Cooke Foundation Awards Nearly $700,000 in Grants to Innovative Programs Closing Excellence Gaps

Students working as a group at BEAM LA, a Cooke Foundation grantee program.

Lansdowne, VA — The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced today the award of $691,000 in Academic Enrichment Grants to five programs focused on the design and implementation of initiatives that play a critical role in closing excellence gaps. These Academic Enrichment Grants extend the Foundation’s commitment to preparing high-achieving students with financial need to succeed at the nation’s top colleges and universities.

“We know that enrichment and exploration can propel students on their academic journey, but many exceptional students miss out on these opportunities due to financial need,” said Seppy Basili, the Foundation’s executive director. “This year’s grantees offer a strong framework of programming to close excellence gaps and support students in advancing their education and pursuing their dreams.”

Foundation research demonstrates that high-achieving high school students with financial need are less likely than their higher-income peers to continue performing in the top academic quartile. These excellence gaps persist and, in many cases, widen as students continue through their K-12 years. By supporting academic enrichment opportunities for students in middle and high school, the Foundation targets these crucial years for student engagement.

This year’s Academic Enrichment Grants provide continued investments in the following five organizations:

Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM) – $200,000
Through summer programming and extracurricular enrichment, BEAM is helping to develop the next generation of mathematicians and scientists in New York and Los Angeles. Foundation funding will support BEAM 6, a five-week summer day camp for students completing 6th grade, that focuses on developing students’ mathematical problem-solving skills, growing their independent study skills, and building stamina and love for mathematical problem solving. As a community of young mathematicians, students are encouraged to continue their mathematical pursuits after the summer by completing math challenges and content at home and are then invited to apply to continue in BEAM’s programs from 8th grade to college.

Duke University Talent Identification Program – Project Launch – $150,000
Project Launch provides rigorous educational opportunities and advising to high-ability students with financial need and evaluates which interventions are impactful in changing students’ academic trajectory, lead to increased opportunity for higher education and career success, and are cost-effective. The program also provides support to student families including email nudges, targeted communication, dedicated follow-up to empower and equip them to support the social-emotional development of their high-ability children. Continued Foundation funding for Project Launch will support current programing for students in grades 4 through 6, as well as the addition of a new cohort of students.

Northwestern University Center for Talent Development – Online Curriculum Consortium for Accelerating Middle School (Project OCCAMS) – $91,000
Project OCCAMS combines the expertise of the Center for Talent Development (CTD) at Northwestern University; the Center for Gifted Education (CFGE) at the College of William & Mary; and Columbus City Schools (Columbus, Ohio) to bring an innovative solution to closing excellence gaps in public school districts and to help propel students on a track to take advanced curriculum. Funding from the Foundation will be used to support the development and delivery of an accelerated online English Language Arts curriculum, program revisions, and professional development for participating teachers.

Purdue University Gifted Education Research & Resource Institute (GERI), Project HOPE+ – $150,000
Project HOPE+ supports talent development among Native American students in grades 5 through 12 with scholarships to attend two-week GERI residential camps for gifted, creative, and talented youth. Foundation funding supports direct program scholarships for approximately 90 students over two years to attend Purdue’s rigorous summer enrichment camps, which help develop students’ strengths, interests, and aspirations by exposing them to post-secondary opportunities and high-quality academic programs not available in their schooling experience.

Society for Science and the Public Advocate Grant Program – $100,000
Society for Science and the Public’s Advocate Grant Program works to increase the pipeline of high-achieving students with financial need who compete in local, state-wide, and national science research competitions with the help of 50 advocates — middle and high school teachers, college professors and paraprofessionals from 28 states, Washington, DC and Puerto Rico. Foundation funding will support the advocates, who work with 3-5 students to help them transition from conducting research to entering their work in competitions. Participating in middle and high school science research is a key milestone of STEM pathways; however, low-income students often lack the guidance needed to include a successful entry in the complex submission process.

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The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Since 2000, the Foundation has awarded $190 million in scholarships to nearly 2,500 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services. The Foundation has also provided over $100 million in grants to organizations that serve such students.

Media Contact: Amber Styles, 571-799-8063,


Photo header: Students working as a group at BEAM LA, a Cooke Foundation grantee program.