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Breaking the mold


Written by Kyla Kuss, AmeriCorps VISTA

When I came across the opening in Rainbows United Research Department with AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), I knew it was something I wanted to do. Helping kids while working with details and data was exactly what I was looking for. However, I did not apply right away because I hadn’t heard of the AmeriCorps program and did not know what it involved. As I continued to consider other possibilities, the position at Rainbows stayed open. So, I decided to research the AmeriCorps VISTA program and filled out the application. I am so glad that I did!

Throughout my year of service, I have learned that Rainbows United serves many more families and children in the community through many more ways than I realized. As a VISTA, my goal was to help build capacity at Rainbows through indirect service, rather than directly working with children and families. Because of this, I was able to learn about the different programs from behind the scenes. I saw the needs of the programs and how they are met by people working together. I was introduced to the world of grant writing and discovered that there is much more to it than only the writing part.

Due to the coronavirus, I was unable to work for Rainbows for a few months, making my life different than planned.  When I returned to work, now working from home, one of the grants I enjoyed working on the most was for Woodchuck Adventure.  The coronavirus also meant that summer was going to be different for all the kids and youth who planned on attending Camp Woodchuck, Rainbows’ summer camp for school-aged children with special needs.  Normally, almost 100 children would be gathered together for field trips, arts and crafts, talent shows and water adventures, everything that makes summer camp special.  This year Rainbows had to pivot and create a meaningful and fun summer experience, Woodchuck Adventure, from the safety of families’ homes. In putting together the grant for Woodchuck Adventure, I saw how creative and dedicated staff were in making activities for the at-home campers. I was glad to be able to write a grant to support where I could see how the funds would be used immediately and tangibly. It was wonderful to see pictures of the kids enjoying the summer despite all the unexpected changes.

I will miss working in the Research Department at Rainbows, as well as the people I worked with. I am grateful for my time here, for the opportunities to learn and grow I had while working, and for the chance to see all the good work that Rainbows does.

Wichita State University AmeriCorps VISTA Fellow Kyla Kuss completed her year of service at Rainbows in October. Kyla worked in the Research Department writing grants, making recommendations for streamlining grants processes, and assisting with reports She recently took the lead on the Technology for Families grant submitted to the Kansas Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund that resulted in $23,000 for technology. She also helped with requests in support of Woodchuck Adventure this Summer for $3,500 and submitted requests for 2021. 

Kyla ended her service year by organizing and analyzing data and writing a summary of the results of Birth to Three, Read to Me, a four-year project to describe the early language skills of infants and toddlers who received early intervention services from Bright Beginnings and Sedgwick County Infant/Toddler Services.

“Kyla brings many strengths to our team and has helped us reach milestones. She has applied problem-solving and organizational skills to refining our process for documenting, tracking and reporting on grants,” said Jane Eby, Research Coordinator.

Kyla lives in Rose Hill and graduated from Emporia State University. She’ll graduate from KU in December with a M.S. in Applied Statistics, Analytics, and Data Science. Thank you Kyla for making a difference at Rainbows during this unusual year. 

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