I am a student at the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, and from August through December of last year I helped facilitate a weekly creative writing group on the Iowa Juvenile Home campus as a part of the Iowa Youth Writing Project. I can say with full confidence that these girls were some of the best students I've ever had the privilege to teach. They were endlessly creative, intelligent and compassionate to a fault: when one student was nervous about reading her story or poem, the others would encourage her; when she finished reading, she'd be met with enthusiastic applause.
The girls' compassion moved me, primarily because many of them had suffered early-life experiences in which the compassion due to them was absent. For the first time in their lives, they were in an environment where they could tell their stories and trust that they would be heard. This sort of trust is the basis of empathy, a quality that is fostered by the Juvenile Home. To deprive these girls of a facility in which they finally have the chance to be heard and to hear others - in which they are stable and not transient, in which they are taught that their passions and opinions matter - would be to deprive them of the chance to live harmoniously.
I hope readers will consider registering their opinions on Gov. Branstad's website, signing the petition on Change.org, or writing editorials of their own to keep the Iowa Juvenile Home open.