Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Awards $500,000 Grant to Launch STEM Excellence and Literacy Program

LANSDOWNE, VA – Over the next three years, 330 high-ability, low-income middle school students living in rural, under-resourced school districts in Iowa will participate in a rigorous after school math and science enrichment program, thanks to a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The Foundation, the largest scholarship foundation in the country, awards the University of Iowa’s Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education (B-BC) its $500,000 biennial Talent Development Award to revive and expand its STEM Excellence and Literacy (SEAL) program.

By expanding middle school mathematics and science curricula in Iowa’s small, rural schools and enhancing middle school teachers’ abilities to raise the academic rigor in their classrooms to meet the needs of advanced learners, SEAL will help close the excellence achievement gap between rural and low-income students and their more affluent, urban counterparts.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to reach their full potential and that starts with a strong education,” said Senator Tom Harkin, (D-IA), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. “This award will make a tremendous difference in leveling the playing field for low-income Iowa students, especially those in rural school districts. A child’s zip code should never limit their educational opportunities and this award will help ensure that students have the foundation needed to pursue a college education and a bright future. I congratulate the University of Iowa on this award, and I commend the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation on their recognition of Iowa’s leadership in education.”

“With this award, we are changing the life trajectories of high-achieving but low-income students early enough in their educations to make a real difference,” said Harold O. Levy, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “By enabling these gifted students to further their math and science educations in schools that otherwise lack the resources to do so, we will not only provide a model for how to tackle achievement disparities in American education but also ultimately open the doors for them to selective colleges that otherwise might have remained closed.”

This targeted program is a sustainable and replicable means to narrow the excellence gap that exists in rural and low-income school districts. It will improve student outcomes in middle school STEM courses, prepare these students for success, and boost their enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP) math and science courses in high school, particularly AP courses offered through the University of Iowa’s free Online Advanced Placement Academy.

Despite succeeding in increasing enrollment and improving achievement in AP courses, a previous B-BC program in Iowa was suspended in 2009 when federal funding was eliminated. Now, thanks to the Foundation’s award, the B-BC will once again be able to open pathways to academic achievement for promising, low-income middle school students by revitalizing STEM enrichment programs with a proven history of accomplishment.

For more information on the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education, download this fact sheet.


The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, the largest scholarship foundation in the country, is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Because we believe that high-potential, low-income students will excel educationally when given the resources to develop their talents, the Foundation supports exceptional students from elementary school to graduate school through scholarships, grants, direct service, and knowledge creation and dissemination. Founded in 2000 by the estate of Jack Kent Cooke, the Foundation has awarded $125 million in scholarships to 1,800 students, and $79 million in grants to organizations that support our mission. www.jkcf.org