Chester Spellman, the new national director of AmeriCorps for the Corporation for National and Community Service, made a site visit to the city of Grinnell on Oct. 25 to learn more about local programs. This was Spellman’s first visit to Iowa.

Grinnell was one of two AmeriCorps State Programs selected for a site visit. The other Iowa program selected for a site visit was AmeriCorps Youth Launch Program out of Graceland University in Lamoni.

Volunteer Iowa, which oversees the AmeriCorps program in Iowa, chose to showcase the Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership, particularly for the opportunity to highlight the service happening in rural communities.

In particular, Grinnell was selected as an example of a program that Volunteer Iowa believes has been successful in overcoming barriers to national service, particularly those that are unique to rural and small communities.

Director Spellman was joined by Adam Lounsbury, executive director for Volunteer Iowa, and Chad Driscoll and Jamie Orozco Nagel, program officers for Volunteer Iowa.

During the visit, Spellman learned about the goals, framework, and successes of the Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership and also visited two participating host sites — Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool and Drake Community Library. At Drake Library, Youth Services Director Karen Neal hosted the team and discussed the library’s participation as a “Summer Learning” host site.

At Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool, Spellman met with Executive Director and Enrichment Aide Host Site Supervisor Kathleen Whisenand, two AmeriCorps members currently serving at the site providing after-school enrichment programming — Grinnell College’s Claire Sponheim ’21 and 2015 Grinnell High School graduate Kyle Cogley — as well as Seth Hansen ’17, an AmeriCorps alumnus and a new Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool staff member.

“It was a great opportunity to share with Chester the success Grinnell has achieved through this collective impact effort to support educational initiatives in our community,” said Melissa Strovers, AmeriCorps program manager. “Chester was able to see first-hand our members in action and meet with an AmeriCorps alumnus who has built on his AmeriCorps experience and continues to make an impact through his work with kids in a professional capacity. We were glad to be a part of his first visit to Iowa and a part of his first visit in this new role as the new national director of AmeriCorps for the Corporation for National and Community Service.”

“It means a lot more for leaders like Chester to hear from people who are directly involved in administering an AmeriCorps program,” said Jamie Orozco Nagel, a Volunteer Iowa program officer. ”The Grinnell team visit contributed in a meaningful way to the conversation at the national level to help improve AmeriCorps.”

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