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ICAN Curriculum Helping Thousands of Iowa Students Become Future Ready

September 18, 2019

As the new school year begins, approximately 15,000 high school students statewide are starting their journey to becoming college and career ready with the assistance of a comprehensive curriculum developed by ICAN, a pioneering statewide nonprofit supporting education and training for all Iowans.

The curriculum, developed collaboratively with educators across Iowa, provides grade- and age-specific lessons and resources on important topics – such as Career Assessment and Exploration, Employability, Education and Training Selection, and Financial Literacy, which are essential in guiding students to being prepared for education and training after high school.

“ICAN works hard every day to empower students and families to make informed decisions about their future.  Providing classroom-based resources to support educators in preparing students to make these decisions is a logical, and impactful, extension of our work,” said Rob Miller, president of ICAN.

In 2016, at the request of school counselors seeking additional support preparing students for college and career opportunities, ICAN began research and development of its classroom-based lessons.

The Greater Cedar Rapids Community Foundation was instrumental in the curriculum development, funding a pilot with all seven Linn County rural school districts including Alburnett, Center-Point, Central City, Lisbon, Mount Vernon, North Linn, and Springville. Using data and feedback gathered from the pilot, along with continued research, ICAN assembled 20 distinct lessons for students in grades 9-12.  Lessons are accompanied by pre- and post-assessments to ascertain mastery.

“The ICAN curriculum has helped us have more of an intentional focus on career and college planning. We implemented the curriculum during homeroom time so the teachers are having more conversations with students about careers and college,” said Carrie Talbott, school counselor at Center Point-Urbana High School, one of the pilot schools. “I like how we can customize the lessons to fit our needs and many have an activity component to them. For example, we do LifeStore with our junior students and they really enjoy this activity and learn a lot about financial literacy while having fun. We do the activities resume with seniors and it has helped them to be more prepared for applications and scholarships.”

For the past two years, the curriculum has also been used by The Zach Johnson Foundation in its Kids on Course initiative with approximately 100 students in the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

“The ICAN curriculum is both relevant and helpful. It provides our students with real-life scenarios that provide an opportunity to look ahead and plan for their future,” said Jaimen Pangborn, director of program development for Kids on Course. “Our students are engaged and have learned a lot with each new lesson.”

Recently launched statewide, ICAN’s curriculum has caught on quickly with school districts across the state of Iowa. By the end of the fall 2019 semester, 43 high schools will have students working through ICAN curriculum lessons, preparing for the decisions that will form their futures.

“I have found the program to be well researched, materials to be professionally presented, and a good overview of topics to promote college and career readiness,” said Tara Sommerville, school counselor at Saint Albert Catholic School in Council Bluffs. “Just as important, the customer service has been great. From the professional training that allowed for discussion and sharing of ideas between counselors, to the willingness to customize and add to the program based on feedback from users, it is a collaborative perspective. Because of how the lessons are put together, it is easy to use what you need and is a great foundation on which to build if you are trying to update your materials. As a bonus, I love that the program was developed in Iowa with our kids in mind.”

ICAN, a nonprofit organization providing career and college readiness planning to students and parents in Iowa, has been educating and empowering Iowa’s future workforce since 1998.

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About ICAN

ICAN is a nonprofit, educational organization. ICAN is the College Access Network for Iowa, and a member of the National College Access Network (NCAN). ICAN has ten locations in Ankeny, Cedar Rapids, Coralville, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Orange City, Sioux City, and Waterloo, which provide information and support to students and their families as they plan for education and training beyond high school. Most ICAN programs and services are provided without charge. For more information about ICAN, call (877) 272-4692 or visit

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