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Michaela Ahrenholtz (video)
Citizen of Chracter

Michaela is in the sixth grade at Denison Middle School.  Her teachers say that she respects everyone, treats everyone fairly, and shows caring by making sure that everyone around her feels valued and included.

Michaela makes a difference in so many lives.  She began a sign language club at school to teach others to communicate with non-verbal students, helped lead a fundraiser for an orphanage in Haiti and created a fundraiser to honor her brother who has autism.

“Michaela always wants to make sure that everyone is included and that everyone is treated equally and treated with respect.  If there is a person in her class who does not have a partner or someone to play with, she will invite them to play,” says nominator Karin Thiele.  “She has a natural ability of knowing what others around her need, even if that need is just to be included.”

Michaela is a Girl Scout, a student representative, and an alter server at her church.  Michaela has helped her mother knit caps for newborn babies in Africa, created a memory book for a 4th grade teacher diagnosed with cancer, and sings to the elderly with the Musical Monarchs.

Michaela lives life with the Golden Rule as her measure, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Paula Bell (video)
Citizen of Character

Paula Bell is an active member of the Des Moines community. She is a member of the eMentoring Program at East High School and a member of the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Board.

Paula volunteers with Meals for the Heartland, Habitat for Humanity, DMARC Food Pantry, African Community Multicultural Pageant, Central Iowa Chapter of International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) and also teaches Sunday school.

Valerie Washington is Paula’s co-worker and nominated her for an Iowa Character Award.  “Paula is the type of friend and confidant that anyone would want in their life.  One of the reasons people follow her and admire her is because she stands up for what she believes in.”

Valerie continues, “Paula is extremely giving.  One thing that Paula likes to do is cook.  She could be cooking something that she knows is my favorite and just calls me out of the blue to see if I have had dinner and invites me to her house to eat with her family.  She not only does this for me, but anytime she sees a need. It doesn’t matter how tired she is or what she has going on, she will always make time to help someone else.”

Dallas Center-Grimes CoLTS (video)
School Organization of Character

The Dallas Center-Grimes Middle School CoLTs (Character Leadership Team) evolved five years ago from a group of students who wanted to have more of a leadership role in their school and community while utilizing their passion to advocate character.

The CoLTs demonstrate the Six Pillars of Character all year long through community service, local and state activities as well as being positive role models. The CoLTs share their belief of character in various ways throughout the school year throughout the community and even at the state level.

Julie Morgan Kopecky, nominator and guidance counselor says, “The members of this organization take pride in their school and community and feel it is their responsibility to advocate and model the Six Pillars.”

The CoLTs begin the school year by sharing the Six Pillars of Character at the new student orientation and with teachers that are new to the district. The CoLTs have also presented to the DC-G School Board, Dallas Center Rotary, Grimes City Development Group, Kiwanis, Spurgeon Manor, the Iowa Counselors Association Convention, and volunteered at the Iowa State Fair. The CoLTS have also led the Veterans Day assembly presenting a memorable event honoring local veterans.

Hy-Vee (video)
Partner of the Year

Many companies have corporate values that coincide with the Six Pillars of Character, but very few demonstrate those values as consistently throughout the entire organization as Hy-Vee.

At Hy-Vee, good customer service doesn’t stop with “a helpful smile in every aisle”; it extends into the neighborhoods and communities they serve as well.  Hy-Vee employees care about the things their customers care about – health care, education, the arts, leisure and recreation, the environment, economic opportunity, civic improvement – and give generously to projects and organizations that support these goals.

Hy-Vee supports communities through many projects (JDRF, the Honor Flight & Exercise Your Character to name a few) including support for Character Counts In Iowa. Their innovative partnership ideas have played an important part in delivering our mission.

“As an organization, we annually choose an organization whose longtime partnership has been of substantial significance,” said Gov. Robert D. Ray, board chairman. “This award represents just a small portion of the gratitude and respect that Hy-Vee is due.”

Johnston, Iowa (video)
Community of Character

In 2005 representatives with the City of Johnston, the Johnston Chamber of Commerce, Johnston Community School District and the Johnston Partnership for a Healthy Community met and talked about character development throughout the community. Soon after, the Johnston Alliance for Character Development (JACD) was founded.

The mission of the Johnston Alliance for Character Development is to provide leadership and coordination to teach, evaluate, advocate, and model character development throughout the community of Johnston.

The JACD has participated and organized many activities, including: presentations at chamber meetings, development of Little League Team of Character, Celebration of CC! Week with city proclamation and recognition at a football game, 8-foot flags displayed at the public library, Character Story Time at the public library, articles in the chamber newsletter about workplace ethics, benches at city park that display the Six Pillars, a full page ad in the chamber business directory, and a preschool character sticker calendar.


Pleasant Valley High School Cheerleaders (video)
Pursuing Victory With Honor

The Pleasant Valley High School (PVHS) Cheerleaders are charged with a huge task: raising school spirit for athletic teams.  However, these cheerleaders are up to the task and more.

The cheerleaders participate in the Multiple Sclerosis Walk, the March of Dimes Walk, Light the Night, Relay for Life, Race for the Cure, the Heart Walk, Special Olympics, and the Hand in Hand event. The squad has been awarded the President’s Volunteer Service award for 2 years in a row and have been awarded the Governor’s Volunteer Award.

After the Special Olympics in 2008, one of the cheerleaders had a passion to provide the opportunity to be a cheerleader to every special needs child that had that dream. Through this passion the Spartan Sparkles were born.  PVHS cheerleaders team up with special needs children on the Sparkles squad to teach them to cheer. The Sparkles then enjoy performing cheers at local games.

The cheerleaders believe that education is their number 1 priority and spend time studying and tutoring one another. This study time has paid off as the average GPA of the squad is 3.65.

David Showalter (video)
Aaron Eilerts Community Service Award

David is a graduate of Mount Ayr High School.  He was captain of his high school football team and a very active member of the Mount Ayr community.

“David is always willing to lend a helping hand to those in need,” said Derek Lambert, coach and nominator.  “He understands the gifts that he has been given with his life and does everything he can to give back to those who are less fortunate.”  David is a volunteer with Special Olympics, Kids Against Hunger and AmeriCorps.  He is also a member of the Principal’s Student Advisory Committee and the Mount Ayr High School Student Council.  David is also an active member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and his church.

David’s latest project was a fundraiser organized around his football team.  The homecoming game was designated as the “Tackle Cancer” game and the Mount Ayr Raiders wore custom made pink jerseys, mouth guards, socks, and helmet decals.  They painted the field pink and sold over 500 t-shirts.  The jerseys were auctioned off and the proceeds were donated toward the fight against cancer.  Planning the event took a year and touched many people.


Sioux City Growth Organization (video)
Organization of Character

The Sioux City Growth Organization (SCGO) was formed in 2002 to encourage young professionals to become active members of the Siouxland community. SCGO encourages progressive and innovative ideas, and brings together voices from all generations to create a positive impact on the future of the Siouxland community.

Now with more than 100 members, SCGO’s goal is to attract and retain young professionals in the area, by providing insight on what Sioux City has to offer and how they can get involved in shaping its future.

SCGO offers committee and volunteer opportunities, networking and after hours educational events, community-based beautification and work to develop projects such as Sculpt Siouxland and Freeze Fest. Additionally, many SCGO members are involved with local government, volunteer work and board positions.

SCGO encourages its members to live by the Six Pillars of Character actively engaging themselves in every aspect of the community.

Michelle Temeyer (video) 
Character Champion

Michelle Temeyer is known as the “go to person” in the Waterloo community when a job needs to be done.  Michelle has been instrumental in growing school business partnerships, school based mentoring, after school programming, fundraising, summer transportation to youth activities, and has written numerous grants to benefit youth and the overall development of positive relationships within the Cedar Valley.

Michelle is adept at bringing together divergent community groups and helping them to envision a common goal that all can support.  She is always looking for ways to harness the passion displayed to work for the betterment of the Cedar Valley Community.  She is active with the greenhouse addition to the new George Washington Carver Middle School, funded through the Young Family Trust, and the baseball diamond at Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence, funded by the Hellman family.

Under Michelle’s direction the Partners in Education Program has grown to over 180 active partner- ships contributing time, support, volunteers and funding to the Cedar Valley Schools.

Michelle recently retired after 16 years with the Waterloo Community School District as the Director of Community Education. Michelle has served on many boards, is a Big Sister in the Big Brother Big Sister program and continues to be a strong advocate of CHARACTER COUNTS!


Brian Town (video)
Educator of Character

As the athletic director at Johnston Middle School, Brian Town is a role model for students, staff and the entire Johnston community.  He believes that service to community is what makes education an exciting and memorable experience for students.

Brian models outstanding character and teaches good character each day.  He has impacted hundreds of students over the years through his leadership as an administrator for Johnston Community School District.  Brian Carico, who nominated Brian for the award says, “One of Brian’s greatest strengths is his trustworthiness. There is never a time that Brian has not followed through with his word.  He makes very difficult decisions using the Six Pillars of Character and then follows through.”

Brian has also utilized the Six Pillars to promote the pursuit of victory with honor.  “Brian has been a true asset to our athletic program because he emphasizes both winning and character, but puts the higher demand on character, said Carico. “Brian truly knows that winning will occur with people that demonstrate the Six Pillars.”

West High School, Sioux City (video) 
School of Character

The West High School (WHS) administration, faculty, and students embody the Six Pillars of Character within the Sioux City Community School District and around the greater Siouxland community.

The faculty and students of WHS are shining examples of good character.  WHS secured a grant and developed a partnership with the Siouxland Community Health Center and opened the first school based health clinic in Sioux City.

Contributions were raised by various student organizations and professional staff to provide meals for needy families, cancer research, relief services for Cedar Rapids flood victims, Parkersburg tornado victims, and a local family whose home was destroyed by fire. The building itself is home to an on-site daycare and is available to various local groups and organizations.

WHS’s administration and leadership team instituted the district’s first freshmen mentoring program by developing a system in which positive, pro-social student behaviors are recognized and rewarded. As a result, teacher generated student discipline referrals have decreased by nearly 60 percent in the past four years. WHS also enjoys its highest percentage of students performing at or above proficiency levels on the Iowa Tests of Educational Development in reading, science, and mathematics in the school’s history.


August 21, 2020
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August 18, 2020