The goal of the Graceland University’s AmeriCorps Youth Launch (AYL) is to answer the old African proverb, “How are the children,” with the answer of “the children are well.” To do this, AYL provides positive youth development activities that build a youth-serving network within a six county region in south-central Iowa. Through the involvement and support of community partners, the program assists students in achieving educational success and building developmental assets. AmeriCorps members serve in school-based and/or community based host sites, and within these sites, they develop and strengthen programs that promote positive youth development through the five promises: caring adults, safe places to learn and develop, a healthy start, effective education, and opportunities to help others.
The program has a lasting impact on program members and their community. An example of one of the impacts is from the last program year, where a delegation of youth from Lamoni, IA community attended the Governor’s summit. Upon return, they decided to host their own version of this event at their school. The students led groups and planning committees with the help of the AYL program, and through their determination, the school was able to execute their first ever Bullying Prevention Summit with multiple workshops lead by community leaders, professionals, caring adults, and youth. The success of this has lead to the the continuation of this summit this year in other schools of the south central Iowa region.
In 2011, an evaluation showed of the people surveyed, 80% rated the program as good and/or excellent at “strengthening community” and almost 95% felt the program builds positive assets within the youth served and that the program is effective at impacting youth positively. The secrets to this success include an active alumni group, the support of all the involved partners, and the networking and collaboration that creates a win-win-win situation. All of these play a role in the success of this program.
To read more about this program, see pages 30–31 of Transforming Communities through Service.