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Graceland University AmeriCorps Youth Launch – Changing the lives of young people

Published: Tuesday, May 27, 2014 3:33 p.m. CDT

LAMONI — AmeriCorps Youth Launch, a Graceland University Youth Launch Commission organization, serves in six counties in southern Iowa in school and community-based sites to bring AmeriCorps members together with students to lead them toward educational and life success.

Members assess students’ individual needs and develop opportunities that will engage them and get them excited about their future.

“Members strive to identify a student’s “SPARK” (their interest or passion in life) and connect them with opportunities and members in their community to help build that SPARK,” said Shannon Harris, AmeriCorps director. “In addition to building SPARKS, AmeriCorps members engaged students in other activities including career shadowing, drama, drug prevention, environmental sustainability, bullying prevention, life skills, personal safety, and many other enrichment opportunities.”

Some examples of activities local AmeriCorps members have planned and been involved with are an Anti-Bully Summit in Clarke Community schools, community garden project in Lamoni, radio spots for Earth Day by Mount Ayr students, assistance with the annual Leon Community Clean-up Day and the production of “The Miracle Worker.”

AmeriCorps members strive to develop programs and activities that are interesting to young people while also delivering messages that tie into their communities and will have a lifelong meaning for them.

“AmeriCorps Youth Launch just engaged 19 additional AmeriCorps members into a term of service during the summer months and these members will provide assistance for summer school, plan and lead summer youth day camps along with many other summer youth enrichment activities, and we can’t wait to begin,” Harris said. “In addition to helping young people reach their academic potential, we also want them to have strong role models to give them direction as they mature and reach out to what they will become.”

Since the founding of AmeriCorps in 1994, more than 800,000 AmeriCorps members across America have contributed more than 1 billion hours in service – engaging more than 80,000 Americans in service each year.

Graceland AmeriCorps Youth Launch members receive a living stipend and an educational award upon completion of their service hours.

“Most importantly, though, is AmeriCorps members learn valuable skills that will relate to future career success in their professional lives as well as the personal gratification of making a difference in the lives of others,” Harris said.

For more information about AmeriCorps programs, visit its website at www.graceland.edu/americorps/ or call 641-784-5495.

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