P.O.W.E.R. Kids Receives Harkin Wellness Designee


Organizations working across the country to improve the wellbeing of K-12 students and young people were invited to nominate their program to be considered for the 2024 Harkin on Wellness Designation. The Harkin Institute announced P.O.W.E.R. Kids, a partner program of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, was selected as one of the 2024 Harkin on Wellness Symposium Designees earlier this month. “Being named a winner of the Harkin on Wellness Award is a testament to unwavering commitment, innovative approach, and significant contributions to promoting wellness and health in our communities,” states Adam Shriver, Director of Wellness and Nutrition for the Harkin Institute.

Jennifer Cogley, director of partner programs for the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, led a break-out session at the 2024 symposium about P.O.W.E.R. Kids, including the program’s history as a Grinnell Education Partnership Healthy Readers focus area. “We are thrilled to be named a Harkin Wellness Designee this year,” says Cogley. “What an honor for our partner program P.O.W.E.R Kids to be selected as one of the best programs in the country. It couldn’t happen without a village of community partners, donors, volunteers, and staff.”

The 2024 Symposium took place on Wednesday, April 3 in Des Moines at the Olmsted Center at Drake University.

The theme “Well Being in Schools” featured two keynote speakers; U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy and Dr. Kathleen Ethier of the CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.  The event highlighted innovative approaches to improving health and wellness in schools that can mitigate the challenges facing students, teachers, and school leaders.

In addition to Cogley, other community leaders attended the symposium on behalf of P.O.W.E.R. Kids to accept the Harkin award, including Julie Gosselink of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation, Jill Harris of the Grinnell Education Partnership, and Nikki Laug of the Grinnell-Newburg Community School District.


About P.O.W.E.R. Kids
P.O.W.E.R. KIDS, a new partner program of the Claude W. and Dolly Ahrens Foundation (CDAF), aims to empower students in elementary school to make healthy choices inside and outside the classroom. Students are exposed to a variety of activities for learning about healthy snacks, forming positive habits and other wellness opportunities. For more information about P.O.W.E.R. Kids please visit ahrensfamilyfoundation.org/p-o-w-e-r-kids/ or call 641-236-5518.

Conversations began in the spring of 2022 with the Grinnell Education Partnership (GEP) about the previously named Healthy Readers program which has been a part of GEP since 2015 and run through AmeriCorps leaders. During the pandemic, as schools closed and visitors were limited, the Healthy Readers program efforts were reduced. Moving into the 2022-2023 school year, GEP was looking for help with sustainability of the program and CDAF excitedly stepped up to form a new partner program called P.O.W.E.R. Kids. The program mission aligns directly with the mission of CDAF – working to improve the quality of life of current and future generations of Grinnellians through parks and recreation, health, and education. Helping students achieve the overarching goals of increased wellness through healthy choices and activities is the desire of the P.O.W.E.R. Kids program.


About Harkin Institute
The goal of the Harkin Institute is to facilitate collaborative, high-quality, nonpartisan, multi-disciplinary public policy research and analysis in the area of wellness and nutrition.

Programs, schools, and organizations were encouraged to submit their work focused on this year’s theme of Wellbeing in Schools. This theme was chosen to highlight and synthesize the progress that is being made around the country in showing how schools can play a central role in improving the wellbeing of young people through participation in school gardens, teaching kitchens, mindfulness practices, cognition-bolstering physical activities, and nature and environmental learning.

Schools are the location where children spend the largest portion of their time outside of the home, and activities at schools that promote wellbeing have been shown to have an important impact on children’s academics and mental health. Furthermore, school curricula that engage students in hands-on, collaborative whole health learning practices can impart an awareness of factors favorable to their own wellbeing, mental health, and academics that can reverberate through their school years and on into adulthood. Groups working to improve the wellbeing of young people, including nonprofit organizations, policy institutes, and schools themselves, should be recognized for the tremendous role they can play in building a flourishing citizenry.

Applications were selected through a competitive review process. Designees were notified in February 2024 and will receive an honorarium of $500, recognition as a Harkin on Wellness designee, and a plaque to recognize that honor. All designees were invited to attend and present at the Harkin on Wellness Symposium.