OTTUMWA — High school and college students in Wapello County will have the opportunity to be awarded $2,500 annually thanks to the United Way of Wapello County Benson scholarship.

Executive Director Ali Wilson said students can apply through the website until April 1, 2020. As long as a student either lives in or goes to school in Wapello County, can submit transcripts and has a minimum GPA of 2.5, they are eligible for a scholarship.

“The main thing that we evaluate for the scholarship is we want applicants to show dedication to United Way’s mission,” she said, “so how are they working to improve education, financial stability or health essentially. They can be doing that in a lot of different ways. They could be volunteering, could be their future plans. Maybe they want to be an educator in this area or health worker. Or they could be doing that and they just want to up their skills and pursue a higher degree.”

Wilson said it’s the second year United Way has offered this scholarship. It was established after George Benson left part of his estate to United Way and established an endowment fund.

“Every year we take a part of that return of that investment and put it toward the scholarships,” she said, “we thought that would be a great way to honor his contribution to United Way.”

She hopes the scholarships will help students fulfill any educational goals they have.

“College is a really critical factor in a person’s success in life,” she said, “education is really important. That’s why it’s one of our three focus areas. We also know that a lot of students are people who want to be college students have barriers and cost is a big one. This is a way for us to show our support for our students in our area who want to go on and continue their education and hopefully continue to live and work in Wapello County.”

Wilson said any post high school training is crucial, not only for the person, but for their work and community.

“We know that Wapello County will be a better place to live and work, the more people we have who have higher skill levels, whether that’s through junior college, technical training, four year degrees — it’s becoming necessary in our economy to have some kind of education post high school. This is our way of trying to help folks access that who either may not be able to do so. Otherwise [they] would have additional costs or barriers.”

Students, Wilson said, have had positive reactions and benefits from obtaining these Benson scholarships. Last year, four students qualified for $2,500. “We’ve had several notes back about how much those students appreciated that,” she said. “They’ve said, ‘this is a really great opportunity for me and we really appreciate the support.’”

Wilson said there was one student who said she was truly appreciative. “She was a first generation student, so she was really excited to have some local support. She moved onto her education journey.”

When it comes down to it, she said a student shouldn’t feel afraid to apply. “There’s no risk in applying,” she said. “You can only obtain a benefit from it. It’s a great local opportunity for local students, so take advantage of it.”

Students can find the Benson scholarship application at: For further questions call or email Wilson at 641-682-1264 or

Chiara Romero can be reached at


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