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YSS Kids Club Builds Experience for Future Teacher

When Nile Horak changed his major to Elementary Education at Iowa State University, his advisor sent him an application for a job at YSS Kids Club. He started as a Program Assistant in September 2021.

“It was my first opportunity working with kids, so it was eye-opening to see what it really means to be a teacher,” Nile says.

YSS Kids Club offers a safe place for children to go before and after school, as well as during summer breaks. With locations in seven school districts across central Iowa, the program provides nurturing, interactive, and educational activities—from crafts to outdoor playtime.

In Nile’s role, he plays football, prepares snacks, reads books, helps with homework, and offers a listening ear when a child is having a rough day. During the summer, Nile helps lead field trips to places like the state capitol and Blank Park Zoo.

“Working at YSS Kids Club has been a great way to learn about all the different age groups,” Nile explains. “It’s helped me explore my field and figure out what I want to teach.”

Nile says he loves working with kids because they’re funny, ask deep questions, and are “fully themselves.” He has developed close relationships—even while working various shifts at different schools—and says former students are always thrilled to see him when he returns to visit. “Those connections don’t go away,” he says.

“Nile is one of the best and most consistent staff we’ve ever had,” says Jennifer Schmit, Director of Community, Youth, and Family Development at YSS. “He does a great job with the kids and is always willing to go wherever we need him.”

For Nile, the experience has been valuable in a profession he describes as “trial by fire.” He has observed techniques that he can apply in his own classroom in the future, such as getting kids’ attentions in a fun way (“Macaroni and cheese, everybody freeze!”) and giving a five-minute warning before putting toys away.

One day last summer when a kid was struggling, Nile sat and talked with him for the entire recess. Some children who come to YSS Kids Club are experiencing instability at home, so offering a positive and constant presence each day is essential—and potentially life changing.

These lessons have helped Nile decide he wants to teach sixth grade social studies after he graduates from Iowa State next fall.

“The kids all have differences and similarities. It’s amazing to see how much energy they have at 6:30 in the morning, and how quickly they want to get to know you,” Nile says. “YSS has been extremely helpful for me. I’ve learned so much.”

YSS provides thousands of dollars in scholarships to help ensure families can participate in the program. Learn more about YSS Kids Club.

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