Innovation Increases Student Success

June 7, 2019

For a school district like the Waterloo Community Schools, innovation is an important part of setting students up to succeed not only in the classroom but for life after high school. 


With over 10,000 students, the district is one of the largest in the state. It is also unique in the amount of diversity in its student population, boasting a minority rate of approximately 45 percent. It also has a free and reduced lunch rate of between 65 and 70 percent. 


“I think people don’t realize the challenges that exist in Waterloo, but also, because of those challenges, there are unique opportunities that exist,” said Emily Hanson, Executive Director of the Waterloo Schools Foundation. 


To turn challenges into opportunities takes creative approaches that financially are often above and beyond the funding the district receives from the government. That’s the role of the Waterloo Schools Foundation, to work with community partners to ensure funds are available for student success. 


Waterloo is a leader in the state in innovative programs, including the Career and Technical Education (CTE) program which received a $10,000 grant from CFNEIA. The program impacts students in all four middle schools and gives hands-on opportunities to try out career paths.


“I think the Career and Technical Education, in particular, is really important for the Cedar Valley because it directly connects to our economic development,” said Emily. “Career and Technical Education is a way to fulfill the needs that we have in our community, and it’s also a way to really make sure we’re giving students the tools they need to graduate and to be successful.”


Since 1996, Waterloo Community Schools and the Waterloo Schools Foundation have received nearly $500,000 in CFNEIA grants to support student success.  


"If we hadn't received the grant from the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa, we wouldn’t have been able to have this project in the schools. It was something on the district’s radar, but because state tax funding is limited, they wouldn't have been able to do it for at least five to 10 years, said Emily. Having the support from CFNEIA really fast tracked the project so it could be implemented in our schools and impact kids today."


“The Waterloo Schools Foundation is just incredibly thankful and grateful for the Community Foundation support and also all of their donors, who time and time again give back to the community and understand the importance of public education. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without you.”

Emily Hanson