Peggy Schwab, a second-year master's candidate in the UI College of Education's School Counseling program and Iowa LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Related Disabilities), is the 2020-21 Obermann Spelman Rockefeller Community Scholar. For this academic year, Peggy will work with Neighborhood NESTS, a new community collaborative initiative. Nurturing Every Student Together Safely, or NESTS, was created this summer as a way to address gaps in the Iowa City Community School District's Return to Learn Plan. A group of local non-profit leaders from organizations including 4Cs, Dream City, United Action for Youth, and Open Heartland, developed NESTS in response to the needs of families who reported that their K-12 students were falling behind in their learning and social-emotional development as a result of haphazard schooling.
Organic community initiative
By leveraging their strengths and coordinating a successful start to the school year for vulnerable and at-risk youth, these leaders hope to develop a model that other nonprofits in the community can easily borrow from and adapt. Very quickly, this small and organic initiative has grown into a collaboration that includes the business community, government organizations, the school district, and local faith organizations. The goal is to provide safe spaces with trusted adults where children and young adults can gather for academic success and emotional wellbeing during a school year unlike any other.
In this theory-to-practice position, Schwab will work with the Executive Director of 4Cs, Missie Forbes, and the core NESTS team, to establish best practices for creating new NESTS; develop a handbook; identify community liaisons; and assist with community buy-in efforts. As this is a new and quickly evolving model, Schwab's responsibilities will necessarily shift in the coming months. The objective of the community scholar position is for the student to bring her skills as a researcher to the community program and, in turn, to learn about community-centered needs and practices. In the College of Education, Schwab is mentored by Dr. Ebonee Johnson, who will provide guidance to her in this position.
Spelman Rockefeller's commitment to child welfare
The Obermann Center is undertaking this pilot program to make use of Spelman Rockefeller funds in a way that supports the UI's research mission and the spirit of the donor. Laura Spelman Rockefeller (1839–1915) lived a short time in Burlington, Iowa before her family moved to Ohio. In 1864, she married John D. Rockefeller, whom she had met in a class; he became the founder of the Standard Oil Company. As an adult, Laura was a well-known philanthropist, supporting many causes, including child development, education, public health, race relations, religion, and social welfare. In 1918, her husband established the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Memorial in her memory, which focused on building infrastructure for research and training in "child studies" with an emphasis on interdisciplinary research.
This position was also created in the spirit of the Obermann Center's dedication to community engagement and is informed by its Humanities for the Public Good Summer Internship Program, in which UI graduate students work with local non-profits. This pilot will provide ideas to the Humanities for the Public Good team regarding how workplace positions might best marry into a PhD program. We look forward to highlighting more about Schwab's work and this exciting community-driven project later this year.