What We Do : Programs


emPowerU Continuum Logo with Gears

Where all voices are valued

Welcome to Heartland Foundation’s emPowerU Continuum – the region’s leading innovative experiential education and service-learning program since 2005.

Expand their experience

Workforce development starts with building skills through education and empowerment.

“I really enjoyed our scenario and working with the members of our class. I loved how we were assigned jobs that could be actual careers in the future years of my life.”—emPowerU Youth Participant, Rockport, MO, 2015

emPowerU is an innovative program that gives youth chances to be active agents of positive impact while also practicing essential 21st century workforce skills. More than a series of field trips, the experiential learning opportunity of emPowerU is a value-added component of both school and youth development curriculums.

“Our students were provided the opportunity to collaborate and learn with students from another school. They were able to problem solve about current real world situations which they are faced with every day. In addition, students were able to think about the issue, look at all the sides of the issue, and develop their presentation through careful thought. I feel that a vital part of the day was the opportunity to be in whole group, small group, and as an individual, which provided every student the chance to feel that they were important to the end result.”—Danielle O., Savannah R-III Middle School Teacher, Savannah, MO, 2015

Help your youth connect to their community

“I learned in this experience. It is really cool that they have a place that groups can go to just to solve community-wide problems and have fun doing so.”—emPowerU Youth Participant, Avenue City, MO, 2015

Through both the challenge-based immersions and the service-learning components of the emPowerU Continuum, youth can be a part of making their communities more enjoyable, attractive, safe, healthy, prosperous and thriving. They can experience why being connected to their community matters to their education, their preparation for the workforce, and their overall well-being today and tomorrow.

“Our students demonstrated confidence, organization, speaking and listening skills, cooperation, and sharing with others.”—James W., Carden Park Elementary Teacher, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

Discover emPowerU’s benefits for youth, schools, teachers, parents, and community supporters

  • Aligns with 21st century workforce skills and service-learning standards
  • Extends academics to the real-world
  • Challenges participants while giving them a choice and voice empowering them to learn
  • Engages and uplifts every participant through an interactive immersion experience
  • Builds confidence and recognition of potential
  • Integrates meaningful community connection with instruction, reflection, and celebration
  • Increases awareness of diverse perspectives and importance of collaboration, respect, and responsibility to others
  • Opens intergenerational partnerships, respect, and understanding
  • Provides tangible opportunity to impact youth
  • Includes an optional service-learning project  opportunity  that makes a difference in the youth’s local community


Middle School Students | Grades 6-8
(The program has also been adapted to senior high and post-secondary students and adults of all ages. Contact us for a customized program.)


Three unique sessions that build upon each other and can be spread throughout one or several years. The emPowerU Continuum is a challenge-based learning strategy led by trained facilitators.


Each session (circuit) can be scheduled over 5-6 hours any Monday-Friday.
(Evening and weekend programs may also be arranged. Please contact us to discuss options.)


Heartland Foundation’s emPowerU Campus
518 South 6th Street
St. Joseph, MO 64501


Heartland Foundation donors from throughout the region cover $35 of the $50 total cost making your fee only $15 per participant per session (circuit).

Register here



“What a wonderful program for students! This teaches them so many things: working with others/collaborating with others, research, preparing a presentation, public speaking.”—Sarah M., emPowerU Adult Council Volunteer, 2015

“It was a fun way to learn. I feel like I will actually use these skills in high school, college, & life.” –emPowerU Student Participant, Rockport, MO, 2015

“It is perfectly designed for student-led real world learning.” –Tabitha B., Lindbergh Elementary, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“My students showed more collaboration and compromised more than usual.”—Sue W., Avenue City, MO, 2015

“I think the way you guys spark our interest on things that aren’t first perceived as interesting is really wonderful.”—emPowerU Student Participant, Rockport, MO, 2015

“I loved having a voice in the conversation. If I could do this every day I would love to.”—emPowerU Youth Participant, Carden Park School, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“A strength I discovered about myself today was that I can work well with others and make a good presentation.”—emPowerU Youth Participant, Skaith School, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“Our youth demonstrated deep thinking, debating respectfully, and speaking in front of others.”—Hollie M., Ellison School Teacher, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“A strength I discovered about myself today was I am more confident than I thought I was.”—emPowerU Student Participant, Cathedral School, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“The kids really shared ideas and were willing to find the middle ground to get started. They expressed opinions respectfully and found out all they could about the topic.”—Kim M., St. Francis Xavier Teacher, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“A strength I discovered about myself today is that I can express my feelings with others without feeling uncomfortable.”—emPowerU Student Participant, St. Francis Xavier School, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“It was an exciting experience and was really fun.” –emPowerU Youth Participant, Savannah, MO, 2015

“I feel it (emPowerU) gave students a chance to have to think on their feet and defend their ideas.”—Tamara G., emPowerU Adult Council Volunteer, 2015

“Students were able to experience real-world problems and see how it is to really go to a council and fight for what you want.”—Bret D., Humboldt Teacher, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“My students were highly engaged throughout the whole day. They really immersed themselves into the topics.”—Paula S., Skaith Elementary, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“I appreciate that we were able to choose a topic we felt our students would get passionate about and enjoy learning more about.”—Heidi M., Avenue City, MO, 2015

“My students demonstrated the ability to stay on task for extended periods of time; the ability to communicate with adults unfamiliar to them; the ability to stretch their thinking.”—Karri A., Teacher, Rockport, MO, 2015

“It was a good experience for the “real world.”—Crissie T., St. Francis Xavier, St. Joseph, MO, 2015

“Our kids had a great day being able to take charge of their learning.”—Natalie A., Hyde School, St. Joseph, MO, 2015