Iowans Thrive Blog
Featuring stories, research, and news on Iowa's movement to respond to ACEs
Dim lights. Three students and a teacher huddled over a textbook. A digital fireplace burning on the white board. Students laughing together before sitting down to work at a table or computer station.
This Flex Academy studio at Hoover High School, one of six at Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS), is centered around creating a calm and supportive environment for students to learn at their own pace. Often the students who attend have failed a class, are missing a lot of school, or are struggling to learn in a traditional classroom. The academy gives them the flexibility to learn online or in the studio with teachers there to guide them.
“I think we over-complicate what we can do to engage students in school,” says Mimi Willoughby, Academic Pathways supervisor at DMPS. “Really it’s a caring environment, a calm space with some flexibility.”
In the greater Des Moines area, the name ArtForce Iowa is slowly becoming a recognizable name in the community.
ArtForce Iowa is a 501c3 non-profit that was founded in 2012 by a group of concerned citizens, with a mission to transform youth in need through art. All of their programs are based on a three “force” model: ArtForce, WorkForce and LifeForce. This model incorporates creative self-expression, work skills development and advocacy in a safe supportive community and their research base consists of Self Determination Theory and Trauma-Informed Care Principles.
Working primarily with youth who have had involvement in the juvenile or family court system, or immigrant, refugee and first-generation American youth who have experienced violence and trauma, the team recognized in 2017 that they were not doing everything they could for themselves or their students. That is when Executive Director, Christine Her, stumbled upon Central Iowa ACEs 360.
The Chicagoland Trauma-Informed Congregations Network is an interfaith table that brings together faith-rooted organizations and others that are interested in using our collective wisdom to respond to the call to facilitate and deepen the role of faith communities in recognizing and creating “safe and brave spaces” that support the healing of trauma experienced by individuals and communities.
In May of 2019, we invited Rev. Kirsten Preachy to Des Moines with goal to learn about the development and future plans of the Chicagoland Network, and discuss opportunities here in Central Iowa.
Mind Matters aims to build greater understanding of the importance of mental health and create a safe space for meaningful conversations about mental illness. This hands-on exhibit experiences bring an attendee closer to facts, feelings and issues surrounding this significant topic.
The Science Center of Iowa, in partnership with Capital Crossroads, supports the exhibit by hosting a series of events to continue the dialogue around mental illness, provide a better understanding of mental health within our community and create a path for continued conversation to address the needs.
Early Childhood Brain Science: Nurturing Strong Mental Health was a topic for the in April 2019 discussion.