August 8, 2018

Pictured Above: Melissa Strovers, Monica Chavez-Silva, and Julie Gosselink receive the national award on behalf of Grinnell honorees in Philadelphia, PA

The national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (GLR) recognized the Grinnell Education Partnership with several honors at the GLR Week national conference in Philadelphia July 23–27. The program received a Pacesetter designation, Grinnell was recognized as a GLR Bright Spot and five members of the Grinnell community were inducted into the GLR Council of Champions.

Pacesetter Designation

The Grinnell Education Partnership was recognized for outstanding alignment among the private, public and social sectors to achieve measurable progress in literacy achievement in the short term and position the community for sustained progress in the future. In 2017, Grinnell posted a 5.1 percent increase in kindergarten-through-third-grade literacy, compared to the statewide Iowa gain of only 2.9 percent. At the same time, several pilot programs initiated under the Grinnell Education Partnership were integrated into the regular operations of existing community organizations, ensuring sustainability for the future. This includes a new position within the public school district to focus on attendance.

The Pacesetter designation honors select communities the GLR Campaign identifies as truly exemplary. Since 2012, the GLR Campaign has identified 85 Pacesetter communities from more than 360 GLR communities in 43 states, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada.

“Recognizing Pacesetters is our way of applauding and thanking the civic leaders, organizations and agencies that have joined forces to build brighter futures for children in their communities,” said Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.  “We are learning with them and from them what it takes to move the needle and close the gap. Mobilized communities — like these Pacesetters — are essential to achieving early school success.”

Bright Spot Recognition

The GLR Bright Spot recognition promotes peer exchange across the GLR Campaign network, highlighting inspirational solutions so communities can “steal shamelessly and share seamlessly” with colleagues. Grinnell was recognized as a Bright Spot for the innovative approach of using AmeriCorps grants to support the Grade Level Reading framework. The grants are administered by Grinnell College and provide additional human resources to local nonprofits supporting community education priorities. The Greater Poweshiek Community Foundation in Grinnell serves as co-convener with the college, spearheading private fundraising and overseeing the dispersal of funds. Grinnell’s school district and an array of nonprofits provide technical resources through community and content expertise to build high quality, sustainable programming.

Council of Champions

Finally, the GLR Campaign recognized five Grinnellians for their extraordinary contributions to Grinnell’s work by inducting them into the GLR Council of Champions. They are:

  • Sarah Seney, Fairview Elementary principal, was recognized for contributing tireless dedication, creative thinking and problem-solving to help imagine, plan and launch the SLICK (Summer Learning Is Cool for Kids) school-based program. Seney created a close partnership with Karen Neal at Drake Community Library in Grinnell to ensure that summer learning activities are convenient and accessible for families.
  • Karen Neal, youth services director at Drake Community Library, was recognized for her role in identifying community needs and implementing innovative programming to reach children throughout the community. As a task force member, host site supervisor and dedicated volunteer, Neal helped create the SLICK Adventures program to better leverage community resources and serve family needs.  She also continues to expand the library’s summer outreach by taking enrichment programming out into the community in new ways.
  • Chad Nath, director of fitness, wellness, integrated health and day camp at Unity Point Health/Grinnell Regional Medical Center, has served for two years with the partnership as a summer host-site supervisor at the Unity Point Health/Grinnell Regional Medical Center Day Camp. In this role, Nath developed best practices for the partnership and created a vision for how the AmeriCorps program can enhance existing summer learning programs. That model, placing AmeriCorps members into existing summer programs, expanded across the Grinnell community this summer to other programs with great success.
  • Doug Cameron, retired Grinnell-Newburg School District elementary school principal, served two terms as an AmeriCorps service member as attendance task force coordinator. In this role, Cameron convened the community’s School Attendance Task Force, which developed new ways to address chronic absenteeism and chronic tardiness, focusing on building positive relationships with students and their caregivers. Due to the marked improvement demonstrated by these efforts, the Grinnell Newburg School District has hired a full-time family engagement and attendance coordinator to sustain these efforts into 2017–18 and beyond.
  • Julie Gosselink, president, CEO and chair of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, was recognized for her role as one of the partnership’s earliest supporters. Since then, Gosselink has continued her dedication to the project as an active task force member for summer learning, contributing her advocacy, deep-rooted knowledge of the community and commitment to local community betterment efforts, bringing new partners and resources to Grinnell’s entire Grade Level Reading project.

“These national recognitions for Grinnell’s work are extraordinary,” said Melissa Strovers, program and communications manager in Grinnell College’s Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement. Strovers serves as co-director of Grinnell’s AmeriCorps program. “The partnership is only in its third year of active programming with the support of AmeriCorps members, so to be recognized nationally after so short a time is a testament to Grinnell’s can-do community spirit and commitment to supporting early education literacy success.”

About the Grinnell Education Partnership

The Grinnell Education Partnership brings together community nonprofits, area employers, the Grinnell-Newburg School District and community volunteers to support kids and families in Grinnell. Supported by a team of AmeriCorps members embedded in host sites across the community, the partnership is helping to ensure that Grinnell’s children get a strong start and a strong finish to their school experience. Since 2015–16, the Grinnell Education Partnership has engaged more than 110 AmeriCorps members, involved more than 20 local organizations and involved more than 300 volunteers who have contributed nearly 1,000 hours of volunteer time. In addition, the partnership has piloted or enhanced more than 15 community-based programs and generated nearly $60,000 in grant funding and private donations to support community-based learning activities.

About the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading

Launched in 2010, the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort of funders, nonprofit partners, business leaders, government agencies, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. Since its launch, the GLR Campaign has grown to include more than 4,100 local organizations across North America as well as 510 state and local funders (including 191 United Ways). To learn more, visit and follow the movement on Twitter @readingby3rd.

About Grinnell College

Grinnell College, a private liberal arts college in Iowa founded in 1846, provides individually advised learning for intellectually engaged students to produce graduates who are prepared navigate the world’s complexities and responsibly contribute to the common good. Grinnell enrolls 1,700 students from around the world, who earn B.A. degrees in a range of disciplines across the humanities, arts and sciences. Grinnell’s rigorous academic program and campus life emphasize excellence in education through free inquiry and the open exchange of ideas, a diverse community and social responsibility and action. More information about Grinnell College is available at

(The Campaign for Grade Level Reading recognized the Grinnell Education Partnership at their GLR Week convention in Philadelphia. Pictured left to right: Melissa Strovers, Program and Communications Manager in Grinnell College’s Office of Community Enhancement and Engagement; Ron Fairchild, Director Grade Level Reading Support Center; Monica Chavez-Silva, AVP Community Enhancement, Grinnell College; Ralph Smith, Managing Director for the Campaign for Grade Level Reading; and Julie Gosselink, President, CEO and chair of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation.)