STORY BY ANNA JENSEN
In the Des Moines area, there are a multitude of ways to get involved with the community through service and volunteering.
Drake’s campus alone offers community services in many different areas, including two unique opportunities where Drake students can help improve the literacy of children and adults.
Everybody Wins! Iowa is an organization where volunteers mentor children below the average literacy line by reading with them for a few hours each week. The Adult Literacy Center is located in the education building right off of University Avenue, where volunteers essentially do the same mentoring process, just with adults who read below average.
The Drake Community Advisory Board, a student-run
organization that helps Drake students engage in community service, can easily connect students to certain organizations that work with things they are passionate about.
“We are a bridge between the Des Moines community, the Drake student body and faculty members,” said CAB president Jamie Willer. “We help promote different student organizations and volunteer opportunities (to students). This is really beneficial for students who may not be in the organizations, but still want to volunteer.”
Through CAB, it is very easy for students to get involved. During Welcome Weekend, Everybody Wins! Iowa was presented to the first-year class when the students wrapped 1,000 books for children in the program.
“We wanted it to go beyond just the book wrapping,” said Willer. “When you have that many students working towards one common goal it makes them realize how much of an impact they are making.”
Everybody Wins! Iowa currently has 24 programs within Des Moines Public schools. Mentors meet with their paired child once a week to work with them in hopes of improving their literacy. The goal is that the mentor and child form a bond through this experience.
“One of the students I worked with needed consistency in his life, and when I left for winter break and came back, he acted out because he thought I didn’t
care enough,” said Madison Ruge, the Service-Learning Ambassador for the First Year Reading and Mentoring Program with Everybody Wins! “That showed me the importance of the relationship we form and how crucial consistency and dedication are when working with children.”
Another opportunity to mentor is available at the Adult Literacy center, where volunteers assist adults — some who are learning English as a second language, others who have the reading ability of a fourth grader or below — and tutor them in reading and writing.
According to the Adult Literacy Center website, 90 adults are being tutored, and they meet with their mentor one or two times a week, preferably for a year.
“It can be harder for Drake students because of the one year time commitment that we prefer,” said Anne Murr, the ALC coordinator. “To enroll (to become a mentor) they need to attend the tutor training, and one is coming up at the end of the month.”
If interested, the volunteer dates are September 25 from 5-8 pm and September 26 from 9 am to 4 pm.
Aside from volunteering, ALC is sponsoring a live music event at Lefty’s in Dogtown on September 18 from 5-9 pm. As a kickoff to Adult Family Literacy Week, three Drake bands will be playing live. The fee is $5, and all the proceeds go to the organization.
According to Drake’s website, over 80 percent of Drake students volunteer and engage in the community. Even if it isn’t through one of these organizations, Drake has many resources that can lead to great opportunities, a successful life, strong relationships and wonderful ties to the Des Moines community.
“The relationship that is built is what keeps people coming back,” said Murr. “One student said to me years ago, ‘My tutor believed in me long before I believed in myself.’”