Grinnell 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.”
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 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.
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.