BVU gets $114k to boost Americorps

Friday, August 7, 2020
Buena Vista University freshman Isabel Hernandez is wrote cards to fourth-grade students at Storm Lake Elementary School this spring. Hernandez, an Education for Service Scholar at BVU, performed service through the AmeriCorps Program by serving as a teacher’s assistant in the classroom, service she continued even after school closed in the wake of the pandemic. 

Campus Compact’s AmeriCorps Program awarded Buena Vista University (BVU) a grant in excess of $114,000 to allow the University to continue expanding its popular AmeriCorps service program. The award represents the largest grant BVU has received from Iowa Campus Compact.

“We are honored and grateful to receive this award, one that allows us to impact students and hundreds of people in our community as they serve AmeriCorps through Iowa Campus Compact,” says Dr. Ashley Farmer-Hanson, BVU Assistant Vice President of Student Success and Director of Community Engagement.

Grant dollars will fund a full-time AmeriCorps coordinator in addition to partially funding a second staff position. Ultimately, the grant also allows BVU to involve 40 students in AmeriCorps service on a part-time basis.

Central to the relationship between BVU and the Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program is the Education for Service Scholars effort that last year involved 20 Buena Vista County students who earned tuition-free scholarships. A portion of the scholarship program came via their enrollment in the Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program where they volunteered 300 hours annually at entities such as Upper Des Moines Opportunity, Inc., the Storm Lake Community School District, Methodist Manor, The Bridge, and more.

Volunteer efforts extended in the hometowns of students during the spring, as campus was closed due to the pandemic.

AmeriCorps member Cody Holtgrewe, for example, went from serving his community on campus to serving hot lunches in the Meals on Wheels program in his hometown, Newell. Holtgrewe is a member of the first Education for Service cohort, a group of 10 students who are now entering their junior year on campus.

Those students in the initial cohorts are the first members of their family to attend college. A third group of 10 students begins its service with the Campus Compact AmeriCorps Program when the 2020-21 academic year commences.

“As freshman, our EFS students begin their AmeriCorps service on an entry level,” Farmer-Hanson says. “Our goal is to see them add responsibilities within their service organizations so that by the time they are sophomores, juniors, and seniors, they will have more major roles and will be doing research projects dedicated to measuring the impact of service in the community.”

“Now more than ever, it’s critical to connect campuses and communities,” says Emily Shields, Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact Executive Director. “This program builds those bridges while supporting students in college success at the same time.”

AmeriCorps service, Farmer-Hanson notes, is not limited to EFS students at BVU. Wava Jarr and Jacob Hull, for example, are student leaders within BVU’s Office of Community Engagement, and serve a variety of programs through AmeriCorps. This spring, Hull was named a Newman Civic Fellow for his efforts to benefit the community, which include involvement with BVU’s Student MOVE organization as well as service efforts at The Bridge and at animal shelters in nearby Newell and Spencer.

Jarr, meantime, president of BVU’s Student MOVE, and a participant in BVU’s Alternative Week of Offsite Learning (AWOL), earned the President’s Student Leadership Award in the Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact Presidents’ Engaged Campus Awards.

BVU students will also tap the grant program for assistance in professional development, allowing more students to participate in regional and national conferences dedicated to education and service.

“The Campus Compact AmeriCorps program, at its heart, supports our Civic Action Plan as BVU continues to build stronger relationships with organizations that serve thousands of residents across Storm Lake and Buena Vista County,” Hanson says. “We are proud at BVU that, even in the midst of a pandemic, our students devoted 12,374 hours of their efforts in consistently serving others.”

“Our partnership with BVU represents the best of what we can achieve when institutional priorities align with community needs,” Shields concludes. “Community engagement offers a path for students to succeed academically and give back.”