2014 Iowa Character Award Recipients

Photo of Jim Aipperspach
Jim Aipperspach
Robert D. Ray Pillar of Character Award

Jim Aipperspach has served on the Character Counts In Iowa board of
directors since the organization’s inception in 1997. In the past 17 years,
Jim has provided leadership that has helped our organization flourish.
Additionally, through his role on our executive committee, Jim has
provided experienced and steady guidance to our board of directors.

In his professional life, Jim is a senior advisor at Bearence Management
Group, a West Des Moines risk management company serving customers
primarily in Iowa and Minnesota. He was previously the director of
operations at Great Ape Trust, a scientific research facility in Des Moines
dedicated to the study of ape intelligence, language and culture.

Prior to joining Great Ape Trust, Jim served as president of the
Iowa Association of Business and Industry and he was president of the
United Way of Central Iowa.

As a community leader, Aipperspach is a past-president of the West Des Moines Community School Board, where he served for nine years, former president of the Greater Des Moines Committee and former secretary-treasurer of the Iowa Business Council. He has served on the board of directors for Mercy Hospital, Bankers Trust and the Iowa Telephone Association. Aipperspach currently also serves on the board of the Iowa College Foundation, and the Boy Scouts of America Mid-Iowa

Photo of Bruce Clark
Bruce Clark
Character Champion

Bruce Clark isn’t just a supporter of CHARACTER COUNTS! He is a
passionate advocate and instrumental volunteer for Character Counts In
Iowa and the Cedar Valley CHARACTER COUNTS! Committee.

The Cedar Valley CHARACTER COUNTS! Committee promotes civility
and character development in Cedar Valley workplaces, schools, and
families. Bruce leads a team of volunteers who work diligently on local
recognition programs, and public awareness campaigns.

“We are fortunate to have him as a spokesperson for the Cedar Valley
CHARACTER COUNTS! Committee and that he has chosen to share his
good character with so many of us,” said Committee member Uyntha

Bruce’s leadership is a reflection of his good character. “Through his work on the committee and interactions with the community, Bruce demonstrates his commitment to character education,” said Committee member Sarah Smith. “His passion for this project speaks volumes about Bruce’s

Photo of Milton Cole
Milton Cole
Citizen of Character

Reverend Milton Cole has shared his positivity and character with the
world. Mr. Cole has helped citizens of the world, from troubled students
in Iowa to fighting against apartheid. He has sponsored numerous
refugees, contributed to war-torn South Sudan, attended the March
on Washington, and helps with voter registration. Mr. Cole and his wife
annually host a celebration to honor Dr. Martin Luther King

Nominator George Cole-Duvall said, “Mr. Cole is constantly challenging
himself and others to think beyond themselves. When working with
others, he is frequently the voice of ultimate optimism and lifts the
spirits of others to new heights.”

“He abounds in thinking about other people whether in the community,
in the schools or beyond, George Cole-Duvall said. “He not only ”walks
the walk”, he encourages others to respond in ways that they might not
have imagined.”

Mr. Cole has received the Good Samaritan Award from the Catholic Family Services, the Pecem
Terris Peacemaker Among Us Citation and the nationally acclaimed Jefferson Award for outstanding leadership that makes a difference in the lives of others.

Photo of Rose Eischeid
Rose Eischeid
Citizen of Character

Rose Eischeid is a student at Carroll High School. English teacher and
nominator Becky Boes said, “Teachers learn a lot about their students
through the course of a semester. Their character comes through with every
discussion they have and every decision they make. I’ve seen that Rose
goes out of her way to lend a hand to whomever needs it.”

Rose spearheaded her school’s first school-wide service day, called Students
Out Serving (SOS), including working with school administration and
arranging jobs and transportation. When the event was rained out, Rose put
together a team of students who followed through anyway, painting the home
of an elderly woman. Becky said, “Her classmates knew that they could rely
on her always to complete the work she had started, and often times she was
leading them in a supportive way. Keeping promises and being loyal are an
integral part of her character.”

“She is willing to give on a daily basis.” Becky said, “She is not just a role model to her fellow
classmates, but she is a role model for the entire community. I have worked with a lot of students over the course of my career, but she is definitely among those who will forever stand out.”

Photo of New Hampton, Iowa
New Hampton, Iowa
Community of Character

New Hampton has diligently worked to become a Community
of Character since 1998.

The CHARACTER COUNTS! Task Force provides leadership
to achieve the following goals:

Raise the consciousness of the entire community so that all
citizens embrace CHARACTER COUNTS!
Raise the commitment of the entire community so that all
citizens embrace the principles of CHARACTER COUNTS!
Involve youth in the promotion of character at home, in the school, and in the community.
Integrate character education into new and existing programs.
Encourage families and the community to adopt and model the Six Pillars of Character.
Build and maintain a proactive approach to character development as a way to create a safe, healthy community.
Establish a long-term commitment.

Their vision is that the community of New Hampton will be a safe and caring community where all citizens value and model the principles of CHARACTER COUNTS!

Photo of Puppy Jake
Puppy Jake
Service Dog of Character

Puppy Jake is a four year old Golden Labrador Retriever. As a service
dog for the Puppy Jake Foundation, Jake is the “lead dog” for his namesake
organization, helping wounded military veterans.

Jake is a great role model for other dogs and people, too. His friend,
Jeff Lamberti said, “Puppy Jake is trustworthy and loyal; he treats others
with respect and displays good manners; does what he is asked and always
tries; shares his toys with other dogs; trains hard to help wounded military
veterans; and respects authority and his trainers.”

Becky said, “He is reliable and puts the needs of others in front of his own.
Puppy Jake honors all the laws that he and other service dogs must follow
and is very respectful of the TSA when he travels on flights. He respects and understands authority and does what he is asked to do.”

Jake attends veterans’ events and visits veterans at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown and at a suicide prevention program at Fort Des Moines. He also appears on TV and radio shows and
public events as an excellent representative of the Puppy Jake Foundation and the Six Pillars of Character.

Photo of Scott Jeske
Scott Jeske
Educator of Character

Scott has been an Eagle Grove Community school employee since 1986.
He has taught social studies, coached baseball, softball and cross-country,
and been the principal of both the Eagle Grove High School and Middle
School before settling into the position of Middle School Principal in 2012.

Nominator Beth Stephas said, “Scott Jeske has dedicated his life to
being an educator that helps students become not just smart, but also

Scott has made a point to support Middle School boys with their growth and
development. He teaches WHY TRY to show boys how to treat others, be
respectful and accept responsibility. He has helped put in the extra hours
to tutor students and created a “fishing club” as a healthy after-school
outlet for the boys.

Scott’s passion for education shows in the way he cares for his school and students. Beth said, “Mr. Jeske is one of the most caring teachers/administrators I’ve had the pleasure of working with. He truly goes above and beyond to make sure that kids have and get what they need.”

Photo of Partner of The Year
Partner of The Year
Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo brings a variety of support to Character
Counts In Iowa. Employees of Wells Fargo have
been valued volunteers to our organization.

Since 2007, Wells Fargo employees have
volunteered at an All-Star Evening, providing
exceptional services to our attendees.

More than 200 Wells Fargo employees volunteer at
Hy-Vee’s annual Exercising Your Character - an
event with 8,000 elementary students promoting
health and character.

In addition to other volunteer opportunities, Wells Fargo employees have worked on the alignment of the Six Pillars of Character with Wells Fargo’s core mission.

The Wells Fargo mission, vision and values are industry standards and a strength of Wells Fargo.

Photo of Freedom Quilts
Freedom Quilts
Organization of Character

After the September 11 terrorist attacks,
Betty & Dennis Nielson were inspired
to find a way to comfort victims’ families.

Beginning their work in their barn, they
began making quilts for families that lost
a loved one in the attacks.

They soon expanded to providing quilts
to families of fallen soldiers. “They
give, and give, and give some more –
never feeling they have done enough,”
nominator Kate Swanson said.

As she prepares a new quilt for a family, Betty contacts them so that she can get to know the family and build a quilt that is personal and meaningful.

Freedom Quilts volunteers dedicate approximately 80 – 100 hours of work and attention to create each unique, personalized quilt.

Photo of Emma Rittgers
Emma Rittgers
Aaron Eilerts Community Service Award

Emma is a student at Crocker Elementary School in Ankeny. Emma’s
example of caring and kindness is a great influence her on fellow
students, teachers, school staff, members of her church, and her
community of Ankeny.

Nominator Carolyn Newkirk said, “I often see Emma thinking about the
concerns and needs of others before she looks at her own needs.
She is always thinking about what she can do next to help others.”

One of Emma’s projects was her “Fight for Food”, a food drive to collect
items for a family of refugees from the Congo. She also helps at her
church’s mobile clothes closet, donates food to citizens in need, organizes services for refugees.

Emma’s teacher Andrea Bruns said, “Her desire to help others is contagious and I have found many other students wanting to help others because of Emma’s kindness”.

The Aaron Eilerts Service Award was named in honor of Iowa Boy Scout Aaron Eilerts from Eagle Grove. Aaron’s life was cut short when he was killed by a tornado that struck the Little Sioux Boy Scout Ranch in 2008. It is for his amazing commitment to serving others that we are honored to name this award after Aaron in 2009.

Photo of Clear Creek Elementary School
Clear Creek Elementary School
School of Character

Clear Creek Elementary’s students and teachers are living the Six Pillars of Character every day with activities that include a school supplies drive, a food drive at Thanksgiving, a Christmas Giving Tree and a Backpack program that provides kid-friendly foods during longer school breaks and in the
summer months.

Brigid Christianson, school therapist, noted, “The school atmosphere is focused on kindness and caring of peers as well as doing for the community outside of the school. Older students help the younger students follow the school expectations, do peer mentoring, as well as bringing donations for Christmas boxes.”

School activities include building-wide service projects, working with the Department of Natural
Resources to help maintain wildlife habitats and Earth Day Activities to help clean up the community. Nominator Sally Duesenberg said, “We believe that when students learn to serve others they are more likely to treat others fairly.”

Photo of Ottumwa School District
Ottumwa School District
School District of Character

The Ottumwa School District has diligently used character
education to unite the 10 schools in the district.

The ‘Bulldog Beliefs’ pledge promotes the importance of good
role models and focuses on respectful, compassionate behaviors,
and on being a responsible community member. It is a promise
that the district has made to the community; to create an
environment in which all individuals are respectful and respected.

To unifiy positive school culture efforts Ottumwa Schools held a
week of district-wide events to celebrate what it means to be an Ottumwa Bulldog and to promote a sense of belonging for all. This week of celebration included motivational speakers, a teacher
appreciation event, and an essay contest about the “Best Thing About Being a Bulldog”.
Nominator and school improvement leader Shannon Vesely said, “The entire week epitomized our collective promise to create a sense of belonging for all.”

Teachers have also implemented a “positive referral” system through which they send students to the office to be acknowledged for their positive contributions to the class or school. Shannon said, “Students are genuinely surprised and pleased when they are referred and feel respected by teachers and administrators.”


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