Imagine growing up on the streets of Chicago. Your future seems bleak. Kids in your class have parents that just disappear. Your father is addicted to heroin and just can’t get things together. People you know, kids you know, are dying on a regular basis. Your mama works hard to hold her family together so you can at least have a stable home. But the lure of money, drugs, and a fast life is too much to resist and you find yourself sucked in anyway….
That was the life of Jason Sole. He recently came to Mount Mercy University to share his story with others. The kids in his school grew up with trauma after trauma. I think this is a key piece that Jason has identified as to why kids in poverty and violent situations just become numb to the world outside them.
As a teenager, Jason was a great basketball player. He was playing with some of the best coming out of Chicago. One day after he returned home from basketball camp, he returned home to a very disappointed mother—she had found the drugs and money he stashed away. Jason was sent to Waterloo, Iowa to live with his aunt and finish high-school. Life in Iowa was still rough for him. His aunt battled mental health issues and he still encountered racism. He did graduate high school without failing a single class and his team made it to the state tournament. But all he could think about was how he left his team back home in Chicago and they lost the city championship because he wasn’t there to help them.
The lure of gang life was too hard for Jason to resist. After high school he returned to the life in both Chicago and Minnesota. Multiple arrests followed, and once he was shot in the leg–almost losing his leg.
Jason soon figured out that education was the only way out of his current situation. He earned Bachelor and Masters degrees in Criminal Justice. He is finishing up his doctorate in Public Safety Leadership. He is now training criminal justice students and law enforcement officers around the country about gangs and how to handle the delicate situation most of these kids come from.
Jason’s current project is teach his criminal justice classes, and give his speeches, wearing a hoodie. His thought process is that if we can “Humanize” the person behind the hoodie, we can break the stereotype that a young black man in a hoodie is up to no good. In reality, he is a person just like all the rest of us.
Jason has written a book about his experiences called From Prison to Ph.D. It is a great story about giving people a second chance and what they can accomplish.
Taste the flavors of the world without even leaving Cedar Rapids. How? Simply by visiting The Map Room! This new pub recently opened up downtown. The atmosphere is warm and cozy inside, almost like stepping into your grandfather’s study. Interesting maps of all kinds hang from the walls. The beer and wine list is well-rounded and is not so long it makes it hard to choose what you would like. Creative craft cocktails are also available. The best-kept secret about this place is how good the burgers are. Oh my goodness, they are awesome!
The Map Room uses locally sourced meat for their burgers. Each one is named after a major city around the world. My husband ordered a New Orleans burger made with mortadella, ham, salami, mozzarella, provolone, and a spicy olive relish. I ordered a Saigon burger topped with ham, mortadella, cucumber, pickled carrots and radish, jalapeños, cilantro, and mayonnaise. It has a bit of a kick to it! One of the most popular burgers served here is the Memphis. The Memphis is topped with American cheese, pulled pork, French-fried onions, pickles, and a house-made BBQ sauce. Gluten-free buns are available. The salads change daily, based on ingredients the chef has available. Broccoli salad was the choice available for us. Some days, a kimchi potato salad is available. I can’t wait to come back and try it!
Not so adventurous when it comes to your food? You also have the choice to build your own burger. If you don’t feel like eating a full meal, you may choose from a variety of appetizers served over fries or crostini bread.
I definitely recommend this place for a unique experience. Curiosity will draw you in, comfort will bring you back. The Map Room is located at 416 3rd St SE in downtown Cedar Rapids (formerly known as Stella’s).
Ah, summertime. Hot dogs, ice cream, and baseball! You can get all 3 at Perfect Game Field when you watch the Kernels play! Cedar Rapids is lucky to have a Class A baseball team in town. Going to games to see the Kernels play is always a fun time. The staff is so nice. Silly games and entertainment keep people engaged between innings. Many of the weekend games have a fireworks display afterwards.
If you’re not into the traditional hot dog fare, other food choices are grilled burgers, brats, chicken, philly cheesesteaks, and salads. There is even a Mexican food vendor!
We have been to the Kernels games many times. We’ve sat just about everywhere. The Mezzanine Level is great when you have a big party such as a corporate event. The kids love to sit on the side lawn and run around (that’s right—expend all that energy kiddos! You’ll sleep better when we get home!). Recently, I was lucky enough to win suite tickets from my employer ( a sweet deal, no pun intended). That was quite the experience! We rode the elevator up to the suites, and ours was right behind home plate. Great View. Opposing team hit a grand slam right away and it got everyone quite excited. When the heat was too much, we could go inside and watch the game from the stools by the window as the TV’s broadcast what was happening. Only thing missing was the recliner…
The Kernels are affiliated with the Minnesota Twins. Now, this is a bit tough for me because I am such a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan. However, I love to see the players hone their skills and we get so excited when they move up to the next level. The players have always been friendly guys. My kids have been able to go on the field with the players at the beginning of the game and participate in activities with them. Every summer the Kernels sponsor a reading program and when you finish, you get to meet the players and get their autographs at a special recognition event. What a positive experience!
The Kernels play at the Veteran’s Memorial Stadium complex at 950 Rockford Rd SW in Cedar Rapids.