Member Spotlight: Skills Gap Taskforce Coordinator

Jill Harris has returned for her second year serving as the AmeriCorps VISTA Skills Gap Taskforce Coordinator at GEP. The benefits of having a long-time community member who has been deeply involved in education are evident when looking at Jill's capacity building service over the past two years.


Jill shared that the Skills Gap Taskforce focuses on convening community stakeholders to close the academic performance and/or emotional skills gaps for all children in the Grinnell area. Her taskforce includes a dynamic group of community stakeholders who guide her service by identifying community needs, brainstorming projects and/or activities to meet those needs and prioritize timelines to better align community resources.

This year, Jill's projects include:

  • Continuing the Raising a Reader program, now in partnership with Read2Lead. This program makes sure that books are in the hands of families by providing them to newborns at the hospital and the first well-baby visit.

  • Working with Windstream, the Grinnell-Newburg School Foundation, and the City of Grinnell to eliminate unequal access to internet services. Jill has secured the means to provide free internet to families who need it to school-from-home during the Coronavirus pandemic.

  • In coordination with AmeriCorps VISTA Grace Morrison, Jill has been planning the Saturday programming provided by the Drake Community Library. Each week, Jill and Grace help secure guest readers, prepare activities, and create activity bags for children to enjoy the library programming from the safety of their homes.

  • Creating a financial literacy program in cooperation with Green State Credit Union that will be used to teach the basics of financial literacy across age groups.

  • Surveying local childcare providers in order to better understand the literacy programming they provide and the support they need to deepen their practice. Jill will soon be preparing resources that will help them serve as continuing education.

Jill Harris (center, in pink coveralls) is serving as the volunteer lead with the Grinnell Food Coalition's distribution of 1,888 USDA food boxes to families in need in the Grinnell area. She's pictured here distributing boxes with a team of local volunteers on December 16, 2020.