WATERLOO | The Black Hawk County Gaming Association on Monday approved funding for a Waterloo-Cedar Falls school student leadership program -- though significantly less than originally proposed.

The association, which grants a portion of Isle Casino Hotel revenues for community projects, approved $55,500 for Leader in Me, an initiative of the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber designed to instill leadership and self-reliance principles in students to improve academic achievement, life skills and work force readiness.

It was among some $400,000 in funding the association approved for various projects, not all of which were fully funded. The gaming money supplements other funds for those projects.

The association approved funding for Leader In Me program materials to kick the program off in three schools: Irving Elementary and Expo Alternative schools in Waterloo and Hansen Elementary School in Cedar Falls.

The Alliance & Chamber piloted the program at North Cedar Elementary and Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence in the fall of 2010. Other schools have subsequently been added in both the Waterloo and Cedar Falls districts.

The Alliance & Chamber originally requested $450,000 in gaming association funding for Leader In Me in this current grant cycle, then pared that request to $164,371. The request was part of a larger $3 million Leader in Me fundraising effort by the Alliance & Chamber, according to information submitted to the gaming association.

Gaming association president and former Waterloo Mayor Tim Hurley said the request was pared down to tangible items such as instructional and training materials. He made an impassioned plea for gaming association involvement in the project.

"It's no secret I'm for this. It's a big leap of faith. I understand that," Hurley said. "I thought this body would be the one to take that leap of faith for something that is almost a crisis in my mind."

Other youth leadership-character programs serve their purpose, Hurley said. "But this is something that goes through the culture of the school. It works on behavioral thought processes, self assertion, those sort of things. And it's imbued. It becomes part of the atmosphere that they breathe."

Association member Don Hoth agreed with Hurley's sentiments, but cited concerns from other members about funding any program's operating expenses -- something the association has avoided.

"If we do something different, where all of a sudden we're paying for operating costs, we've opened a door we're never, ever going to be able to close," Hoth said.

Member Ray Burfeind's motion for $55,000 in funding ultimately was approved.

Hurley said after the meeting he was not disappointed in the funding the association approved.

"I came here with the thought that the whole thing would be denied, so I'm really happy we've got our foot in the water," Hurley said. "I have strong faith and belief that the results will make us feel good about what we did, and that we'll want to do more."

In other business, the association took no action on a request by the city of Waterloo for $386,000 for the first phase of an overall improvement plan for Gates Park. Members said they wanted more detail on the $3.7 million master plan for the park.

Other projects the association approved for funding included: Cedar Rock Boat House restoration in Quasqueton, $30,000; Grout Museum Vietnam Veterans Welcome Home project, $97,500; Wellsburg Memorial Building remodeling, $20,000; Gladbrook Fire & Ambulance generator, $15,000; roof on Community Services Building on University Avenue in Waterloo; $83,704; upgrading radio station KUNI server room air conditioning unit, $10,000; and Riverfront Sports Park lighting at two ball diamonds, $90,000;

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