The Vinton-Shellsburg school district serves the communities of Shellsburg, Garrison, and Vinton, and also includes some of the students living near Mount Auburn and Brandon. The educators and other staff members of the Vinton-Shellsburg schools are deeply involved in the life of our communities as volunteers, coaches, board members, and involved citizens. Our communities often look to the schools as venues for events and to our staff for expertise in problem-solving as well as support for the work of making our communities vibrant places to live, work, and play.
Reflecting the uniquely close relationship between the Vinton-Shellsburg school district and our communities, the school has been the fortunate recipient of innumerable gifts and donations of time, professional services, and financial resources from the communities it serves. Contributions from the community have mitigated the effects of state funding shortfalls and other financial challenges facing schools. The generosity of our communities has also provided enriched educational opportunities for our students that exceed what the district alone could afford to provide.
What follows are a few examples illustrating this special relationship and the pivotal role it plays in sustaining our school-community.
Larry Druschel and Dave Vermedahl may have set an unbeatable record for longevity of volunteer service. The two volunteered to be the announcers for home football games in the ’80s. After 350 games and 40 years, the duo hung up their microphones at the end of the 2018 season. “It has been great working with Larry for the last 40 years,” said Dave. “Our goal has always been to give credit to the kids, and we both felt it was important to give attention to those players who may enter the game late and not get much attention otherwise. For the two of us it has always been about the kids and the effort they put into the game.”
Julie Clingman might be in second place for most years of volunteer service. Julie began volunteering when her daughter started 2nd grade, 17 years ago. A pharmacist by profession, her volunteer work quickly led her to be at school working with kids every day. She currently helps 1st through 4th graders with enrichment activities. Those activities focus on
The Virginia Gay Hospital Health Care Foundation holds an annual health fair that has grown larger with each passing year. The event is free, open to the public, and focused on promoting the health and safety of the entire county. In its fourth year, the event outgrew the city’s skate center where it had been held. The school district became an enthusiastic partner, opening the high school for the busy Saturday event. The new venue at the school provided comfortable accommodation for the large crowd, plenty of parking for visitors, and lots of room for the many emergency response vehicles kids love to explore.
Speaking for this article, Hospital Foundation Director Robin Martin said, “I would like people to know that we receive great support in so many ways from the school because the students and staff care about our communities. In addition to their help with the health fair and other projects, I especially appreciate Pink Night hosted by the girls’ basketball team. The event raises funds for Gifts of Hope, a hospital foundation program benefiting women in need of screening or those who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer.”
Two very significant investments in the high school facilities were made possible by the close cooperation of the school and generous members of the community.
The animal learning lab is a hands-on learning facility dedicated to understanding animal science from both agricultural and veterinary perspectives. Students learn about animal care and growth from both farmers and veterinarians and perform health checks and do other work with a wide variety of animals. In one early experience, students donned long gloves and did exams of a pregnant heifer. The 35 donors included area farmers, local banks, businesses, and many individuals.
The high school athletic complex had become increasingly expensive to maintain, and the track was in poor condition. Members of the community supported the effort to resurface the track and install artificial turf. The Vinton Parks and Recreation Department, marching band, along with the soccer, track, and football teams are among the organizations and activities using the completed facility along with physical education classes.
The location of the high school and the animal learning lab was made possible in part with the gift of land from the family of John and Bev Anderson. In 2018, the Anderson family donated additional ground for the construction of a much-needed housing development on land adjacent to the school. When the project needed a parcel of the school’s land to proceed, the district responded by agreeing to a swap and sale that allowed the project to move forward. “Improved availability of housing is essential for Vinton and the enrollment in our schools,” said John Ketchen, a leader in the new housing project. “The school administration and board have been enthusiastic in their support and their cooperation to make this project possible.”
Kelsey Fish has been teaching for nine years at the Shellsburg Element- ary School. Living in Shellsburg for 31 years, she’s an active member of the Shellsburg Area Community Group, an organization striving for the betterment of Shellsburg on behalf of all citizens. This past year Kelsey helped improve the organization of elementary student visits to Rock Ridge Care Center, located next to the school.
“The workers and residents appreciate the kids visiting,” says Kelsey. “They look forward to our visits, and it’s a great learning opportunity for the students. This year during the event we called “December to Remember,” classes participated with residents doing crafts, decorating cookies, and other activities. Kindergartners had breakfast with the residents and helped pass out gifts to the residents. As teachers we serve the community, and part of our service is showing our older citizens they are important to us while we teach our students to be community-minded.”
Learning by Example
Perhaps the best example of the school and community working together is the V-S Operation Backpack program. Operation Backpack provides shelf-stable foods that elementary students in need take home on Fridays. The program provides weekend nutrition for students of qualifying families. With the help of two school employees to provide oversight and assist with coordination, Vinton-Shellsburg’s program is the only one in Iowa started and completely operated by high school students. Riley Ries and Kylie Miracle, both 2015 graduates, started the project. Today the students annually raise more than $20,000 to fund the program, and they involve scores of student volunteers to unload, sort, and repackage the food for individual students. The Vinton office of Storey Kenworthy provides transportation of the food to Vinton from HACAP in Hiawatha and moves the packaged food between the elementary attendance centers in Vinton and Shellsburg. Several local individuals have used their contacts to solicit donations of food from Quaker and General Mills in Cedar Rapids, and they transport those donations as well.
To learn how you can volunteer or make monetary contributions to the Vinton-Shellsburg Schools, visit the school foundation website at www.vscsdfoundation.org To discuss how the school might be a partner in your community project, contact superintendent Hainstock at firstname.lastname@example.org.