Edward Failor and Tyler Campbell became buddies while playing youth sports in their hometown of Muscatine. They learned how to tackle problems on and off the field, how to strike a balance between sports and schoolwork, and how to cheer on each other and their team. The boys' parents were able to pay the sign-up fees and the costs for equipment and team travel. The two friends learned, however, that many parents cannot.
This realization stayed with the two friends throughout the years. As UNI students, Failor and Campbell co-founded UNI 4 Kids, an organization that helps Cedar Valley youth participate in activities they may not be able to participate in due to financial limitations. These activities include sports, as well as music, dance and art.
"We don't want any child to be turned away from activities they're interested in joining, which is one reason the organization was started," said Failor, UNI 4 Kids president. Kids don't have to fill out an application, and the names of those who receive need-based scholarships are kept confidential. Children who receive scholarships are chosen by their teachers in the Waterloo School District. UNI 4 Kids also partnered with the Boys & Girls Club in Waterloo so counselors and mentors at this organization can identify kids who could benefit from financial support.
"By partnering with well-established organizations and gaining sponsorship from prominent businesses and community members throughout the Cedar Valley, we're able to grant need-based scholarships and establish programs to guide and mentor kids in hopes of ensuring their long-term success," said Campbell.
Campbell also said the organization's objective is not only to support kids financially, but to become ongoing mentors to ensure kids have every opportunity to remain involved. This broad-ranging commitment reflects the four pillars that support the mission of UNI 4 Kids: Partnership, Sponsorship, Scholarship and Mentorship.
In addition to financial donations from area businesses, UNI 4 Kids sponsors campus and community events. In September, the group held a 5K, which raised $800. A raffle will be held in January. Amateur Athletic Union and 3-on-3 basketball tournaments are in the works.
Nearly 30 students are members of UNI 4 Kids. These UNI students combine their various talents to plan, publicize and put on these events. "No matter what their major, UNI students can join the organization and benefit from it," said Failor. "It gives them an avenue to see that they're making an impact on someone's life."
The organization also has a mentorship program where UNI students facilitate skill-development camps and talk with kids about the benefits of participating in extracurricular activities. UNI 4 Kids members also meet with K through 12th-graders on a regular basis in group settings to discuss the importance of giving their best on the field and in the classroom.
"Studies show that participation in extracurricular activities correlates strongly with improved academic success, positive behavior and high self-esteem, all which impact the graduation rate," said Campbell.