March 2022 Newsletter

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March 2022 Newsletter

We are still looking for more businesses who are willing to host summer interns. We have 250 students who have applied for an internship this summer. For more information on the program, please reach out to Ann Brendes at


Volunteer for Financial Literacy Fair

Workplace Learning Connection’s Financial Literacy Fair helps eighth grade students learn about the basics of budgeting and financial well-being. Workplace Learning Connection (WLC) collaborates with area middle schools to host this hands-on learning experience with the support of hundreds of community volunteers. Students work within a budget and pick their careers, housing, cars, insurance, extras, and so much more.

To support this event, we are looking for community volunteers! Come engage with middle school students and help them learn this valuable life skill. Financial expertise is not required. Everything you need to volunteer will be provided.

Former FLF volunteer and financial advisor Heidi Hartke said this about her experience volunteering for the event: “This experience was a blast for me. I really enjoyed interacting with the students and I’m a huge proponent of this sort of experiential education based on real-life scenarios, estimated incomes, and current costs. I wish I would have had this when I was their age and that my own kids had this — it just might have saved a couple of us some pain and anguish when adulting came around. But seriously, my own financial missteps were what drove me to become a financial advisor. I felt like too few of us learn the tools of simple budgeting, much less the real value of saving, especially when we’re young.”

WLC will host over 5,550 eighth grade students from Benton, Cedar, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Linn, and Washington counties. This year’s fairs will be held on April 12 in Iowa County, April 13 in Washington County, April 18 – 22 in Johnson County, and May 9 – 13 and May 16 – 20 in Linn County.

Click here to sign up to volunteer, or contact Cheryl Valenta with questions at

Former City High Student Utilizes WLC Programs to Define Career Interest

While a student at City High School in Iowa City, Hailey Verdick had interest in three potential careers: nursing, speech pathology, or becoming a nurse practitioner. Hailey took full advantage of Workplace Learning Connection (WLC) programs to help her narrow down where her interest was and to help guide her path. Between her sophomore and senior year, Hailey attended three job shadows that helped her see the role of a nurse, nurse practitioner, and speech therapist up close. These experiences helped her understand the day-to-day tasks of each career and the requirements needed to obtain these roles.

“All three careers were pretty similar, so it was helpful to be able to distinguish which one was a better fit for me, based on one being a four-year degree, one being a two-year master’s program, etc. And understanding I was going to work with patients in a hospital setting, whereas in speech pathology I would get to work in a more play-based clinic setting,” Hailey says.

From her experiences, Hailey gravitated towards speech therapy, eventually applying for and completing a 45-hour WLC internship with Enrichment Therapy & Learning Center, P.C. in North Liberty. “I ended up really enjoying my internship because I observed some sessions between a speech pathologist and some clients and even got some hands-on experiences working with kids in the program doing activities over lunch. Reflecting on these opportunities, I realized that it was a unique opportunity, because I didn't actually get a lot of opportunities to observe sessions in speech pathology until I was applying to graduate school my senior year of undergrad. The experience solidified that I felt like I fit into the culture of the workplace and I could see myself doing this long-term,” Hailey says.

Having confidence in the path she wanted to pursue after high school, allowed Hailey to take action while in high school to set herself up for success after graduation by taking College Credit in High School classes. She was also hired on by Enrichment Therapies to help with office work at the conclusion of her internship.

Hailey’s path is the ideal path we encourage students to take when going through WLC programs. Use job shadow opportunities to define your area of interest, then complete an internship to get a more in-depth look at the career. In addition, start taking College Credit in High School classes to get a head of the curve and save time and money.

Hailey is now wrapping up her studies and will graduate with a degree in speech pathology from the University of Iowa in May. She has paid forward her WLC experience by becoming a WLC volunteer this year, helping to co-lead the Speech Pathology Day put on by the University of Iowa. “My experiences with Workplace Learning Connection were so helpful for me so I thought it was important for me to give back. It was also nice to reflect on how far I have come and to see things come full circle,” says Hailey.

Student Interns with Former Elementary Teacher

Kelsi Harr, a Workplace Learning Connection (WLC) fall 2021 intern from Mid-Prairie High School, had the chance to intern with her former third grade teacher at Mid-Prairie West Elementary, Ms. Bender.

“It has been awesome to reconnect with Ms. Bender at more of a mature level,” says Kelsi. “This internship pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow as a person. I’m normally shy in my classes at the high school, but in my time at the elementary, with Ms. Bender, it helped me grow to my full potential and to bloom. I looked forward to coming in every day to learn something new.

I got to interact with the fourth graders in many ways. I read to the whole class, helped them write papers, read off their spelling list, and had them read to me. … The biggest thing [I learned] was observing Ms. Bender, learning how to interact with the kids, and getting them excited to learn. Going into my internship, I wasn’t 100 percent certain that I wanted to go into elementary education. This internship helped influence my future career plans. I feel as if I would thrive being a teacher. I am so grateful for my internship; it was an amazing opportunity!”

This month we are recognizing Axis Vision Care in our Partner Spotlight. Axis Vision Care has hosted interns and job shadow students, as well as participated in mock interviews, career fairs, and speaker days. Axis Vision has locations in Tiffin, Washington, and Williamsburg, all of which have supported WLC and our programming!

“Axis Vision Care has enjoyed hosting students through the Workplace Learning Connection program,” says Alexa Sweeney, human resources, Axis Vision Care. “It gives our staff a chance to demonstrate the knowledge they have acquired and allows the students to get hands-on learning. The value of an internship at their age is extreme — students can get a feel for if they would enjoy that line of work. We encourage any and every business to be a part of the program, as the value to both the business and the students is unbeatable!”

Interested in hosting a student and helping develop our future workforce? Visit our Partners and Volunteer page to learn more.

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Workplace Learning Connection

Linn County Regional Center
1770 Boyson Road, Hiawatha, Iowa 52233
319-398-1041 (fax)

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