Iowa Proves Fertile Ground for Youth Leadership

Photograph of a young woman smiling.Sunshine, 17, was bullied by her classmates before enrolling in Futures Alternative School in Boone, Iowa.

While there, she began working with the Iowa Rural Opportunities and Connections (ROC), a project supported by the Family Youth Services Bureau. She helped launch Caring Hearts, a lawn care and snow removal business that employs runaway and homeless youth.

Recognizing her natural leadership ability, ROC encouraged Sunshine to take part in the Rural Homeless Youth Annual Meeting held in Denver, Colo.

During the meeting, Sunshine suggested ways to expand the lawn care business. This led to a plan that would create employment opportunities for youth in a variety of areas.

On July 5, 2011, eight ROC youth started work across four job sites.  These included a community school, child care facility, nursing home and an emergency/homeless shelter.

As for Sunshine, her social skills have improved, and she continues to motivate and advocate for her peers in rural Iowa.