March 25 was an evening of celebration in the Forest City Middle School gym, celebrating this year’s academic achievements of Forest City High School students.
An in-person awards night event was held safely amidst the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
FCHS students in grades 9-12 received academic letters for outstanding achievement. The 2021 event marks the 12th year that the Forest City Education Foundation has hosted the event.
Student motivation to attend this prestigious event has increased each year, according to Foundation Executive Director Liz Thompson.
The Foundation teams up with Forest City High School annually to recognize high academic-achieving students. An academic banquet dinner is typically held every spring. This year due to COVID-19, just an awards night ceremony was held with invited students and parents participating while adhering to COVID masking and other safety protocols. However, the event was streamed online for all to see.
“Although we weren't able to host the dinner portion of the banquet this year, I am so thrilled we were able to have this event in-person for the students and their parents,” Thompson said. “I am also thankful we have the technology to live-stream events like this for the friends and family who wanted to support these kids, but were either unable to attend or preferred to attend virtually.”
Jim Coloff, a 1985 FCHS graduate, was keynote speaker for the event. He is the second generation owner/operator of Coloff Media with a dozen radio stations throughout the northern one-third of Iowa, including KIOW Radio in Forest City. Coloff founded Coloff Digital in Forest City after hearing from his radio clients that they needed website and digital marketing resources. Coloff Digital provides a wide range of brand strategy, website, graphic design, video, social media, and digital marketing solutions.
Coloff advocated the power of positive thinking and lifelong learning to students and reflected back on Forest City teachers that positively impacted his character, career, and life.
“When times are good, it’s easier to be successful,” Coloff said. “But when times are difficult, it is a test of character that takes real winners. I am in front of a group of real winners.”
Student attendees recognized at the event must have met two of the following criteria: Being in the top seven percent of their class academically, having an ITED national percentile rank of 85 or higher in reading comprehension and math, successfully completing certain overall and science tests, attaining a composite score on the ACT of 27 or higher, having a cumulative grade-point average of 3.6 or higher after a minimum of two trimesters at FCHS, and maintaining school attendance of 97 percent or higher.
“This past year has been tough on our students, but even in the midst of a pandemic they've still been able to keep up with their school work and adapt to new ways of learning,” Thompson said. “Having our annual academic banquet this year was a great way to honor our students for their academic achievements. I think it’s a sign that we're starting to move towards some sense of normalcy again.”
The mission of the Forest City Education Foundation is to provide scholarships and educational opportunities to Forest City students. Working with community donors and other organizations such as the Hanson Foundation, the Forest City Education Foundation also provides scholarship assistance to FCHS graduating seniors every spring.
The Foundation funds the John Baylor test preparation program. If a student has utilized the program, their ACT test-taking fees are also reimbursed. Since the Foundation has offered this program, student composite test scores have increased which directly translates to scholarship money. The Forest City Superintendent of Schools sits on the Foundation’s Board of Directors and the Foundation’s headquarters is located within the school district’s administration building.
The current Foundation Board of Directors: President Ray Beebe, Vice President Steve Lovik, Treasurer Dave Arndt, Superintendent Darwin Lehmann, Dennis Busta, Cindy Carter, David Damm, Heather Duenow, Evan Fritz, Trista Helm, Adam Jackson, Mike Johnson, Alice Lewellen, Ron Lichtsinn, Weston Lohry, Pat Lovik, Scott Meinders, Duane Polsdofer, Dan Rosacker, and Derek Ziesmer.
Beebe wrapped up the night by thanking students and parents, noting that last year it was not possible during the pandemic. He urged them to take advantage of Foundation scholarships and resources such as the Baylor test program in their career planning.
“Our foundation is very proud of all of you and we are here to support you,” Beebe said. “We are not going to forget you.”
Independent of the Forest City Community School District, the Forest City Education Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) organization that seeks to attract private resources to support its mission of providing recognition, scholarships and education opportunities to Forest City students.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at email@example.com.