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Digital Storytelling: Transcending Text with New Media

Saturday, October 8, 2016 - 10:00am to 1:30pm
The Digital Liberal Arts Lab (DLab) in the Forum
Veronica Pejril
Interim Director of Instructional and Learning Services at DePauw University

Attendees will learn how digital storytelling assignments can empower students to create more compelling and persuasive stories than text-alone may allow. We will observe some examples of how digital storytelling can be integral to community-based participatory research, social justice studies and social activism. Finally, we will brainstorm about how these practices can play a useful role in pedagogy, from assignment-design to implementation and assessment-methods. 

Faculty interested in attending please register here. Registration is limited to twenty attendees. If the cap is reached, your name will be added to the waitlist.

Commencement 2016

It’s been a beautiful day for the 170th Commencement of Grinnell College, celebrating the class of 2016.

Commencement exercises began at 10 a.m. at the amphitheater on Central Campus, and are now complete.

The ceremony featured an address by internationally renowned novelist Zadie Smith and the awarding of honorary degrees.

Join us as we celebrate our newest graduates. You can:

  • See a copy of the live stream on YouTube. (Higher quality video will be available later.)
  • Follow and join the conversation on Twitter: @GrinnellCollege #Grinnell2016
  • Share your photos on Instagram: #GrinnellCollege or #Grinnell2016
  • Follow us on Facebook and YouTube for highlights from the day.
  • Check out the story on Snapchat: username grinnellcollege

About Zadie Smith

Zadie SmithNovelist Zadie Smith was born in North London in 1975 to an English father and a Jamaican mother. She read English at Cambridge, graduating in 1997. Her acclaimed first novel, White Teeth, is a vibrant portrait of contemporary multicultural London. The book won many honors, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers Prize (Overall Winner, Best First Book), and two BT Ethnic and Multicultural Media Awards (Best Book/Novel and Best Female Media Newcomer). Smith’s The Autograph Man, a story of loss, obsession, and the nature of celebrity, received the 2003 Jewish Quarterly Wingate Literary Prize for Fiction.

In 2003 and 2013 Smith was named by Granta magazine as one of 20 “Best of Young British Novelists.” Smith’s On Beauty won the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction. Her most recent novel, NW, was named as one of the “10 Best Books of 2012” by The New York Times. A tenured professor of creative writing at New York University, Smith writes regularly for The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. She published one collection of essays, Changing My Mind: Occasional Essays, and is working on a book of essays titled Feel Free.

About Honorary Degree Recipients

Zadie Smith will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at Grinnell’s Commencement exercises.

Grinnell also will confer honorary degrees upon two alumni and a renowned educator.

Thomas Cole ’71 will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws. He is U.S. Representative for Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District, serving since 2002. Cole, the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, is the fourth-ranking Republican leader in the House. He is currently one of only two Native American serving in Congress and was inducted into the Chickasaw Hall of Fame in 2004.

Fred Hersch ’77 will be awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. A pianist, composer, and one of the world’s foremost jazz artists, Hersch was described as “one of the small handful of brilliant musicians of his generation” by Downbeat magazine. His accomplishments include a 2003 Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship for composition and numerous Grammy nominations. He is a member of the Jazz Studies faculty at the New England Conservatory.

Claudia Swisher will receive an honorary Doctor of Social Studies. She was an English teacher for several decades at Norman North High School in Norman, Okla., where she was admired for going above and beyond in her efforts to connect with students. She saw education as something that should be formed around the children, and not that the children and their interests should be manipulated to conform to education.

Grinnell welcomes and encourages the participation of people with disabilities. Information on commencement ceremonies is available at Grinnell’s Commencement Web page. For any further information on commencement, please call 641-269-3178.

Photo of Zadie Smith by Dominique Nabokov

Another Banner Year for Grinnell Philanthropy

Fiscal year 2016 (FY16) continued Grinnell College’s philanthropic growth after the exceptional year of fiscal year 2015 (FY15). Total commitments in FY16 reached $26,973,773, an increase of more than $3.6 million, or 15.5%, in new gifts, new pledges, and new bequests over the previous year.

In all, 11,375 individuals — including alumni, friends of the College, parents of current and former students, faculty, students, and staff — were donors to the College in fiscal year 2016. Among these, the largest number of donors (7,711) made unrestricted contributions. This year 7,098 alumni made gifts to the College, an increase of 3.9% over last year. Of FY16’s alumni donors, 245 made their first-ever gifts to the College. Overall, Grinnell welcomed 1,407 first-time donors in FY16.

Total receipts for fiscal year 2016 — one-time gifts, payments on pledges, and realized bequests — reached $10.9 million.

“Grinnell’s culture of philanthropy supports our aspirations to provide students a world-class education that prepares them to successfully navigate their careers, life, and service,” says President Raynard S. Kington. “I am grateful for our many donors who so generously play a key partnership role in our future.”

Grinnell achieved a major milestone in FY16 when Carolyn “Kay” Bucksbaum ‘51 pledged $5 million toward the creation of a position to lead the College’s Global Grinnell initiatives and a programmatic fund focused on uplifting students and program development.

Additionally, the College set a record for one-day giving this fiscal year. Our second annual Scarlet & Give Back Day saw gifts from 3,376 donors on April 7, an increase of more than 75% over last year’s 1,922 donors.

Alumni and donor engagement take many forms at Grinnell. Here are some highlights from fiscal year 2016:

  • The second annual Global Day of Service, co-sponsored by the Alumni Council, engaged over 450 alumni, family, and friends who volunteered in 55 locations around the world to celebrate Founder's Day, Grinnell College, and our strong commitment to social justice.
  • GRASP volunteers conducted nearly 400 interviews with prospective students.
  • The alumni relations team, in partnership with more than 200 regional network volunteers, hosted more than 75 regional events to which we welcomed 3,652 alumni, parents, and friends.
  • More than 400 students participated in National Philanthropy Week.
  • The outgoing Class of 2016 achieved 54% in total gift participation toward the senior class gift.
  • With the partnership of over 150 class volunteers, the College welcomed 1,177 alumni and family members back for Reunion 2016 from 47 states, the District of Columbia, and 11 foreign nations.
  • The Class of 1966 raised over $4 million and had 67% participation, both of which are records for a 50th Reunion class.
  • Through the 2016 Grinnell externship program, 97 alumni volunteers provided experiences to 99 students, a 36% increase from last year.
  • More than 150 alumni returned to campus to share their time and talent with current students and fellow alumni. As alumni mentors and speakers in a variety of platforms, Grinnellians are consistently creating opportunities to give back through their professional expertise and talent.
  • The Council for Advancement and Support of Education honored the donor relations team with a Circle of Excellence Award for its fall 2015 Endowed Scholarship Fund Activity Reports. The annual giving team received awards from CASE for Best Practices in Fundraising (Scarlet & Give Back Day FY15) and Best Student Alumni Programming (Class Ambassadors).

“This marked the fourth consecutive year for increased fundraising at Grinnell,” says Shane Jacobson, vice president for development and alumni relations. “We thank each and every donor who helped make fiscal year 2016 an incredible year in philanthropy. Their generosity, alongside the many other ways the Grinnell community gives back, flows through the College to positively influence the lives of our students, faculty, and staff.”

For more information about giving to Grinnell College, please contact the Office of Development and Alumni Relations toll-free at 866-850-1846 or local at 641-269-1846 or send an email to alumni[at]grinnell[dot]edu.

David Cook-Martín Named Assistant Vice President for Global Education

David Cook-MartinDavid Cook-Martín, professor of sociology, has accepted the position of assistant vice president for Global Education and senior international officer. In this role, he will lead Grinnell's new Institute for Global Engagement and take on the responsibility to promote strategic planning for international education and external partnerships across the College. He will also join President Raynard Kington's senior staff.

This step flows from one of the foremost recommendations of the Global Grinnell Task Force: to create a stronger, more integrative structure to lead the College's international initiatives. Grinnell's high rates of participation in study abroad, large and diverse international student population, and outstanding curricular offerings are compelling strengths. Further collaboration across academic areas, engagement with the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, and the offices of Development and Alumni Relations, Admission, Student Affairs, and Off-Campus Study now promise to give Grinnell a distinctive position of leadership in global education as referenced in the Global Grinnell Task Force Report.

This initiative was also made possible by the great generosity of Carolyn "Kay" Bucksbaum '51, former board chair and now Life Trustee of the College. Her recent $5 million gift created two endowments, one to fund the creation of the senior international officer position and another to create a Global Distinctiveness Fund to support students and faculty through scholarships for global courses and language study, research initiatives, internships abroad, and international projects exploring global problems and challenges. 

David brings outstanding qualifications to his new role. An expert in the sociology, history, and politics of human migration, his teaching and research deeply engage with the transnational forces shaping the contemporary world. Most recently, he co-authored Culling the Masses: The Democratic Origins of Racist Immigration Policy in the Americas (Harvard University Press, 2014), a book that won major national awards from both the American Sociological Association and the American Political Science Association. He is also the author of The Scramble for Citizens: Dual Nationality and State Competition for Immigrants (Stanford University Press, 2013)—another award-winning book—and numerous scholarly articles and public commentaries. David's engagement with the American Council on Education, his role as director of Grinnell's Center for International Studies over the last three years, and his service as chair of the sociology department have given him valuable administrative experience as well.

The Institute for Global Engagement will provide Grinnell with a vital point for ongoing collaboration among departments and programs and across the divisions of the College. As the new institute takes up the responsibilities formerly held by the Center for International Studies, I am confident that under David's leadership it will make the most of the opportunities provided by Kay's generous gift, as well as the new Global Learning Program courses, which are a direct result of a $4 million gift provided by Trustee Susie McCurry '71 and the Roland and Ruby Holden Family Foundation. The new Humanities and Social Studies Complex will provide an ideal home for the institute alongside Off-Campus Study, the Office of International Student Affairs, and a new Language Resource Center.

In the coming weeks, David and Michael Latham, Vice President for Academic Affairs, will plan for a new faculty and staff steering committee to provide direction for the institute. They will also work with the Office of Development and Alumni Relations to engage trustees, alumni, and friends of the College in its continuing work.

 

First-Year Roommates

Student Affairs staff review paper and online records as they select roommates for the incoming classIf you’re jittery about who your roommate will be in your first year of college, stop worrying. Not only do you have a lot of control over a good match at Grinnell, there are real people who care about it.

“Students fill out an application that asks for different types of preferences — identities, music, study habits, things like that,” says Joseph Rolón, director of residence life. “Other schools put them into a computer program and match them up. Here, humans actively research the students and care about how they’re matched. We literally spend three days in the summer hand-matching 400 first-year students.”

Rolón says it’s important that students are honest on the roommate form. “What students say on paper can be very different from who they are when they get here,” Rolón says, “especially if their parents were looking over their shoulder when they filled it out or their parents filled it out for them. Students need to be very honest because that’s what we’re basing our matches on.”

Positive Relationship

The residence life staff encourages incoming first-year students to contact their assigned roommates before arriving in Grinnell. Tulah Fuchs ’19 and Lauren MacKenzie ’19 chatted briefly, but Fuchs says they didn’t share a lot of personal information right away.

“What was really important for our relationship is that we didn’t attempt to get to know each other before we actually met,” Fuchs says. “That works for some people, but our relationship took off without the virtual pressure of telling our life stories on Facebook.

“I think the roommate form was a huge part of our positive relationship, and I think that the questions were really good,” Fuchs says. Questions about lifestyle and personal tastes are important, she says. Being asked to describe your ideal roommate “allows you to think beyond the basics and write down not just what you want in a roommate but potentially your first real friend in college.”

Records of students and floor map of Younker Pit with a number of rooms with big red Xs through themReflect and Prioritize

She advises incoming first-years to give themselves time to reflect about their answers and to understand that their roommate doesn’t have to be their best friend from the get-go. “I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to have that happen,” Fuchs says.

“Start off by prioritizing the basics, like when you go to bed and how neat or messy of a person you are,” Fuchs says. “Definitely be honest. If your roommate and you are best friends, that’s fine, but hopefully you’re not fighting about what time the lights should be turned off.”

Unusual Beginning

Rachel Swoap ’19 had an unusual experience that turned out well thanks to the efforts of residence life staff.  After arriving at Grinnell, Swoap learned that her assigned roommate had withdrawn from the College. For a time she didn’t have anyone scheduled to room with her. “That was like the last thing I wanted to hear,” Swoap says. “I thought, what’s going to happen to me?”

Arriving early for the Peer Connections Pre-Orientation Program (PCPOP) was good, Swoap says, because she had time to unpack and get familiar with her surroundings. Without a roommate for most of New Student Orientation (NSO), she had begun to accept the idea of living alone.

“The last night of NSO, I got an email saying ‘We have a girl who’s in a triple. Would you want to meet up with her and see if she could live with you?’ I got excited all over again,” Swoap says.

Happened Fast

Swoap met Liz Williams ’19 at an NSO event that night. “We hit it off and talked for two hours,” Swoap says. “We decided it would be perfect if we lived together and she moved in the next day. I got to meet her parents and help her unpack. It all happened very fast.

“We come from very different backgrounds,” Swoap adds. “Liz is from D.C. and moved around a lot as a kid. I’m from small-town Massachusetts. But it worked out so well. She’s fantastic and I’m just really happy about how it turned out.”

Sold on Process

It’s been such a positive experience that the two women plan to live together again this year. Swoap says the roommate form helped make it happen.

“I tried to answer questions as honestly as I could and I think she must have done the same, because we have very similar habits and even personalities,” Swoap says. “I guess something in the survey came through that they noticed.

“I think a lot of first-years get really nervous about who they’re going to live with for an entire year, but I’m just really sold on this whole process now,” Swoap says. “It’s a big deal who you’re living with and to have it work out so well is just amazing. I’m very grateful for that.”

Tulah Fuchs ’19 is from Brooklyn, N.Y. Lauren MacKenzie ’19 is from Manchester Center, Vt. Rachel Swoap ’19 is from Williamstown, Mass. Elizabeth Williams ’19 is from Washington, D.C.

Transforming Trans Justice

The college experience is often seen as not only an opportunity for educational enrichment, but also as a space for exploring personal identities.

For Chase Strangio ’04, Grinnell was both personally and politically formative. “I really found a home both intellectually and emotionally,” says Strangio. “I knew I was queer; I knew that I had a critical political sensibility, but I didn’t have any real sense of who I was before Grinnell.”

Strangio’s time at Grinnell solidified his commitment to LGBT rights. After graduating, he moved to Boston to work for GLAD (formerly known as the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders). While on the one hand it was an exciting experience, Strangio was disappointed by the then-emphasis on marriage and other ways the organization and other mainstream LGBT organizations were content with the constraints set by the legal system.

“I was a paralegal, and it was exciting to be there with these amazing lawyers; but I was a bit frustrated. At the same time I was coming to terms with my own gender, and I started to really gravitate toward trans legal work,” Strangio says. “I decided that I wanted to go to law school to be able to do a different kind of legal work than that being done at GLAD.”

Strangio attended law school at Northeastern University in Boston, a program he chose because it reminded him of Grinnell. “It was a school that had a very self-selecting body of students who cared a lot about social justice.” His three years of law school were dedicated to issues of mass incarceration, criminal justice, and trans justice.

In addition to his desire to help people as a direct services lawyer (a lawyer who works with organizations that serve low-income individuals by providing them with affordable or free representation), Strangio was also drawn to a law degree for the legitimacy he felt it would bring.

Chase Strangio“If I’m being perfectly honest, I knew that I was sort of an outsider in the world in certain ways,” he says. “I felt like getting a law degree would force people to take me seriously.”

After graduating, Strangio received an Equal Justice Fellowship, which supports public interest legal work, and went to work at the Silvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) in New York City. At SRLP, he worked on disability justice and prison justice work within trans communities throughout New York state.

“It was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about the legal system. I learned a lot about political organizing, but I had ongoing frustrations with the limitations of direct services and of working at an under-resourced organization,” Strangio says.

Strangio took a job at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2013, where he has worked for the last three years. He currently represents Chelsea Manning, who was convicted in 2013 of multiple charges related to releasing sensitive documents to WikiLeaks, in her case against the Department of Defense for denying her hormones while in prison.

“One of the things I really love about working at the ACLU is that I’ve been able to utilize creative and collaborative approaches to doing legal advocacy,” Strangio says. “Taking litigation and combining it with traditional media and social media and leveraging multiple points of intervention to try to effect change.”

He also loves working in an environment where his colleagues are doing the most exciting and important work in the field, because “it’s an incredible intellectual environment.” He now has the resources and support to pursue the kind of work he’s passionate about with the support of a vast network of colleagues who care as much as he does.

“I feel incredibly privileged to get to do the work that I want to do on behalf of my community. Just to be able to work in collaboration with people who are doing such inspiring things — it doesn’t really get better than that.”

Alumni in the Classroom

For students in Grinnell’s Introduction to Sociology class, the central question they must ask themselves is this: “How do my own personal struggles fit into a wider public issue, and how can I use sociology to solve that problem?”

“For example, if students are struggling with debt, they need to explore how that is reflective of a larger trend or problem in society,” says Patrick Inglis, assistant professor of sociology. “This semester, I wanted to bring someone in who really exemplifies that ability to make that connection and find solutions to those big problems. And I immediately thought of Damon.”

Casually dressed, Damon Williams and students talking over pizza in a casual environmentDamon Williams ’14, who was a sociology and economics double major, is currently a member of BYP100 and the Let Us Breathe Collective, both of which are Chicago-based black liberation movements. Williams worked in a variety of other movements after graduating from Grinnell, including raising money to send gas masks to Ferguson during the 2014 conflict and teaching financial literacy classes to young black men to help alleviate poverty through investment.

“I graduated from Grinnell having studied social media, feminism, black power movements, and other social movements around the world,” says Williams. “When I left, I knew I wanted to be a game changer.”

Inglis was able to bring Williams back to campus to share his experience with current students in sociology and philosophy classes. Williams also met with the student group Concerned Black Students about social media and black liberation, and held jam-packed office hours in the Spencer Grille. His presentation and workshop entitled “Bigger than the Cops: Racialized State Violence and the Movement for Black Lives” was standing room only.

“It was incredibly inspiring to learn from someone directly involved in the struggle against racism on a community level,” says Rosie O’Brien ’16. “His perspective gave me hope for the future of Chicago and the future of global economics more generally, and I learned a lot about the power of community-based movements.”

According to Inglis, bringing alumni back into the classroom is an important way to connect students’ learning to the work they can do after they leave Grinnell. “Alumni are already familiar with Grinnell, and that helps them make a more personal connection with the students,” Inglis says. “They know the real world and the Grinnell world and they can help students bridge those worlds in a way that professors aren’t always able to do.”

Rosie O’Brien is a political science and studio art major from Lawrence, Kansas.

Grinnellian Trains for the Olympics

Joshua Tibatemwa in Grinnell Honor G swimcapGrinnell College swimmer Joshua Tibatemwa ’19 will be making a splash on the international scene in August.

Tibatemwa, 19, will be representing his native Uganda in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is the first Pioneer in the modern era to earn a spot in the Olympics while still a student at Grinnell.

As Uganda’s overall fastest male swimmer, Tibatemwa was named to that country’s Olympic swim team by the Ugandan Swimming Federation.

Last August, at the International Swimming Federation World Championships in Kazan, Russia, Tibatemwa set two national records for Uganda and achieved his personal best in the 50 freestyle (25.54 seconds) and 50 breaststroke (33.00 seconds). When he swims in the Olympics, he’ll compete only in the 50 free.

Swimming is a relatively new sport in Uganda, and the level of competition pales to the international champion threshold — the overall men’s world record in the 50 free is 20.26; 25.25 in the 50 breaststroke. Tibatemwa is aware of the gulf.

“I am part of the second generation of competitive swimmers in Uganda,” he says. “In 10 to 20 years, I hope we will see Uganda swimming on a par with USA swimming.”

He strives to close the gap with hard work. Under the guidance of Grinnell swim coaches Tim Hammond and Erin Hurley, Tibatemwa, who swims on Grinnell’s varsity, practices in the water one to two hours per day, Monday through Saturday. He also does up to an hour of daily strength training.

“It’s the best training I have ever gotten,” Tibatemwa says. “It is very structured and will help me if I get to the Olympics.

Several seniors on the swim team often practice with Tibatemwa, so he can gauge his speed against other swimmers. “I find it easier to train while competing against them rather than competing just with the time on the clock,” he says.

Tibatemwa has thoroughly impressed his coaches with his drive.

“It seems just his nature to want to be better,” Hammond says. ”He is eager to understand technique and accept critique day after day.”

Hammond notes that Tibatemwa has good technique to excel on the world stage, with great reach in the front end of his stroke and a good hold on the water. ”Once he has that hold, he can apply the incredible strength he has to it, and this produces an incredible distance per stroke,” says the coach, who is focusing on increasing Tibatemwa’s stroke rate.

Because Tibatemwa was training outside the regular college swim season, which ended in March, Hammond and Hurley couldn’t coach Tibatemwa until they received a waiver from the NCAA. Until then they could only supply him with written workouts. 

“It took us a few weeks to get the appropriate information from the NCAA and Uganda to put it all together,” recalls Hammond, who provides the Ugandan federation with weekly updates. The federation also named Hammond and Hurley Ugandan National Swimming Coaches.  

When they were able to work with Tibatemwa, they were more than pleased.

“Joshua is an absolute joy to coach,” Hammond says. ”He is perpetually positive and does his best to accomplish each task at hand. Most everyone sees Joshua as a shy, kind person. And he is, but when you spend enough time with Joshua in a competitive endeavor, you can start to peak at the competitive monster inside of him that one would never see without knowing him well enough.” 

Tibatemwa began swimming at age 6 in his hometown, Kampala, the Ugandan capital. “At first I didn’t want to compete,” he says. But by the time he was 13, he started to enjoy the sport. “With swimming,” he says, “you have time to yourself as compared to other sports. You don’t have to shout to pass the ball. You can be alone in your head.”

On the advice of two of his mentors in school and in the Dolphins Swim Club Kampala — brothers Tefiro ’15 and Ham ’16 Serunjogi — Tibatemwa came to Grinnell last fall. He was looking for a school that had both good academics and swimming training. “Tefiro and Ham recommended Grinnell,” he says of the duo, who each swam on the men’s varsity while earning their degrees. “So I trusted them and followed them here.”

Though he calls the cold winter of east-central Iowa the biggest adjustment he’s had to make, “The college is great, and I like being in a comfortable small town,” he says. Referring to his hometown, with a population of 1.3 million, he adds, “It’s nice to have a break from the big city.”

When the spring semester ended on May 20, Tibatemwa, who plans to major in computer science, returned to Kampala to continue his training and start an internship with Kiira Motors, the first manufacturer of solar-powered vehicles in East Africa. 

“I will train in the mornings and evenings, and do my work as an intern during the middle of the day,” he says. “I’m hoping to develop software and gain experience in tackling real-world problems.”

“It has been a silent goal of mine to get to the Olympics,” Tibatemwa says. “Every swimmer harbors it. I would love to have the opportunity to be among the world’s best athletes, doing what they’ve been training to do for many years.”

Free Summer Merchant Matinee Movies

Free tickets for the summer merchant matinee series are available at the Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement and the Pioneer Bookshop. Watch a free movie at noon and 2:30 p.m. every Tuesday and Wednesday,  July 5–Aug. 10, at the Strand Theatre.

 Admission is by ticket only and seating is limited. 

Here is the schedule:

  • July 12 and July 13  — Kung Fu Panda 2
  • July 19 and July 20 — Alvin and The Chipmunks: The Road Chip
  • July 26 and July 27 — Hotel Transylvania 2
  • Aug. 2 and Aug. 3 — Norm of The North
  • Aug. 9 and Aug. 10 — Goosebumps

 

The Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership receives second year of funding

Grinnell College Iowa AmeriCorps logoGrinnell College has received a second year of AmeriCorps funding to support the Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership's education initiatives, according to a recent announcement by the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service.

Similar to the first year, the grant of $141,474 will provide for up to eight AmeriCorps service members to convene community-based education partnerships and another 38 AmeriCorps service members to help with summer learning programs. Grinnell College will contribute staff support for grant administration.

The new AmeriCorps members will have the opportunity to strengthen community coalitions to help ensure that Grinnell’s children get off to a strong start so they can succeed in school in the early years, and that older students end with a strong finish so they’re prepared to do well after graduation.

Grinnell College was the lead applicant on the grant and is one of 19 organizations across Iowa receiving funding through the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service.

“This is a terrific vote of confidence in our community’s work and a recognition of the tremendous support the community offered in this first year,” said Monica Chavez-Silva, assistant vice president of community enhancement and engagement at Grinnell College.

“The AmeriCorps grant was a critical catalyst for the first year of the program activating 29 AmeriCorps members who brought new energy and creativity to a host of community education initiatives," she added. "But none of it would have been possible without the support of individuals and organizations across the community.”

Some of that local support included generous donations of $10,000 each from Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance and the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, and an additional $15,000 in grants generated by the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation. Additional support came from the daily participation by host site supervisors throughout Grinnell and the creative energy of more than 165 volunteers serving on community taskforce groups. 

“It’s great news that Grinnell was awarded this grant,” said Karen Neal, youth services director at Drake Community Library and host site supervisor for the Summer Learning initiative. “We’re really doing something tangibly different. We’re helping right where we need it and we’re doing it together. As a whole community, we’re helping kids.” 

Laura Manatt, executive director of Poweshiek Iowa Development, also expressed appreciation for the second year of grant funding. "This grant will help us continue the strategic work we have begun connecting local employers, community schools and Iowa Valley Community College to address current skills gap concerns and ensure there is a sustainable, skilled workforce in the future.”

First-Year Projects

Projects made possible in the first year of the Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership include:

Summer Learning:
Tripling enrollment in summer school programming for K-3 summer school students with a new afternoon enrichment offering, and a month-long daily expansion of Drake Library’s “In Your Neighborhood” outreach program with transportation to Grinnell High School for the free lunch program.
School Readiness
#Read Everyday Grinnell far exceeded its goal of having students from pre-kindergarten through third grade read for 100,000 minutes. Total minutes read reached 1 million. Students also gained readiness for school through the expansion of the Early Learning Extravaganza and a kindergarten-readiness summer camp.
Volunteer Infrastructure:
Identifying and piloting a community-wide volunteer database that can be used by volunteers and organizations throughout the community.
Family and Community Engagement:
Web and newsletter outreach, community meal outreach, videography, and taskforce reporting.
Attendance:
Attendance Week publicity, summer-school family outreach, and family peer support for those who struggle to attend school regularly.
Healthy Readers:
“Wellness Wednesdays” at the elementary schools, “Wellness at the Market” at Farmer’s Market, and new volunteers for expanded Mileage Club activities at the elementary schools.
Skills Gap:
A new high school internship program at Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company that included “soft skill” training and college credit and a “career pathway” audit to better connect graduates with local employment opportunities.
Afterschool Enrichment:
Integration of district learning goals into fun, after-school activities at the Grinnell Area Arts Center and Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool.

2015–16 AmeriCorps Members and Host Sites

The 2015-16 AmeriCorps members and host sites were: 

  • Beth Crow (Summer Learning-Drake Community Library),
  • Doug Cameron (Attendance-Fairview School),
  • Jess Kite (School Readiness-Grinnell Voluntary Preschool Program),
  • Melissa Berman (Healthy Readers-Grinnell Regional Medical Center),
  • Deloris Cowan (Skills Gap-Poweshiek Iowa Development),
  • Jacob Washington (Family and Community Engagement-Grinnell Area Chamber of Commerce),
  • Lee Smith (Volunteer Infrastructure-Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation), and
  • Mary Zheng (Afterschool Enrichment-Grinnell Area Arts Council).
  • 2016 Summer Learning Corps members serving with Fairview School and Drake Community Library were Avery Brennan, Isabel Brydolf, Reba Brooks, Josephine Chaet, Anna Cunningham, Simone Downs, Hanna Drennan, Lica Ishida, Erin Johnson, Regan Kasprak, Jon Lof, Olivia Maharry, Felicity Meads, Rita Mertens, Charlotte Moisan, Roland Roger, Jackson Schulte, Regan Sharp, Jaidenn Sheridan, Molly Skouson and Tanner Tokle.

About AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in service through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and the Volunteer Generation Fund, and leads the President's national call to service initiative, United We Serve.