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Branstad State Fair Scholarship recipients honored


Elizabeth Keest Sedrel
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Receiving their awards from Ambassador Terry E. Branstad, left to right: Abigail Kelly of Des Moines, Ruth Marth of Estherville, and Blake Van Der Kamp of Prairie City.

Ambassador Terry E. Branstad honored three young Iowans who earned his namesake scholarship today. The former Iowa Governor presented certificates to the students, who will start college this fall, in a small reception at the State Historical Building. They were chosen based on participation in the fair, extracurricular activities, volunteer service to their communities, GPA, and an essay explaining the fair’s impact on their lives.

“I’ve always been a strong supporter of Iowa agriculture and the Iowa State Fair,” Branstad told the students and their families. “I believe the fair is a great opportunity for young people to showcase their talents.”

Each student will receive $2,000 to attend an Iowa college or university during the 2020-21 academic year. This year’s recipients of the Governor Terry E. Branstad Iowa State Fair Scholarship:

  • Abigail Kelly of Des Moines is the 2020 Iowa Honey Queen and a volunteer at the Iowa Honey Producers Association fair booth. Two of her 4-H projects about beekeeping were selected to represent Polk County at the State Fair, and she has entered honey, beeswax candles, beeswax art, photography, and extracted frames and honey frames in competition, as well as competing in the adult piano playing competition. In 2019, she painted kindness rocks and hid them around the fair. Abigail also volunteers for her local library’s reading program, plays piano at her church, and serves as volunteer beekeeper at the Science Center of Iowa. She says the fair has pushed her out of her comfort zone and helped her grow as a public speaker and performer. She plans to attend Faith Baptist Bible College.
  • Ruth Marth of Estherville has earned six blue ribbons at the State Fair for sewing and needle arts, communication, clothing and fashion, and welding, as well as five Seals of Merit and one Seal of Excellence for extemporaneous speaking and education presentations. While the Seal of Excellence was a longtime goal, Ruth says her most valuable lesson came from initially falling short and embracing the 4-H motto, “To Make the Best Better.” She is a founding leader of the Emmet County Rhythm Group, which has performed several times at the fair, and has competed in the Emmet County Fair Queen contest. She is a member of the marching, jazz, and concert bands and the varsity and jazz choirs at Estherville Lincoln Central High School. Ruth also volunteers at Good Samaritan Nursing Home, where she was named Volunteer Champion of the Year. She plans to attend Iowa Lakes Community College and to continue her involvement in 4-H as an adult assistant.
  • Blake Van Der Kamp of Prairie City credits the State Fair for expanding his horizons. Encouraged by a teacher, he entered a photograph as a high school sophomore and calls its display one of his proudest moments. Since then, Blake has served as an FFA usher and volunteered at the Cattlemen’s Beef Quarters, sheep shearing show, Paul R. Knapp Animal Learning Center, and Farm to Fair dinner. In addition to photography, he has exhibited in ag mechanics and poultry. In his community, Blake launched recycling and school supply drives and volunteered for a local food pantry and for SportAbility of Iowa Adapted Sports Camp. His activities at PCM High School include speech competition, FFA, art club, student government, and National Honor Society. He has also appeared in theatrical productions at his school and at Des Moines Young Artists’ Theatre, one of which earned a Cloris Award. Blake plans to attend Iowa State University.

“We’re very proud of these young people and their efforts to explore new opportunities through the Iowa State Fair,” Iowa College Aid Executive Director Mark Wiederspan said. “In their essays, they all said the fair had challenged them to reach farther and higher. We’re confident that spirit will serve them well throughout their college experience.”

The scholarship is named for Branstad, Iowa’s governor from 1983 to 1999 and 2011 to 2017, and current U.S. ambassador to China. Also honored today was Hannah Koellner of Eddyville, the 2019 State Fair Queen. With the fair and the queen competition canceled this year, she will continue her reign until August 2021.