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Youth Launch Commission programs promote youth activities

Published: Friday, April 25, 2014 11:38 a.m. CDT

Programs to safeguard and promote youth activities and advance senior volunteerism spring out to six southern Iowa communities from the Youth Launch Commission, which is located in the lower level of Graceland University’s Frederick Madison Smith Library.

The six counties served include Clarke, Decatur, Lucas, Ringgold, Union and Wayne.

The mission of the Youth Launch Commission is to “strengthen the culture of positive youth development and civic engagement in southern Iowa through education, volunteerism and service.”

“Graceland University is proud to work with the Youth Launch Commission,” said Greg Sutherland, executive director of Affiliate Relations at Graceland University. “We understand that there is nothing more important than to foster the positive growth of the next generation so that they have successful and rewarding lives.”

Sutherland has responsibility for program development with Graceland’s various partners.

The Youth Launch Commission is one example of his oversight.

Just recently re-organized, the Youth Launch Commission, which is directed by Julie Neas, includes four programs.

Neas oversees one of these programs, Youth Launch Leaders, which seeks to empower adults to create healthy, nurturing and supportive environments for youths in southern Iowa.

Another program, AmeriCorps Youth Launch, directed by Shannon Harris, provides opportunities for students to lead successful, rewarding and productive lives.

AmeriCorps members build valuable developmental assets, instill civic engagement, and help young people find the “sparks” that ignite their passions in life.

The Volunteer Center of Southern Iowa, lead by Amanda Edsall, strives to meet area needs and provide opportunities to strengthen community connectedness through volunteerism.

RSVP of Southern Iowa, lead by Jesse Bolinger, utilizes the skills, experiences and talents of people 55 and older to serve in a variety of volunteer activities.

“We are fortunate to live in some amazing communities,” Neas said. “These communities not only believe in themselves but also believe in paving the way for their youth and providing fulfilling opportunities for their seniors. So many people have worked tirelessly to put together the Youth Launch Commission, and we owe them so much for their efforts.”

For more information about the Youth Launch Commission programs, visit

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