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June 1, 2017

Success manifests itself differently for every student. The typical classroom model doesn’t fit all students or the employment needs of all companies. To provide a path that creates more opportunity for both, the Cedar Falls Community School District began the Center for Advanced Professional Studies, or CAPS, in January 2017.

“It offers an experience you can’t get in a normal school setting,” said Tiffany Fix, a CAPS associate. “It’s really given me an experience I could only have dreamed of until now.”

This innovative program, operating in space provided by Viking Pump in their Cedar Falls offices, has received several grants through the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa including $20,000 in donor advised fund grants and a Black Hawk County discretionary grant. The funding is much needed for the expanding program which has 13 associates in its first year and is forecasting growth to 64 in the next school year. “The grant money allows us to operate. Without it, the associate experience dwindles tremendously,” said CAPS instructor, Ethan Wiechman.

The core of CAPS is collaboration between the school, students, and businesses. Funding like that from the Community Foundation helps the program facilitate collaboration through additional staff, technology, and promotional materials. The partnerships mean CAPS is able to operate as a consulting firm for businesses and associates receive real-world projects. This focus on experiences outside the classroom provides invaluable career skills. “Associates are getting technical skills, but are also networking and looking at careers they may be interested in,” said Ethan. “We want to create a low-risk platform to do career exploration and network with local companies.”

The CAPS program is also partnering with neighboring Waterloo Community Schools’ Career and Technical Education Center to further education and careers in the Cedar Valley by providing expanded opportunities for students and local employers. “As education evolves and the demand for that evolution continues to grow, we are going to be at the forefront of it,” said Ethan.