Historic ‘Iowa Brown and Black Forum’ and Inaugural ‘Iowa Opportunity Forum’ Launch Partnership

by Cara Willis   •  


Historic ‘Iowa Brown and Black Forum’ and Inaugural ‘Iowa Opportunity Forum’ Launch Partnership

Bipartisan and cross-sector events will engage presidential candidates in Iowa on the critical issue of closing the opportunity gap

DES MOINES, IA – Today, Rob Denson, president of Des Moines Area Community College and Wayne Ford, former state representative, announced that the Iowa Opportunity Forum and Iowa Brown and Black Forum will join forces to elevate cross-sector and bipartisan solutions to expand economic mobility and call on the presidential candidates to address this critically important issue. Both Denson and Ford are members of Opportunity Nation’s national Leadership Council, which Denson chairs.

On November 16, Opportunity Nation and Des Moines Area Community College will co-host a cross-sector, bipartisan forum focused on solutions to close the opportunity gap for all Americans, particularly the critical pathways of education and training beyond high school for young adults. The Iowa Brown and Black Forum, the nation’s oldest minority-focused presidential forum, will take place at Drake University in January for Republican and Democratic candidates.

In Iowa, nearly 35,000 young adults ages 16-24 are not in school or working; nationally there are 5.5 million disconnected youth. Though youth disconnection transcends geography, ethnic background and income bracket, low-income youth and youth of color are disproportionately represented.

“Ensuring our young adults, particularly young adults of color, have access to meaningful education and career pathways is one of the most important issues facing Iowa,” said Brown & Black Co-Chair Wayne Ford. “The Iowa Brown and Black Forum and Iowa Opportunity Forum are important moments-in-time for the presidential candidates to address this urgent crisis,” added Co-Chair Mary Campos.

“It is an honor to partner with the Iowa Brown and Black Forum,” said Rob Denson. “Both Forums are timed to significantly advance the national conversation about economic and social mobility prior to the 2016 Iowa Caucuses, and focus on the real solutions we are working on here in Iowa.”

“We know that when young adults do well, communities do well,” said Opportunity Nation Executive Director Monique Rizer. “We all benefit when more young Americans, particularly low- and moderate-income youth and youth of color, are engaged, educated and employed. We are honored to have Wayne involved in the Iowa Opportunity Forum and to help elevate youth voice during the presidential race.”

For more information about the November 16 Iowa Opportunity Forum, visit For more information about the Iowa Brown and Black Forum, visit


About the Iowa Black and Brown Forum:

The Iowa Brown & Black Presidential Forum is an element of Urban Dreams’ non-partisan Project V.O.T.E. (Voting Opportunities Through Education). It is the nation’s only presidential forum in which all candidates have the opportunity to answer essential concerns of Latinos and African-Americans. This non-partisan event has figured prominently in the Iowa caucuses. Founded in 1984, it is recognized as the oldest continuous minority forum for presidential candidates in America and one of the longest-running presidential forums in the nation.


Brianne Pins


About Opportunity Nation:

Opportunity Nation is a bipartisan, national coalition of more than 300 businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions and community leaders working to expand economic opportunity. Opportunity Nation seeks to close the opportunity gap by amplifying the work of its coalition members, advocating policy and private sector actions and releasing the annual Opportunity Index.


Cara Willis

Director of Communications, Opportunity Nation


About Des Moines Area Community College:

Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) is the largest community college in Iowa, offering 168 programs, certificates and transfer degrees. It serves more than 75,000 credit and non-credit students annually at campuses and learning centers throughout Central Iowa. Under the leadership of President Rob Denson, DMACC is committed to cross-sector partnerships designed to engage, educate and employ young adults such as Opportunity Iowa.


Rob Denson

President, Des Moines Area Community College

Cara Willis

Cara Willis is the Director of Communications at Opportunity Nation, leading the campaign’s efforts to make economic opportunity a central part of the national dialogue. Cara also directs all of the campaign’s major events, including the National Opportunity Summit. Read Cara's bio.

« Back to Latest News

Stay Informed