Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Jan 18, 2018

Bruen wins homecoming scholarship

■ Rotary award intended for person making Fairfield their home
By ANDY HALLMAN Ledger news editor | Jan 10, 2017
Photo by: Andy Hallman/Ledger photo Fairfield resident Anna Bruen receives the Fairfield Rotary Homecoming Scholarship Friday from Pat Hurley, the club’s scholarship committee chairman.

Fairfield Rotary Club awarded a special scholarship to a recent college graduate who plans to make Fairfield her long-term home: Anna Bruen.

The club’s one-time, special gift was for $6,000, taken from unclaimed Rotary scholarships from years ago. Instead of putting the money into their general fund, club members opted to create a new scholarship, the Fairfield Rotary Homecoming Scholarship.


New kind of scholarship

Rotary scholarship committee chairman Pat Hurley presented the award to Bruen during Friday’s weekly club meeting. He began his remarks by noting that Rotary’s scholarships have always gone to high school students preparing for college … until now.

The new scholarship was to go to a hard-working, service-minded young adult who graduated from high school in Fairfield, who recently finished or was about to finish post-secondary education, and who planned to make Fairfield their permanent home. The idea was that the recipient would be someone who likes to serve the community, and along those lines, Rotary would give the recipient a six-month trial membership in the organization.

“One of the applicants really stood out as embodying all the qualities and values of Rotary, and that was Anna Bruen,” Hurley said. “It was very clear from Anna’s essay that she is completely dedicating her life to serving her community. Her primary goals are to help the Fairfield community grow, to bring people of different backgrounds together, and to help others to live happy, healthy and prosperous lives.”


Bruen’s Fairfield ties

Bruen was born in Massachusetts and moved to Fairfield in her youth. She graduated from Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment in 2004, and then from Maharishi University of Management four years later with a degree in sustainable living and minors in business and improvised movement. She would go on to get a master’s degree in community and regional planning from Iowa State University.

Her graduation from ISU in 2014 allowed her to qualify for the Rotary scholarship, which was limited to current students or those who had graduated in the past two years. She commented that she studied community and regional planning because she wanted her work to benefit the general public.

After obtaining her bachelor’s degree, Bruen assisted Fairfield’s sustainability coordinator in the Hometown Rewards Program, an energy efficiency campaign. She helped manage the planting of a community orchard, incorporated energy efficiency practices into a Habitat for Humanity house, weatherized 100 homes in Fairfield and put solar panels on the Fairfield Public Library, among many other projects.


Commitment to volunteering

In the past year, Bruen has taken on a new role, that of the executive director of Pathfinders Resource Conservation and Development. That is on top of her many volunteer activities, which include serving on the board of directors of the Women, Food and Agriculture Network, and helping other groups such as Carry On Bags, Girls on the Run, The Lord’s Cupboard, Fairfield’s Go-Green Commission and the Young Professionals of Fairfield.

“After considering all of her qualities and experience, we were unanimous in our decision to select Anna for this award,” Hurley said at Friday’s meeting. “We feel that she will do many great things for Fairfield and will truly embody Rotary’s motto of ‘service above self.’”

Bruen said she was overjoyed to receive the special honor from Rotary.

“Rotary is full of good people who do a lot of work internationally,” she said. “I am filled with so much gratitude.”

Paying off student loans

The scholarship was intended for someone who was just getting started in their career, but who was saddled with at least $10,000 of student loan debt. The money will go directly to paying off Bruen’s student loans, which will give her greater freedom to spend her paycheck locally, another of her passions. She said her student loan debt worried her, and being able to pay off a large chunk of it is a load off her mind.

Rotary club presidential nominee for 2018-19 Joshua Laraby, who is also the executive director of Fairfield Economic Development Association, was excited about the Rotary Homecoming Scholarship when the idea was being batted around.

“Rotary is looking at the next generation of its service-focused club and Fairfield is looking for fresh approaches to attract and retain talent to our community,” he said. “A scholarship concept like this is a win for the next chapter of our community at-large and for the next chapter of the Rotary Club of Fairfield.”

Getting the ball rolling

Rotary board member Beth Alonso said the club had talked about expanding its scholarship offerings for many years. Former Rotary club president Adam Plagge liked the idea of awarding a scholarship to a student nearing the end of their education instead of one just beginning it. He formulated the idea into an official proposal, which the board approved.

“This was a chance to really help someone who is choosing Fairfield for their long-term home, and to help strengthen our community,” Alonso said. “It would significantly lighten their load [student debt], so they could invest more in their life here … and it would be something they would remember, and maybe inspire them to do more to help others, too.”

Rotary’s scholarship program began in 1970 when the club awarded $300 to a high school senior going to college. The fund was later able to support two $1,500 scholarships, and a few years ago grew to four $1,500 gifts. In 2016, the amount of the four scholarships rose to $2,000.

Attracting young talent

According to a press release from the organization, one of the club’s goals is to attract young adults to the community. That goal, coupled with Rotary’s commitment to promoting post-secondary education, is how the homecoming scholarship came about.

“We felt that this could be a wonderful opportunity for the club to keep the

funds for what they were intended for – scholarships – and at the same time, have a meaningful impact on someone’s life who is just getting started in their career in Fairfield, and benefit the Fairfield community as a whole by helping to keep and attract young adults to make this their long-term home,” stated the release.

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