116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A new program for middle and high school students in the College Community School District aims to inspire them to bolster their grades, enroll in challenging classes, participate in extracurricular activities and prepare for their future after graduation.
The Future Now program focuses on helping students — especially students of color — engage fully in what their school has to offer and help them plan for life after high school.
Students meet weekly during school hours to support and encourage each other and be mentored by staff sponsors.
“Everyone has dreams, hopes and aspirations,” Future Now coordinator Sam Black said. “The work of the group is to get people comfortable claiming what paths they want to explore.”
The program helps students connect with resources such as school counseling and job shadows, internship and apprenticeship opportunities. And it helps them apply to college.
Zeinab Osman, a district community engagement specialist, said it’s “exciting and refreshing” to see students identify and begin to pursue their dreams.
More than 100 students are participating in Future Now at Prairie High School and Prairie Point Middle School and in the Prairie Delta program, all on the 76th Avenue SW campus.
Physicals at school
The Future Now program also helps students join extracurricular activities in the performing arts and athletics.
Some students face transportation or health insurance barriers that prevent them from completing a physical exam, which is required by athletics programs. So the program offers students the physicals on campus.
“We’re trying to take away any barrier that exists for whatever reason it exists,” said Laura Medberry, College Community executive director of learning supports.
Students in the Future Now program also get to go on field trips.
Last week, students spent two days packing food boxes at Together We Achieve’s drive-thru food giveaway in southwest Cedar Rapids.
Black, the Future Now coordinator, said the program is not “recreating the wheel. We’re looking to make sure more kids get engaged in what already works.”
“Our job is to steer, prep and advise students as they prepare themselves for the future,” he said.
“School sets the foundation for kids becoming comfortable with claiming the path they want to take. We want to make sure every single kid gets the opportunity to explore and find themselves.”
Students who participate in Future Now are showing positive social-emotional behavior, have a higher attendance rate and are enrolling in more challenging classes.
The group at Prairie High School, Black added, is quickly becoming “student-driven,” and the students are learning how to become stewards of their own grades.
“They’ve got a great deal of energy and a vision for what they would like to be,” Black said. “They are very vocal about holding each other accountable academically.”
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