Proud to Serve Iowa

Luther student Kaylee Martin ’23 and staff member Felecia DeJong ’11 have been appointed to state-level positions—Martin to the board of the Iowa Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and DeJong to Governor Kim Reynolds’s Empower Rural Iowa Task Force.

Two women standing outside

Kaylee Martin ’23 (right) and Felecia DeJong ’11

Statewide impact

Martin, a social work major, originally wanted to practice as a therapist or counselor, but courses with Professor Susan Schmidt opened her up to the value of working at a macro level. Last spring, she was elected to the Iowa Chapter of the NASW Board of Directors.

As the bachelor of social work student representative, Martin attends board meetings and offers the student perspective. She also runs a new student subcommittee of the NASW for which she sets agendas and runs monthly meetings. She recently helped one of her members develop a mentorship program that will pair a current or retired Iowa social worker with a current college student.

“It’s an opportunity to network,” she says. “At some schools across the state, the faculty aren’t as close with the students as they are at Luther. So this would give students the opportunity to have somebody to talk to and ask for professional advice.”

Martin hopes to start a graduate program at Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, in the spring of 2024. She wants to work from a systems level to help children in foster care or the juvenile system, and she’d love to serve on a statewide board again.

“I’m involved at Luther, but this was on a different level,” she says. “This was statewide, and the NASW can really make impacts. I feel very proud to be a part of a board that has the ability to do that.”

Investing in rural communities

DeJong, assistant director of Luther’s Center for Intercultural Engagement and Support (CIES), was appointed last fall to a two-year term on the Empower Rural Iowa Task Force. As part of its GROW team, she focuses on leadership development, creating welcoming communities, and attracting and retaining residents and workers.

DeJong comes to the position having served as community developer for the city of Postville, Iowa, where she received a Rural Innovation Grant—from Empower Rural Iowa—for her work leading a Community Heart and Soul program there.

In her role on the GROW team, DeJong is a connector, listening to what’s going on in her assigned areas of the state, brainstorming solutions to problems, and connecting people, projects, and funding with other people, projects, and funding. “I love being a part of something that addresses topics that are impacting so many of our communities,” she says.

“I’ve seen some great things come out of this work,” she continues. “Money is going to good pro­jects that are genuinely being invested back into our small communities. It’s really helping our communities do things—it isn’t just for show. I’m proud to be a part of that.”