Harbaugh-Williams Education Promise Fund
Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Harbaugh-Williams Education Promise Fund?

The Harbaugh-Williams Education Promise Fund will provide post-secondary scholarships and educational opportunities for a classroom of African American students attending Waterloo public schools.  Sixteen students who were together in an all-male class throughout elementary years will be the Fund’s beneficiaries.  Our vision is to provide an opportunity for each student to earn a Waterloo Community School diploma, to attend an institution of higher learning and to lead a productive adult life.

How did the Fund get started?

In January 2006, Waterloo residents Dennis Harbaugh and Juanita Williams obtained a mortgage loan and donated personal assets of $85,000 to the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa to establish the Fund.  

What was the motivation behind establishment of the Fund?

Mr. Harbaugh and Ms. Williams approached the Waterloo School District and cited the following reasons for starting this unique effort:  

  • Among Waterloo’s African-American male students, economic and social factors result in low attendance and high drop-out rates.  Two out of every three African-American boys who enter our high schools fail to even earn a diploma. 
  • This pattern of dropping out of school leads to an unacceptably high percentage of young minority men entering our criminal justice system and ultimately our jails and prisons. 
  • This leads to instability in families and our larger community.
  • Our community lacks a seamless, continuous plan which encourages minority students from elementary through high school graduation and beyond.

How was this specific class chosen?

Selected students came primarily from one-parent, low income households, and history shows that many would be at-risk to drop out of Waterloo’s schools before receiving a high school diploma.  This class was also taught primarily by one teacher – Mr. Jeff Ferguson – during their elementary school years. 

What does our community stand to gain from this effort?

One of the primary goals of this effort is to develop stability and economic self-sufficiency in our minority community through higher education.  This effort coincides with a gender-based initiative launched by the Waterloo School District in 2004/05 to close the Achievement Gap of African American students.  If this unique effort proves successful in lowering drop-out rates and increasing graduation rates, not only will our community be stronger, but it may serve as a model to be expanded to involve more students in future years.

How will the Fund work?

The premise is simple:  led by volunteers organized into working groups, the community will provide ongoing mentoring, academic, and social support until each student graduates from high school.  If each student lives up to their end of the social contract, signed by parents and students, (which includes regular school attendance, strong academic performance, and graduation in good standing), the Fund promises to pay for each student’s first two years of college tuition (at the average tuition cost of Iowa’s three state universities).  

Is the Fund staffed?  How does the Fund’s work get accomplished?

This is an all-volunteer effort, with some assistance provided by the Waterloo School District.  Volunteers are organized into an “internal” working group and an “external” working group.  The “internal” group creates individual and group mentoring activities, organizes regular Parent Nights, coordinates weekly student group sessions, identifies parent education needs and helps parents prepare their children for college, helps guide parent fundraising projects, and generally ‘trouble-shoots’ to make sure students are staying on track -- both individually and as a class.  The “external” group educates the public about the Fund, speaks to civic organizations and church groups, and solicits individual contributions for the Fund.  In recent years, the Fund has used interest income from donations to contract with two African-American male counselors to lead regular weekly group sessions.

How will students access the Fund?

Upon high school graduation, each student must demonstrate a desire and the ability to enter and complete a program of study within an institution of higher learning.  Each student will complete an application form for submission to a Selection Committee.  The Selection Committee will forward their recommendations to the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa for final selection and award.  Scholarship awards will be directed to the institution of higher learning chosen by the recipient, upon verification of enrollment and/or other contingencies of the award.  

What is the financial structure of the Fund?

The Education Promise Fund is administered by the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa.  It is not an Endowment Fund, nor is it an endless project or permanent organization.  It is structured to be a 12 year project, and once the high school graduating class of 2016 has completed their second year of higher education, the Fund will be depleted and the project completed.   After completion of this effort, it may be used as a model to be expanded and involve more students in future years.

What happens if one or more of the students do not graduate from high school?

The Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa will award any remaining tuition scholarships to other deserving minority male students from the Waterloo school district.

What are the current fundraising goals?

The estimated cost of tuition for 16 students for two years at in-state university rates in 2016 is $394,400.  Since the original $85,000 donation and establishment of the Fund in January 2006, an additional $198,000 from over 175 individuals and organizations has been raised.  The April 1, 2012 Fund balance is $283,000.  Our goal is to raise an additional $111,400 from donations and interest/dividend growth during the next four years in order to meet our goal of $394,400 needed by 2016, the high school graduation date of most Promise Fund students.   

For More Information on the Fund, Please Contact Dennis Harbaugh and Juanita Williams at (319) 232-6819 or dennisharb@aol.com
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