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Education Network Ensures Future is Bright in Iowa City

Public schools, colleges equip students for success in careers, community

By Val Hunt Beerbower on September 5, 2018

Photo by Justin A. Torner/The Univeristy of Iowa

Growing up in Iowa City means more for kids than racing bikes through quaint neighborhood streets and family block parties. Children raised here have access to the highly rated Iowa City Community School District and the many career opportunities presented to its pupils. The district serves more than 14,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

One of the ways the district uniquely positions students for success is through its higher education partnerships. The district boasts the only regional high school located on a university campus, operated in conjunction with the university and local community college.

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“This gives students a chance to ‘test drive’ careers they might be interested in, giving them a better understanding of what they might like to do after they graduate,†says Iowa City Community School District Superintendent Stephen Murley, whose own son took advantage of this program, entering college with 28 credits.

Now in its third year, the regional high school’s latest graduating class saw about 88 percent of its students continue on to post-secondary classrooms. Murley credits the school’s robust workplace learning connection. Students may job shadow or intern at local businesses that help broaden their knowledge base of available career fields.

“We see a lot of kids elect to do things they might not have otherwise because it wasn’t part of this traditional line of thinking they had when they first enrolled at the school. We’re broadening horizons and along with that, more choices for a career path and jobs,†Murley says.

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For younger students, the University of Iowa‘s College of Education recently rolled out a program that connects students studying to become teachers with children in need of supplemental mentorship and guidance. Advancement Via Individual Determination (or AVID) program introduces children to college life, and helps them determine paths to a degree, particularly for potential first-generation students and those in need of financial aid.

Photo by Justin A. Torner/The Univeristy of Iowa

Welcoming Environment

Children and young adults aren’t the only ones who have got it made in Iowa City. Older adults, immigrants and other eager learners find a friendly environment at Kirkwood Community College (KCC)’s Iowa City branch. Dr. Ann M. Valentine, KCC Executive Dean, says the college is actively involved with Iowa City’s “Welcome America†initiative.

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“When coupled with our generous number of offerings in English Language Acquisition, this helps us to prepare new Americans to take their place as productive and contributing members of our community’s economic engine,†she says.

KCC also partners with the business community to best serve the dynamic local economy.

The University of Iowa keeps Iowa City employers abreast on nontraditional degree programs for adult learners, as well.

“We attend education and job fairs and explain to companies what we have to offer,†says Maureen McCormick, director of UI’s strategic communications for distance and online education. “Our local community colleges provide training to outsourced employees and workforce development training. We [work with] those individuals to give them an opportunity to complete an undergraduate degree after they have obtained an associate degree from a community college.â€

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Schools and local businesses also partner with educational programs in innovative ways here, such as a program that focuses on applied problem solving, Murley says.

“The kids come up with a challenge they’d like to address in our community, then they identify a business partner in town that best fits the content area of that particular challenge,†he says.

Students work with businesses to come up with workable solutions, and then formulate a presentation they make to the businesses during a special “pitch day†where they receive feedback.

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