Volunteer Iowa is part of a network of State Service Commissions throughout the United States that exist to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. The commission was looking for a team of consultants to assist them in supporting the growth and development of Iowa Afterschool AmeriCorps grant work. Under Volunteer Iowa, the SISGI Group supported the Iowa Afterschool Alliance to develop a new year-round AmeriCorps STEM program.
Iowa Afterschool Alliance is a statewide network that works to develop systems of support for high-quality, affordable, and accessible before school, afterschool, and summer programs. The network had an existing summer-only AmeriCorps program, but there was interest to analyze how the program could operate as a year-round service.
Challenges included an unmet demand for afterschool programs in the state and the need for more STEM programming. For every child in an afterschool program in Iowa, 4 more are waiting to get in. The need in Iowa is exceptionally high in Black and Latinx communities, where 58% of Black and 55% of Latinx families in Iowa reported they would be enrolled in an afterschool program if one was available. 79% of parents also reported STEM learning as important when selecting afterschool experiences for their children. The summer AmeriCorps host sites had also expressed interest in increasing BIPOC AmeriCorps members to better serve the Black and Latinx Iowa communities.
To increase capacity to administer a statewide year-round AmeriCorps STEM program, the Iowa Afterschool Alliance will hire an AmeriCorps program manager, increase host site locations across the state, and increase the number of AmeriCorps members. The program manager will have national service experience and/or knowledge and travel to host sites on a quarterly basis for oversight. Host sites will be established across the state in identified cities with the highest BIPOC populations. Host sites will consist of museums, schools districts, and organizations to expand STEM programming opportunities across the state.
The Iowa Afterschool Alliance will develop partnerships with universities and colleges across Iowa that have STEM-related degrees or programs for BIPOC STEM students to recruit AmeriCorps members. Having BIPOC AmeriCorps members from local universities with STEM-focused majors will bring passion to STEM programming in Iowa, provide family engagement and high-quality youth activities, and provide role models to underserved youth. Members with STEM backgrounds will have the knowledge and skills to develop STEM curriculums and activities with youth and inspire BIPOC youth to pursue careers in STEM.
The afterschool network will also connect with corporate partners for sustainability. The AmeriCorp program manager will engage local STEM-focused businesses and community members that are investing in workplace diversity and inclusion in volunteer and fundraising opportunities to provide program support.
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs are expected to grow 13% by 2027 compared with 9% for other jobs, but women, Black, and Latinx students continue to be underrepresented in the field.
STEM education in K-12 settings can close the racial gap by inspiring BIPOC youth to pursue STEM careers. AmeriCorps STEM programs with BIPOC members can increase youth STEM awareness and skills to improve academics and the likelihood of youth of color selecting STEM careers. With AmeriCorps, Iowa schools and organizations can provide hands-on experiences for students to explore, learn, and grow while creating a pipeline for young people of color in the teaching, science, and business professions.
If it weren’t for the SISGI Group we probably would not have moved forward with the idea of designing a year-round AmeriCorps program
I found the SISGI Group afterschool data so very helpful in the draft of an AmeriCorps grant I was writing!
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