In its first Report to the Community since before the pandemic, Sioux Falls Thrive shares the difficult data that points to learning loss across the city’s school system. Lower income and students of color still tend to lag behind their peers academically, according to the data provided by Augustana Research Institute for the 2023 document.

But unexpected positive outcomes offer hope for future successes.

When they started Thrive’s Kid Link Initiative in 2020, volunteers set specific goals for empowering families and neighbors to support students. Kids’ improved academics and parents’ growing engagement were key targets.

What they didn’t expect is an outcome that might be even more important. Michelle Erpenbach, Sioux Falls Thrive President, spent some time last fall talking with parents and grandparents who have been involved with Kid Link for a while. She asked about how these free, fun, and educational activities improved their kids’ schoolwork, and the answers surprised her.

Parents and grandparents told me about children who have matured emotionally and grown in their confidence. Teachers said Kid Link participants are budding leaders. And kids show their commitment to this pilot program through their regular attendance at the weekly event.

Michelle Erpenbach

President, Sioux Falls Thrive

School District Adopts Kid Link Model

Kid Link transitions into the Sioux Falls School District’s Community Learning Center this fall. While this signals the end of the walk-in programming, it opens up opportunities for even more students to participate in the expanded after-school program that Kid Link demonstrated.

At Laura B. Anderson Elementary School, where Kid Link started in 2020, after-school openings in the fall of 2023 are more than double what was previously available. And Kid Link’s second location, Terry Redlin Elementary, will host 33% more students every day after school.

Yet, while it has received a lot of press and recognition, Kid Link is not the only recent achievement for Thrive volunteers and supporters. The 2023 Report to the Community includes:

    • Local solutions to a nationwide crisis recommended by the Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative.
    • Housing trust fund options being developed by Thrive’s Housing Action Team.
    • Improved access to charitable meals and groceries based on work by Thrive’s Food Security Action Team.

Report Features:

    • Nightwatch Food Truck volunteers and supporters providing weekly meals in the Riverside neighborhood.
    • East River Legal Services adopting a two-year Thrive Housing Retention Specialist pilot as a permanent program to help families remain in stable housing.
    • Sioux Falls Childcare Collaborative advocacy on behalf of the workforce behind the workforce.
    • A new community collaborative developing the city’s first mobile grocery store.

Click on the image above to view and download the Sioux Falls Thrive 2023 Report to the Community.

How Can I Get Involved?

To invite a Thrive representative to speak with you individually or to provide programming for your service club, business, or other organization, please call us at (605) 274-2780 or email us. If you’d like to support us financially, please click on the link below.

Sioux Falls Thrive’s mission is to ensure all children in the Sioux Falls area have access to the same opportunities to succeed by working to provide stability in three key areas: food security, out-of-school time, and affordable housing. Thrive was created as the community cradle-to-career workforce development initiative in 2017 by the Community Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, Development Foundation, United Way, and Forward Sioux Falls.

As a volunteer-based organization, Thrive harnesses the power of Collective Impact by bringing existing community resources together to work collaboratively. The goal is to kickstart action-based solutions to the issues that inhibit student success. Thrive facilitates the work of collaborative teams and encourages community leaders and existing service providers to think innovatively to solve the most complex issues facing our youth.

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