Building a Better Cedar Valley

UNI Classic Upward Bound ProgramJohn Deere’s 100th year in the Cedar Valley marks a century of commitment to the community.

In the spirit of that commitment, University of Northern Iowa has worked closely with John Deere to set the Cedar Valley up for success. One of the most powerful collaborations has been the UNI Classic Upward Bound program (UNI CUB), a college prep program annually serving 85 low-income and first generation high schoolers from the Waterloo Community Schools District.

Mickye Johnson, director of UNI CUB, says John Deere’s support has been instrumental in leveling the playing field for disadvantaged students.

“When UNI and corporate interests meet, the collaboration can be a masterpiece. It’s a win-win for all involved,” he said.

Classic Upward Bound, a US Department of Education program, instills in students' academic and life skills needed to succeed in high school and college. This is done through academic year and summer programs, and a program for high school graduates to bridge the gap between high school and the true college experience.

UNI CUB staff say students become more aware of their self-worth, uniqueness, culture and creativity.

“Classic Upward Bound challenges me to be more successful, to learn from others and to be myself,” said West High sophomore Juliana Juju in a speech at the CUB awards ceremony in July. “I’m thankful for the educational opportunities I receive through Classic Upward Bound.”

Since 2010, John Deere has offered financial resources and employee volunteers to UNI CUB’s Summer Program – dozens of employees serve as guest speakers, course instructors, coaches and mentors. UNI’s CUB program regularly boasts 100 percent high school graduation and college acceptance rates, and consistently ranks in the top 10 percent of all Upward Bound programs nationwide.

Jeff Lappe ’09, product financial analyst at John Deere, has taught courses as part of UNI CUB’s Summer Program for six years, and is a member a recent planning team that oversaw the formation of a new mentorship program for CUB scholars. Twenty-three John Deere employees mentored 19 freshmen in the program’s first year.

“The structure and additional resources that the Upward Bound program provides to its students gives them a giant boost in the right direction,” Lappe said. “The program helps to open doors for the students that may have otherwise been closed.”

 “Without the partnership with John Deere, it would be almost impossible to provide these students with the skills they need to survive academically,” Johnson said.