By Andy Goodell
She built the foundation for her career here.
Cynthia Knight, of Union, Iowa, earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary special education from the University of Iowa College of Education in 1986 and her PhD in Education Administration in 2004 through Capella University.
Today, she’s the founder and director of Iowa NET High Academy and the Interventionist at Dowling Catholic High School, Des Moines, Iowa. Knight was motivated to create the academy by seeing increasing dropout rates and her work with the Iowa Department of Education, where she worked in the area of alternative education. She created Iowa NET High Academy, Inc. so Iowa’s schools could offer students another way to earn their high school diploma.
Iowa NET High Academy, Inc. partners with local Iowa school districts, who pay the state funded per pupil cost for these services. Iowa NET High Academy, Inc. is a for profit company. Knight has also created NET High Academy, which is a non-profit organization to provide similar services to students who are not from a current partnering school district with Iowa NET High Academy, Inc. The mission of NET High Academy is to provide funds through monetary contributions to help these young people earn their diploma.
Her educational experiences at the University of Iowa taught her how to thoroughly assess students’ educational needs and how to plan an educational path that would remediate their weaknesses.
“Without this training and knowledge, I would not be able to hone in on the unique needs each student brings to our program,” says Knight. “My education at the University of Iowa College of Education was the strong foundation I needed to be where I am today.”
Iowa NET High Academy was created in 2011 to help those who have dropped out or are in danger of dropping out of high school. The academy currently partners with eight Iowa school districts and has the capacity to expand to additional Iowa school districts.
“I create hope for students who have none,” says Knight.
Knight's current leadership success can be traced back to her education at the UI College of Education. She says faculty and classes prepared her to be able to assess, create programs, and monitor students’ success.
Knight demonstrates her leadership to a staff of 17 teachers every day. These are teachers she trusts to create individual learning paths for the students they serve.
“I create professional development learning around the needs they express to me,” says Knight.
Iowa NET High Academy has graduated 50 students, all of whom are either enrolled in college or gainfully employed and “have a brighter future because their school districts invested in their future,” says Knight. “My goal is to reach more students by partnering with school districts nationwide.
In every classroom I have been in, both general education and special education and now my own program, I have changed lives. This is the most satisfying work of my life.”