By: Lew Montgomery, Director, Community Engagement

On July 21, Juan Garcia, Roseina Britton, and I traveled to Dubuque to meet with Nancy Van Milligen, president and CEO; Julee Albers director of youth impact; and Laura Merrick, Project Hope coordinator from the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque. We discussed ways to work together to initiate programming around their Grade Level Reading initiative, Graduations Walk, and other equity-focused initiatives. ACT has been working with the Community Foundation for some time now and really wanted to follow up with a visit to Dubuque to discuss their growing underserved population in order to better understand the needs of the community.

The meeting yielded opportunities for partnerships that will help establish a Graduation Walk, which encourages high school dropouts to re-enroll in school and finish their diplomas. In addition, we introduced the idea of creating a concept that I developed, which would identify students who have a grade point of 2.5-3.2 GPA for a Center for Equity in Learning project, ACT U, that would allow for a select group of 10-15 students, identified by the school district, to participate in intense activities geared toward college preparation. The students who meet certain criteria ranging from leadership, mentoring, socio-economic status, and desire to take part in a series of intense activities would follow a path from elementary, middle, and high school and receive a defined set of resources along the path to graduation. The identified students would also be paired with various resource partners from the Black Greek – Devine 9 organizations to serve as mentors.  Parents will also be linked up with resources from the Iowa College Access Network (ICAN)  and will play an active role throughout the graduation from each stages of the program.

It is my hope that we can reach students earlier in their education progression to help students perform better academically, go to college, graduate, and then return to their community and serve the next generation of students. My goal is to also to attract additional outside organizations to join in helping ACT and our students.  I have visited with several banks, community organizations, and community centers that have agreed to partnering with us on this project.  This program will also work with high school students and interested families on financial literacy.

Through the great relationships ACT and the Center for Equity in Learning have established in the Dubuque area, we are able to develop and foster a renewed commitment to the Foundation. The partnership between ACT and the Foundation supports ACT’s efforts to balance the equity gaps for our underserved populations. With the help of the Grade Level Reading initiative, Graduation Walk, and the new ACT U effort, we will be able to create programs for students that cover a spectrum of needs and get them on the road to career and college success. Our partnership efforts are critical to fulfilling ACT’s mission of education and workplace success for all people and we’re delighted to make an impact in our community.