Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jun 18, 2018

They may have an IDEA for you

Pilot program unites students and businesses
By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News | Dec 27, 2017

NEW LONDON — Laura Williams is aiming to put southeast Iowa on the state’s education map.

That’s why the Great Prairie Area Education Agency 21st Century Learning Specialist is facilitating a pilot program — Iowa Learn Excel Achieve Develop (ILEAD) — in the New London and Danville School districts. The districts passed a 28E agreement to share the program.

The purpose of the program “is to allow students to work collaboratively in teams to help solve problems and engage in projects posed by different groups in the community,” Williams said.

Currently, 11 students are participating in the program. Four instructors — two from each school — are helping the students. Allison Lair and Tresa Zaragoza are the New London instructors and Gayle Kunch and Kelly Henry are representing Danville.

Williams said her role “is to reach out to businesses and get projects. We are kind of raising the ante over internships and job-shadowing.”

ILEAD is a two semester program and students receive two high school credits. Williams said the students meet with teachers before and after school and during the instructors’ prep periods to work on the projects.

“The students just love it,” Williams said. “We have plenty of projects, we need more students. The businesses also have been super in coming up with ideas.”

Some of the current projects include a marketing program to increase foot traffic at the Coffee Depot in Mt. Pleasant; writing scripts for radio advertising for a Burlington bicycle shop; organizing a fundraising campaign to raise $70,000 to bring a World War II railroad car to the Danville Holocaust Museum; and exploring methods to reduce the cost of laying fiber cable in Wever.

“We also leave the door open for students to come up with ideas,” stated Williams, “and one group is planning a documentary.”

She is hoping to grow the program next semester and next year. Wisdom Quest in Mt. Pleasant and the Albia School District have expressed interest, she said.

Williams also noted that Kristi Ray, executive vice president of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber Alliance has been very helpful.

The idea for the program, Williams reflected, resulted from a study of educational programs around the state.

“Innovation is happening all around Iowa,” she noted. “I just wanted to make sure southeast Iowa was on the map.”

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