I have not written anything for a while, primarily because Joan and I have been doing quite a bit of traveling. I have written quite a number of pieces with the theme "Reflections on 50 years" as this year we have been celebrating both 50 years of marriage and 50 years in Forest City. Up to this point my primary focus has been on the 1970s. I will return to that topic and pick up at least initially with thoughts on my 38 years at Winnebago Industries.
But for now I want to take a time out and talk about the work of the Forest City Education Foundation.
I am going to be candid and tell you I would like to see broader support of our work from the community. The work we are doing is vitally important for what I have often referred to as our most valuable asset, our young people.
Rather than making a case for our work, I want to share with you the stories of three of our recent graduates. Their stories make a more convincing case for the value of our work than I ever could.
Here is our third graduate story -
Vanessa Van Slyke is a 2017 graduate of Forest City High School.
Vanessa's home environment was challenging. She says the impact her teachers had on her was life-changing and that she came to feel that her real home was in the classroom.
From a young age, Vanessa was determined to be a teacher. Her dream was to attend the University of Northern Iowa which is known for its excellence in preparing future teachers to be the best they can be.
Her family did not have the means to set aside any money for her college education and she began to doubt that she would even be able to attend college.
She knew her best hope was to apply for scholarships and she knew it was the goal of the Forest City Education Foundation to provide support for students during this critical point in their lives.
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Vanessa fared well at senior awards night receiving a multitude of scholarships including the Raymond and Joan Beebe Family Scholarship ($2,500 a year for four years).
That evening she was overjoyed to realize she would indeed be able to attend her dream school and she went home and cried tears of joy with her mother.
Vanessa said, "The Forest City Education Foundation's generosity is the reason I am where I am today. As of now, I am currently a full-time student at the University of Northern Iowa, pursuing an English education degree with a mental health minor.
"My current goals include finishing my degree and teaching at the high school and middle school levels. Eventually, I would like to receive my masters degree in school counseling."
I think you can begin to see why I am always bragging about the quality of our young people.
I can say without hesitation they receive an excellent education here which is significantly enhanced by their ability to take Waldorf and NIACC classes while still in high school.
So why should you provide support to our foundation? The stories of Chris, Logan and Vanessa tell it all.
We could provide you with countless stories from other scholarship recipients. It is hard to put into words how rewarding it has been for Joan and I to "invest" in these amazing young people.
I hope you will conclude as we have that we can leave no greater legacy than helping our wonderful young people in attaining a college education.
The need for private support for young people attending college has never been more critical. College costs have increased dramatically, the income of the American middle class has stagnated leaving many parents unable to provide any significant financial support for their college bound children but yet the earnings differential between a college graduate and a high school graduate continues to widen.
We ask you seriously consider supporting the important work of our foundation. Our executive director, Jessica Bruckhoff, myself and other board members would love to visit with you about various gifting options.
A named scholarship can be created with a minimum gift of $500. All gifts, large or small, are needed and appreciated.