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Granting Opportunities: Area schools offer Service Learning

Along with investing in core programs through partner agencies, United Way of Story County (UWSC) offers the opportunity for human service agencies in Story County to apply for grant funding. Since the beginning of 2014, this column has been highlighting some recent grant recipients as a way to share the good work of local agencies and, at the same time, fill you in on other opportunities UWSC provides beyond the traditional campaign and funding model.

In addition to the regular grant process, proceeds from UWSC’s Golf Fore Kids event, held each year in August, support programs and initiatives that impact the lives of Story County kids above and beyond current funding opportunities. The awarded grants may address expansion of programs and initiatives already funded by UWSC or those not currently receiving funds from UWSC.

As a way to continue promoting volunteerism throughout Story County, the Volunteer Center of Story County (VCSC) received a Golf Fore Kids grant of $2,000 to start a service learning program at Collins-Maxwell High School for the 2013-2014 academic year. Last year, VCSC helped pilot a service-learning group in Colo-Nesco High School, the “Service Slayors,” who work to make their school and community environments better. This grant allowed VCSC to initiate a similar program at Collins-Maxwell.

Research shows that students who participate in service learning become more engaged in their school work and classroom behavior, as well as improve attendance. The Iowa Learning Council, a council organized by the Iowa Department of Education and made up by 18 Iowa high school students, made a recommendation to the Iowa Legislature to incorporate service-based learning into state-mandated curricula. By initiating these service learning groups, Story County is seen as a leader in this area for the state.

Last year, Colo-Nesco students conducted a community survey to identify needs. Through their research, they realized that hunger is an important issue in Story County, so they served a meal at Food on First in Nevada. They also made and donated 40 blankets for children in hospitals, shelters and social service agencies who might be in need of “a big hug,” painted and renovated the Colo Community Playground and planted trees.

At Collins-Maxwell, teaching students about community needs through partnerships, leadership and teamwork has been the focus. VCSC gave a presentation to the student body about hunger in Story County and assisted a student as she organized a food drive in the school. VCSC helped another student get connected with community groups to organize a community cleanup day. VCSC staff also talked to a mentoring group about how to work with their mentees and got a group of students interested in volunteering at a clothing pantry in Nevada twice a month.

In addition, VCSC is helping to develop the connection between MARC (Maxwell Area Renewal Committee), a community betterment organization the Volunteer Center of Story County launched in 2011, and K-12 students in the Collins-Maxwell schools.

More recently, Collins-Maxwell students expressed an interest in working with young kids, so VCSC is partnering with Raising Readers of Story County, another UWSC partner agency, to put together a committee of community members and students to address summer learning loss and childhood literacy.

The grant funds are being used for transportation and project materials. VCSC’s goal is to show these students how big an impact they can have, and grant funding from UWSC is certainly helping them do so.

Sara Wilson is marketing director of United Way of Story County, a strategic leader in building countywide partnerships to identify needs and to develop, support and evaluate effective human services, especially in the areas of education, income and health, for our diverse community.

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