When Garret came to HEART, he was failing school. In his own words, “I viewed life as pointless. I was working at a fast food restaurant and feeling bad about myself. I would sit up at night and think about it and think about it.” Garrett felt he had no choices, and no future.
After two years in HEART, Garrett developed a new outlook. He graduated school, made plans for going on to college for a training program, which upon completion, would guarantee him a $22/hour wage. Meanwhile, he secured a position in the field. Within a few months, he was promoted multiple times and was given the choice to proceed with the training he planned, or move forward with specialized training through his employer. For the first time in a long time, Garrett had options and no longer felt trapped.
Learning a strong work ethic, developing skills, and understanding the value of savings and investment was knowledge Garrett developed in the HEART program. They turned him from an adolescent that couldn’t see a way forward, to a young man who understands he’s in control of his future.
Health issues kept Shawn Klinkhammer in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit for the first 10 days of his life. He missed several infant milestones.
And while the health issues eventually subsided, school never came easy for Shawn, especially math. He had an Individualized Education Program to try to meet his learning needs.
Through it all, Shawn worked hard. His teachers always said as much. But he was still struggling—both academically and socially.
“By his first semester of his sophomore year, he became very discouraged. And I became scared he would drop out of school,” said his mom, Shelly Klinkhammer, of Dubuque. “We knew he was never going to go on to college, but he needed to develop some kind of skillset to make him employable for the future.”
What happened next, Shawn’s family believes, was nothing short of a miracle.
"This program has opened up doors for his future." The Klinkhammers learned about the Housing Education and Rehabilitation Training Program. It teaches trade skills, through hands-on revitalization projects to students who are at risk of dropping out of high school.
And through a partnership between HEART, Dupaco Community Credit Union, and the Dupaco R.W. Hoefer Foundation, participants gain access to financial education, a stipend for their work, a Dupaco savings account, and matched funds to use toward career equipment or a certificate or degree program.
Shawn applied and was accepted into the program.
Almost instantly, Shelly’s need to regularly touch base with her son’s teachers dissipated. Shawn started developing friendships. His homework became more manageable. And during his time at job sites, he discovered that he liked working with his hands.
“I never thought I would do construction work. But I developed something I really like to do, something I’m really passionate about,” he said. “When you paint a room by yourself, you can look back and think, ‘I did that myself.’ It’s satisfying.”
After two years in the HEART program, Shawn graduated and earned his diploma in January.
Along the way, he saved, and will receive matching funds from the Foundation that can be used toward his future endeavors.
“For me as a parent, this program has opened up doors for his future that may have never been possible,” Shelly said. “I still thank God every day that he was one of the kids that got into this program.”
“I have learned a lot at Four Mounds.
I’ve developed my communication skills working in the inn and conference center.
I have been able to work and talk with people from all over the country. My landscaping and maintenance experience has taught me so many things about maintaining a home that I will use for the rest of my life. I learned how to mow a lawn and a lot about gardening. I learned about a lot of things I didn’t even know I was interested in. I thought I hated gardening, but I learned that I love it.
The most important thing I have learned is how to advocate for myself. I set up my own appointments, bought my first car, and got my oil changed. I found out I had a lot of hidden talents. I learned I was great with kids when I worked as a camp counselor. I am a talented woodworker and I know what to do if my toilet leaks. I know how to use power tools and I am not afraid.
I just recently completed my FAFSA and went on some college visits because I am thinking about starting college. Overall, my experience at Four Mounds has taught me that I have a future and I have a lot to contribute to society.”
Andrew spent a year at Four Mounds. During his time with HEART, he successfully completed the construction and cabinetry certificates through Northeast Iowa Community College. While in those programs, he also earned his first aid, CPR, flagger, and heavy equipment operator.
Though Andrew was able to learn the skills and complete the work associated with those certifications, his interpersonal relations and overall social awareness were still a barrier for him. For that reason, Andrew continued his work with Four Mounds on the Transitional Employment Pathway. Andrew worked with a mentor and set goals to get his driver’s license, discover his strengths, and develop a career plan that aligned with those strengths. Additionally, he worked to develop a positive network. Andrew completed a series of activities, reflections, and tasks designed specifically for him, while also working on site to develop soft and hard skills.
One activity Andrew completed challenged him to identify his core values. Through a series of questions and reflection activities, he concluded that his core values centered around family, growth, and education and career. In Andrew’s own words, he concluded that he is working toward, “Bettering my ability to say yes to things that serve my values, no to things that don’t, and use my values as my compass.” He also developed life action statements based on his values.
Family: “Being respectful to my family means being polite, listening to each other even when we’re upset, and just being there for one another.”
Growth: “Improving myself means cutting out bad habits, eating healthier, getting enough sleep, setting boundaries, and trying things outside of my comfort zone.”
Education and Career: “Taking initiative for myself means noticing opportunity and taking action, taking responsibility for my work, and taking ownership of my mistakes.”
“My favorite thing about my time at Four Mounds was learning to cook and serving a meal that I prepared to the staff, and building a table for the kitchen at the gray house. I am also thankful for the help to build my resume and find a job.”
Students on the Transitional Employment Pathway set and track personal goals all throughout their time in the program. We use the RYFF Psychological Scale of Well Being to measure overall growth. Though Andrew made at least a minimum of 10% growth in some areas, which is significant, the increase in autonomy was an astonishing 68%, and was evidenced in every interaction with him by all staff and partners. The following indicators were areas of focus for Andrew based on the RYFF assessment.
Positive Relations with Others-Building positive relations with others, developing empathy, and understanding that relationships involve the process of giving and taking.
Autonomy-Developing self-determination, independence, and the ability to resist societal pressures to think a certain way.
Environmental Mastery-Developing skills to control what they can in their own environments related to their choices, and to take advantage of opportunities in line with their personal needs and values.
Purpose in Life-Developing a sense of direction meaning, and personal objectives/goals for the life they want to live.
Personal Growth-Working to understand and embrace the concept of life-long-learning, realizing personal strengths and potential, and areas for ongoing self-improvement.
Today, Andrew is successfully employed at a local company with excellent benefits and a starting wage of $17 per hour. Currently, and in less than 6 months on the job, Andrew is making $20.96 per hour following a recent raise.
Bettering my ability to say yes to things that serve my values, no to things that don’t, and use my values as my compass.