Recent News

Tuesday (April 3) is National Service Recognition Day, when AmeriCorps members around the country are honored for their efforts to improve their communities.

Here in Iowa, Iowa College Aid is a sponsor of 14 AmeriCorps State and AmeriCorps VISTA members through the Course to College Corps. These members work to remove barriers so that more young people can go to college. They provide one-on-one college access assistance to students and also help schools develop and expand their college access programs.

Course to College Corps members are currently at work in the following communities:

  • Cedar Rapids: 3 AmeriCorps State members
  • Estherville: 1 AmeriCorps State member and 1 AmeriCorps VISTA member
  • Fort Dodge: 1 AmeriCorps State member and 1 AmeriCorps VISTA member
  • Muscatine: 1 AmeriCorps State member
  • Ottumwa: 1 AmeriCorps State members and 1 AmeriCorps VISTA member
  • Sioux City: 3 AmeriCorps State members and 1 AmeriCorps VISTA member

Course to College Corps is made possible by grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service and Volunteer Iowa. To learn more, go to

Elizabeth Keest Sedrel
Monday, April 2, 2018



Iowa College Aid today announced a new round of Local College Access Network (LCAN) grants, awarding $280,000 to six Iowa communities. LCANs begin with Planning Grants (up to $20,000 a year for up to two years) and then are eligible to apply for Launch Grants (up to $60,000 a year for up to two years), Implementation Grants (up to $40,000 a year for up to two years) and Continuous Improvement Grants (up to $20,000 a year for up to three years).

These six communities received new grants beginning July 1:

  • Estherville (Estherville CAN)–Implementation Grant
  • Franklin County (Mission Possible)–Implementation Grant
  • Mason City (MCCAN)–Launch Grant
  • Muscatine (AIM)–Launch Grant
  • Ottumwa (C3: Cradle, College Career)–Implementation Grant
  • Sioux City (Sioux City CAN)–Implementation Grant

The goal of LCANs is to increase college access, enrollment and completion using a framework known as “Collective Impact.” Iowa College Aid provides grant money, training, technical assistance and professional development. Each LCAN forms a cross-sector leadership team that identifies barriers to college access in their community, as well as local assets and resources that should be leveraged. Teams then develop community-specific goals to increase college access.

“These efforts increase the chances of success for both individual Iowans and Iowa communities,” said Karen Misjak, executive director of Iowa College Aid. “LCANs align community leaders and resources to support individuals who want to continue education after high school, making them more employable throughout their lives. LCANs also give local employers a seat at the table, ensuring they will have the trained workforce they need.” These four communities will be eligible to apply for a new grant phase that begins in January:

  • Bremer County (Bremer County CAN)–Launch Grant
  • Des Moines (Iowa Safe Schools, Queer CAN)–Planning Grant
  • Dubuque (Dubuque CAN)–Launch Grant Quad Cities (Q2030)–Launch Grant

To date, Iowa College Aid has awarded a total of $1,086,708 in LCAN grants. Find more information about Iowa’s LCANs on the Iowa College Aid website.



Four high school juniors from Iowa have been selected to attend the 2018 Youth Leadership Summit next week in Washington, D.C. They will join students from all over the United States at the three-and-a-half day summit sponsored by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships. All four are part of GEAR UP Iowa, a federal grant program administered by Iowa College Aid to increase college awareness and attainment in underserved school districts.

The students are:

Mary Ann Schwindt of Roosevelt High School in Des Moines

Mary Ann is a competitive swimmer and a volunteer at the Des Moines Public Library. She credits her experience in GEAR UP Iowa with making her more outgoing, more confident and better at listening to her peers. Mary Ann expects the Youth Leadership Summit to further build those skills. “I will be outside my comfort zone,” she says. “I will be pushing myself to absorb all the information offered to me as I get to know the people around me and to get the most out of the activities we do.”

Vanesa Alday of Storm Lake High School in Storm Lake

Vanessa will be a first-generation college student and hopes to become an anesthesiologist. Her experience with her GEAR UP Iowa mentor has motivated her desire to become a mentor herself. “I look up to her,” Vanesa says. “I want to be a lot like her, where she is taking her time to help others. … I want to help the kids who struggle to pass their classes so they can graduate on time and feel like they can be successful as well. I want them to know they are not alone.”

Gorma Williams of Hoover High School in Des Moines

Gorma is a GEAR UP ambassador and a church volunteer. She has found GEAR UP college visits to be beneficial, especially a three-day student summit last year at Iowa State University. “I struggle a little with communicating with others,” Gorma says. “These experiences of working with others and collaborating as a team in solving problems have helped me strengthen my communication skills. The Youth Leadership Summit will help me be more assertive and express my ideas more freely.”

Anika Munjal of Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids

Anika is the vice president of her school French club and a volunteer with Best Buddies. She says last year’s statewide summit sparked her interest in advocacy work. “Speakers talked extensively about how it is possible to pursue every kind of job within my home state,” she says. “For example, I learned that in order to be a successful politician I don’t necessarily have to live and work from Washington, D.C., but rather that there is a lot of important legislative work being done right here in Iowa.”

“These four young women exemplify the goals and values of GEAR UP Iowa,” says Karen Misjak, executive director of Iowa College Aid. “They’re thinking not only of what they’ve gained from the program already, but what they can learn in the future and how they can use that knowledge to better their world.”

GEAR UP Iowa serves more than 7,600 students in 12 Iowa school districts. For more information, visit


Elizabeth Keest Sedrel​
(515) 725-3417
Thursday, July 12, 2018