Connecting with kids


An adventure in the making

Iowa State’s Admissions Early Outreach team provides higher ed resources and engagement to Iowa youth

A dream adventure doesn’t just happen; it’s time to start planning.

That’s the message the Iowa State Admissions Early Outreach team is sharing with students at a young age.

Admissions Early Outreach works with students ranging in age from third grade through high school. The office coordinates programs for first-generation college students, students from low-income households, students of color, and talented and gifted students. The wide variety of programs offered by the office, ranging from campus visits to summer camps to outreach at schools around Iowa, is intended to help students think about college long before they are seniors in high school.

But explaining the concepts of class rank, GPA, ACT scores, and admissions standards to younger students is challenging. Abby Welborn (A), middle school counselor for Admissions Early Outreach, takes a lighthearted approach. In between pop-culture references and memes worked into presentations, Welborn encourages students to think about how the things they are doing now will prepare them for college.

“We have to begin with just building a framework of what it means to go to a university, and within a university, a college. Then, what is a major? And how does that align to a job?” Welborn said. “At the same time, we throw in some memes and some pop culture. I try to be funny and keep up with the fads.”

Admissions Early Outreach focuses on providing engaging, hands-on, and non-traditional classroom experiences to students to spark their curiosity about college. Students may build and program robotic cars during visits to campus or learn about epidemiology and statistics in a summer camp course about a zombie apocalypse. They learn about the freedom of a college schedule, treat themselves to an extra dessert in the dining center during lunch, or test their luck by walking across the Zodiac in the Memorial Union.

Although these experiences may help students imagine becoming Cyclones in the future, recruitment is not the primary goal of the office, according to Tricia Stouder, early outreach program coordinator for Admissions Early Outreach.

“We’re not trying to recruit students in third grade or in middle school even,” Stouder said. “As the land-grant institution in Iowa, it’s part of our mission to help bring the resources and the knowledge of the college to community members. Part of that is to help prepare the youngest citizens of Iowa. We want to make sure that they have the information and the knowledge that they need in order to be ready for recruitment when the time is right.”

As the only team dedicated solely to early outreach amongst Iowa’s public universities, the staff at Iowa State seems to have tapped into a previously overlooked market. Demand for early-outreach programs is high. Some of the office’s programs reach capacity minutes after registration opens. In an attempt to meet demand, Admissions Early Outreach is committed to growing the program offerings and partnering with other Iowa State entities to share their expertise.

“Sometimes you wonder if anything you’re saying has sunk in,” Stouder said. “But when you get to see those lightbulbs come on, it’s really empowering. We get to engage these students and get them excited about the next step, even if that’s still a few years away.”

– Coreen Robinson


Summer programs bring kids to campus

Summer has always been a time for groups of youngsters to get involved with programs on campus. Previous summers at ISU have provided opportunities for groups large and small, ranging from 4-H and athletics activities to national conferences and academic prep workshops.

Some key outreach programs come from ISU’s Offi ce of Precollegiate Programs for Talented and Gifted, or OPPTAG. The Adventures program is designed for academically talented students entering grades 3-8. For older students, OPPTAG offers Explorations, a summer program for students entering grades 9-11. Each program is a full week and gives kids an opportunity to explore the worlds of science, math, art, literature, reading, engineering, and more.

Iowa State’s Early Outreach Program is a week-long residential summer program for first-generation African American, Native American, and Hispanic/Latino youth entering grades 9-12 at an Iowa school.

Whatever a child’s interest, Iowa State probably has a program that is both fun and enriching. Consider: harvesting vegetables and learning about healthy eating; examining the fields of art, photography, and fashion design; exploring the world of insects; discovering the many aspects of agriculture; learning about community
leadership; improving sports skills; studying computers; or competing in a talent competition.

Programs, workshops, and camps are planned through a number of campus units, but here are just a couple of places to start if you’re interested in finding summer programs for your kids: and

– Carole Gieseke


4-H: Empowering Youth

Iowa 4-H offers experiences and opportunities for urban and rural youth throughout the state

Many people hear “4-H” and instantly think of livestock and horticulture.

Agriculture plays a big part, but 4-H is primarily a youth development program that teaches young people personal and professional skills that allow them to reach their fullest potential. The Iowa 4-H program is a hands-on learning experience that promotes youth development in several areas, including music and photography, digital storytelling, environment and sustainability, science and math, and food and nutrition.

Iowa State works to connect with young people year-round through the 4-H Youth Development program. Volunteer development specialist Tillie Bell Good (L)(’04 political science) says the goal is to connect with youth through research-based experiences. Adult volunteers build relationships with the kids involved to teach positive youth development, helping them to develop skills necessary to becoming the best citizens.

“There are so many positive effects of the healthy relationships young people have with the role models of both the older youth and adults in the groups,” Good said. “It helps them with growth and development. They see the positive outcomes of giving back to the community.”

4-H has four areas of focus: STEM, healthy living, citizenship and leadership, and communication and arts. Kids from grades K-12 have the opportunity to get hands-on learning experience with projects targeted to their age groups. They learn how to take ideas and concepts and apply them to real-life situations. For example, in learning about healthy living and gardening, kids not only learn how to harvest vegetables and fruits but how to make healthy meals out of the produce.

“The intent in teaching youth these ideas and concepts is that hopefully they’re taking them back to their family and starting the conversation around healthy living,” Good said. “We’re empowering youth to share their knowledge.”

Good says that STEM has been an exciting area to which to introduce kids. One aspect of STEM that kids relate to is learning anatomy and how the body works in playing a sport. They learn how food and nutrition is important to the way the body functions.

“4-H is not just one thing,” Good said. “You can make it what you want it to be.”

Aqua, robotics, Lego League, 3-D printing, coding, virtual reality – the areas of opportunity are endless. With 4-H, there’s always a new project to explore. The program provides learning opportunities to young people to which they might not otherwise ever have been exposed, teaching them new skills and allowing them to explore new areas of interest.

Many of the things kids learn in 4-H help in career preparation as well.

“We get a lot of people today saying how they learned communication skills through 4-H and how it helps with the career component,” Good said. “If they have to present information, whether in front of a group or at the State Fair, they get that experience in 4-H.”

Within the four areas of focus, 4-H volunteers integrate eight essential elements within 4-H youth development experiences: caring adults, safe environments, mastery, service, self-determination, inclusiveness, futuristic, and engagement.

Throughout Iowa, almost 10,000 volunteers guide 4-H members to become the best citizens they can be. Iowa State offers clubs, camping experiences, retreats, and several more opportunities for young people to get involved in 4-H. The campus recently hosted a cultural retreat – Maize – for the coming together of Native American, Latino, and Iowa traditions and cultures.

“It’s exciting to me that we have the connection to ISU,” Good said. “We take what we have here on campus and spread it throughout the state.”

Good says 4-H is for everyone, offering experiences and opportunities for urban and rural youth all over Iowa.

“It really can be and is an opportunity for all,” Good said. “Anyone can make 4-H part of their lives, no matter where you live or whom you’re connected with.”

– Michelle Chalkey Barichello


Rewarding students for rewarding careers

Scholarships help Iowa State students reach their drams of becoming teachers

Growing up in Boone, Iowa, Stacie Leeds knew even as a child that she wanted to be a teacher. She even thought she might like to pursue that profession in the place where she grew up – to give back to her community and, most importantly, to enrich kids’ lives through her teaching.

Now, true to that aspiration, she’s teaching sixth grade in the exact same middle school she once attended. Her former science teacher is on her teaching team. Her principal was once her physical education teacher whose children she babysat.

Before graduating from Iowa State in December 2015, Leeds even student-taught in Boone, an opportunity that solidified her teaching skills – and her commitment to a demanding and rewarding profession. While student teaching is a required step in teacher education, the unpaid time can be financially challenging. Yet the demands are such that the university suggests students don’t work at another job, if possible. But that’s not feasible for all students.

Enter the Myrna and John Hamann Scholarship, which provides a stipend to STEM education students to cover living expenses during student teaching. Leeds was the second recipient of the fund the couple created in 2013, which has now benefited six education students at Iowa State. The Hamann Scholarship is helping students toward their dreams of becoming teachers, while also helping the School of Education in the College of Human Sciences toward a goal to raise new scholarship support, a key priority during the university’s Forever True, For Iowa State campaign.

Said Myrna Hamann (L)(’65 mathematics), who established the scholarship with her husband, Jon Hamann (L)(’66 chemical engineering), “Students really need the money, especially the semester when they are student teaching.” As Leeds recalled, “The scholarship meant I didn’t have to stress about making money, so I could truly focus on my students.”

Today, Leeds’ student debt load is light enough that she’s just bought a house in Boone, putting down even deeper roots in her community. She appreciates that, as a teacher in a small town, her job doesn’t end when the bell rings. “Even when you are just going to the store or out to eat, you run into your students. You are considered a role model whenever you are out in the community.”

Scholarships such as the Hamanns’ are important to attract and keep good education students because, noted Leeds, “They encourage you to stay in the teaching field, which you know is not going to be the most rewarding financially. But it is so rewarding in so many other ways.

“Being a teacher has been amazing. My students have such deep thoughts that they want to talk through. They make my day every day, just by being themselves.”

– Veronica Lorson Fowler


Keeping the promise

ISU 4U Promise helps make college more accessible and affordable to a targeted group of underserved kids in Des Moines

Ten-year-old Aleena Tran isn’t afraid to dream big about her future.

Walking through the hallway at King Elementary School with her sparkle-kitty lunch bag, Aleena imagines that someday she will be an educator who helps students solve multiplication problems, memorize state capitals, and study the planets.

“I really want to be a teacher,” Aleena said. “I believe that my dream will come true, because I feel that many people support my dream. This makes me happy.”

The ISU 4U Promise program begins nurturing dreams like Aleena’s – as early as kindergarten – with a rich curriculum of activities, special events, and speeches. Promise kids learn from ISU students and educators that it is possible for them to attend one of Iowa State’s six undergraduate colleges. New worlds unfold as these kids learn that they can become an entomologist who studies bugs, or a reporter who covers breaking news, or an entrepreneur who runs a successful pizza business, among other careers.

“I feel super grateful that I have these opportunities. I’ve learned a lot about Iowa State,” Aleena said. “I’m only in fifth grade, but it makes me want to reach my goals even more.”

The program also provides generous tuition awards.

How the Promise works
ISU 4U Promise was conceptualized in 2013 by then-ISU President Steven Leath (L) and State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. Created to make college more accessible and affordable for students at King and Moulton elementary schools in Des Moines, the program carves a supportive, positive path from elementary school to Iowa State’s front door.

“We show these kids that the future is full of possibilities, and we expose them to all kinds of new ideas,” said Kayla Pippitt, assistant program director for ISU 4U Promise. “We are selling enthusiasm.”

The program also features before-and-after-school programs, family events, back-to school nights, and field trips. Fifth graders tour the ISU campus, and high school students stay in the residence halls during an overnight campus visit.

To receive the ISU 4U Promise tuition award, students must graduate fifth grade at King or Moulton elementary schools, stay in the district, and graduate from a Des Moines public high school. The award will vary, depending on the number of years students attend King or Moulton, up to full tuition. To maintain eligibility, students must remain active in the program, meet attendance standards, take the ACT, and earn acceptance into ISU.

Graduating to bigger things
The oldest students in the program are currently high school juniors who plan to enter ISU in the fall of 2018. More than half of these 22 students, including Somerle Rhiner, are eligible for free tuition.

With plans to major in premedical and health sciences at ISU, Somerle wants to become a doctor. “I am so excited to attend Iowa State,” she said. “I just want to go to college now!”

“Dreams are coming true for me and many other students,” she said. “The tuition is important, but the support I’ve received and the skills I’ve learned are even more valuable.”

Program organizers identify student skills and harness those talents. Somerle was selected to mentor young students, and she has spoken to large groups at Callanan Middle School. These experiences have helped her to secure career-related opportunities. “I do volunteer work, and this summer I will job shadow at a hospital,” she said.

It takes a village to keep a Promise
A unique fusion of education, community, and business partners works year-round to ensure that ISU 4U Promise is successful.

“Everyone pulls together to create a sense of community and friendship, so these kids have a strong support system that carries them through grade school and into their college years,” Pippitt said.

Each year, ISU officials attend King and Moulton fifth-grade graduation ceremonies to demonstrate their commitment to each child’s goals and dreams.

Promise partners include the ISU School of Education, ISU Extension and Outreach, Human Development and Family Studies, Financial Aid, Des Moines Public Schools, and numerous community organizations and businesses in the Moulton and King neighborhoods.

“It is very rewarding to see an enthusiastic child proclaim, ‘I want to be a food scientist!’ or ‘I want to be an event planner!’” Pippitt said. “Many people work hard to show these kids that their futures are bright.”

– Angie Haggerty


Careers with kids

Iowa State offers degree programs leading to professions working with children and families

“I want to work with kids.”

That’s a common request when students first arrive at Iowa State and are just starting to think about majors and careers. For those students, ISU has a number of programs from which they can choose.

Elementary education; early childhood education; and child, adult, and family services degree programs – all offered through the College of Human Sciences – prepare Iowa State students for careers in teaching, special education, child care, youth services, advocacy programs, preschool education, and more.

These majors, which allow graduates to connect one-on-one with children and youth, are considered to be some of the most meaningful degree programs available, according to findings of a national survey of 1.4 million college graduates.

“My major is meaningful to me because I know that teachers play a huge role in children’s lives as they grow up,” Bailey Oberbroeckling, an elementary education major, told writer Lynn Campbell for a story in the College of Human Sciences Matters magazine.

Iowa State’s Child Development Laboratory School is a hands-on resource for students in early childhood, where they gain valuable experience working with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. And early childhood majors also have an opportunity to work with students in kindergarten through third grade in area schools before they student-teach.

Elementary education students learn to teach the basics – like math, reading, and science – and also can choose to specialize in an area such as art or coaching. The child, adult, and family services major prepares students to work with young children and their families, making Iowa and the world a better place.

– Carole Gieseke

This article was originally published in VISIONS magazine. To receive the full issue delivered to your mailbox four times per year, become a member of the ISU Alumni Association.


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