Cooke Foundation Tackles Excellence Gap with $800,000 Award to Duke TIP

Lansdowne, VA — The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation today announced an $800,000 Talent Development Award to the Duke Talent Identification Program (Duke TIP) which has helped to identify and support more than 2.9 million academically talented students in grades 4 through 12 since its inception in 1980. The Talent Development Award recognizes exemplary practices in the elementary and middle school grades that build pathways to opportunity for high-potential students with financial need. The award is intended to support the organization’s work in bringing successful strategies to scale and amplifying conversations around one approach of cultivating student potential.

According to Cooke Foundation research, the troubling Excellence Gap means that high-ability students with financial need often fail to achieve advanced levels of academic performance or attend the nation’s top colleges and universities. Despite scoring in the top quartile academically, just one in four students (23 percent) from the bottom economic quartile take the SAT or ACT exam. Nearly one fourth of all high-performing students with financial need never even apply to college.

Duke TIP will leverage the Talent Development Award to scale its Project Launch program which provides high-achieving 5th and 6th grade students with access to enrichment activities and academic resources, as well as hands-on support for parents and families to boost participation rates and deepen engagement in high impact programs. The Foundation provided over $250,000 in pilot funding to Project Launch in 2014 and this year’s award brings the Foundation’s total funding for this program to over $2 million.

“Postponing interventions until senior year is not an effective option for closing the Excellence Gap,” said Seppy Basili, the Foundation’s executive director. “Early identification and intervention are critical to talent development for students with financial need. Duke TIP’s Project Launch plays a powerful role in cultivating and fostering student potential among thousands of high-achieving students who might otherwise be overlooked for advanced opportunities as they progress through middle and high school.”

“This award will enable us to build upon the success of Project Launch to activate young learners and their families at a critical inflection point in their academic journey,” said Shawna Young, executive director of Duke TIP. “We hope that the Cooke Foundation’s leadership reflects growing philanthropic momentum in support of our efforts to scale the pipeline of talented students.”

Past recipients of the Talent Development Award include the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development at the University of Connecticut; The University of Iowa Foundation, on behalf of The University of Iowa Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education; and Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (BEAM).


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,