Several Muscatine area agencies received a joint Future Ready Iowa Employer Innovation Fund grant to help them pilot their Fueling the Future project. A collaboration between Align Impact Muscatine (AIM), the City of Muscatine (the City), the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine (CFGM), Muscatine Community College (MCC), the Muscatine Center for Social Action (MCSA), and UnityPoint Trinity Muscatine Public Health (UTMP), these six groups will work together to make this groundbreaking new work training program a success.
The Fueling the Future project pilot will work with twelve families with elementary school children participating in the backpack food program. It will allow the parents to complete a six week educational program to earn a professional certificate. Charla Schafer, Executive Director of the CFGM explained that Fueling the Future will target this group to help reduce the number of hungry students, which will help them do better in school. “We know that children can’t fill their heads when their bellies are empty; in Muscatine alone, 200 plus elementary children take backpacks filled with food home each weekend .”
Additionally, Kim Warren, Director of AIM, shared that by helping families in need, the benefits from the program will help several generations. “We know that the more education and training a person has, the more likely they are to have a job that provides financial stability for them and their family. . . . Not only will this Future Ready Iowa grant-funded program impact the parents who are receiving the education, but the children of these families will also see the benefits of education for their own futures.”
During the six week training period, parents will take classes at MCC to become a certified nursing assistant or welder. They will also have a part time paid internship with a local business. Once they receive their certificates, their internships will become permanent jobs. Naomi DeWinter, President of MCC, feels proud that the college gets to oversee this important worker training program.“ The two programs can be seen as on-ramps to furthering their education and can lead to further degrees and certificates. We are also looking forward to the kids in the selected families being inspired by their parents.”
To help ensure the success of the families who complete the program, all the participating organizations will provide extensive support during the program and for six months afterwards. Scott Dahlke, Executive Director of MCSA considers this one of the most important parts of the project. “With the skills being taught and the services being provided to the entire family, we can start addressing the root cause of the problem and serve families in a truly holistic fashion.”
Christy Roby Williams, Director of Pubic Health at UPTM agreed, adding. “It is truly an honor to be partnered with these outstanding organizations to deliver a vital resource and service to our local children and families. With the support of this community, our Fueling the Future pilot project will be a success and beginning to the great outcomes that together we will achieve.”