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Community Enhancement and Engagement

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Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership

An information session about the Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership will be held from noon to 1 p.m. Monday, July 20, at the Iowa Transportation Museum, 829 Spring St., Grinnell.

The session will provide an opportunity for representatives of interested community organizations to learn more about the recently awarded AmeriCorps Grant, including what the grant funding will cover and how to get involved with the program. Information about how organizations can become a host site also will be provided.

As part of the grant funding, 14 AmeriCorps members — 11 full-time (1,700-hour positions) and three part-time (450-hour positions) — will be placed in local host-sites for one year, beginning as early as Sept. 15, 2015. The AmeriCorps members will support community work to advance early childhood literacy and support the Graduate Skills Gap initiative in Grinnell, Iowa.

Organizations interested in hosting one or more AmeriCorps team members must submit an application by 5 p.m. Friday, July 31.  Host site assignments will be announced mid-August.  AmeriCorps team members hired to participate will be matched with host organizations in mid-September. Host site applications will be available at the information session.

About the Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership

The Grinnell AmeriCorps Partnership is a community-wide effort to advance Grinnell’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading and support the Graduate Skills Gap initiative in Grinnell, Iowa.

Focusing on these initiatives, 14 AmeriCorps members will be placed in local community organizations to support work in each of the five key focus areas of the Campaign for Grade Level Reading:

  •     Prevention of summer learning loss,
  •     Prevention of chronic absence from school,
  •     Making sure youngsters are ready for school,
  •     Making sure students are healthy, and
  •     Encouraging parent engagement.

In addition, AmeriCorps members will provide core “backbone” infrastructure, such as community and volunteer engagement to advance early childhood literacy and assist with the community’s Graduate Skills Gap pilot programming.

College and Partners Help Children Learn to Read

Through a grant from the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service (ICVS), Grinnell’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading will receive funding to hire a team of 14 AmeriCorps members to work in organizations throughout the community in order to advance the early literacy project.

The AmeriCorps members will support work in each of the campaign’s five key focus areas:

  • summer learning loss
  • chronic absence
  • school readiness
  • healthy readers
  • parent engagement

AmeriCorps logoThe grant will also provide AmeriCorps members to support the community’s graduate skills gap initiative as well as core “backbone” infrastructure such as community and volunteer engagement.

Grinnell College, the lead applicant on the grant, is one of 21 organizations across Iowa that will receive funding from the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service. “Supporting community-wide ‘multi-focus’ partnerships was a new priority for AmeriCorps this year. When we learned about the opportunity, it seemed like a perfect fit for Grinnell – especially to help advance the partnership that’s already begun with the Campaign for Grade Level Reading,” said Monica Chavez-Silva, director of Community Enhancement and Engagement.

As a grant recipient, Grinnell College will coordinate the grant and host at least one AmeriCorps member. Other AmeriCorps team members will be placed in community organizations that are interested in advancing the work, but don’t necessarily have the staffing capacity within their regular operations.

“That’s why this grant is so important to Grinnell,” said Chavez-Silva. “There are so many organizations that want to be part of the effort, but everyone has other priorities that they need to focus on too. With the AmeriCorps members, partner organizations will have the extra staffing to be as active and involved as they want to be.”

The Campaign for Grade Level Reading is a nationwide effort to make sure that all children can read at grade level by third grade, as third grade reading is an important predictor of high school graduation. Based on the idea that schools cannot succeed alone, the campaign gives community stakeholders a framework to work together in support of this goal.  In Grinnell, the campaign is just getting started. In August of 2014, roughly 20 community organizations convened to learn about the effort and unanimously agreed to submit a letter of intent to join the nationwide program. In February and May, stakeholders met again to begin initial planning.  

This is the second grant that Grinnell has received for the Campaign for Grade Level Reading. Earlier this year, the Iowa Council of Foundations (ICoF) granted a $2,500 capacity grant to Grinnell, through the Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation, a member organization of ICoF.

In addition to the grants from ICVS and ICoF, the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation has offered to contribute $10,000 to encourage other community funders to consider providing funding to support the program. CDAF’s funding will be used to support programming in each of the grant’s focus areas. “To receive this type of state-wide funding is a great opportunity for our community to embrace the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and we are pleased to be able to offer additional financial support that is needed,” said Julie Gosselink, president and CEO of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation.  “We are hopeful that our gift will encourage other community members to contribute to this initiative.”

Learn more — including how to get involved — at Grinnell’s Campaign for Grade Level Reading.


Grinnell College's Summerfest is a free, daylong celebration of learning, discovery, and entertainment for curious minds of all ages. The event starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 6, with activities scheduled through 10 p.m. on the College campus. Immerse yourself in the academic, cultural, and social atmosphere of one of the nation’s top colleges. Connect, explore, discover!

The headlining act will be a fusion of marching band music, dance, and fire manipulation starting at dusk. Pyrotechniq, Chicago’s premier fire troupe, will team up with the Windy City’s favorite gang of marching band bunny rascals, Environmental Encroachment (EE), to present an unforgettable 45-minute production with original score provided by EE and a fully customized fire show.

During the day, the campus will come alive with a unique mix of engaging workshops, creative performances, artistic collaborations, and family-oriented activities presented by a range of area cultural organizations. Sample offerings include:

  • Des Moines’ jazz guru Max Wellman and painter Pat Millin
  • Des Moines Register reporter Jason Clayworth’s Lost Schools Series with Fairfield photographer Cody Weber and his Forgotten Iowa series
  • Sandy Moffett, professor emeritus of theatre, presenting an improvisational acting workshop
  • Marc Chamberland, Grinnell College Myra Steele Professor of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, on the Secrets of Creativity: A mathematician’s perspective
  • The Nitch, an all ages Punch and Judy style mask performance
  • Tilly Woodward, curator of academic and community outreach at Faulconer Gallery, with See Art! Interpret Art! Make Art!
  • Blank Park Zoo, Every Animal Has a Story
  • Iowa Children’s Museum, Flying High with Rockets!

See the Summerfest site for more information and up-to-the-moment listing of the day’s offerings.

The festival is free and open to the public. In addition to local lodging, you can also reserve a dorm room and stay right on campus. For dorm availability and reservations, contact Conference Operations and Events.

Rurally Good Festival

Grin City Collective Artist & Writers Residency invites families and art lovers from Central Iowa and beyond to its second Rurally Good Festival 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, May 30, 2015. Grinnell College is one of the festival’s co-sponsors.

“Each year Grin City hosts residencies for forty-five artists, writers, and performers,” explains co-director, Molly Rideout ’10. “Rurally Good Festival is an opportunity for Iowans to enjoy some of that talent and the talent of our own native Iowa artists.”

The one-day art and music festival and open house celebrates and showcases the creative work of current and past Grin City artists-in-residence and other Iowa creative talent on a 320-acre farm an easy distance from I-80.

You can enjoy a full day of literary readings, interactive art and sound installations, and live music by Grin City alumni and Des Moines’ Christopher the Conquered.

You are invited to wander the farm enjoying half a dozen outdoor art installations, an art gallery exhibition, and several short performances.

You can also:

  • Bring sentimental objects to be photographed by Grin City artist Kija Lucas as part of her ongoing project, “Objects to Remember You By.”
  • Have a cast made of their foot, stomach, or two hands clasped together in Lauren Frances Moore Evans’ body-casting workshop.
  • Play with paint and bubbles at the kids’ art station with Des Moines artist Rachel Buse.
  • Learn what an artist residency is and how Grin City brings art to the region as highlighted on Iowa Public Radio.

Lawn games, a bonfire and dance party will round out the full day of contemporary art in a rural landscape.

“Rurally Good is the kind of festival where, if you want to, you will be friends with everyone there by the end of the day,” says singer/songwriter Erik Jarvis, who will also perform during the festival. “I love that it's intimate, all-inclusive, and family friendly.”

Tickets are available online or at the door, and admission is free for kids under 16. Camping areas will be available for those wishing to stay the night at no extra cost.

Burling Participates in a Public Art Installation Project

As part of “Public Writing, Public Libraries,” a project of Grin City Collective Artist & Writers Residency, poetry written by Purvi Shah will be installed in vinyl film directly onto Burling Library’s front windows on May 11. The winner of the SONY South Asian Social Service Excellence Award, Purvi is a poet and essayist from Brooklyn, NY and is one of the four writers—Pauliina Haasjoki (Helsinki, Finland), Kevin Haworth (Athens, OH), and Molly Rideout (Grinnell, IA)—who are attending Grin City Collective Artist & Writers Residency. Their brand-new public art—works of fiction, nonfiction and poetry—will be installed in the windows of 12 Iowa libraries, including Burling Library. Other participating libraries include Knoxville, Pella, Newton, Marshalltown, Tama, Toledo, Cedar Falls, Waterloo, Coralville, Cedar Rapids Public Libraries, and North Liberty Community Library.

Purvi will meet with Grinnell faculty, staff, and students before composing  poems for Grinnell College so her poetry can speak directly to the campus community. “I value creativity through engagement, and poetry's accessibility is very important to me as someone who immigrated to America from India as a child,” Purvi says.

After the installation is completed, Purvi will  read from her work and talk about her career and writing process at 9 p.m. on Monday, May 11. This event will be the first night of the Libraries’ two-day study breaks, and homemade cookies and milk—a study break tradition—will be served.

“Public Writing, Public Libraries” is made possible thanks to the generous support of Grinnell College’s Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement, Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation, ACT Inc., Vermeer Corporation, Friends of the Cedar Falls Public Library, Friends of the Waterloo Public Library, Friends of the Newton Public Library, The Arts Connection Inc. and Coralville Public Library. Design and printing costs for the final publication are sponsored by Grinnell College.

To learn more or to support this project, please visit http://www.grincitycollective.org.

2015 Mini-Grant Awards

Teacher's aide holding book open and reading to two young children.Teacher's aide Monica Bender reads to children at Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool, which will receive funds to purchase new books for classrooms.

A dozen local projects and initiatives will benefit from $31,223 in grant support this year from the Grinnell College Mini-Grant Program.

The program is just one of the ways that Community Enhancement and Engagement office strengthens community resources and educational opportunities, as well as enhances the safety, beauty, and economic vitality of Grinnell. The office also fosters community partnerships, and supports student and employee engagement in off-campus activities. The mini-grants have played an especially important role.

"We are very pleased to support a variety of community betterment initiatives through Grinnell College’s Community Mini-Grant Program," said Melissa Strovers, program and communications manager for community enhancement and engagement at Grinnell. "As demonstrated by the strong project proposals we received this year, we are extremely fortunate to live, work, and play in a place where people are genuinely committed to improving the quality of life of our local community."

The following initiatives received mini-grant funding for 2015:

  • Grinnell Area Arts Council, for technology infrastructure upgrades ($3,500)
  • Grinnell Community Daycare and Preschool, for diversity books and materials for classrooms ($1,000)
  • Drake Community Library, for the digital preservation of slides and outdated media formats from the library archives ($3,045)
  • Grinnell Fire Department, for technology upgrades ($3,350)
  • Grinnell Historical Museum, for the safety improvements at the museum ($2,953)
  • Grinnell Little League, for new player equipment ($2,500)
  • Grinnell-Newburg Community School District, for the Grinnell Outdoor Adventure Program ($2,500)
  • Grinnell-Newburg Community School District, for the Grinnell High School Library Makerspace ($2,000)
  • Grinnell Regional Medical Center, for the Giving Gardens Project ($2,000)
  • Grinnell UCC Community Preschool, for the Preschool Tiger Pack Program ($5,000)
  • Imagine Grinnell, for bike racks for Summer Street Park, the Community Garden, and Downtown Grinnell ($2,500)
  • Poweshiek Animal League Shelter (PALS) for donation boxes and pet beds ($875)

For more information about the mini-grant program, contact Strovers, 641-269-3900. Learn more about the College’s community contributions.