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Empowering Iowa’s Youth: Insights from West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce Luncheon Panel


By Katherine Harrington, President & CEO | West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce

At a recent West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce event held on August 17th, local leaders gathered to discuss strategies for supporting the next generation in classrooms and preparing Iowa’s youth for successful careers. The panel’s key points revolved around fostering a sense of belonging, identifying opportunities for growth, emphasizing the importance of education, and addressing challenges faced by students in the region.

1. Fostering a Sense of Belonging and Connection

Multiple panelists highlighted the significance of helping students feel connected to their peers, mentors, and the community. Creating an environment of inclusivity and belonging not only contributes to a positive school experience but also lays the foundation for personal and professional growth.

2. Identifying Opportunities for Thriving

The discussion emphasized the importance of guiding students towards finding their unique strengths and passions. By helping students discover their niche, educators can empower them to thrive both academically and in their future careers.

3. Broadening Pathways for Success

Panelists stressed that education should be about more than just traditional academic paths. Educators need to expose students to various post-school options, including two-year schools, colleges, and work experiences. Encouraging a career-centered approach enables students to see multiple pathways to success.

4. Nurturing a Growth Mindset

The need for a growth mindset was underscored, encouraging students to view learning as a lifelong journey. Preparing students to adapt to a rapidly changing world requires instilling an attitude of continuous learning and adaptation.

5. Purpose-Driven Learning

Modern students seek meaning and purpose in their education. They desire to be part of something larger than themselves, driving them to excel academically and contribute positively to their communities.

6. Addressing Diversity and Inclusion

In an increasingly diverse world, promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion is crucial. Panelists recognized the importance of cultivating an environment where all students feel valued and represented.

7. Balancing Technology and Human Interaction

The integration of technology and human interaction is key to students’ success in today’s workforce. Teaching students how to effectively engage with both is essential for their future careers.

8. Workforce Preparation and High-Skilled Jobs

The discussion acknowledged the significance of high-skilled jobs in sectors like manufacturing, construction, engineering, and more. Preparing students for these roles contributes to the local economy and secures a prosperous future for both students and the community.

9. Overcoming Affordability and Completion Challenges

The panel highlighted the need to address challenges related to affordability and completion rates. Many students are unable to complete their education due to financial constraints and family obligations. Allocating adequate resources to education and addressing funding disparities is essential for ensuring student success.

10. Encouraging Legislative Focus on Education

Despite legislative challenges, participants emphasized the need for prioritizing education. The panelists stressed that focusing on education would benefit both students and the community in the long run.

11. Community Growth and Enrollment

Panelists expressed the desire for more young families to settle in the area, as the influx of new residents contributes to vibrant classrooms and a strong workforce.

In conclusion, the West Des Moines Chamber of Commerce panel underscored the importance of creating a supportive educational environment that fosters belonging, encourages diverse pathways to success, and prepares students for the challenges of a dynamic world. By addressing challenges related to affordability, completion rates, and legislative focus, the community can ensure that its youth are well-prepared to contribute to a prosperous future in Iowa.

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