September 2021 Newsletter

Since 2000, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation has awarded $230 million in scholarships to more than 2,930 high-achieving students with financial need. We are dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students, and for more than two decades our scholarship programs have served as the backbone of this mission. But we have also worked to find other ways to serve students. Though perhaps lesser-known than our scholarship work, the Foundation has awarded $119.5 million in grants to organizations working to help a greater number of advanced learners thrive at all levels of education. 

Since 2012, our Good Neighbor Grant program has identified and strengthened our ties with youth-serving nonprofit organizations in the Northern Virginia, metropolitan Washington, DC, and Maryland region that are helping students with financial need reach their full potential through education. One such organization is Loudoun Education Foundation which works to bring meaningful programs and events to teachers and students in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS).  LCPS’ PROPEL and Level Up pathway programs are designed for advanced learners in 4th through 8th grade at Title I or Title I eligible schools. The PROPEL program for elementary school students was originally seed-funded, in part, by a Good Neighbor Grant from the Foundation in 2017. The pathway programs are designed to engage students in activities that challenge them and build the skills they need as they progress to higher-level courses. We are proud to be a continuing supporter of PROPEL, Level Up, and the soon-to-launch high school program. 

Through the Good Neighbor Grant program we have awarded 103 grants totaling over $2.5 million to 70 local organizations. Our 2022 Good Neighbor Grant application is now open, and we encourage eligible organizations from the region to apply

Our grant programs highlight the focus we place on providing financial support at both a regional and national level. We aim to help organizations not only here in the DMV area, but also local organizations across the country. We support organizations across a range of cities, suburbs, and rural areas — from Baltimore to Chicago to Los Angeles to rural Mississippi to Appalachia to Alaska — that are empowering high-performing students from financially under-resourced communities. Houston’s EMERGE, for example, works to ensure such students can attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities across the country. Their goal is a critical one when nationally just about 10% of low-income students graduate from college. An organization serving Indigenous people of North America and the Pacific Islands, Albuquerque-based AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society) aims to substantially increase Indigenous representation in STEM fields of study and work. 

We are also working to advance the Foundation’s commitment to antiracism through our approach to grantmaking. We are requesting organizational demographic information (at the board, executive director, and staff levels) from applicants and Grantees to help combat the role of racism and implicit and structural biases in our Grantee selection and improve equity. 

In 2021, we invested over $4 million at four public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) — Alabama A&M University, Norfolk State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Florida A&M University. These HBCUs have had an outsized impact, state-wide and nationally, on the numbers of Black students pursuing and persisting in STEM at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 

The grants will be used to fund scholarship programs, as well as to support the institutions’ historically underfunded endowments. HBCUs confer a high percentage of bachelor’s degrees earned by Black students in STEM, and they likewise have an outsized impact on STEM advanced degree attainment. They accomplish this while serving a much higher percentage of students with financial need compared to predominantly white institutions, and with endowments that have lagged behind many other colleges and universities. There are 100 post-secondary institutions with endowments of more than $1 billion; none are HBCUs. 

We have awarded over $7.4 million in grants so far this year. We continue to look for even more ways to extend our impact in order to better serve high-achieving students with need. 

Warm regards,

Seppy Basili

P.S. The Cooke College Scholarship application is open! The deadline is November 18. The Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship application launches on October 1 and will close on January 10, 2022.


Cooke Foundation Highlights:

Cooke Scholar Amir Noormohammad was recently featured on PBS’ Future of Work series, which explores changes in the workplace and the long-term impact on workers, employers, educators, and communities. Amir, who is working toward being the first in his family to earn a bachelor’s degree, began his college journey at Truman Middle College, where he was able to earn college credit while completing his high school diploma. With a strong interest in engineering, Amir enrolled in Truman College’s Wright College Engineering Pathways Program, which offers guaranteed admission to well-respected four-year universities. Through one of those partnerships, he’s been accepted into the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he looks forward to transferring this fall with the support of the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship

Cooke Alumnus Omar Azizi partners with Oasis Rescue to help persecuted women escape his home country of Afghanistan, fueled by his own experiences growing up as an Afghan refugee.


News for High Achieving Students:

The Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews revisits the ongoing debate over the evidence for gifted programs. He writes about a new study from researchers at Vanderbilt and University of Florida, which examined the outcomes of 18,170 students who began kindergarten in 2010. The researchers found little evidence that gifted programs yielded noticeably better results, on average.  Mathews suggests that given the waning political support for expanding gifted programs, researchers and educators should perhaps instead take a closer look at expanding access to accelerated coursework like AP and IB to families who want it.    

Roby Chatterji, senior policy analyst for K-12 education at the Center for American Progress, discusses in The 74  ways in which to close the equity gap in access to advanced HS courses. These methods include creating a national database on student participation and performance in advanced coursework, removing entry barriers like bias or subjective gatekeeping, as well as regular communication and lesson planning among elementary, middle and high school educators to ensure students are not only enrolled in advanced courses, but are prepared to handle the work. 


What We’re Reading

Education Week –  12 Ways to Support Afghan Refugee Students (Opinion)

The Washington Post – As college campuses reopen, many faculty worry about covid

The Wall Street Journal – Wait-Listed at Colleges of Your Dreams? Some Offer Semester Abroad as Way In

Chicago Chalkbeat –  ‘It’s finally here’: Are colleges prepared to receive a first-year cohort shaped by COVID-19