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Local STARS scholar shines bright in community banking

June 30, 2022

Our local communities are full of dedicated nonprofits with inspiring missions. The STARS Scholarship is an Iowa West Foundation initiative that supports nontraditional adult parents in Pottawattamie County pursuing college degrees, professional licenses or certificates by providing financial assistance, career planning and tailored supports. TS Bank is a proud supporter of this program. Read this interview with Angie Sutton, Accounting Specialist for TS Banking Group, as well as STARS scholarship alum.

How did STARS impact your life? 

Going to college as an adult can make you feel a little out of place. The STARS program helped to show me that there were other adults, who also had kids, working towards the same goals. 

What doors did this open for you in life?

 STARS (and money management!) enabled me to graduate debt free. This set me up for success in my career without the weight of student loans following me to the next chapter of my life!


What was it like being involved in STARS? 

I enjoyed the seminars throughout my time as a scholar. The seminars were an opportunity to learn about topics that I might not have sought out otherwise. The in-person meetings also gave me a chance to meet other scholars and discuss challenges we were facing.

What would you like future STARS to know or think about to remain motivated? 

It is worth it! I have been able to advance in my career and increase my earning potential. Hard work now will pay off in the long run!

Were you ever ready to give up, and if so what kept you going? 

There were definitely tough days. I had a full time job, three small kids and a full class schedule.  It is important to remember WHY you are doing this in order to push through the hard times. I knew I wanted to set a good example for my kids to follow!

Did STARS help you with any barriers that you would have been more challenging if you did not have STARS?                                   

STARS helped with the practical expenses of going back to school. Book fees can get expensive fast! I was grateful to have my STARS funds to cover supplies, gas, etc.

Are you currently in the field that you studied?

Yes! Since I didn’t go to college right away, I had some life experience that helped me confirm what I was interested in and what I wanted to study.

Would you recommend others to apply for the scholarship? If so, Why?

Definitely! Being a STARS scholar was a great experience – knowing you have people cheering you on and recognizing your efforts was a huge encouragement. STARS doesn’t just provide funds; they are invested in helping scholars succeed!


The STARS Scholarship celebrated 25 years at their graduation recognition event on June 16, 2022 held at the Hoff Family Arts and Culture Center in Council Bluffs. Since inception, STARS has assisted over 450 scholars with 260 graduates, over 520 children and impacted over 780 Pottawattamie County residents.

"According to the 2020 Census only 33.5 % of Pottawattamie County resident's, ages 25 to 64 have an education or training beyond high school. With this data it is clear that the Iowa West Foundation has identified a need in our community and then taken action by establishing the STARS program for adult learners. We are thankful for our other community partnerships like TS Bank, without them our program would not be possible,” said STARS Program Director, Mia Laustrup.

"Since 1997, STARS has supported nontraditional students not only monetarily but also through support and navigation with their educational journey. Through these efforts, we can enrich the lives of our students, our workforce, and our community. I'm proud to be part of such an amazing program that empowers economically disadvantaged parents by providing the opportunity to complete a college degree, creating brighter futures for themselves and for their children. Through our program the roadblocks to higher education are removed and the completion of a college degree becomes a reality," concluded Laustrup.

To learn more about the STARS scholarship, please visit

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