Award presented to Iowa BIG gives everyone incredible opportunities

Post by Landree Person, Senior

This school year at Iowa BIG has recently turned into so much more than just “working on projects” and Partnering with the community.

As a small group of students sat in front of a television screen, about to be broadcast live, we had no idea what was about to happen and how much it would change the course of Iowa BIG. We were ready, gong in hand, about to receive a prize from the XQ America’s Super School Challenge. Originally, Iowa BIG worked rigorously last spring to have all the necessary pieces together to apply for a grant worth ten million dollars. This incredible amount of money would be awarded to the top five most innovative schools in the country.

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Students and staff wait in anticipation for their undisclosed award from XQ Super Schools project.

We were quiet, impatient and finally cued to go live in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. As we are introduced by the announcers conducting the live feed, we are all waiting, waiting waiting, a million thoughts racing through our heads. Only two days previous had we been notified that a special award was in store for everyone at Iowa BIG as we had been a favorite for many at XQ America. Finally, they tell a short story about where we’re from and that we were part of a group of three schools receiving a prize even though we hadn’t been chosen to receive the large sum of money awarded to the original top five. And then, after much anticipation, we receive the surprising news that we have been granted an extremely generous gift of $1,000,000 to be utilized over the next five years! The gong sounds and everyone is in shock, amazement and disbelief. All we could muster up to say was “thank you”, alongside much obvious enthusiasm and excitement.

 

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A number of news outlets, including national publication EdSurge, covered the $1 million award

 

As we are introduced by the announcers conducting the live feed, we are all waiting, waiting, waiting, a million thoughts racing through our heads. Only two days previous had we been notified that a special award was in store for everyone at Iowa BIG as we had been a favorite for many at XQ America. Finally, they tell a short story about where we’re from and that we were part of a group of three schools receiving a prize even though we hadn’t been chosen to receive the large sum of money awarded to the original top five. And then, after much anticipation, we receive the surprising news that we have been granted an extremely generous gift of $1,000,000 to be utilized over the next five years! The gong sounds and everyone is in shock, amazement, and disbelief. All we can muster up to say was “thank you”, alongside much obvious enthusiasm and excitement.

Students at Iowa BIG expressed their first thoughts after the announcement. Hannah Eckley, junior at Prairie high school shares, “I was really happy for Iowa BIG.  I thought that it was a really cool thing that BIG could do a lot with, especially with the reconstruction of the new space downstairs.  I was really astonished honestly.”

It’s overwhelming to hear all of the positive comments coming out of this experience. As soon as initial jitters wore off, the ideas for what to use the money for began swirling through everyone’s heads.

Prairie high school junior, Cassie Moeller, shared her thoughts for the use of the grant money. “We should put some of it towards the actual building itself.  We could have a recording studio or a science lab.  Wow, one million is a lot of money.  I think it would be cool to start a program that could send students on internship type trips, like if someone was studying water quality they could be sent to Haiti.”

Teachers and students alike shared their imaginative ideas for the use of the money. Mentor, Dennis Becker shared, ““I would want to continue to push our model to challenge what high school education can and should be for the young people that are developing in Cedar Rapids and throughout the United States.”

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Iowa BIG’s award was presented by XQ Super Schools’ Russlyn Ali (left) and founder Laurene Powell Jobs.

The results are promising for everyone, present and future, at Iowa BIG. The ideas flowing in will be considered and the money will be put to good use to make Iowa BIG a more successful, innovative and collaborative working experience for everyone involved. Thank you again to XQ America for the generous gift. We are inspired to make a positive change to education and beyond grateful for the opportunities that lie ahead.