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New initiative will connect Cedar Falls students who don't have home internet

Ethan Wiechmann

CEDAR FALLS — Chromebooks issued to Cedar Falls Community Schools’ secondary students ensure equal access to a computer for everyone.

Without internet services at home, though, some have been unable to make full use of the devices to complete their school work. Cedar Falls Utilities will soon roll out a new low-cost internet service option designed for those families called Connect CF.

“We’ve worked closely with the school district on this,” said Steve Bernard, CFU general manager. “We think there are about 100 (families) that will qualify for this.”

That is the number of families in the CFU service area with a seventh- through 12th-grade student who qualifies for free or reduced-price lunches and haven’t subscribed to internet services from the company within the past 60 days.

“The need has been there,” said Dan Conrad, director of secondary education, since the district began providing a Chromebook for every junior high and high school student in 2014. “For some reason, they don’t have the financial means (to pay for internet service). This was a way we could partner with CFU to provide limited access at home.”

The company has developed “kind of a new internet product,” said Bernard, that can be accessed only by the school-issued Chromebooks. “We looked at this carefully to make it not a subsidized service.”

The 15 megabits per second internet service will cost $20 per month and be available during the school year. Internet service costs $45 per month for regular customers who also have cable TV through CFU, he noted, or $60 per month for those who don’t.

“We’re actually going to start connecting students to this later this spring,” said Bernard. “We think it’s a pretty neat program. We’re pretty excited to be a part of this.

“Online learning and access is a huge deal,” he added. “Bottom line is we want to help remove barriers so students will have access.”

Conrad praised the company’s involvement in Connect CF.

“I have to give a lot of credit to CFU,” he said. “They have invested a lot of their own time and resources to make this happen.”

In the meantime, an effort is underway to raise money to further offset the cost for participants. A half-dozen students enrolled in Cedar Falls High School’s Center for Advanced Professional Studies is leading the charge. Their goal is to reduce the actual cost for participants to $5 per month, which would equal $18,000 per year if everyone signs up.

“Our first round of contacts have been targeted to businesses,” said Ethan Wiechmann, CAPS lead instructor. The amount of reduction depends on how close students get to the fundraising goal. Essentially, each $6,000 raised will drop the cost $5 for each of the 100 families.

“For every $180, we will provide one family affordable internet access,” he said, over the course of a school year. “We want to campaign this year to sustain it for at least three years.”

Fundraising for this is a good fit with CAPS, said Wiechmann. “One of our standards that we evaluate our associates on is servant leadership,” he explained. In addition, this allows for some “professional skills development” as they organize the fundraising campaign and hone their presentation skills.

“We’re just really excited to be a part of a neat initiative that’s going to have a real impact on our community,” said Wiechmann.


Steve Bernard si the general manager of Cedar Falls Utilities.

Homeless vet support event planned for September in Waterloo

WATERLOO — The Cedar Valley markets itself as “a great place to call home” for everyone. That includes military veterans.

Some veterans, however, are having trouble finding a place to call home, or keeping it.

For that reason, the Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission and a host of other organizations are combining to host a “Operation Stand Down” outreach event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 6 at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo.

“Stand Down is to reach out to veterans who are homeless” or risk losing stable housing due to income or other factors, said Rachel Carter-Shadle of Cedar Falls, regional housing placement manager for Support Services for Veteran Families initiative of Hawkeye Area Community Action Program.

The event is to put them in touch with the resources they need, said Chiquita Loveless, a U.S. Navy veteran and director of the Veteran and Student Services office at the University of Northern Iowa.

She’s part of a 20-member committee of veteran organizations, social service agencies and volunteers planning the event.

It is believed to be the first “Stand Down” event in Black Hawk County, said Kevin Dill, executive director of the Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs Commission.

“Since Kevin’s been here, he’s been really getting involved in homeless veteran services and kind of brought the interest here,” Carter-Shadle said. Dill, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former Waterloo police officer, became county Veteran Affairs director in 2015.

“We provide a hot meal, haircuts, any health screening you need, access to medical and human service benefits. Anything they need — coats, shoes, boots,” Carter-Shadle said.

“It’s not just the one day,” Loveless said. “It’s to put them in a place where they can leave out the door feeling better about themselves and want to go and do better for themselves.”

“After this one day, they’re going to have ongoing support from these different agencies,” Carter-Shadle said. “We are really striving to make it accessible to our veterans who are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of homelessness.”

Dill estimates there may be 50 to 100 homeless veterans in the county. But he also said the event is not limited to Black Hawk County residents.

In addition to HACAP, Black Hawk County Veteran Affairs, the Grout and UNI Veteran and Student Services, the event is also supported by the Cedar Falls AMVETS and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Americans For Independent Living, Goodwill Industries of Northeast Iowa, Heroes Care, Hawkeye Community College, federal Veterans Administration health care system, Veterans Benefits Administration and others.

The term Stand Down was a term coined during the Vietnam War when troops would come off the line to rest and decompress from battle. Vietnam Veterans of America initiated the first domestic “stand down” events in the early 1990s.

Those interested in more information or donating to and supporting the event may contact Dill at 291-2512.

Former Cedar Falls resident running for U.S. Senate in Virginia

CEDAR FALLS — A Cedar Falls High School and University of Northern Iowa graduate is running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia.

Ivan Raiklin, a 1994 CFHS graduate with degrees from UNI, is running for the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, the 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Raiklin, 42, the son of late UNI economics professor Ernest Raiklin and a product of the UNI ROTC program, spent 20 years in the U.S. Army after graduating from UNI, including time in the Special Forces — the Green Berets. He is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and served other tours of duty in the Middle East. He was a military attache serving in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and in the Pentagon during the Ukraine crisis of 2014.

Last year, he helped train the Jordanian Special Operations Command countering ISIS and deployed to Texas to help victims of Hurricane Harvey.

He is on independent ready reserve and is an adviser and investor with small-business startups with tech companies.

“The reason I’m running is that we’ve had such a negative political atmosphere the past couple of years, I want to inject a ‘positive disruption’ in the political conversation,” he said. “Being a veteran of 20 years, I’m pretty much a political agnostic.” He’s says he’s been trained to focus on overall good of the military unit he’s serving and applies those same standards to his community and his country.

Raiklin is multi-lingual and the American-born son of Russian immigrants. His family came to America from the former Soviet Union under as a result of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment to the Trade Act of 1974, which forced the USSR to ease emigration restrictions on Soviet Jews seeking to flee religious persecution.

Ivan Raiklin said his father, who had been living in upstate New York following retirement from UNI, passed away Jan. 2 after a struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He said the values he learned growing up in Iowa, such as a “strong work ethic,” helped shape his candidacy.

“The difference between Democrats and Republicans in Iowa is not that significant,” he said. “People are neighborly” and committed to each other and the community. “That friendliness really shaped me, and moderation, if you will,” he said.

He’s one of multiple candidates seeking the GOP Senate nomination. He likes his chances, given Virginia’s large number of veterans, millennials and people currently serving in the military or the federal government. Holding degrees in Russian and Spanish, as well as a law degree, he says he’s challenged incumbent Sen. Kaine to a debate in Spanish.

The primary is June 12.