Northern Virginia’s Cooke Foundation Awards Over a Half-Million Dollars for Local Education Opportunities

High school students participate in the Early Identification Program (EIP) at Fairfax campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University

Funding will allow more than 1,400 students to participate in academic enrichment programs, pursue college access initiatives, and obtain direct scholarships.

LANSDOWNE, VA – Today the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced $565,500 in new grant funding to educational organizations dedicated to closing excellence gaps and supporting college access for high-achieving students with financial need in the Northern Virginia region. The grants will enable over 1,400 students to access programs focused on providing high-quality academic experiences and college success initiatives.

“We’re proud to support the meaningful work of these organizations which are dedicated to closing excellence gaps,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. “These grants build on our nearly two decades of working alongside organizations focused on helping talented students without financial resources pursue postsecondary education.”

Foundation research demonstrates that high-achieving 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. Additionally, Foundation research on postsecondary performance found that community college students who transfer to selective institutions are more likely to graduate than their peers who started as freshman at those same institutions.

“The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarships represent critical investments in the lives of our students,” says Michelle Marks, vice president for Academic Innovation and New Ventures at George Mason University. “At a time when our economy needs more educated workers, the ADVANCE program offers real solutions by helping more students complete their bachelor’s degrees with extra coaching and support. These scholarships will help level the playing field for students from low income backgrounds by making college affordable. We’re grateful that the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is helping to ensure that these students will be able to cross the finish line and achieve their goals.”

This year’s grantees include:

George Mason University ADVANCE — Awarded $150,000 to support ADVANCE, a partnership between Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and Mason designed to streamline the transfer process for community college students interested in pursuing a bachelor’s degree. The program offers an innovative approach to transfer that directly addresses the transitional barriers that have been shown to impact student enrollment, persistence, retention, and completion. ADVANCE aims to increase the number of students who start at NOVA and graduate with a four-year degree from Mason by decreasing costs and improving advising and support services for transfer students. The Foundation’s funding will support scholarships for high-achieving students who have financial need to help ease the higher tuition cost of a four-year institution.

Northern Virginia Community College Foundation — Awarded $150,000 for the Pathway to the Baccalaureate Program, which provides college access programming for Northern Virginia students with strong academic potential who also have substantial navigational and financial barriers to postsecondary completion. Through a coordinated network of services, Pathway offers high-touch wraparound services beginning in the senior year of high school through associate’s degree completion at NOVA, as well as transfer admission guidance to students pursuing bachelor’s degrees at four-year institutions. The Foundation’s funding will support guidance staff time and scholarships for high-achieving students who have financial need.

George Mason University Early Identification Program (EIP) — Awarded $100,000 to support EIP, Mason’s college access program which provides educational resources to high-potential middle and high school students in grades 8-12 who have financial need. EIP works in partnership with seven local public school systems (Alexandria City, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Falls Church City, Manassas City, Manassas Park City, and Prince William County). With Foundation funding, EIP will add new program enhancements to increase student exposure to and preparation for Mason’s Honors College and provide scholarships to help offset the cost of higher education.

Loudoun County Public Schools — Awarded $150,000 to support Level Up, created in 2018 to provide a seamless enrichment pathway for academically-talented students with financial need as they transition to middle school. Level Up continues the enrichment provided by the PROPEL program in LCPS elementary schools. The PROPEL programs have received a total of $485,000 in seed funding and continued support from the Foundation. Students in PROPEL and Level Up programs engage in intensive, long-term investigations focused on STEM content in order to develop them as critical thinkers and communicators, and prepare them to enroll in advanced coursework in high school. The Foundation’s funding will support program expansion into two additional middle schools.

Community Foundation for Loudoun and Northern Fauquier Counties — Awarded a total of $10,500 to support two events: Social Impact Institute and Philanthropy Summit 2019. The focus of the October Philanthropy Summit 2019 is equity, including educational equity and the social determinants of health, in the Loudoun community. The Summit will engage regional philanthropy stakeholders, government and nonprofit leaders, and community members.

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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 over $200 million in scholarships to over 2,600 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive educational advising and other support services. The Foundation has also provided $110 million in grants to organizations that serve such students.

Media Contact: Amber Styles, 571-442-0772,

Photo header: High school students participate in the Early Identification Program (EIP) at Fairfax campus. Photo by Alexis Glenn/Creative Services/George Mason University.