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Dollars for Scholars ready for immediate impact at North Tama

January 10, 2020
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Traer Star-Clipper

The North Tama Scholarship and Awards Night is held every year in May as the graduating class readies for their future outside of Traer. Individual scholarships and awards are given to students to help fund their college expenses. However, no one organization is responsible for these scholarships. Almost all came from single donors or local organizations.

That will change as North Tama will be introduced to Dollars for Scholars this year, run by a local chapter consisting of board members Jared and Marilyn Bauch, Keith and Trish Kennedy, Steve and Rosanne Foster, Teresa Keefe O'Meara, and Rex and Phyllis McKee. Dollars for Scholars has existed as a national organization for over 60 years in the United States, yet communities are required to form a local chapter in order for students to participate. One fateful visit to Belle Plaine was the spark to bring the organization to Traer for the first time ever.

"Jared and I first observed it at Belle Plaine. I work with foreign exchange students and we were down there for a student. We saw these amazing scholarships being given out under the umbrella of Dollars for Scholars. We came home and thought 'if Belle Plaine can do it, North Tama can do it.'"

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Over $200,000 has already been raised for North Tama Dollars for Scholars in a matter of weeks.

The couple "mulled over" the idea for awhile and did research into the parent organization, Scholarship America. In June, the Bauchs began putting together a North Tama affiliate and worked with the school administration, hoping they would be enthusiastic about the idea. Secondary Principal Andrew Meister indeed was.

"I was shocked," Meister said. "What an opportunity for our students. I was overwhelmed with positivity that someone would take interest in our students like this. We want to let students know this is available and let this group know what needs we have with each year."

Between June and December, the North Tama chapter filed paperwork as a 501c tax-exempt charitable organization. The main funding for chapters comes from local donations. Donors can specify what type of scholarships they wish to fund or the organization can use the funds to build scholarships based on the school's needs.

"We were told by Mr. Meister that vocational, technical and trade school scholarships would be needed for this upcoming graduating class," Bauch said. "The school hasn't had many scholarships for those yet. We have had scholarships in place for a long time. Family and organization scholarships. Our purpose is to add to those; to have more scholarships, large amounts of money and create renewable scholarships if students continue to qualify."

Yet to create a wider variety or scholarships, the North Tama Dollars for Scholars will need a significant endowment to fund them each year. In only a few weeks of existence, the local chapter has received $200,000 and will receive a $50,000 matching fund if NT Dollars for Scholar raises $50,000 by July 1. From there, the goal is to have $500,000 in the endowment fund within three years.

"If this money performs adequately, we'd have $20,000 in scholarship money we could give out just from the endowment," Bauch said. "Additional donations would come in to further increase our ability to give out more scholarships. Local people will make this happen."

The first donation for NT Dollars for Scholars was a $100,000 gift from Bauch as a tribute to her father, Robert Plattenberger. According to Bauch, her father would have loved to have received a college education, yet started farming at a young age. A product of the Great Depression, Plattenberger saved his money until the time of his death a year and a half ago. Part of his savings was passed down to Bauch, who couldn't think of a "more important thing to do with the money than scholarship our young people."

"He saved it and built it over so long, I couldn't spend it," Bauch said. "So instead, it will go to educating the youth of North Tama."

The initial $100,000 created momentum for Dollars for Scholars to raise the next $100,000 with relative ease when an official announcement of the organization came in early December. Trish Kennedy, a board member, was astounded by the early response.

"The response has already been great and we kicked this off quickly," Kennedy said. "The great thing about Traer is when there's a need, the community steps up to fill it. Having these donations right away has helped us give scholarships to the Class of 2020."

Kennedy was invited on the board due to her connection to the secondary school, where she works as a secretary. Her husband, Keith, is currently involved with the recent creation of the North Tama Tech Team, which live-streams home games on YouTube. Both bring "technical and media skills" according to Bauch.

"We were happy to be asked to a part of the Board of Directors for Dollars for Scholars because we think it's beneficial to have a group in town who can offer more scholarships for local kids," Kennedy said. "These scholarships aren't just for four-year students. They can be for technical, vocational and trade schools for those interested."

Steve Foster is a former principal at North Tama and wife Rosanne has a financial background in addition to running the Traer Public Library. Rex and Phyllis McKee have been involved in the community for "many years" as pharmacists. Teresa O'Meara is the K-6 Counselor at North Tama Elementary. Bauch is a "lifelong educator" and her husband a leader in the community as a local attorney.

"We looked for people with connections to education, deep ties to the community and skills to do this work," Bauch said. "We need people who had the relationships and the willingness to go out and ask the community for money. It's hard to ask for large amounts of money."

According to Bauch, 100 percent of proceeds go to Dollars for Scholars. The organization is applying for grants to cover their $5,000 operating budget for 2020. Donations can be specifically made to the organization to help cover their expenses. To get the word out, North Tama Dollars for Scholars is using social media, print and meeting with churches/community organizations. They plan to meet with the Traer Chamber of Commerce, Traer Utility Board, teachers and the local Lions Club.

"We believe this is something good for the graduates, their parents, and the whole community," Bauch said. "We're talking to everybody we can, then they will talk to their friends/families in turn."

Despite only creating the organization recently, Dollars for Scholars will begin their first year with five $1,000 scholarships, which students attending a technical, vocational, trade or four-year school in Iowa can apply for. More may be available by the time May comes, but Bauch insisted that these five scholarships are certain and will prove to the community that this chapter is real and ready immediately.

"A $250 scholarship is nice, but it's not going to make that much of a difference," Bauch said. "They need more kids getting scholarship assistance we know will help them complete the programs they want to participate in and complete them with less student debt."

Each applicant must create an account on the North Tama Dollars for Scholars website and then apply for one of these five scholarships. They will create a profile based off their information. If a student qualifies, the scholarships will appear on their profile to apply for either a scholarship devoted to a four-year education or a scholarship for vocational/technical/trade school. Recipients will be selected randomly by the website through scholarship matching, not by the Board of Directors.

"We have a fantastic group offering to put together Dollars For Scholars and making sure a student who leaves North Tama as a graduate is supported," Meister said. "My hope is that they continue their momentum and that this is for everyone graduating from North Tama."

North Tama Dollars for Scholars will host a fundraising meal on Friday, Jan. 17 in the North Tama lunchroom. Chili and beef burgers will be served from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Free will donations may be collected at the door.

For more information about North Tama Dollars for Scholars, go to their website at and check them out on Facebook and Twitter.



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