“When I see certain kids struggle and then they graduate and they get to walk across that stage, that is the greatest feeling in the world. That’s one thing I’m going to miss.”
This statement by Marcy Harms came as no surprise. Harms has been serving the Fort Dodge Community School District for 35 years, starting out as a homeschool liason and evolving into their student services director. This evolution of going from homeschool liason to student service director has been nothing short of inspiring.
“If there was a lot of behavior problems or the student missed a lot of school, I would go figure out what was going on,” Harms said. “Then as time progressed, different things would come up and they would fall under my umbrella.”
One of those things that also fell under her umbrella was the Prosper program. In 2002 the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Program reached out to the Fort Dodge Community School District to see if they would be interested in participating in the prosper research program, which was funded by a grant.
Out of this, Harms became the co-leader of the Prosper program, alongside Linda Cline. The group of prosper leaders meet monthly to ensure their programs continue on a solid path.
The two programs Prosper consists of are aimed to benefit students, families and the entire community of Fort Dodge. One program is Life Skills Training program, which is a class taken every year by 7th graders at Fort Dodge Middle School. The program is aims to prevent substance abuse and violence and to ‘promote positive youth development.’
“I think you have to give kids the skills to… the coping techniques to get through, to remove the barrier so they can learn and go on through school successfully, and help them learn how to deal with bullying and conflict,” Harms said. “To help them better be able to manage their emotions so they don’t blow up and get themselves deeper in trouble and to have healthy relationships. I think it’s very important to have those things that focus specifically on that.”
The second program is the Strengthening Families Program, which is a program for 6th graders and their families that takes place after school. This program aims to improve family relationships and communication, reduce family conflict and therefore, prevent future substance abuse.
“It’s completely based on removing barriers that inhibit kids from moving forward,” Harms said. “Those barriers are homelessness, drugs, mental health problems, families breaking up, divorce, you name it.”
Aside from Prosper, Harms also oversees all of the non-academic things that help support kids such as FDCSD’s counselors, nurses, mental health therapists and nurses.
“We problem-solve on kids to make sure they’re getting what they need to help them be successful in school,” Harms said.
Harms was born and raised in Fort Dodge. She began her college career at Iowa Central Community College. After attending for two years she went to, the no-longer college, Westmoore College in Le Mars. She finished her master’s degree in social work and mental health at Drake University in Des Moines.
After her retirement, Harms plan on taking care of her parents and planting in her garden. She said she’s really going to miss all of the people and kids she works with.
“It’s all I’ve known for all these years,” Harms said. “It’s going to be different. It won’t even feel real until school starts. You just miss the people so much. You work with them everyday. They’re like your other family, ya know?”