IOWA CITY, Iowa – Jake Gervase has trained hard this offseason in preparation for his senior year. The Iowa safety still managed to pursue his other passion – traveling.

During May, he hung out in Seattle mountain biking, hiking and kayaking. From there, he headed to Austin, Texas for a visit with siblings. Oh yeah, those stops followed a spring break trip to Cuba.

It’s funny. Looking at his pictures from the trip, he’s wearing Hawkeye gear in front of the pastel-colored buildings and other recognizable landscapes from the island. The Davenport Assumption High graduate’s heart will always be in his home state.

Credit him for wondering what else is out there, though. That’s what the college experience should be about, moving away from the nest and learning about other cultures, expanding horizons.

Gervase is another Iowa walk-on success story. He heads into training camp later this month as the starting free safety despite minimal attention coming out of high school.

He created buzz for himself last April when he picked off three passes during the spring game. He struggled as a starter early last season and was replaced in the starting lineup. He got back up, reclaimed his spot and played well down the stretch. His teammates named him to their leadership committee this week.

He’ll finish his Iowa football career as a graduate student having earned a Bachelor’s degree Finance. He could have just taken a class to learn about Cuba like Jeff Spicoli did with Mr. Hand, but it wouldn’t be the same as seeing it in person even he was eating pizza. If that reference is too obscure for you young folks, Google it.

Bob Walker, a lecturer in the Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center of the Tippie College of Business suggested a trip to the communist island south of Florida. With an older brother who’s traveled the globe, Gervase jumped at the opportunity. The trip was part of a class in which students studied the history of Cuban jazz and also how business works there.

“We learned about all the restrictions businesses face due to them being run by the government,” Gervase said.

They met with a women’s co-op that produced stained glass. The class members tried helping them with a business plan.

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It’s not easy. The Cuban government’s regulations are designed to keep citizens from building their businesses. It allows only one license per person¬†and they are heavily taxed.

The government is guarding against the public making too much money. With that, the communist regime loses control.

Gervase felt comfortable talking business with the Cubans. That wasn’t the case with the Afro-Cuban jazz, which is the earliest form of Latin jazz. It caught the attention of legendary Americans like Dizzie Gillespie and Charlie “Bird” Parker, who recorded with¬†Machito, a well-known Cuban artist.

The genre invites listeners to move their feet, which Gervase and his classmates saw while on the Island. They were encouraged to join in.

“It was fun to watch. I had to get thrown into the (dance) circle a couple of times. It wasn’t pretty. You can ask any of the guys on the team. I’m not a very good dancer. I had fun with it but it definitely wasn’t a pretty sight,” he said.

The taste of Cuba inspired Gervase to follow in his brother’s footsteps and see the world.

“It solidified my plans to travel. I’ve always said I wanted to get away since I came to school so close to Davenport. Learning about the (Cuban) culture and meeting people over there makes me want to hit the road,” he said.

He mentioned New Zealand, Australia and Vietnam has places he’d like to explore.

 

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