History of Empowering Youths of Iowa


I am Sarah Swayze, the president and founder of Empowering Youths of Iowa, Inc. My career in education started in 1992 as a paraeducator at Cedar Rapids Washington High School. Later, I earned my bachelor's degree from Mount Mercy University and master's from Graceland University. For the last 13 years, I've been a special education teacher, working with students with special needs at Washington.

During my years in K-12 education, I have observed, despite the best intentions, dedication, and skills of my colleagues in education, far too many young people fall through the cracks. It has been heartbreaking to watch dreams deferred or dashed as many students struggle to realize the benefits and successes available to them if given the proper support.

Sadly, the crack or gap in learning has widened even more for these and many more students as many schools suspended classes because of Covid-19 and the derecho that impacted Linn County schools. The impact of these disasters has left several students unaccounted for and a decrease in learning for so many others. Because of these and other unfortunate events, the need for EYI is immediate. As a community, we must act now to empower our youth.

It is because of this huge and widening crack that I decided to open Empowering Youths of Iowa, Inc. As a supplement rather than a replacement for school, EYI will provide each at risk youth with an individualized and comprehensive system of support during after-school hours that allows them to catch up academically, graduate or obtain high school equivalency, and pursue meaningful career goals. The launch of EYI will be based on the timeline listed below:

  • Fall of 2021 - EYI begins by partnering with Washington High School. Washington staff will identify its 9th graders most at risk of drop-out. EYI's staff and mentors will then provide support services to those 9th graders to achieve more positive outcomes.

  • 2022-23 Academic Year - EYI expands to serve youth most at risk from:

    • All high school grades and all Cedar Rapids public high schools.

    • Grades 6-8 from all Cedar Rapids public middle schools.

  • 2023-24 Academic Year - EYI expands to serve youth ages 7 and above most at risk in all Cedar Rapids public elementary schools.

  • If you share my belief that all young people deserve a chance at success, please contribute in any way you can - as a mentor, tutor, employer who provides information about careers or job shadow experiences for EYI youths, or financial donor. Any contribution will positively impact young people's lives and our community.

    Thank you,

    Sarah Swayze, EYI President and Founder