Who We Serve

Serving youth and adults in the heart of the heartland.

Heartland Foundation’s primary service area is northwest Missouri and the surrounding counties in Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa with our office located on our emPowerU® campus in downtown St. Joseph, MO. We hold collaborative events and gatherings throughout the region and host people at emPowerU from this region as well as many neighboring counties.

We also extend beyond America’s rural heartland through partnerships, affiliations, and friends of Heartland Foundation as well as our social enterprise, Think Ahead Works.

Serving Youth

Connecting young people to their communities.

Youth infused communities are vibrant, progressive, and attractive places to live.

Our young people have much to offer our region and much to gain from being connected to adults who are willing to give them meaningful roles and opportunities to share their ideas, skill sets, and perspectives.

Heartland Foundation’s survey of approximately 16,000 youth over a period of nearly a decade revealed that our youth felt they:

  • Had no voice in their communities, yet wanted to make a difference
  • Did not believe that adults listened to them,
  • Believe careers they were interested in did not exist in the regional job market, and
  • Saw no future here and had plans to move away upon completing their educations.

Working with schools and youth organizations through the region, Heartland Foundation’s unique programs offer professionally facilitated 21st century curriculum-aligned, student-led learning experiences that help our young citizens realize that:

  • Their voices are important,
  • Education is valuable, and
  • They can make a meaningful difference in their schools, homes, and communities.

Serving Adults

Engaging adults in conversations that are difference-making.

Adults are the beneficiaries of Heartland Foundation’s work just as much as youth. Having the opportunity to gather around a neutral table regardless of industry, sector, or walk of life to discuss common issues that matter to everyone is a benefit. Empowering adults to listen to each other, learn from those with differing perspectives, and collaborate to drive ideas for solutions to problems solved is an outcome of Heartland Foundation’s long-view work.

Through our programs, individuals are shown how to better connect to each other in a way that creates positive outcomes, problem-solve in a fresh way, be more tolerant and open to each others’ ideas, and work together as a productive and inspired team.

Workplace teams who have gone through the emPowerU Continuum or have engaged emPowerU facilitators to guide them through a challenging conversation, strategic planning event, or training session have all expressed excitement regarding how positive they felt. Comments like, “It was more than I expected,” and, “My group really listened to each other in a way they never have,” and, “I think we can really move forward now,” have all been shared by adults participating in Heartland Foundation’s programs and action teams.

There are also opportunities through our (e2) education emPowers® initiative for youth and adults to work together as peers with relevant lessons learned by both. The e2 Fellowship is a intergenerational leadership program covering key tools needed by leaders along with the state of education and workforce development in our world, country, state, and region.


Education empowers healthy and thriving communities.

There are two worlds in which we can choose to live. One is called Behind; the other Ahead. Our choice is clear. We believe that each of us is progress, each of us is potential, each of us is possibility, but only if we Think Ahead.

Our programming, initiatives, events, scholarships and grants all uplift the message that lifelong education empowers better jobs, better wages, healthier people and thriving communities.


Maximizing Potential. Collaborating for the greater good.

Participating in any of Heartland Foundation’s programs, events, partnerships, and action teams helps further build skills for 21st century life by uplifting the value of lifelong learning and community involvement. The goal is to maintain and grow the population of our rural area and encourage people to place value on the place they live. We hope to encourage people of all ages to live, work, play, and stay in our region. This can only happen through proactively focusing on the existing assets of the region. It also requires holding meaningful and relevant collaborations and innovative programs that can be a catalyst to a vibrant and vital area of possibilities!


Youth-led service projects in the real world.

Heartland Foundation offers grants in several areas. The largest investment is in youth and innovation. Competitive JumpStarters grants supporting service-learning projects are available to emPowerU youth participants within a year of their immersion experience.

“This was a really exciting opportunity for the students. They worked really hard getting ready and it’s exciting to be able to put it into action.”—Matt M., Humboldt Elementary School 6th Grade Teacher who worked with the students to compile and distribute 500 backpacks for the homeless filled with personal hygiene items.