Cooke Foundation awards $200K to GER2I

The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) awarded a $200,000 grant to the College of Education’s Gifted Education Research and Resource Institute (GER2I) for scholarships for Native American students to attend its Summer Residential Camps starting in 2024.

The grant will enable Project HOPE+, a tuition assistance program for Native American youth to attend the camps, to continue for the next two years.

A student drumming in front of a classroom
Two students speaking at the front of a lecture hall.

Native American students performing at the GER2I 2022 Summer Residential Camp Gala.

“In an effort to remove barriers for Native American youth to attend Summer Residential camp, Dr. Marcia Gentry started Project HOPE+ over ten years ago,” said Kristen Seward, associate director of GER2I. “HOPE stands for ‘Having Opportunities Promotes Excellence,’ and GER2I faculty have seen this proven over and over again.”

Gentry was a professor of gifted, talented, and creative studies in the College’s Department of Educational Studies and director of GER2I until she passed away on August 31, 2022. She pioneered methods of identifying giftedness in youth from low socioeconomic status, Black, Latino, and Native American communities — populations who were and still are underrepresented in gifted and talented programs across the nation.

“Project HOPE+ has provided hundreds of scholarships to students from our partner schools, which serve primarily Native American students, since 2012,” said Nielsen Pereira, director of GER2I. “This is an amazing opportunity for these students who may not have access to this type of program without the generous support of the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, as some of them come from fairly remote locations in Native American reservations across the country. It is also a unique experience for all HOPE+ scholars who experience life on a college campus, take challenging courses, and participate in activities that address their social and emotional needs and development.”

“Another important aspect of this project is the research on the academic and life outcomes for the students who receive the scholarships,” Pereira added. “I am excited to continue to engage in this research, which aligns with GER2I’s focus on underserved populations in gifted education and is directly related to Dr. Gentry’s legacy of providing opportunities and promoting excellence.”

“Marcia Gentry’s legacy in the gifted, creative, and talented world is one of exploding myths about who can be gifted and expanding access to populations historically underrepresented in gifted classrooms,” said Phillip J. VanFossen, interim dean of  the College.  “Through this JKCF grant, Professors Pereria and Seward are continuing — and expanding on — that legacy.”

Project HOPE+ has provided 587 scholarships to 373 different individual students from eight Native American communities. GER2I has developed robust partnerships with different Native American communities across three tribal groups, Diné, Lakota, and Ojibwe. This year, GER2I hopes to provide summer residential program scholarships to 45 students.

Partner schools in Arizona, South Dakota, Michigan, and Minnesota will identify the 5th–12th grade students they will send to the GER2I camps. In July, GER2I faculty, staff, and graduate students will welcome them to the camps with academic challenges, camp-style fun, and HOPE.

“Project HOPE+ remains the only foundation-funded project in the country focused on providing Native American Youth with high-ability opportunities to attend summer enrichment focused on talent development,” said Seward. “I admire the courage of the youth who arrive from four Native American communities across the U.S. to participate in our camp.”

This project was supported by a grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.

“We at GER2I and the Purdue College of Education want to thank the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for their generous support over the last ten-plus years,” Pereira said.

Sources: Nielsen Pereira,; Kristen Seward;