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Educational Ice cream Cart | Kansas City, KS. | Leslie Ponce-Díaz, BArch/BFA ’23

The opportunity to continue my post-secondary education after high-school is a great privilege and honor to have. As a First-Generation college student, I have realized the difficulties and challenges that many students from marginalized communities face within pre-dominantly white institutions. I created First-Gen Chisme,, as an opportunity to give back to the upcoming generations of Students of Color pursuing their education. During my internship, I have been able to connect with my supervisor, Sharita, to explore ways on how content could be distributed in an engaging manner. The Enough is Enough initiative has created many visuals around the community where they ask students to register in any violence seen around their communities and schools. An issue that we realized is that many students would not engage directly with the visuals. This could be due to the fact that they are not familiar with the work of Enough is Enough and might not know how to get involved. I took some time to think on how to bring attention to the initiative with visuals, movements, social media, and more. I realized that el paletero (the ice cream man), always caught the attention of the community with his ice cream cart ringing bells on the block. I began to wonder… What if I could integrate my cultural upbringing with my educational resources? This is where the idea for an educational cart that hands out resources and information about Enough is Enough and First-Gen Chisme came to be! The goal for the educational cart is to have it completed by middle July to visit at least 3 high schools in the Kansas City School District. The educational cart would give students school supplies and important information in regards to Enough is Enough and First-Gen Chisme.

This picture demonstrates the inspirations from the paltero man (ice cream man) for the education cart.
This is a draft of how I plan to paint the educational cart. These visuals are logos that can be found within the First-Gen Chisme education website.

As an Architecture student, I have learned the necessary tools to visualize how I would program this community event. I began to create construction drawings on how the educational cart would function. The most important factor about its function is that it must be easy to take a part and assemble in order for easy transportation.

I asked my dad if we could collaborate together to create the cart from scratch since we both have experience with wood working. We went to the hardware store and bought some materials to get started! We began a base for the cart and had a fun time working together. However, we both realized that our schedules began to become really busy and we were unable to fully finish it by the deadline needed. We also did not have all of the necessary wood cutting equipment which made it difficult to get the project completed into the quality that we both wanted. Thanks to the Maharam Fellowship, I had the freedom to research for an already built candy cart that I could purchase. I found an amazing one from Etsy and will be arriving in the first week of July, right on the deadline I originally planned! Although, I really wanted to build the cart from scratch I am fortunate to have the necessary resources to be able to find one just in time. I also am very appreciative of my dad for taking time out of his busy working schedule to help start a project with me!

The plan is to have the educational cart travel to at least 3 high schools in the Kansas City, KS school district to provide with school supplies and visuals supporting Enough is Enough. We will have conversations on what Enough is Enough is doing within the community and how students can get involved. Students will receive folders, stickers, pencils, pens, pencil holder, and visuals pertaining to Enough is Enough and First-Gen Chisme.

As I wait for the candy cart to arrive, I have continued my research on visuals pertaining to Gun Violence within my community and in other initiatives. I will be collecting different visuals from the public library and online that demonstrate community building. What do these two flyers in the folders need to have to create an engaging and visual messages surrounding post-secondary education and gun violence? Is there any other things I can help give that catch the attention of students? For example: Pins, Buttons, Stickers, Posters, etc. How can I best support the gun violence awareness work being done in my community in a respectful manner that helps catch the attention of others? Engaging the youth in conversations surrounding gun violence is very important. I want to help support students pursue their education and have success outside of the violence present in their communities.

These illustrations help provide an idea on how the educational cart will look when present at the schools. I am very excited to be able to visit the schools in person and distribute the necessary resources for students to have a safer educational environment! My focuses will be on the Kansas City, KS High Schools: F.L. Schlagle High School, Washington High School, Wyandotte High School, J.C. Harmon High School, and Sumner Academy of Arts and Sciences. Due to lack of time, I will not be able to attend the Middle Schools in my community but the three day event will be open to all students.

I look forward to updating you all more on my research visuals for gun violence research in the next blog post. As well as, hopefully, answers to the questions asked above. Thank you for reading!

Quick Brown University B-Lab Updates:

To read more on my venture:

Alongside my Maharam Fellowship, I am participating in the Brown University 8-week summer accelerator program for Brown and RISD students developing high-impact ventures. Recently, I pitched a 90 second venture pitch for 80+ people on Zoom for preparation on a bigger pitch in September. It was definitely a nerve-wrecking experience but I am very appreciative of the practice pitches we are able to have during B-Lab. I am currently continuing my bottom-up research to understand how an app focused on providing First-Gen students with academic and financial resources could best work.

The Pitch: Every time I come back home from college, I talk with my friend about our experiences and difficulties in being the first in our family to attend college. We shared conversations where we often felt lost,  pressured, and always feeling behind our other peers who’s family did attend college. I realized that we were sharing our First-Gen Chisme. The ability to build a First-Gen community that can help support incoming students inspired the tech non-profit First-Gen Chisme.

First-Gen Chisme is a non-profit tech app that focuses on providing First-Generation, Low-Income, and BIPOC students with needed academic and financial resources throughout their post-secondary education. We provide school year-long content and mentorship on academics, scholarships, FAFSA, mental health and more. First-Gen students need 24/7 support to successfully guide them through their education. Based on our bottom up research, many First-Gen students do not know where to start when asking for help. They need accessible resources that help them feel supported within their institutions. 

Nationally, 89 percent of Low-Income First-Generation students leave college within six years without a degree.  As a First-Gen student myself, I speak from personal experiences on the struggles that we face coming from under-resourced communities. Many Universities fail to acknowledge the extra support needed from First-gen students. First Gen Chisme believes that with access to direct resources, students would feel more supported and graduate their institutions with great success. 

If you are interested in learning more please visit our resource website for more updates on our tech-app and content. Let’s continue to make education accessible to ALL students with First-Gen Chisme. 


Sterile, Kate Reed, Industrial Design, 2021

The textile dying process is one of the most polluting processes in the world. Chemical dyes are used until the color is no longer consistent, then the liquid chemical dye is thrown away, with little regard to where it goes and the harm that it creates. It is an unsustainable and toxic process. Due to high demand and fast fashion, little is being done to disrupt this harmful cycle.

We have a plague on our society of consumer capitalism, with predictable and obedient consumers. Fast fashion is a product of this plague, where clothing is meant to only last for one season and then expire as the trend expires. This has created an uncontrollable amount of textile waste. In 2014, the United States alone produced 32.44 Billion pounds of textile waste.

As the Artist in Residence at BosLab, a community built molecular biology lab in Cambridge, MA, I have the unique opportunity to disrupt this fast fashion cycle through novel bacteria dyes. Bacteria dyes use significantly less water than traditional dying methods, and the biproduct of the dye is ecological, as opposed to foreign chemicals from traditional dying methods.  

I began my journey with safety training and learning the concept of sterile from a biologist’s perspective. Sterile is very different than being clean. We exist in a world surrounded by microbes, they are on our bodies, on surfaces, in the ground and in the air. To create a sterile environment means to rid that environment of all the microbes. This is commonly done with heat, UV light, rubbing alcohol, and bleach. Creating a sterile space is quite straight forward, but keeping a space sterile is much more difficult. If you reach your hand over your work surface, you have contaminated it. If you touch the outside of a bottle or container with your hands, you are contaminated. As result, I find myself spraying my gloved hands down with ethanol every 30 seconds or so in the lab.

This need to keep my workspace sterile shines a light on the cleanliness of my everyday COVID lifestyle habits. I am aware of how many microbes are living all over everything in my home, my car, and my food. I am also more aware of how strong my body is as it co-exists with microbes. But I would not want to be living in a glass bubble – microbes are good.

In my first attempt to dye textiles with bacteria, I used a magenta synthetic e.coli. I took a single e.coli colony and grew it up in a vat of LB broth which provides the food for the bacteria to grow.  Then I added textiles to the dye bath, then put the dye bath on heat. A week later I came back to find beautiful pink textiles. It was so exciting to see the dye work on the textiles, but this was only half of the challenge. Next, I had to figure out how to kill the bacteria while keeping the color, because you can’t have active bacteria living and growing on your clothing. Killing the bacteria turned out to be the most difficult part of the project. I experimented with ethanol, vinegar, UV light and an autoclave. Heating the bacteria in the autoclave was the only method that worked to kill this specific type of bacteria. Unfortunately, killing the bacteria by autoclave also meant killing the color as well. My autoclaved samples looked almost completely washed out, devoid of color.

Back to the drawing board. I need to fine a different type of bacteria for textile dyeing.