Rural Education & Student Supports

Students and families from James Madison University's Valley Scholars Program celebrate graduation.

September 27, 2019 – Here’s what we’re reading this week about the issues affecting high-achieving students. High pressures in K-12 are linked to health issues and in college, a professor’s attitude can influence a student’s trajectory. Also, new research highlights effective practices to support academically-promising students in rural areas.

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High-achieving high school seniors can now apply for the Cooke College Scholarship Program, and the Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is accepting applications from community college students preparing to transfer to a four-year institution. Both programs provide up to $40,000 per year, as well as comprehensive educational advising and access to the thriving Cooke Scholar community.


Elementary & Secondary Education:

  • How can rural education programs effectively equip talented K-12 students to pursue and complete postsecondary education? Our latest research report, “Small Town, Big Talent” synthesizes insights from six of the Foundation’s nonprofit grantees to provide recommendations in three key areas: identifying promising rural students; providing academic services to these students; and meeting their social and emotional needs.
  • “Emerging research is finding that students in ‘high-achieving schools’ — public and private schools with high standardized test scores, varied extracurricular and academic offerings, and graduates who head off to top colleges — are experiencing higher rates of behavioral and mental health problems compared with national norms,” reports The Washington Post. “Facing record-low acceptance rates at top colleges, many students feel tremendous pressure to achieve and résumé-build in all aspects of their young lives.”
  • Participation in the national School Lunch Program has been declining in recent years, says the Education Commission on the States, but there are policy levers that states have experimented with to increase participation rates. This week, some advocates have expressed concern about a federal proposal that would eliminate access to free school meals for approximately 500,000 students.


Higher Education:

  • The percentage of rural middle America residents between the 25 and 44 who have attended some college is 11 percentage points lower than the national figure, but “the figures vary greatly by community type.” The American Communities Project at The George Washington University explains that “reductionist views of rural America miss the larger point: that single solutions to challenging social problems are likely to be ineffective in rural America.”
  • Goldie Blumenstyk outlines six considerations for colleges to support career development opportunities for students with financial need in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
  • “I’m on your side” is the message David Laude conveys to all of his chemistry students at The University of Texas at Austin. Laude speaks to Open Campus about how professors can create a sense of support and belonging that encourages students with financial need to persist and graduate.


Cooke Foundation Highlights:

  • Cooke Scholar Rhiana Gunn-Wright is recognized on this year’s The Root 100, the publication’s annual list of the most influential African Americans ages 25 to 45. Rhiana is “a leading thinker, doer and change-maker in policies that affect our climate and communities.”
  • Cooke Scholar Ashley Trube makes Minne Inno’s Inno Under 25 list of innovators and entrepreneurs in Minnesota. Ashley founded SpeakThrough, a nonprofit that makes mentorship connections between high achieving, low-income high schoolers and college students from low-income backgrounds.
  • Stetson University shares the stories of the institution’s two 2019 Cooke Transfer Scholars. Hayley Allison Furman is focused on “food policy, more specifically policies surrounding food’s relation to the environment.” Joseph Morel says, “I want to start by building communities as a whole, and my ultimate goal is to be the 50th president of the U.S.”
  • A video from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival spotlights the work of high school and college students in the iCAN Technical Theater Internship Program, which was supported by a 2019 Good Neighbor Grant. Interns collaborated with the festival to launch a new training program and design, build, and install sculptures for the Smithsonian Gardens’ “HABITAT” exhibit. Their work is on display until December 2020.


Social Media Spotlight:


Photo header: Students and families from James Madison University’s Valley Scholars Program celebrate graduation. The Foundation recently announced continued support for the Valley Scholars Program, which is also one of the organizations that was interviewed for the “Small Town, Big Talent” report.