Together, Fort Dodge Rises
The city of Fort Dodge in central Iowa is one of the strongest in the state. A healthy workforce and vibrant cultural scene are part of the backbone that made this charming enclave such a successful city. But the beating heart of the community is made up of the people who live here. Each one is determined to make Fort Dodge stronger, and they strive to work together in order to make that happen.
A Community that Provides Quality Education
“One thing you’ll see in Fort Dodge is the partnerships that we forge,” said Dr. Dan Kinney, the president of Iowa Central Community College. “You don’t have to leave Fort Dodge to get a great education. We have one private and one public school here in the community, and I’m regularly talking with the superintendent and the principal asking what we can do better, how can we improve.”
You don’t have to leave Fort Dodge to get a great education…
Fort Dodge has built an impressive school system, one that works together in order to reach a common goal.
“A strong school system and a strong community go hand in hand. We ensure that every child that we serve is getting a quality education, regardless of race, background, or socio-economic status,” said Dr. Jesse Ulrich, the Superintendent of Fort Dodge Community School district. “We assist the board in making policy that is good for kids, and we empower the leaders in our buildings to make good decisions for kids. We’re positively impacting the lives of students in that way.”
Dr. Ulrich is the district’s 10th superintendent of Fort Dodge and brings a wealth of experience to the job. He also has longtime ties to central Iowa. He even lived in Fort Dodge while studying at Iowa Central Community College and the Fort Dodge campus of Buena Vista University.
Dr. Ulrich isn’t the only educator with strong ties to the community. Mary Gibb is the President of St. Edmond Catholic School, a diocesan preschool – 12th grade Catholic school in Fort Dodge. Gibb has lived in Fort Dodge twice, and loves leading St. Edmond, which strives to provide students with educations as well as core Catholic values.
“We prepare students within the walls of this school, so that they’re prepared to give back to the community,” Gibb said. “A large part of our school is about service – service to God, service to the community, service to everyone around you. I think they will in turn invest in the community.”
We prepare students within the walls of this school, so that they’re prepared to give back to the community…
Both Gibb and Dr. Ulrich work hard in order to prepare their students for life after school is over, offering different programs through their schools for students to see what type of life they can lead after high school is over.
“We have volunteers from our community partners who once a quarter come into the middle school and meet with groups of kids,” said Dr. Ulrich. “During that meeting, they answer questions about their industry, talk about job skills that they look for when they’re hiring for positions, and also talking about the impact that their business has on the community.”
Mrs. Gibb also helps her students see beyond the walls of St. Edmond and into their futures. St. Edmond offers a job shadow class where students can go out into the community, and partners with the Iowa Central Community College.
“When the community college is on break, we bring in high school students for career exploration,” explained Dr. Kinney. “That shows the kids what we have that can keep them here.”
On top of all that, Gibb will often partner with the public school that is just across the street from St. Edmond, Fort Dodge Senior High.
“If we don’t offer something a certain class here, our students are able to go to their school and take it,” said Gibb. “We also partner with them for several athletic programs, such as bowling, swimming, soccer. We don’t offer those sports here, but our students can go there and participate with their team. We have a great working relationship with them.”
The community also has two other private schools for students to attend. They include Community Christian School and St. Paul Lutheran School. It doesn’t matter what school you attend in Fort Dodge. The education you’ll receive will be in addition to the morals and values that are being taught in every classroom there. The students are encouraged to serve in leadership roles, which will help them once they begin to lead independent lives within the community. Many students leave school with confidence and values that they will then reinvest within Fort Dodge.
“Nearly half of our kids that will graduate from our schools will come back to our region, so we view ourselves as preparing our next generation for our region to come back and live here, raise their family here, and work here,” said Dr. Ulrich. “We want to make sure that when they walk across that stage with their diploma, we are creating citizens who can enter the work force and be productive and give back to their community.”
Nearly half of our kids that will graduate from our schools will come back to our region…
A Healthy Community
Another way to tell the strength of a community is to look at how they help those in need. At Community and Family Resources, an independent free-standing substance abuse provider, many of the members of Fort Dodge have been doing just that, since 1968.
“We provide not only substance use disorder treatment, but gambling as well as mental health services, along with prevention,” said Michelle De La Riva, the Executive Director of Community and Family Resources. “Having resources for behavior health services anywhere is important. Fort Dodge has really been growing. All communities face challenges as your population grows, and Community and Family Resources can help assist with those.”
Community and Family Resources provides drug education and prevention courses to stop problems before they start. They go into the schools in Fort Dodge and speak with students about substance use and gambling disorders, as well as healthy living and communication skills.
“We like to get out into the community and talk to kids about substance use and abuse and how it can affect your body, your family, your school performance,” said De La Riva. “Giving that information to those young kids is so important so they can make good choices as they grow older.”
On top of educating the youth of Fort Dodge, and providing care for those in need, Community and Family Resources works with businesses to provide workforce education. They help businesses put together drug and alcohol policies, and train supervisors on what to look for if someone is struggling with substance use, or a gambling ailment.
“In Fort Dodge, there’s a shortage of work force, so our businesses are very interested in retaining their employees. One of those ways is making sure their work environment is safe. And we can help them with that,” said De La Riva.
In Fort Dodge, there’s a shortage of work force, so our businesses are very interested in retaining their employees…
Community and Family Resources helps several Fort Dodge citizens, and they’re about to help even more. They have a new facility set to open in May of 2019 that will be have more beds to help care for those in need.
“We think that expansion is really going to assist the community by meeting the needs of those who need a higher level of care,” said De La Riva.
A Community That Cares for All
The health and education of the citizens of Fort Dodge is important, and so is the health of the animals and pets that live there. Thanks to places like Almost Home, a no kill animal shelter, the cats and dogs of Fort Dodge have been finding loving homes for over 40 years. While it may not seem important to some, Fort Dodge understands the loving energy that these pets can bring to any home and community.
“There’s a sense of community in Fort Dodge. It’s very progressive,” said Chad Hammer, who works at Almost Home. “Every time Almost Home has an event, it amazes me how many people and businesses step up and support us. The volunteer community is very strong here. Almost Home really recognizes the generous spirit here and it makes it a lot easier to do what we do.”
There’s a sense of community in Fort Dodge. It’s very progressive.
Almost Home has benefited from their partnership with Nestlé Purina, which is one of the leading employers in Fort Dodge. Nestlé Purina, a well-known company that makes high quality pet care brands like dog and cat food, has partnered with and donated to Almost Home, in many ways.
“Many of our employees volunteer their time because they’re passionate about rescue animals,” said Jennifer Leiting, Human Resources at Nestlé Purina. “We hold internal drives for supplies that may be needed, like laundry detergent. We also donate financially and via pet food to Almost Home.”
When Almost Home moved to a new location several years ago, it offered Nestlé Purina a new way to partner with the pet shelter. The employees became passionate about putting in a dog park at the shelter.
Many of our employees volunteer their time because they’re passionate about rescue animals.
“We built the obstacle course at the dog park and helped make it the active dog park that it is today,” said Leiting.
Now, the entire community can take their pets to the robust dog park and enjoy a few hours with their four-legged friends.
“We believe that pets make our lives richer,” said Leiting. “Our mission is to bring pets and people together. And we now have a place where our employees and our community can do that.”
It doesn’t matter what qualities you’re hoping to find in a city: Fort Dodge has them. Thanks to a community that is committed to maintaining the growth of both the city and its citizens, Fort Dodge will continue to prosper greatly as it has done for many years.
To learn more, visit www.thisisfortdodge.com