An evening with Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., oncologist and cancer researcher. A Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer. Appearing October 3rd, at 7:30 PM at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Theatre.

Collaborations for Change

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Collaborations for Change is a strategy used by the John T. Vucurevich Foundation as a key to solving issues in western South Dakota and the Black Hills region. We listen, identify area problems and assist financially or through strategic leadership to help promote long-term sustainable change. It is our intention to partner with area non-profits, educational institutions, government entities and other funders to make a greater impact on the community through a sense of shared responsibility among these partners.

A12a Rosebud Boys Girls Club

In some cases, our participation in a collaboration may be merely a funding partner, such as in a public, private partnership. In other cases, when the collaboration assists us to achieve our desired outcome in an identified problem area, we may provide the human resources necessary to facilitate the collaboration. At this time, our identified priorities for facilitating or participating in collaborative projects may include:

  • Improve school readiness and attendance.
  • Align out of school time programs to student’s individualized scholastic goals.
  • Improve grade level achievement in reading and math.
  • Enhance on-time high school graduation rates.
  • Advance work and life skills.
  • Provide access to higher education.
  • Provide arts education for the underserved.
  • Increase access to affordable healthcare, including physical, dental and behavioral.
  • Reduce domestic violence, substance abuse, child abuse and neglect.
  • Improve access to basic human needs including affordable housing and food.
  • Advance the safety and well being of children.

Examples of collaborative efforts we have recently funded or facilitated include:

Arts Collaborations
Rapid City Performing Arts Coalition

A13 PAC-Flutter Productions Ascent 2014

The Rapid City Performing Arts Coalition includes the Rapid City Performing Arts, Rapid City Area Schools, and the City of Rapid City. The Coalition’s primary goal has been to secure a facility that can support a broad range of arts programs, from music to theatre to dance. The selected venue, a historic building in downtown Rapid City, will provide partner organizations a permanent home, in addition to space for rehearsals, classes, offices, and more. The John T. Vucurevich Foundation is proud to be a funder of this important public/private partnership to benefit the arts in Rapid City.

Future of the Arts in Rapid City Collaborative


Equally as important as facilities or physical venues for the arts is the ability for the arts to have the organizational capacities and vision to sustain and enhance their efforts. In 2013, the John T. Vucurevich Foundation began hosting facilitated discussions for The Future of the Arts in Rapid City Collaborative, a coalition of arts leaders and stakeholders who came together to discuss ways to maximize the rich potential of our community’s arts and culture. We looked for creative thinking and ideas for projects to assist area arts organizations enhance their abilities to build audiences, reach the next generation, utilize technology, integrate art education and create a paradigm of collaborative energy to have a thriving arts community in Rapid City. Through these discussions, their priority was to develop a website that serves as an online hub for arts and cultural events and activities in Rapid City and the surrounding Black Hills along with shared marketing. Arts Rapid City was born to assist all artists and arts organizations to increase and diversify their customers and audiences. Arts Rapid City, offers centralized scheduling that integrates with participating organizations and individual artist’s independent websites providing one place to view everything art. For arts patrons, Arts Rapid City serves as a comprehensive entry point for information about Rapid City arts events, exhibits, and educational opportunities. It is our hope that Arts Rapid City becomes the go-to, one stop shop for information about our vibrant arts and culture scene that leads to higher public profile for the arts and a greater understanding of their value in our community, with the end result being a diversified audience and increased fundraising potential for arts organizations.

Education Collaborations

Since 2008, a broad base of community leadership has guided the development of Teen-Up, formerly known as AYCE, to implement a strategic plan which incorporates authentic youth engagement throughout Rapid City. Teen Up is a movement, which cultivates the virtually untapped resources of our youth. Teens who are invested in their communities are likely to return as that community’s future business and civic leadership. Involving our youth in the community, with their voice, impacting and influencing outcomes, not only helps to develop better young citizens, it makes Rapid City a better community. We are excited about the future of Teen-Up, a program of Partnership Rapid City. Follow them on Facebook.

Partnership Rapid City

The motto for Partnership Rapid City is “Connecting the Community with the Classroom.” The initial three-year grant from the John T. Vucurevich Foundation in 2007 and a two-year continuation grant in 2010 helped launch this very successful public/private partnership that exists today. The collaborative group works to create alliances between businesses, non-profit organizations, and local schools in order to create learning experiences for youth within the community. Not only do students benefit from the kinds of community resources that improve academic achievement, they are also more prepared for higher education and workforce development.

Campaign for Grade Level Reading


The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is a collaborative effort by funders, nonprofits, government agencies, business leaders, states and communities across the nation to ensure that many more children from low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career and active citizenship. In 2014, Rapid City joined this national collaborative that focuses on the fact that reading proficiency by the end of third grade is a key predictor of high school graduation and career success. The National Campaign for Grade Level Reading will provide the template by which the strategic plan is implemented.
43 people attended a luncheon in May, 2014, hosted by JTVF to hear about the campaign. Since then, an action plan has been developed to address school readiness, summer learning loss and school attendance. This Community Solutions Action Plan will show examples of an engaged community that has built supportive partnerships and strong collaborative relationships in an effort to create successful outcomes for our children and their families. The United Way of the Black Hills will be the backbone organization for this collaborative and will house the Community Impact Director. They will work with community partners to coordinate literacy efforts in the community and will guide the work of completing the Grade-Level Reading Community Self-Assessment Tool to help identify areas of strength and weaknesses to then guide the development of initial goals and collaborative projects.

Health & Human Services Collaborations

Photo Owens Apts Outside

New Start

The New Start Housing Collaborative is a program designed to alleviate involuntary homelessness in Rapid City. The effort is supported by the CornerStone Rescue Mission, Behavior Management Systems and Pennington County Health and Human Services. Individuals receive help through rental assistance, intensive case management, and other supportive services as a way to help them move beyond chronic homelessness into employment and stable or permanent housing.

Intensive Family Services

6d Photo GYMR Group

The Rapid City System of Care Collaborative developed a two year pilot program to work with families with children who have significant behavioral health needs diverting them from residential placement. The purpose of the program is to evaluate the theory that an integrated system of community providers and resources can address the family’s needs and reduce the need for out-of-home placement.

The program, administered by Youth and Family Services, kicked off in January, 2014 and is currently working with 14 youth and 10 families. Referrals to the program come from the Department of Social Services, Department of Corrections, Regional Behavioral Health Center, Juvenile Diversion Program, struggling foster families, ARISE Center and youth dealing with the Juvenile Justice System. This collaborative is proud to have a cooperating group working to keep children in their homes. The program is also showing cost savings to the state by deferring placement of children in upper level care. Partners in this collaboration include: Behavior Management Systems, Rapid City Area Schools, Youth and Family Services, Regional Behavioral Health, LifeScape, Addiction Recovery Center, Wellspring, Catholic Social Services, Lutheran Social Services, VOA Northern Rockies, Lifeways and Childrens Home Society.

Black Hills Human Services Collaborative


Since 2009 we have led a diverse group of community partners who invested hundreds of hours to develop a community plan to improve awareness about and access to mental health and substance abuse services. Over 40 organizations made up the Black Hills Mental Health/Substance Abuse Systems Change Collaborative. In 2013 the name was changed to the Black Hills Human Services Collaborative to include topics other than mental health and substance abuse. A Steering Committee meets on a regular basis and other task forces meet as needed. A community wide convening is hosted annually to keep key stakeholders informed on relevant activities. For more information on their work, please click on the links below.








Prosperity Initiative
Prosperity Initiative

The John T. Vucurevich Foundation seeks to invest in community programs and partners that align collaborative approaches to move people who aspire to break the cycle of poverty through a continuum of success from cradle to career. Through the use of trained Prosperity Coaches, navigators and mentors we can become a poverty informed community working from a common framework to help people achieve prosperity. A poverty informed community has a deeper understanding of the different life experiences of people living in poverty and, collectively, can become part of the solution to breaking poverty’s barriers.

Being a Poverty Informed Community is the heart of the Prosperity Initiative. We brought Dr. Donna Beegle, President & CEO of Communication Across Barriers, to Rapid City in April, 2014, to launch the Prosperity Initiative. Dr. Beegle, is a person who grew up in generational poverty and now makes her life’s mission helping others understand poverty by providing information that shatters common myths and stereotypes about people who live in poverty. Nearly 2000 people came to hear Dr. Beegle’s story and begin a grassroots conversation about understanding the barriers of breaking the cycle of poverty and working collectively as a community to help people achieve prosperity.


A profound impact was made on a lot of people. 499 people replied to the subsequent survey; 97% saying it increased their understanding of issues surrounding poverty, 78% changed their perception of people living in poverty and 63% said they were interested in being a part of the solution.

Nearly 100 people participated in a Poverty Simulation which showed what it was like to live a day in the life of a person in poverty and the challenges they face. 44 people then attended a luncheon with Dr. Beegle, hosted by JTVF, to learn more about Communication Across Barriers approach to working with people in poverty to determine if Rapid City should consider following this model. Community leaders in attendance included Chief of Police, Social Service providers, Fire Chief, Superintendent of Schools, School Board, United Way, Oglala Lakota College, Chamber of Commerce, SD Dept. of Health, Downtown Association/Destination RC, Career Learning Center, Penn County Health & Human Services, Penn County Sherriff, State Senator, Community Health and RC Council Members.

JTVF and members of the planning committee then reviewed six communities using this model and came to the conclusion that, with appropriate planning, training and staffing, pieces of this model would work for Rapid City. In September, 2014, a Poverty Institute was held for 130 professionals representing almost 50 organizations in the cross sector fields of justice, education, health, social services, faith-based and community organizations. This was followed by a Coaching Institute for 40 individuals to work as on-site experts and champions for the program.

In 2015, Catholic Social Services, in partnership with Love Inc., were chosen to be the backbone organization to lead the initiative. Additional Prosperity Coaches were trained in October 2015 and the navigator/mentor program was implemented in March 2016. The Prosperity Initiative utilizes a collaborative approach that creates a shared responsibility among partners to promote long term, sustainable change.

Rapid City Senior Cooperative Master Plan Collaborative

The Rapid City Council authorized funds to develop the Rapid City Senior Need Assessment and Service Gap Analysis in an effort to better understand the needs of our increasing aging population. In December 2010 the Rapid City Council reviewed a Vision 2012 project involving an adult resource center to be built in conjunction with a field house at the Roosevelt Park recreation complex. The City Council deferred action on the adult resource center and asked the group of people involved in that project to come up with a unified senior plan with recommendations. They asked Sandy Diegel, Executive Director of the John T. Vucurevich Foundation to lead this collaborative project because of our experience in leading other community multi-group planning processes.

The Senior Cooperative Master Plan Committee was formed with a diverse group of stakeholders representing both Minneluzahan and Canyon Lake Senior Centers, the business community, service providers, members of the City Council and members at large. The planning process looked into the following variables to make recommendations for future services, facilities or activities:

  • Health and wellness (physical, mental, safety, independent living)
  • Active lifestyle (volunteerism, recreation, arts, culture, employment, education)
  • Community design (economic impact, land use, mobility, housing)

The variation in needs among the senior population is apparent as you look at Boomers (50-65), younger seniors (65-80), and older seniors 80+. As they age, their definition of recreation, transportation and activities also change. Because of this variation, the Committee felt that cohorts of these different age groups as well as caregivers under age 50 needed to be represented in the study.

The Government Research Bureau at USD was awarded the project. A telephone survey was administered to 500 Rapid Citians in four different age cohorts, three focus groups were conducted along with individual interviews and a gaps analysis to obtain the results in the report.

The Committee recognizes that not all needs identified are the responsibility of the City but the information in this Plan provides data for the City Council as well as private enterprise to make Rapid City a more senior friendly community. The Committee recommended the City adopt the Plan, assign a champion to implement the plan and share results with all stakeholders. The Rapid City Council unanimously accepted the Plan on May 6, 2013 and referred the Plan to the Community Resource Department for review and recommendation. To read the entire report or the summary presentation to the City Council please click on the links below.

Rapid City Senior Need Assessment and Service Gap Analysis FINAL REPORT 11-2012 (pdf)

Senior Needs and Gaps Analysis Presentation May 2013 (ppt)