Despite their director leaving mid-year and other speed bumps that come along with a new program, KnoxCorps has positioned itself to expand its activities in the community over the next year.
The program, which had its application deadline extended to last Monday, has received so many applications that Director of Government and Community Relations Karrie Heartlein said that choosing fellows will be extremely difficult.
An additional undergraduate position has also been added at the Knox Prairie Community Kitchen. Heartlein hopes to add additional positions for graduated fellows for the 2014-2015 school year.
“There’s definitely a lot of interest from community organizations who would like to know more [and] would potentially like to partner with us,” Heartlein said. “I think the biggest challenge going forward may well be keeping the KnoxCorps to a manageable size.”
The KnoxCorps program was announced at the end of the 2011-2012 school year by President Teresa Amott as part of her larger goal to improve campus-community relations and involvement. The program placed 13 current students and recent graduates at nonprofit organizations in Galesburg to help them expand their presence and activities in the community.
Initially, Gary Funk of the Center for Midwestern Initiatives served as the director for KnoxCorps. In the winter, however, Funk left to take a job in Madison, Wis., leaving the fledgling program without a leader. Heartlein and Coordinator of Clinical Services and Community Outreach Joel Estes stepped up in Funk’s place.
“It was a little unsettling and somewhat unexpected,” Heartlein said. “But Knox people are resilient, and this is a group…with a very high degree of creativity and independence.”
For KnoxCorps member junior Max Potthoff, Funk’s departure was not unexpected, as Funk had said that he would be transitioning out. While his leaving “hurt morale for a little while,” the move to new leadership was a smooth one.
“I think all of us are excited for next year now, knowing more definitively what we’re going to be doing and who’s going to be in charge,” Potthoff said.
KnoxCorps fellow Emma Poland ’12 is excited about the prospect of more collaborative projects between KnoxCorps members. A year-end meeting of KnoxCorps indicated widespread support for projects not centered around one nonprofit.
This past year, several KnoxCorps members worked together on a project called Off the Tracks, which aims at marketing Galesburg to people who come through town on the train. Another project focused on empowering youth is also in the works.
“Being a member of KnoxCorps has really helped me to see Galesburg as a whole and how it does function,” Poland said. “If I had just stayed here without being part of KnoxCorps…I wouldn’t have been able to see all those ways you can make connections.”
Poland, who spent the year working at the Knox County Health Department on expanding knowledge of the We Choose Health Grant, has decided to stay on for another year to help with project implementation. Through the grant, given by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Knox County Housing Authority will become smoke-free in April 2014, and Poland is currently working with campus and community members on a “complete streets” initiative to make streets safer.
Potthoff, who has worked with the Cyclists of Galesburg and held workshops on bike safety on campus, will spend his senior year improving bike infrastructure in Galesburg, including creating a bike safety plan.
“For the first year, we’ve been able to do a lot,” he said. “It’s one of those things where we work towards this sort of goal that we may not be able to see while we’re on campus, but with more and more people getting involved, the effects are compounded.”