by Jennifer Klinkhammer – Executive Director, Foundation for Dubuque Public Schools



Re-engage Dubuque (ReD) is a community initiative aimed at addressing the needs of students who have recently dropped out of school by connecting them to alternative educational options and post-secondary education. It is a partnership of the Dubuque Community School District, Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC), and Project HOPE.


While academic achievement is a critical component of personal empowerment, most ReD women are dealing with additional economic and personal barriers beyond school, which prevent them from success in life. In an effort to address deficits in personal understanding and help both the students and ReD coaches learn new skills, the Iowa Women’s Foundation provided funding for two “life skills” seminars to female students during the spring of 2017.


Structured as day-long retreats, the seminars were designed to empower attendees with the skills they need for better decision making, and thus, more successful outcomes. All of the guest speakers were local, female professionals, and they covered a variety of topics such as financial literacy, health and nutrition, parenting, relationship skills, personal empowerment, and communication. Students also worked “hands-on” to prepare healthy meals from scratch, took an exercise class, and developed household budgets. Barriers to attendance were removed by offering transportation, onsite childcare, and access to incentives such as groceries and shopping allowances for personal and family needs.


By engaging women from local agencies, the students identified and connected with positive role models who both teach and demonstrate the life-skills needed for success beyond the classroom. The guest speakers also enriched the ReD coaches by reinforcing their teaching, presenting effective new ideas, and expanding their professional network. Because of this impact, ReD coaches are making plans to regularly incorporate several of the presenters into the program next year.


“Shelby is a 19-year-old student living in her mother’s home with her two young children. At the second retreat, we connected her with Stephanie Van Groll of Child Care Resource & Referral, who told her about their Parent Respite Care Program (PRCP). With a referral from NICC, Shelby can apply to PRCP to receive up to 12 hours a week of free child care during times when she is neither working nor going to school. This opportunity will allow Shelby time to go shopping for groceries, catch up on sleep, apply for jobs, and socialize with people her own age. This is an invaluable gift to offer a young mother who is struggling to get ahead. Shelby was in disbelief at hearing of this program, and her ecstatic response was a joy to witness.” – Katie Bailey, Project Hope  


Young women enrolled in Re-engage Dubuque are focused on achieving their diplomas despite issues such as poverty, abuse, neglect, homelessness, rape, teen parenthood, and more. They are doing what they can to improve their lives but are faced with barriers most of us can’t even imagine. Funding from the Iowa Women’s Foundation expanded the ReD network to address these issues and provide tools for students to overcome them. With greater understanding and new allies, these young women are now on the path to self-sufficiency.


The Foundation for Dubuque Public Schools (FDPS) supports student achievement by promoting investment in the Dubuque Public Schools. FDPS board members and staff fulfill this mission by securing financial gifts and grants for school programs and projects that are not currently supported by public tax dollars. Learn more at