Legacy for Learning Recipient Speaking Out, Singing Out, Moving Up

 

Since 2002 Daybreak Rotary has supported, mentored and encouraged students to excel in school and pursue higher education as a real, attainable goal in their lives through its Legacy for Learning program. Learn about Maurisa, one of Daybreak Rotary's Legacy for Learning grant recipients, as she embarks on an important new endeavor.

 

Speaking out, singing out, moving up: For Kirkwood graduate Maurisa Clark, encouragement and support came early

Nearly a decade ago, a young girl from Cedar Rapids heard a message she might not have clearly understood at the time. At her 2007 Polk Elementary School graduation
ceremony, she received a certificate and a pledge: Stay in school, work hard. Help for a college education would be waiting, down the line.

Now, in mid-2016 Maurisa Clark is a student realizing the completion of that promise.

Clark is among more than 1,800 Kirkwood Community College graduates completing degree, certificate and diploma programs this year. She spent the last several years not
only advancing in high school and college studies but also volunteering and developing leadership in youth and community programs.


Clark’s progress was aided in large part by a scholarship created by Cedar Rapids Daybreak Rotary Club. Nearly 20 years ago the club created the Legacy for Learning program, with a vision of encouraging Polk students to reach for higher goals and educational success.

The efforts began in 1996, with club members volunteering time at Polk Elementary in classrooms and donations for school projects and supplies. By 2002 Daybreak members
felt the time was right to take the mentoring and encouragement to the next level, encouraging students to excel in school and pursue higher education as a real, attainable goal in their lives.

Linda Henecke is president and executive director of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Cedar Rapids and also chairs the Legacy for Learning team with Daybreak Rotary. She calls Clark’s progress so far “a great, hopeful example” of the goals the club set out for area students. “We are delighted that Maurisa has taken her ambition and dreams to this first level of success. Daybreak Rotary is proud of her and wish her great things as she continues to pursue her goals. Her story is exactly why we started Legacy for Learning all those years ago,” Henecke added.

In addition to her school work toward a law enforcement career, Clark has also been active in vocal music. She also took her preforming interests to a new level, being part of the company performing the musical Dreamgirls at Theatre Cedar Rapids. In the spring 2015 production she played the character Charlene and sang in ensemble numbers. “It was my first time ever acting and performing onstage. I loved it,” Clark said.


During the past several years, Clark has also been involved in several community organizations and activities. Those included Cedar Rapids NAACP events and the Youth Think Tank. Clark calls the latter “a program to try to keep kids off the streets and give them worthwhile things to do.” She recalls one project involving a local music producer who runs a recording studio.

 

“We got to visit his studio, and he gave some of us a chance to do a recording of our singing. That was fun,” Clark said.

 

Local events and neighborhood needs also gave Clark the opportunity to take a serious leadership turn. When gun-related violence in Cedar Rapids reached a critical level in early 2015, Clark was part of community-based discussions and demonstrations calling for calm and understanding in the city. Her efforts included being an on-camera spokesperson for the discussions on local TV stations. Clark plans to take her associate’s degree in Criminal Justice to Mount Mercy University this fall, where she will pursue a baccalaureate degree in criminal justice. Along the way, she will likely also continue her involvement in community volunteering and maybe another musical role on a stage or performance hall.