Scholarship from Community Foundation foreshadows philanthropy for Quad Citizen


It is good to be home.

That’s a sentiment Hannah Thomsen feels strongly now that she has returned to her old stomping grounds to live and work. “I feel like I’ve found myself in my home community,” said Thomsen, who serves as the communications director for the Pleasant Valley Community School District in Riverdale, Iowa.

It’s the same district she graduated from six years ago before enrolling at the University of Iowa to study journalism, mass communication and art. “I’m working with people who helped me become who I am,” she said. “You view your hometown in such a different way.”

While preparing for college, Thomsen received the James D. Morrison Scholarship through the Quad Cities Community Foundation, generosity that she says helped shape her future in more ways than one.

The Community Foundation administers approximately $400,000 in scholarship funds each year, all provided by donors interested in  helping students attain their education goals. The scholarship Thomsen received is named after James D. Morrison, who taught primarily English at Pleasant Valley High School for 20 years, beginning in 1962. He was devoted to his students and engaged them with his humor and love of the language. He passed in 2000, but his legacy lives in on the lives of people like Thomsen. 

The scholarship certainly made a difference in her life, Thomsen said, not only helping fund her tuition, but serving as a foreshadow of how philanthropy would later play a role in her life.

“It made such a difference,” she said.

After graduation, she worked at the March of Dimes in Cedar Rapid, Iowa, before she decided to come home to spend more time with grandparents who were facing health issues. After moving back, she ran into the school district superintendent and soon found herself back in the school she graduated from—this time as a staff member. “It’s been awesome to see the changes that have been made and the improvements, but also to see that some things stay the same,” she said. 

She was also able to quickly put her communication skills to work, and see the flip side of philanthropy in her additional role as the Pleasant Valley Schools Educational Foundation board secretary. In that role, Thomsen works with more than two dozen board members as they work to raise funds for scholarships for students, including an annual golf event and 5K run. She helps manage the scholarship program, giving her insight into students who are much like she was not too long ago. “It’s cool to see that cycle,” she said. “You get to help kids and then they go and do the same.” 

The work for the school district foundation is fulfilling, she said, as she knows firsthand the importance of scholarships. “It’s been a total blast,” she said. “You get to see money go to kids who really need it, and to kids who you know it will help them exceed what they thought they could do.” 

Her work as communications director is fast-paced and a perfect fit. “I thrive on the adrenaline,” she said. “It’s fun and challenging.”

It’s also a very different perspective from her view as a student. “There is so much that goes on behind the scenes,” she said. “When you’re a student, you have no idea. There are so many layers.” 

Because her position is new to the district (less than five years), Thomsen has the opportunity to help determine what her role is each day. “I get to have a hand in molding what the position needs to be so it’s the most productive,” she said.

And because it’s her hometown, the work means that much more. “It’s an important job and an important role,” she said. “It’s woven into my fabric as a person. In a job, you want to feel connected to what you’re doing. And in this, every element is important to me.”

Melanie JonesScholarship, Students