Welcome to our newest staff member, Carolyne Nowell!


Say hello to our newest staff member, Carolyne Nowell! Carolyne will be our CYC Youth Service Momentum AmeriCorps Member.

Carolyne first heard about Everybody Wins! Iowa through a friend and has been working with us as a site coordinator at McKinley Elementary.

“I love working at Everybody Wins! Iowa because I can share my love of reading with children and help students realize that reading can be fun!” Carolyne said.

Welcome to the team, Carolyne!

December Mentor of the Month


Ellen and her mentee, Amari and her beanie baby octopus, Goochy

Our December Mentor of the Month is Ellen Koester. Ellen is a sophomore at Drake University and began mentoring her freshman year at the Central Presbyterian Church evening program.

This year she was able to continue her match with Amari, a 2nd grader.

On the first day of program, Amari arrived before Ellen and quickly came up to the site coordinator, Macy, asking “Where’s Ellen?” A question that continues each time Amari beats Ellen to program because she can’t wait to see her.

“The two have a wonderful bond that was created through reading together each week,” Macy said. “It’s great to see the different ways Ellen works with Amari to read different types of books. You can just tell how much fun they are having during program, and I’m so glad Everybody Wins! Iowa was able to bring them together for reading.”

Ellen says she likes coming to program because “Amari is super hilarious and is always inventing games to play while we read, or makes sure her beanie baby octopus, Goochy, is there to pay attention. I also enjoy the challenge at times to get her to read chapter books because I know she can read them, but she just has this mental block sometimes. To get her over the block I make silly competitions or we time ourselves to see how much we can read in a set amount of time. She’s so competitive that it really works.”

“I also like to come to program because it gets me off campus and I can give back to the community as well as meet other people,” Ellen said. “I’m from South Dakota, so it’s nice to have a way to get involved in my new community in Des Moines.”

Thank you for being an outstanding mentor, Ellen!

November Mentor of the Month

Ben with his student, Alejandro

Our November Mentor of the Month is Ben Johns. Ben is a mentor at Carver Elementary School and is in his 6th year of reading with Everybody! Wins Iowa.

Ben reads to his student, Alejandro, each Tuesday over his lunch break.

“It’s a great break from work,” Ben said. “It’s an hour where you don’t really think about projects that you have going on and it’s just a nice break in the week to say ‘I’m going to do something else and clear my mind’, and at the same time help somebody else.”

Being a mentor has been a valuable experience for Ben. He has gotten to work with different students over the years and has been able to watch his students make strides in the program.

“It’s rewarding both for the student and for the adult,” Ben said. “You can have a student for years and really get to know them and have a friendship with them.”

Over time, his students have gained skills in reading. But, they have also gained something more.

“I can definitely tell that the students have gained a greater sense of confidence,” Ben said. “Sometimes they come in and they’re a little shy or quiet or not really sure what to expect. But once you can build a relationship with them, they get more confident, and you can see them then really start to apply themselves and get better at it.”

Ben added that having a one-to-one relationship between a mentor and a student rather than your typical classroom setting is what helps to make the program so successful.

“I just think it helps to have a friend to work with,” Ben said. “I can understand kids having more issues maybe not feeling a connection or a one-to-one friendship with a teacher. Maybe it’s just more of a personal relationship that makes them a little more confident to try, or a little more attention to help them succeed.”

The program has also helped to build his students enthusiasm about reading.

“I’m excited when my kids come in and they’re smiling and they’re excited to read,” Ben said. “A lot of the kids come through here, and you can tell they’re really motivated and excited. They may not even realize they’re getting better, but they’re excited to read.”

And for any potential mentors out there, Ben has a message for you.

“There’s a lot of kids on the waiting list, and a lot of people I think are hesitant to for the commitment for every week,” Ben said. “But if people knew that the program did allow co-mentors that could share responsibility and come every other week, I think that would be an opportunity for more people to get involved.”

Thank you for your service Ben!