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Graceland University AmeriCorps Youth Launch Program Receives Funding for its Eighth Year

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Administration and Staff, Faculty, Press Release

August 21, 2015

Graceland University AmeriCorps Youth Launch Program Receives Funding for its Eighth Year

Shannon Harris, Director of Graceland’s AmeriCorps Youth Launch program, received word that the program has been awarded $522,000 to continue activities for the next three years. The federal funding for the program is matched by an approximately equal amount from the Dekko Foundation and an additional $67,000 in staff and services by Graceland University. Greg Sutherland, Executive Director of Affiliate Relations, supervises this and all volunteer outreach programs at the university.

The Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service (ICVS) administers the AmeriCorps program in the state for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Grants are awarded in two categories. The highest rated applications are forwarded from Iowa for CNCS funding. Graceland’s grant application was once again rated among the best and funded at the national level.

The AmeriCorps Youth Launch program (AYL) serves six counties in Southern Iowa (Decatur, Ringgold, Clarke, Wayne, Union and Lucas). AYL recruits 25 members to serve in both in-school and out-of-school settings in 10 local communities. Throughout the school year, AmeriCorps members provide individual services to over 300 youth. Members build valuable developmental assets within youth through relationship building, academic assistance, after school programming, enrichment activities, mentoring programs and service-learning opportunities. During the summer months, AYL partners with local extension offices and other youth serving organizations to provide summer youth programming to over 750 youth through day camps, summer school programs, literacy programs and many other summer enrichment opportunities.

The goal of the AYL program is to provide opportunities for young people to lead successful, rewarding and productive lives. AmeriCorps members who serve with the AYL program receive a living stipend, an education award (which can be applied to higher education or previous school loans), training in various categories, valuable career experience and the opportunity to serve their local communities.

Funding from the Dekko Foundation supports youth enrichment opportunities supported by Graceland University in tandem with AmeriCorps activities. Graceland University uses this support to bring students to the Lamoni campus for many cultural enrichment and educational programs. Included in that long list of programmatic offerings are art camps, science camps, athletic camps, writing and leadership seminars along with many plays, concerts and other fine art events held in the Shaw Center, the cultural oasis in Southern Iowa. Graceland’s sponsorship of the Special Olympics is a highlight of the program. Additional programs support youth development activities across six counties in South Central Iowa.

Grants across Iowa will support over 800 AmeriCorps members who serve with approximately 60 different organizations. In addition to the youth development emphasis of the Graceland program, AmeriCorps statewide promotes such emphases as early literacy, natural resources, disaster response and energy conservation.

“National service is an essential part of the solution to many of the challenges facing our state,” said Governor Terry E. Branstad. “These AmeriCorps members will meet pressing local needs and strengthen communities as they develop civic and leadership skills to last a lifetime. I congratulate these outstanding organizations and thank all those who serve their communities through AmeriCorps.”

ICVS officials point out that volunteer programs leverage hundreds of millions of dollars worth of services to the people of Iowa. Twenty-four percent more Iowans volunteer today than they did in 1989. For years, Iowa has had one of the highest volunteer rates in the nation. In total, volunteers provide an estimated $2 billion in services annually to Iowa. Graceland University is proud to contribute to this record of volunteer service through the AmeriCorps Youth Launch program and is very pleased to be able to continue this service with the support offered through ICVS and CNCS.

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