full-time, while also working full-time. There are literally not enough hours in the day to do all of those things all the time, and men often disagree with my priorities. How manly is it to do laundry and cut your son’s hair? How can you be a man if you’re not lugging boxes in a warehouse fifty hours a week?

I am met with prejudice by other than those who are acquainted with me. It is not uncommon for Jack and I to be at the checkout line in some store, and the cashier says something like, “Giving Mom a break, huh?” People make poor, sexist assumptions based on the poor, sexist examples set by men of previous generations.

Most women do not want to date a guy with a child half their age. It is a sad, lonely life, met with weird expectations. Some people think I should only date other single parents. Others, even some of my closest friends, are of the opinion I should be looking for a mother for Jack instead of a romantic partner for myself. One girl I dated broke it off before things even started because she “didn’t want to be a home-wrecker.” What home?! There hasn’t been anything to wreck for years!

There is nothing quite so frustrating as when people assume that Jack’s mom somehow holds some special place in my heart simply because he shares her DNA. I haven’t felt any affection for her for a decade, and in retrospect she has no redeeming qualities. She is quite honestly the worst person I have ever met. I am very happy she is not in my life or Jack’s. Some people say, “But she’s the mother of your child!” No, she’s not. I am.

I have seven classes left for my bachelor’s degree in journalism, so I will earn my degree before Jack starts high school. After that I aim to write articles and make videos for a pop culture magazine, but I would also like to pursue a master’s degree in behavioral or criminal psychology and work as a profiler for the FBI, either as a special agent or just a consultant.

Jack is the happiest person I have ever met. He is completely brilliant and one of the funniest people alive! He is also crazy creative! He sculpts these claymation figures that are so detailed, it would be impressive if an adult made them. He plays the cello and is constantly soaking up information on the universe from YouTube videos. I’m full of pride for the person he is and I can’t wait to see the final product.

The decision to bring another life into this world was made for me. Mine was the decision to take responsibility for that life. I’m just a guy doing my best to make sure the person I brought into this world is the best and happiest person he can be. It is difficult. It is frustrating at times. It is an all-consuming duty that supersedes everything else in my life. This life has been hard, and I am tired. I am exhausted. I am happy I stepped up to the plate, but I would not want to endure it all over again. I will continue to shoulder this responsibility alone for as long as I live. My son is worth it, and he deserves all the love in the world.

The KC and Parking Garage of UNR

How to Have the Best Semester Ever

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The start of a new semester is always rough. You have to dive back into the grind of school with new classmates, new professors, and new workloads. It can take a toll on anyone, especially when trying to figure out how you’re going to tackle the semester. Fear not fellow students, here are some tips on how to have the best semester ever and get those good grades.

Divide and Conquer: One of the best ways to stay on top of your coursework is to break it up in bits. Always write down when all of your assignments, tests and projects are due. Having a planner or calendar is great for keeping track of how much time you’ll have. Keeping track is vital for success. After writing it down try diving up your workload into little chunks to do each day and see how it works for you. Many of us are prone to putting things off until last minute to be then left sitting there asking ourselves why we do this to ourselves over and over. Breaking up your work this way can be a nice way to ease some of the stress of big workloads.

Set the Scene: Although getting comfortable in bed is always fantastic, realistically it probably isn’t the best place for you to do your homework. When sitting down to start your work you should do it in an area you know you’ll be able to stay focused and productive in. We’ve all heard it before but it’s probably best you put your phone away for a bit. Got to stay focused my friend! Also, don’t be afraid to try out new areas to work in. Go out, explore. See what works for you! Maybe you’ll find you love getting work done in a coffee shop or sitting out by the quad. Maybe you’ll even find a little love for some soft Beethoven in the background while you’re at it. Always remember to take breaks and allow yourself time to recharge! The more focused you are the more productive you’ll be, and the more productive you are the sooner you’ll be done, just remember that.

Try new techniques: There are lots of different study/homework methods out there, and the internet is a great way to find them. Whether it’s flashcards or notes, they’re all worth a try! One of the best study methods I have discovered is to try and teach someone what you learned. So maybe go over to your roommate, your dog, even your wall, and try to teach them what you’ve been studying. Then while you’re teaching, if you find any holes in your own knowledge you can go back and look over it. Speaking about the subject out loud is a great way to help retain information!

Read the readings: I know, I know. Readings suck. Some teachers just stack pages upon pages for us to read, making us all look down at it like “Yeah… I don’t have time for that.” Well, now’s the time we try and make time. If you have a few moments to spare between classes, break out the readings instead of scrolling on your phone. Just try to squeeze in some reading time whenever you get a chance. Maybe wake up a little earlier or plan a trip to a tea shop to let yourself sip while you read. Just try to get the jist. If you can’t read it all try seeing if there is a summary of it somewhere online or read the beginning and concluding paragraphs to see if you can get the jist of what the author is saying. Just by getting an idea of what the author is saying you’ll be better equipped for class the next day.

Do the Extra Credit: Guys, always do the extra credit if your professor is nice enough to offer it. It can be just what you need to push that grade up a notch or help cushion the blow of a bad grade on an assignment.

man playing the drums

Animals in the Attic Q and A

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The refreshingly Californian band, Animals in the Attic, paid us Renonians a visit to perform at the Holland Project and sit down for an interview with Insight Magazine. Frontman and co-guitarist, Spencer Rakela, keyboardist Clayton LaFlamme, drummer Mitchell Grimenstein, and guitarist Stefan Sorgea grabbed some chips and salsa with me before their performance to discuss their beginnings, their inspirations, what’s next for the band, and more.

How did this band come about?

Spencer: Animals in the Attic came about, about three years ago when Clayton and me started playing music with our other friend, Jeff, on drums. We just started writing music together in high school and then we moved to Seattle after high school. We’ve kept playing together ever since.

Where did the name Animals in the Attic come from?

Spencer: Alliterations. It was just kind of catchy.

How did you boys get into music?

Mitchell: My dad has played for years, so I was just born into a musical family. My mom plays piano and and my siblings also play music. I have just been immersed into it since I was a kid.

Stefan: Mitch and me are cousins so his dad got me into music. Most of the good music I heard as a kid was in Mitch’s dad’s car.

Clayton: I really got into music because of my mom. She just showed me music from a young age, and I loved it. I just have a craving for it.

What inspired you then and what continues to inspire you now?

Spencer: I feel like if I didn’t write music I might go insane. There’s too much going on. It’s the perfect outlet.

Clayton: I think everything inspires me. I don’t know. I’m just going for it, man. I’m just going hard on it!

What’s your favorite song to perform?

Clayton: Off the old album my favorite song to play is “Not Foolin’”. It’s really fun and chill. We have another new song coming up called “Drop Me” that’s awesome to perform.

Mitchell: I think mine would be the same as Clayton’s.

Stefan: Same. Those are the fun songs.

In what state of mind are you guys in when you write?

Spencer: I think I write the best music after meditating. I try to be in a very calm state. I’ve always talked about writing our music in a tranquil state to have a peaceful vibe. We want people to feel calm when they listen to our music.

What’s next for the band?

Spencer: Just releasing the new album.