Kids on Course began as a collaborative effort between the Cedar Rapids Community School District, United Way of East Central Iowa and the Zach Johnson Foundation. Based at select elementary, middle and high schools in Cedar Rapids, the program provides year-long support and offers students who aren’t meeting grade level benchmarks with a free summer learning opportunity.
In 2015, the Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation fund holders, Brent and Dawn Cobb, developed an interest in the summer learning portion of that program, and wanted to see if the “summer university” could improve students’ academic success at schools that were not able to fully implement the Kids on Course curriculum.
The Cobb’s passion for education prompted them to begin discussions with Kids on Course, the Cedar Rapids Community School District and, this time, the Community Foundation, to explore what they could do to test the replicability of the Kids on Course summer program model. Through the Community Foundation’s Community Investment Fund – and other Community Foundation donor-advised fund holders, Loren and Patti Coppock – the pilot project was implemented for the Summer of 2015. Seventy-six percent of those students who attended the Kids on Course University reversed, reduced or eliminated their summer slide, and 46 percent grew their skills.
These results were impressive enough to support a federal grant request to help fund the expansion of Kids on Course to all 15 of the schools in Cedar Rapids that receive federal funding under Title I. In April 2016, the school district was awarded a three-year matching grant of $675,000 from the U.S. Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers initiative.
The Community Foundation also stepped in after the award of this grant to help cover a $105,000 shortfall in commitments for philanthropic funding to match this grant. The Community Foundation hosted a Philanthropy Roundtable, which provided donors who had expressed a philanthropic interest in children and education the opportunity to learn more about the importance of reading proficiency and the Kids on Course Summer University program expansion effort in the community. The Community Foundation encouraged donors to consider supporting a Kids on Course University school site for the upcoming summer. Within days of the Roundtable event, all 15 schools received funding commitments from private donors.
This project is an example of how donor passions, interests and ideas and Community Foundation resources can drive charitable giving in innovative ways.
To learn about how the Kids on Course Summer University pilot expansion occurred, click here.