ISU 4U Promise makes college a reality for Des Moines students


Downtown Des Moines is just a 30-minute drive from Ames, and offers a variety of activities and attractions, including the Brenton Skating Plaza, the Botanical Garden, the Pappajohn Sculpture Park and the Social Club. 

Mary Pautsch

Students in Des Moines Public Schools are creating brighter futures for themselves with the help of Iowa State’s School of Education.

The ISU 4U Promise was created in 2013 by Iowa State President Steven Leath to urge students to pursue higher education.

Iowa State partnered with Des Moines’ Moulton and King elementary schools so young students can start to realize that college is an achievable goal.

Once a child completes fifth grade at either King or Moulton elementary, they are eligible for tuition grants to Iowa State.

“These kids don’t necessarily always get the role models they need at home or the college talks,” said Chelsey Spreitzer, second and third grade teacher at King Elementary School.

Spreitzer, who joined the ISU 4U Promise team to get to know the community after moving to Iowa, now tries to implement the team’s message into her own lesson plans.

For social studies, she has had discussions with her students about the importance of communities. They discuss careers people can get working in their own communities and how the students can earn jobs.

“For example, I’ve told them that even if you want to be a police officer, you have to go to community college,” Spreitzer said. 

For older ISU 4U students, the team would like to bring more students to Iowa State. This way the students can meet with real faculty members and advisers while also getting to experience being on a university campus.

Cynthia Hunafa, member of the ISU 4U Promise team, has been meeting with high school coordinators at Des Moines’ Roosevelt High School in hopes to make field trip plans for its students who are connected with ISU 4U.

Hunafa said Moulton and King have been the biggest motivators to get students to this point.

“They say it takes a village [to raise a child],” Hunafa said. “King and Moulton have been that village. Truly.”

The ISU 4U Promise team is trying to do research on how Moulton and King have improved since ISU 4U has been implemented.

Todd Abraham, faculty member in the research institute for studies in education, said they are comparing positive outcomes of the two elementary schools from before and after ISU 4U Promise was implemented. They also compare the data to that of other Des Moines schools.

“It may be the optimist in me, but I would like to see the schools we aren’t doing anything with to also improve,” Abraham said. 

At a conference last Friday, Abraham also mentioned how they also are making comparisons in the Des Moines public high schools. The institute takes into account how many students are taking advanced placement classes and striving to earn college credit.

As for long-term goals, the ISU 4U team would like to see an increase in its graduates getting placed in jobs after completing college, whether it be at a two-year or four-year institution.

“We’d like to see them in high-impact careers,” Abraham said.

Hunafa has a positive outlook for the ISU 4U Promise’s students and the future of ISU 4U.

“I just want to say to these students, you know, ‘We’ve got our arms wrapped around you. Let’s go,'” Hunafa said.