MUSCATINE, Iowa–Aligned Impact Muscatine County’s (AIM) annual report has recently been released and AIM continues to work with local businesses and organizations to reduce achievement gaps and improve outcomes for all students and families: “The 2021-2022 school year demonstrated once again that our community is focused on improving outcomes for all students and families. While some disparities in education outcomes still persist, particularly in the lower grades, we have seen gains as a community in the areas of high school graduation and postsecondary enrollment. This is a testament to the commitment of the school districts, community-based organizations, and businesses to wrap support around students and families,” stated Kim Warren, director of Aligned Impact Muscatine County.
During the summer of 2021, S. P. A. R. K. (Summer Program for the Arts, Recreation, and Knowledge) enrichment activities positively impacted students’ attendance. During the 2021-22 school year, AIM worked with Jefferson and Franklin elementary schools to continue offering enrichment programs to 712 students during the school year. AIM also continues to partner with the Muscatine Community School District’s S. P. A. R. K. program to offer summer enrichment for students. Over 40 community organizations and businesses lead activities for S. P. A. R. K. students. A few highlights were when Muscatine County Conservation brought live insects to the kindergarten class to learn about the insect life cycle, HNI held a robotics challenge with the third-grade coding and robotics class, and fourth through sixth-grade students took a trip to Deep Lakes and experienced Voyager Canoes.
In recent years, mental health has been the main topic in conversations. AIM, West Liberty Community School District, West Liberty LULAC, and the National Alliance on Mental Health worked together to provide services to students. Sessions were held for both students and staff to address symptoms and the importance of asking for help, what flags to look for, and how to help ourselves and others in moments of crisis.
AIM works with students with post-secondary aspirations to help guide them through their transition between high school and higher education. In Muscatine County, the rate of enrollment of students receiving free or reduced lunch after high school graduation, dropped 8% from 52% in 2020 to 44% in 2021, while the rate of enrollment of Hispanic students rose 1% from 50 to 51%. Many high school seniors need help during the summer months with questions about their post-secondary plans. With school staff out of the office, AIM helps students navigate the steps to ensure a smooth transition. A recent graduate from West Liberty High School wanted to start her college career at Muscatine Community College but ran into several challenges while trying to fill out the FAFSA. Being a first-generation student, she felt lost within the process and didn’t continue her financial aid process until a friend of hers reached out, sharing that the AIM Summer Melt Program can help.
The student reached out and scheduled an appointment to continue the financial aid form. After some time, multiple questions, and efforts, the student found out she would have her college career completely paid for since she qualified for a full Pell grant. The student expressed gratitude by saying: “they helped me fill out my FAFSA so I can get my financial aid application done. That was a great opportunity for me since I was lost on how to fill the application, and they took their time to help me.”
To view AIM’s annual report and see the progress all four strategy groups have made, please visit https://alignedimpactmuscatine.org/annual-report/