June 26, 2017

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation recently announced a two-year, $200,000 commitment to the Belin-Blank Center. The center is part of the University of Iowa College of Education.

The center will use the grant to expand its Stem Excellence and Leadership (SEAL) program, which offers rigorous math and science enrichment classes before and after school, to students in grades 8 and 9 in 10 rural Iowa school districts. The program will serve over 600 students each year.

The grant stems from the Cooke Foundation’s Rural Talent Initiative grants, which are designed to help expand opportunities for rigorous summer and academic year learning and enrichment for students in rural regions, where access to educational opportunities is limited. The foundation, this year, has awarded $855,000 to academic enrichment programs serving low-income rural students in elementary and secondary schools in North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Mississippi, and Virginia.

"To remain competitive as a state in critical STEM fields, we must ensure that talented students, regardless of their geographic location and family income, have access to high-quality STEM education opportunities," says Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds.

"To remain competitive as a state in critical STEM fields, we must ensure that talented students, regardless of their geographic location and family income, have access to high-quality STEM education opportunities," says Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds. “That is the mission of the Governor’s STEM Advisory Council, so I appreciate the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation's generous support for the Belin-Blank International Center, which will help to bridge the opportunity gap by providing students from rural communities rigorous math and science enrichment classes to prepare them for their dreams for the future."

SEAL is about opening doors to advanced learning and enhanced aspirations,” says Susan Assouline, director of the Belin-Blank Center. “By opening the door to middle school students and their teachers, we offer service that will impact them in high school and beyond.”

Lori Ihrig, supervisor for curriculum and instruction at the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, serves as project director for all STEM Excellence and Leadership programming.

“SEAL affords opportunities to support rural communities in identifying high-performing students,” says Ihrig. “Through this funding, we are working with local educators to create programs that are designed to effectively meet these students' unique learning needs.”

School districts across Iowa, including Mount Pleasant, Atlantic, and Fort Dodge, will directly benefit from this grant via SEAL programming.

"While the obstacles to education facing low-income children in poor urban communities are widely recognized, the obstacles that face rural areas get far less attention," says Harold Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. "Gaps in access to educational opportunities for rural students are not only profoundly unfair, they rob our nation of the talent we need to compete."