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Everyday Heroes: Cedar Rapids woman helps students discover their purpose

Erin Whipple
Erin Whipple

Erin Whipple can summarize her job as an Iowa Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG) education specialist at Jefferson High School in one sentence: She helps her students find their shine.

Through iJAG, students discover their individual talents, develop skills and seize opportunities to achieve their personal potential. Whipple works with about 50 high school juniors and seniors in a progress-based learning environment that encourages her students to choose what they’re interested in learning about.

She works with about 50 students every school year. Of course, some of those students have younger siblings, which means she’ll work with the entire family, developing connections that exceed the student-teacher relationship. She’s also their advocate, guidance counselor and mentor, as well as a public resource.

“We don’t just work with the students inside the school,” Whipple said. “I’m there to advocate for them, and their families, within the community. If something happens, I’m often my students’ first phone call.”

In her 11 years at Jefferson, Whipple has helped more than 550 students graduate high school. Many of these students come from homes that can leave them at a disadvantage, including single-parent homes and homelessness, among other issues.

Whipple works with the students, helping them learn who they are, what they want to be, and what it takes to get there. From job placement programs to college, she helps her students realize that nothing is out of reach. Their future is filled with possibilities, just like everyone else.

“It’s awesome to show these kids more hope, that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and there is a purpose to their education,” Whipple said

EVERYDAY HEROES

Erin Whipple of Cedar Rapids is nominated as an Everyday Hero for helping more than 550 students with barriers graduate high school and discover their purpose in life. She and others are being featured in this occasional series honoring Everyday Heroes, presented by Fairfax State Savings Bank.

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