Urbandale continues its longstanding tradition of social partnerships between the City, School District and local business leaders with the Making A Connection (MAC) program.
Launched in the summer of 2010, MAC is a multi-cultural program designed to bring social, educational and recreational opportunities to school-aged children qualifying for reduced school lunch, many from immigrant families who are new to the community.
The Beginning – 2010 The MAC program initially focused on the Karen Acres Park neighborhood – an area rich in cultural diversity, with a large immigrant population and families with children qualifying for reduced school lunch.
The five-week Summer Camp for 40 youth provided both educational and recreational opportunities. The cost of the camp was deferred by a Community Betterment Grant by Prairie Meadows and donations from Urbandale businesses. Kids were also provided nutritious meals, thanks to a partnership with the Urbandale Hy-Vee.
To celebrate the MAC program and further strengthen community ties, two Party in the Park events were held in July and August at North Karen Acres Park.
The results? Teachers noted positive behavior changes and improvement in math and reading skills.
Year Two – 2011 In 2011 the program expanded to seven weeks, providing services to 50 children from Mexico, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Burundi, Bosnia and Ecuador. Karen Acres Elementary staff picked the five most “at risk” students in each class (1st – 5th grades). The Camp was funded by a donation from the Gabus Family foundation ($18,000) and a Community Betterment Grant from Polk County ($4,000).
Staffed by school teachers, one Parks and Recreation intern and additional staff to help with team building activities, the daily four-hour MAC camp schedule included:
1 hour of reading/math • recreation activities • crafts • special guest speakers •
2 nutritious meals • 1 field trip per week (to the Pool, Science Center, Zoo, etc.)
At the end of the program’s second year, positive results continue to shine. Many of the MAC students are taking on leadership roles at school (Student Council, mentoring younger kids, etc.). In addition to math and reading, teachers are seeing a marked improvement in behavior and social skills among MAC participants.
State and International Honors Thanks to a teacher-led nomination, the MAC program’s efforts to address social and behavior issues among immigrant students by teaching sportsmanship, leadership, teamwork, manners and basic etiquette were recognized on a statewide level.
In the fall of 2011, Urbandale’s MAC program received the state’s prestigious Dan Chavez "Beyond the Horizon Award" at the 2011 Iowa Culture and Language Conference. The award celebrates organizations and programs that advocate on behalf of Iowa’s immigrant, refugee, and non-English speaking populations; promote the development of policies and procedures that support new Iowans in need of social services, education, workforce development and/or housing; initiate beneficial changes in policies, structures, or processes that leave a lasting mark on Iowa’s human landscape.
The Urbandale Police Department also earned international recognition as one of 10 finalists – from a field of more than 1,000 nominees – for the IACP/Motorola Webber Seavey Award for Quality in Law Enforcement at the 118th International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference.
2011 Dan Chavez Beyond the Horizon Award Presentation
L-R:Jan Herke, Director of Urbandale Parks & Recreation and Community Education
Zach Maertens, Teacher at Karen Acres Elementary, and MAC Camp lead supervisor
Mollie Wilhite, Urbandale Recreation and Community Education Supervisor
Brenda Auxier Mailey, UCSD Director of Student Services
Looking ahead - 2012 Based on its popularity and success, in 2012 the MAC program is slated to expand to two sites next year (Karen Acres and Jensen Elementary Schools).
The City of Urbandale would like to thank the many individuals and businesses who helped make the MAC program possible. For more information, contact Urbandale Parks and Recreation at (515) 278-3963.