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Kris Martens (Bettendorf, IA), far left, Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas, and Cheryl Heaton (Moline, IL), at the Western Illinois University-Quad Cities commencement ceremony in May.
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WIU-QC Grow Your Own Program Graduates Two Cohort Members

July 1, 2013

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MACOMB/MOLINE, IL – For Kris Martens (Bettendorf, IA), her time as part of the Western Illinois University-Quad Cities Grow Your Own (GYO) program is over, but she, along with six other women, now, or will soon, have new career paths in education on which to move forward. Martens, along with Cheryl Heaton (Moline, IL), both took part in the WIU-QC commencement ceremony in May, after spending the last few years working toward their bachelor's degrees in special education through the WIU-QC GYO program. Martens finished her B.S.E. in May, and Heaton will complete hers after the Summer 2013 semester.

According to Darlos Mummert, an associate professor in Western's curriculum and instruction department and support coordinator of WIU-QC GYO, the program—a state initiative that operates under the supervision of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE)—started on the WIU-QC campus a few years ago, after the state developed a grant program to help communities "grow your own" teachers.

"The program encouraged colleges and universities to partner with local schools, regional offices of education (ROES) and with community support organizations to develop programs to encourage individuals committed to their communities to earn teaching certificates," Mummert explained. "We graduated our first GYO student, Kris, in May, and Cheryl will graduate in August. We have four remaining GYO students, and if all goes well, each of them should student teach and graduate during the next school year."

Mummert noted the impetus of the WIU-QC program—which is directed by Cindy Dooley—was also to provide teachers for hard-to-staff schools or in hard-to-staff subject areas.

"WIU, in consortium with the Rock Island ROE, Rock Island School District, Moline School District, Black Hawk College and Community Caring Conference, proposed a program to provide special education courses for individuals who met the criteria. We began with 22 cohort members. The vast majority of the individuals were employed in the schools in some capacity, many as para-professionals," Mummert said.

For the students who finish the WIU-QC GYO degree program and obtain a teaching job in a hard-to-staff school or classroom, their tuition costs will be forgiven.

"The forgivable loans are the foundation of the grant, in many ways," Mummert explained. "As long as the candidate is making progress toward graduation, tuition, fees and books are covered by the grant. After graduation, there's a requirement for the candidates to teach in a high need content area or in a high need school. If that requirement is met, the loans go away. If the student fails to graduate or doesn't give back by teaching in a high need area or in a high need school, the loans have to be repaid."

Mummert added that although she's only been involved in the grant program for a couple of years, she's been lucky enough to have a special sort of relationship with the cohort members.

"The thing that is most impressive to me about the individuals who are close to completing their programs is that they are parents, spouses, work full time and often enroll in and complete multiple courses each semester. Most of the students we've lost over time have chosen to leave the cohort because of the sheer wear and tear on their lives of being so very busy for so long," she noted. "These are hard-working women who have put in an amazing amount of time and effort in the hopes of increasing their incomes and contributing to the communities they live in. It's been a labor-intensive process for all of us, but I have immense respect and affection for all of the women who began the program and those who are close to finishing it."

For more information, contact Mummert at (309) 298-1788 or via email at

Posted By: WIU News (
Office of University Relations