"The Community Foundation has my back"


It was during a balloon and laser demonstration while a high school student that Caleb Hoffman first realized he was interested in engineering. He toured a local private college as part of his high school’s talented and gifted program and watched in amazement as the laser blew up the balloon.

That interest eventually led him to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at Iowa State University, where he is now a junior and one of hundreds of students from the Quad Cities area each year who benefit from scholarships provided through the Quad Cities Community Foundation. 

Hoffman grew up in Muscatine, Iowa, and said multiple scholarships awarded through the Community Foundation have changed his life. In 2015, he received the Don E. and Charlotte Williams Scholarship for $12,000, the Morency Family Scholarship for $8,000, and the Mike Condon Scholarship for $1,500. In 2016, he received another Mike Condon Scholarship for $1,500. 

“Donors in the community have funded more than a quarter of my tuition,” he said. “The support has helped me more than they may ever know.”

Hoffman will share the impact area donors have had on his life during the Community Foundation’s annual scholarship presentation event on May 6, 2018. This year, more than $260,000 in scholarships will be awarded from 31 different scholarship funds to 47 different students. 

Because of the support from the Community Foundation, he has been able to hold off on working a job, freeing him up to study and pursue internships. He was able to secure an internship his freshman year, something only 35 percent of the freshman class was able to do. “I was able to focus on that and not a part-time job,” he said. “If I had been working a job, I wouldn’t have been able to have that internship experience.”

Last spring, he completed an eight-month coop in Burlington, Iowa, an experience that helped him decide to pursue a degree in manufacturing engineering. “I realized that I really enjoy working with people,” he said. “You’re out there solving problems with people and not always behind a computer.”

This summer, Hoffman will complete an internship at Deere and Company. “It’s an awesome opportunity,” he said.

Kelly Thompson, vice president of grantmaking and community initiatives at the Community Foundation, said the encouragement they hope students feel when they receive scholarships is as important as the dollars. “We are so proud of students like Caleb, who have demonstrated incredible potential and then followed through on it,” she said. “We’re fortunate to have donors who recognize the importance of helping these students advance in their education so they can have a greater impact on their communities and the lives of those around them.”

Hoffman said he is honored that local community members thought he was worthy of the scholarships. “They take the time to read the applications and hand-select you,” he said. “The Community Foundation is filled with people—employees and volunteers—who care. I thought it was awesome they chose me.”

Hoffman said he’s now focused on proving to them that they made the right decision to select him for scholarships. He earned a 4.0 GPA his freshman year and has maintained a 3.6 GPA since then. “I have good study habits and I’ve been able to pay for tutoring when I needed it because of the scholarships,” he said. 

Hoffman has also been intentional to plug into activities on and off campus that develop friendships and his leadership abilities. He participates in campus ministry, and mentors members of a robotics team in his hometown. On campus, he participates in the Clean Snowmobile Challenge to help design and build snowmobiles that run on ethanol or bio-renewable sources. 

“Being able to have relationships is as important, if not more, than the school work,” he said. “There were times where I was too focused on the school work and I wasn’t enjoying college. It’s important to be involved and make lifelong friendships. Having a good work and play balance I’ve found is very important.”

Participating, he said, has also helped him hone skills he’ll use well past college. “You get out on your own and discover different skills and what you enjoy and how you work,” he said. 

The support of the Community Foundation and the scholarship committee helped propel him past self-doubt his first year of college and has reminded him to keep going. “At first I wasn’t sure I was cut out for it, because school was hard—it is hard,” he said. “But I knew there people who had my back, saying ‘yes, you can do it and we want to invest in you.’ I realized, they really think I can. That support has helped in a lot of ways.”