AMES, Iowa – When it comes to providing opportunities for Iowa’s youth, AmeriCorps members are “great for schools and great for kids,” said Bruce Karpen, junior high school principal with Centerville Community Schools and an AmeriCorps site supervisor.
“We’ve had at least 10 AmeriCorps people through time,” Karpen said. “At least two people are teachers now. It’s a stepping stone to a lot of positions, getting basic skills and knowledge working with kids. I think it’s a great opportunity for anybody. We’re all working with youth – that’s the common bond.”
The volunteers Karpen works with are part of the Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise program hosted by Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development in collaboration with Iowa’s Promise and the Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service. These AmeriCorps members serve with youth development programs in communities across the state. Membership is open to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents age 17 and older.
Karpen supervises AmeriCorps members who are tutoring and connecting with kids during school, in after school programs, on weekends and through the summer. They provide service-learning opportunities to connect Centerville students with their community.
“It helps both our students and the community develop an appreciation for students … [AmeriCorps] reinforces that there are a lot of good kids doing a lot of good things.” Karpen said.
“It provides us with programming and personnel to work with students. We couldn’t do without it right now. It would be a real loss if for some reason funding was cut or our application would not be approved, as we submit one every year,” he added. “We’re always watching the funding sources, always encouraging and trying to support federal or state programs that provide funding for AmeriCorps.”
Stu Mullins supervises AmeriCorps members at United Action for Youth (UAY) in Iowa City. AmeriCorps members provide a range of youth development services, “from working at our youth center to doing school programs, to doing outreach, mentoring, academic programs and teen parent programs as well,” Mullins said.
“Without their help we would have a really hard time having the level of success in what we do. They add a lot of new ideas and bring in new energy every year. That has been a valuable asset to us.”
Tara Nelson, director of Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, has seen AmeriCorps from both sides. An AmeriCorps alum, she now supervises AmeriCorps members for the foundation as well as the Dubuque Multicultural Center.
“I really see the value of community service. The value that volunteers can have on a community is amazing. It’s a lifelong impact — to the volunteers and to the community they serve,” Nelson said.
AmeriCorps Week is May 9-16. Learn more at http://www.americorpsweek.gov/.
Get more information about Iowa AmeriCorps State of Promise.
Listen to an interview with Bruce Karpen.
Listen to an interview with Stu Mullins.
Listen to an interview with Tara Nelson.
Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0775,