Iowa City program for minority students may get new life

Diversity Focus, a Cedar Rapids organization, seeks to become program's fiscal agent

Gregg Hennigan
Published: December 2 2013 | 1:00 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:21 am in
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A recently shuttered Iowa City-based program that mostly serves minority students may be getting another opportunity.

Diversity Focus, which is headquartered in Cedar Rapids and promotes cultural awareness throughout the Corridor, wants to become the fiscal agent for FasTrac, according to information the organization sent to the city of Iowa City.

FasTrac was closed last month when the nonprofit organization Mayor’s Youth Empowerment Program said it could no longer afford the up to $100,000 annual cost of the service.

Diversity Focus, a nonprofit agency, is asking the city of Iowa City for $15,000 to help cover salary and other expenses for a part-time employee through June 30, 2014.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the request at its Dec. 3 meeting. City staff is recommending it be approved.

FasTrac focused on academics,  community involvement and college preparation. Most of its members were black teenagers.

It served about 250 students since it was founded in 2007 and had a 100 percent high school graduation rate, except for the 30 members who were still in school this year, program director Henri Harper said last month. Most of the students went on to college, trade school or got jobs, he said.

Diversity Focus officials and Harper declined to comment Monday.

FasTrac “is a critical community asset that helps retain talent,” Diversity Focus Executive Director Chad Simmons wrote in a Nov. 21 letter to City Manager Tom Markus.

“This is a unique opportunity to leverage Diversity Focus' organizational capabilities to maintain continuity, improve efficiency and grow capacity of this program as it moves into its seventh year,” he wrote.

Diversity Focus would be FasTrac’s third home. It started at City High before moving to Mayor’s Youth Empowerment Program in 2010 after Harper’s job as the school’s Juvenile Court liaison was cut.

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