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Making a difference for young men in our communities

In 2012, Southeastern Community College (SCC) criminal justice students in Burlington, Iowa, took matters into their own hands and formed Choosing Healthy Alternatives to Delinquency (CHAD) Youth Mentoring. Most of the students came from the same low-income neighborhoods they sought to help.

In the early days, CHAD operated without any money. The first student leaders reached out to young men from their home neighborhoods who were on probation. SCC’s Criminal Justice Program Coordinator Cindy Shireman became the CHAD program director and contacted Juvenile Court Services; together they welcomed 12 more young men into the program. Eventually schools began to refer potential participants. Now, after 12 years, the program is coming to a close after supporting more than 30 young men.

Alliant Energy has helped fund CHAD since 2016, allowing the organization to buy healthier lunches, pay for transportation, make CHAD program t-shirts and introduce the participants to recreational activities like fishing, boating, golf and archery.

"Alliant Energy is proud to have supported CHAD over the past six years," said Leah Rodenberg, senior community affairs program manager for Alliant Energy. "We believe in the power of mentoring and community service to make a positive difference in the lives of young people. CHAD has done just that, and we are grateful for their dedication to making our community a better place."

For two years in a row, with the help of an Alliant Energy grant, CHAD students planted trees on the SCC campus. They volunteered with Homestead 1839 where they learned about the farm-to-table movement. Other activities have included monthly food packaging at Messiah Lutheran Church for its overseas program, yard work for the elderly and more.

“Many of the boys experience grief from having lost parents or caregivers, or they endure chaotic home environments,” Shireman said. “They need a consistent adult in their life to guide them.” Consequently, the program does not have an end date; participants can stay as long as they need.

CHAD participants are at risk educationally. They come from hard-working families that make too much to qualify for assistance but still struggle to pay their bills. The Saturday meetings gives the young men a chance to find out for themselves that college campuses are not scary places. They meet professors, watch athletic events, and engage in many discussions about the importance of education. Boys in the program also grocery shop, cook and eat together, which teaches them affordable ways to stay healthy.

Participants gather twice per month on the SCC campus. While there, the young men, aged 10 to 17, meet with volunteer mentors and engage in community service. Several participants have graduated high school. Some entered or graduated college. Many are working.

"Youth succeed when they have lasting relationships with adults who care about their success,” Shireman said.

As a company with a strong diversity, equity and inclusion commitment, Alliant Energy is proud to support CHAD’s commitment to make a difference in the lives of young men in our communities.

collage of CHAD participants

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