The Path to Adulthood

As he enters his senior year of high school in Dubuque, Marcus Moore is looking to a bright future.

“Although I haven’t completely made up my mind about what college to go to, it’s definitely in my plans—I’ve been thinking about it since freshman year,” he said. He wants to pursue a career in electronics engineering. “As a young black man in today’s society, I must set high standards for myself.”

Students like Moore benefit from the efforts of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque’s Dubuque College Access Network (DCAN), a coalition of leaders representing many sectors from education to employment. DCAN brings post-high school education or training within reach for low-income and minority students.

It’s one of the many ways the Community Foundation supports youth in the Greater Dubuque region, from early childhood through young-adulthood. 

The Foundation’s youth-focused work encompasses an array of initiatives that, together, address issues impacting a child’s well-being, including family support, academics and college preparation.

Early experiences matter

“People’s outcomes in life—from health to academics to career success—are shaped by their experiences as young children,” says Shirley Templeton Vaughn, the Foundation’s 
community initiatives coordinator.

One way the Foundation works to ensure children have positive experiences is through the Dubuque Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, which aims to boost academic achievement by collaborating with parents, educators and nonprofit leaders to address school readiness, school attendance and summer learning.

“Research shows that disparities in academic achievement form long before children enter school and can widen without adequate intervention or supports,” says Rachel Williams, the Foundation’s youth impact coordinator, who oversees the initiative. “A key goal is engaging with families to understand their needs and connect them with resources that help them and their children thrive.”

Such resources include opportunities to focus on child brain health and social-emotional well-being, such as peer-to-peer support for parents, Williams says. Children’s mental state can influence success in school, particularly if they have experienced trauma or “toxic stress”—pervasive negative experiences like poverty, food insecurity or domestic abuse that they carry daily.

Books in hands

The initiative also focus on academics, particularly reading. Because reading proficiency by third grade is a key predictor of future academic success, early literacy is a priority, Williams says. Efforts to get more books in the hands of children and families, such as establishing “little free libraries” in the community, coupled with summer academic enrichment programs bring attention to this issue and, ultimately, improve students’ reading scores.

Literacy is an issue that resonates with supporters like Greg Welp, a retired teacher who established a fund with the Community Foundation to ensure that students in Dubuque public schools with the greatest needs can access books.

“Supporting this work meets a personal passion,” says Welp. “When children learn to love reading, they pass that love on to their younger siblings and friends. It all starts with making sure they have books.”

There are many ways to support the Foundation’s youth-focused work, including gifts to individual initiatives or to Every Child, Every Promise. This fund helps address emerging needs of the region’s youth, including school readiness, child brain health and academics.

A continuum of support

The fund also helps address the needs of adolescents, such as college-bound teens like Moore. As Dubuque youth grow and stand at the threshold of a career, the Community Foundation works to ensure that they don’t experience a gap in resources to help them succeed.

For example, through DCAN, the Foundation has led the adoption of a “common agenda” among local education, nonprofit and civic institutions that brings awareness to college access barriers many students experience and promotes strategies to overcoming them.

“I knew getting to college wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but it would be a very worthy walk,” says Moore.

Now, thanks to the encouragement of educators guided by the DCAN common agenda, it’s a walk that Moore is ready to take.

Interested in supporting youth in the Community? Contact Faye Finnegan, director of donor relations, at or 563.588.2700.

Photos from top:

  • Kaylee LeClere of Sherrill takes part in a race at Prescott Elementary School in Dubuque during a summer academic enrichment program through Dubuque Leisure Services, a community partner of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.
  • After giving a speech, Dubuque high school student Marcus Moore shakes hands with Betty Steege, coordinator of the Allamakee County Community Foundation, at the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque’s 2019 annual luncheon in May.
  • Indiah Berry of Dubuque plays in her neighborhood during a Parents as Teachers home visit through Four Oaks Family Connections, a community partner of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Such visits provide parent education and family support.
Press Contact

Jeff Danna
Communications Manager

About Us
Founded in 2002, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque strengthens communities and inspires giving. We are dedicated to improving the quality of life throughout Northeast Iowa by serving donors, making grants to local nonprofit organizations, and providing community leadership through convening and collaboration. Guided by the values of integrity, equity and inclusion, collaboration, excellence and innovation, we seek to ensure a vibrant and inclusive Greater Dubuque region with resources and opportunity for all.