Aegon Transamerica Foundation awards $50,000 to support first-generation students in Cedar Rapids through UNI Center for Urban Education

Aegon Transamerica Foundation awards $50,000 to support first-generation students in Cedar Rapids through UNI Center for Urban Education

Aegon Transamerica Foundation-UNI TRIO Scholarship with Aegon Transamerica staff members

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – A two-year grant provided by Aegon Transamerica Foundation is helping to increase access to higher education for low-income and first-generation college bound students in the Cedar Rapids School District.

The grant builds capacity for the Educational Talent Search (ETS), a federally funded program coordinated by the University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Urban Education (UNI-CUE), and its partnership with six schools in the district. ETS provides academic, financial and other support services to encourage academic success, help students graduate and ultimately enable them to pursue a postsecondary education. The partnership between ETS and the Cedar Rapids Schools began in 2021 and will serve 500 students by 2026.

Denita Gadson, director of ETS Cedar Rapids, said the foundation’s contribution will directly impact students through scholarships, enhanced tutoring, support for cultural activities, and college readiness workshops for students and their families.

“Thanks to the Aegon Transamerica Foundation’s contribution, ETS Cedar Rapids has experienced a significant boost in capacity,” said Gadson. “The foundation’s support has empowered us to make a substantial impact by broadening opportunities and options for first-generation students and those from economically challenged backgrounds who may have never envisioned a path beyond high school.”

ETS Cedar Rapids joins a cadre of TRIO programs that have been housed at UNI-CUE for nearly four decades. Also, UNI-CUE hosts the Educational Opportunity Center, Educational Talent Search-Waterloo, Upward Bound, and Upward Bound Math & Science. These programs support students and community members in pursuing and continuing their educational goals and preparing for careers. Federal funding mandates that two-thirds of ETS participants must meet income requirements and be first-generation college-bound students (meaning neither parent has received a bachelor's degree).  

"Our support for ETS Cedar Rapids underscores the Aegon Transamerica Foundation’s commitment to fostering stronger, more resilient communities where Transamerica employees live and work," said Laura Wirth, head of corporate development at Transamerica and Aegon Transamerica Foundation board member. "Empowering young people in our community to reach their highest aspirations paves the way for a brighter future for all. We are honored that our contribution is helping underrepresented students in Cedar Rapids achieve academic success and fulfill their potential.”

The inaugural recipients of the Aegon Transamerica Foundation-UNI TRIO Scholarship were announced in May. Amari Rogel of Washington High School and Mali Kituza of Jefferson High School each received $2,500 awards.

Paul Hayes, K-12 School Counseling Lead for the Cedar Rapids Schools, said Educational Talent Search aligns with the district’s strategic goals around equity, access and success, and supports its efforts to increase graduation rates and improve college and career readiness.

“The University of Northern Iowa’s ETS program has been a game-changer for many students in Cedar Rapids,” Hayes said. “The commitment to inclusivity and support for all students has resulted in leveling the playing field so our underrepresented students who participate are given the opportunity to excel academically.”

Educational Talent Search Cedar Rapids

● Franklin Middle School
● McKinley STEAM Academy
● Roosevelt Creative Corridor Business Academy
● Wilson Middle School
● Jefferson High School
● Washington High School

About the Aegon Transamerica Foundation

For more than 30 years, the Aegon Transamerica Foundation has proudly supported nonprofit organizations that help build stronger, more resilient communities in the places where Transamerica employees live and work. The Foundation’s charitable contributions are directed at programs that either expand opportunities and capabilities for everyone or equip people with the skills they need to achieve financial security. By investing in initiatives that empower individuals and families, the Foundation is committed to making an enduring positive impact where it matters most—in the lives of those seeking to build brighter futures. Grantmaking decisions by this independent nonprofit are primarily employee-driven through local advisory committees, a robust matching gift program, and other giving campaigns.

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