Investing in strategies proven to help middle school students transition into high school and graduate.



Middle school is tough for most students. Students experience new settings and routines, a changing network of friends, and a more competitive environment, while going through physical, social, and emotional changes. All of these factors combined increase the risk that students will fail to graduate from high school. 

United Way ELI members recognize that, with extra support, central Iowa's middle and high school students can stay on a path to graduation and gain an essential building block for a better life. 

 Why Join?

  • See firsthand how your investment improves young people’s lives.
  • Share your talents on committees and by volunteering.
  • Network with like-minded individuals and community leaders.
  • Gain new business and career opportunities by demonstrating community leadership.
  • Benefit from charitable giving tax savings.

You're invited to join United Way of Central Iowa Education Leadership Initiative by directing your investment of $2,500 or more to ELI for the Lead Level or become a member with an annual investment of $1,000 or more to ELI. Please consider increasing your contribution through the Step-Up option.

To join, please fill out the ELI Commitment Form below.

ELI Members   ELI Programs


“Growing up is hard. ELI provides support to youth who maybe have a few more barriers than other individuals so they can achieve their education and move on to other opportunities. For me, being a member of ELI is an opportunity to see great work from amazing programs, while also networking with people who feel these programs are important.”"

Angie Arthur
Education Leadership Initiative Member


What's Working?

ELI investments are driven by the ELI Investment Committee, which makes funding decisions based on research-based predictive indicators and best practices.

  • Promoting a successful transition into middle school for at-risk children
  • Providing supportive services for at-risk students and families
  • Promoting and coordinating activities that reduce summer learning loss
  • Providing quality and engaging out-of-school opportunities
  • Developing programs that support positive physical and mental health

With ELI's investments, we achieved the following last year: 

  • 3,000 students made a successful transition into high school
  • 2,570 students have received mentoring through Science Bound to work toward careers in STEM since the program began. 
  • 100% of students in the SWAG2 program, which offers academic support to high-risk middle school students at Oakridge Neighborhood Services, passed their core classes.
  • 170 students participated in RunDSM, a program that inspires and supports at-risk students through the art of spoken word poetry and performing. 

ELI Co-chairs

Trent Burley - circle image 2020 Trent Burley, McGill Junge Wealth Management

Benjy Klostermann - circle image 2020 Benjy Klostermann, Wells Fargo

You're Invited to ELI

Interested members: 
Tell us how you'd like to get involved.

Current members: 
Share your giving plans.


If your employer runs a United Way campaign, please give through your workplace to take advantage of any donor matches or other incentives.

If not, you can give to ELI online today.

Give Now

ELI Membership Benefits 

Join Education Leadership Initiative by directing $1,000 to ELI or through the step-up program.  Involving this community's top leaders. Involving you.

Member Level

  • In unique ELI events where you can meet, learn from and connect with peers and community leaders.
  • Timely e-communication about results of your investments and volunteer opportunities tied to our focus on education.
  • Opportunity to participate on ELI committees that provide direction related to special events, volunteer opportunities and investments.

$1,000 Level

  • Membership in the Leadership Circle, a group of more than 3,500 local leaders contributing $1,000-9,999 to United Way of Central Iowa.
  • Recognition in our United Way of Central Iowa Community Report and Leadership Circle Registry, published annually.
  • Opportunity to participate on ELI committees that provide direction related to special events, volunteer opportunities and investments.

$2,500 Level – Lead Member

  • A membership benefit of giving at the $2,500 level and above is recognition in the Business Record and The Des Moines Register. Recognition is for contributions made during the most recent United Way campaign.



If you are ready to join ELI but cannot yet make the full financial commitment of $1,000 or $2,500, the Step-Up program is a great way to begin.

  ELI Member
ELI Lead Member
Year 1: $500 $1,500
Year 2: $750 $2,000
Year 3: $1,000 $2,500








Education Leadership Initiative Contact:



Chase Young

Director, Education Leadership Initiative
1111 - 9th Street, Suite 100
Des Moines, IA 50314