WILTON, Iowa–Since its inception in 2019, the Fueling the Future program has taken an innovative approach to helping families improve their their financial situations and the prospects for their children. While participating in short-term training and internship programs at Muscatine Community College, families work with an economic navigator to help them access any assistance they need with food, housing, transportation, and childcare. Upon graduation, participants will take a job at the company they interned at and continue to receive support from their economic navigator for an additional six months.
Originally designed to benefit families in Muscatine, Fueling the Future expanded to serve the entire county when Trinity Muscatine Public Health received a $900,000 Health Resources and Service Administration grant in the summer of 2020. To help residents outside the City of Muscatine learn how the program could benefit them, Public Health partnered with Wilton Community School District to host a Fueling the Future Resource Fair on June 2.
From 4 to 6 p. m. several Fueling the Future partners shared information about their services with any interested county residents. Muscatine Community College shared specifics about their short-term, computer numerical operator, certified nursing assistant, and welding programs, as well as how Fueling the Future could cover the cost of their tuition. MCSA provided information on available food and housing assistance, while I-Smile and First Five shared ways they could assist parents of young children with medical and dental care, among other needs. Iowa Works, Vision 2020, and Wilton Steel each helped visitors explore their employment options and the services available to help them in future job searches. As a way to further increase the number of vaccinated people in Muscatine County, Wester Drug administered free COVID-19 vaccines to any attendees over age 12 who wanted one. Visiting families could also enjoy free snacks and bring home books to read with their kids.
In its first year of active programming, Fueling the Future helped nine families better their economic situation. Though starting a program during the COVID-19 pandemic presented some unusual challenges, Fueling the Future Project Coordinator Courtney Mullen said that graduates benefited immensely and that program organizers have discovered a variety of ways to improve the program for future participants. As Mullen put it, “it’s a brand new program that isn’t going on anywhere else,” adding, ” it’s a great program, and we’re excited to help more people.”
By collaborating with school districts throughout the county, such as Wilton Community School District, Mullen hopes more families will take advantage of all the services Fueling the Future has to offer. “It’s exciting, because most of the agencies are in Muscatine, people don’t realize they serve all of Muscatine County,” she emphasized.
Fueling the Future will hold a second resource fair at Muscatine college on June 8, featuring many of the same partner organizations as at the Wilton event. A vaccine clinic will be available as well. Later in the summer, Fueling the Future hopes to inspire students and their families to make the school year a successful one by holding a series of back to school events for each county school district, driving home the reminder that success in school sets students up for a bright future.