UNI-CUE honored with Heritage Legacy Award for outstanding organization

The University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Urban Education (UNI-CUE) was honored with a Heritage Legacy Award for outstanding organization Friday to recognize its commitment and impact to the African-American community.

The UNI Center for Urban Education’s mission is to provide a positive environment for lifetime learning in which underserved populations may pursue and continue their educational goals and prepare for careers. Annually, they serve over 17,000 participants via services such as tutoring, ACT Prep and assistance for adults seeking post-secondary education. Historically, they have housed such powerhouse programs as Upward Bound, Educational Talent Search and the Educational Opportunity Center.  

“It’s an honor to receive this award,” said Robert Smith, the center’s executive director. “We live by this statement at UNI-CUE: ‘Earned, not given.’”

Recently, the center started the Panther Promise Program (3P) to introduce more minority students to higher education. 3P provides preventative measures, financial and personal advising, access to special workshops related to academics and financial literacy, and advising on student goals. It offers personalized attention to students as they transition from high school into a university.

Joy Briscoe, whose children utilized the center’s services while attending West High School in Waterloo, nominated UNI-CUE for the award.

“(The center) has long been a leader in our community, striving to provide equitable opportunities in education for all,” Briscoe said. “It wasn’t until I became a parent, watching my own children participate in their services, that the impact they have made in the Cedar Valley and beyond truly registered with me. Their assistance with my daughter, preparing her for college and her ACTs, was priceless. As a result, she received a full scholarship to New York University, graduated with the second-highest GPA in her class and is now in her junior year.”

The Heritage Legacy Awards are given out by I'll Make Me a World in Iowa, a diverse collection of Iowans who highlight African-American arts, culture and contributions through education, awareness and preservation. The Heritage Legacy Award recognizes Iowans whose creative and civic activities in African-American life and culture in Iowa have contributed to making the world and the state a better place for all.