The Power of One
How do we enact change in communities? I always believed that it was by the power of our vote. If we want to see change, then we ought to vote for a politician who will make it happen. In reality, social change is more complex and layered.
Here is where we enter the world of not-for-profit organizations.
More Than a Flicker
In Spring 2022, I enrolled in Writing for Nonprofit Organizations with Kate Nesbit, assistant professor of English. I thought the class would give me more practical skills as a writer, nothing more nothing less. I gained much more than that.
I chose to partner with the organization Iowa Safe Schools. Their mission is to support LGBTQ+ youth across the state of Iowa and ensure they have a safe learning environment. Iowa Safe Schools does this through advocacy, direct service and education. My role at the organization was to create social media posts. It was inspiring to work with and learn from my supervisor, Dana Van Renterghem ’15, who enters middle schools and high schools across the state of Iowa and engages youth in classes, presentations and clubs like Gay-Straight Alliance. Support for LGBTQ+ youth is vital, as it is a demographic that is at high risk for poor mental health and suicidal thoughts. There is no way to fully measure the work Iowa Safe Schools has done to protect Iowa’s youth, but I can confidently say this organization makes a difference.
I’ve always wanted to do meaningful work. Dana’s ability to positively impact youth all over the state of Iowa definitely matches my definition of meaningful work. After working with Iowa Safe Schools for a few weeks, I began to realize that the flicker of interest in nonprofits I had at the beginning of the semester was turning into a passion.
“After working with Iowa Safe Schools for a few weeks, I began to realize that the flicker of interest in nonprofits I had at the beginning of the semester was turning into a passion.”
— Mattie Francis ’23
Not Finished Yet
At the end of the class, we all met in Des Moines for a civic dialogue. My class spoke with a panel of nonprofit organizations, including Creative Visions, Latinos Unidos, Children and Families of Iowa and Iowa Safe Schools — just to name a few. Representatives from these organizations offered us deeper insight into the nonprofit world. We discussed gun violence, discrimination, poverty and more, but, we also talked about what these organizations were doing to combat these things in their communities. It was an incredible experience.
I decided to continue my work with nonprofit organizations over the summer. I enrolled in an AmeriCorps partnership with Please Pass the Love, a school mental health nonprofit based in Iowa, and acted as an assistant to their therapeutic programs director.
Making an Impact
Central College gave me an opportunity to make connections with amazing people through the Writing for Nonprofit Organizations class. In just one semester, I found something I was passionate about and could see myself doing after college.
It’s not just politicians and our votes that matter. Through nonprofit organizations, anyone can — and everyone should — make a difference.
Direct Service Courses at Central
Aesthetics to Athletics — With overarching themes of inclusion and social justice, Beth McMahon, associate professor of library science, led this intersections course. The course examined how gender interacts with other forms of diversity. Students interacted with individuals from diverse backgrounds to develop inclusive behaviors and strategies.
Communicating Health and Illness — Mary Donato, lecturer of communication studies, taught the ways in which health, illness and ability affect communication. Students practiced the communication strategies taught in this course by engaging with diverse individuals through service-learning opportunities.
The Engaged Citizen — Representative of this year’s campus theme of engaged citizenship, this course allowed students to complete community service alongside our community partners. This intersections course was taught by Keith Yanner, professor of political science.
Where We Live — Taught by Alan Hastings, assistant professor of education, this intersections course examined natural and social environments throughout time to explore what it means to inhabit a place.
Disability in America — This course deconstructs the idea of disability and works to understand and establish accessible ways of life. Keith Yanner, professor of political science, leads this class.
Human Relations —Under the leadership of Alan Hastings, assistant professor of education, students work with school-aged students to develop education skills with students from a variety of backgrounds.
Intermediate Spanish — Taught by Samuel Mate-Kodjo, associate professor of Spanish, this course will provide opportunities for students to communicate with native-Spanish speakers.
Rap, Hip-hop and Decolonizing the Classroom — Led by Sarah Van Waardhuizen, associate professor of music and Central Music Academy instructor, this course examines social justice discourse within rap and hip-hop music. Students also partner with high school students to further conversations and commitment to intentionally decolonize spaces by examining the role that privilege plays in daily life.