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Friday, May 6, 2016

87-year-old helps raise awareness of education

Tuesday, September 18, 2001

Over the years, Addie Petersen has made an impact in the lives of many children as a respected music instructor.

Seventy years after graduating from Alta High School, she is now ready to make a impact in the lives of future Alta students.

Petersen, an 87-year-old band and vocal teacher who grew up in Alta many years ago, has been able to show her devotion to education by being an active member of the Alta Community Education Foundation, a group dedicated to providing money for needed supplies for students of the Alta School District.

Petersen's first major assignment as an associate of the Alta Education Foundation has been to help with fundraising, as she has asked countless businesses to donate items as prizes for a golf and card tournament to be held at the Alta Golf and Country Club Sunday.

After visiting well over 40 stores in both of the neighboring communities, Petersen was able to obtain prizes such as a $100 gift certificate for shoes, saving bonds, clothes, jewelry and various other items for the tournament.

It was the first time Petersen had ever participated in a fundraiser, but said she was ecstatic about her experience going to stores both in Storm Lake and Alta.

"I was amazed at the response I got from the businesses I went to," Petersen said. "The reception I received was absolutely remarkable. I had never done something like this before, so I didn't know what to expect, but all of the businesses were really enthusiastic about this."

Petersen said the word 'education' played a big part in her being so successful with the supporting companies.

"I think it was all due to the fact that we are starting something that is a very worthwhile project," Petersen said. "I think education is one of the most solid investments you can make, and I think all of the businesses really realized that."

While Petersen may be a new face to some retailers in the two communities, she is not a stranger to those associated with the Alta school system.

A 1931 graduate of Alta High School, Petersen wrote the Cyclone fight song in 1928, a tune still played today at pep rallies and athletic events.

Her love of music influenced her decision to start aiding the music department a number of years ago.

Petersen went to the school system and offered to donate $500 earmarked for music education, and has contributed the same amount to the Alta school system ever since.

She said music is something that can benefit people in all walks of life, and wanted to see current Alta students enjoy enriched musical opportunities because of her gifts.

"Music is a universal language, and it is something students can use for the rest of their lives," Petersen said. "It teaches them discipline and concentration, and that's why it is so valuable."

Petersen's generosity to Alta students has extended beyond the musical scene.

She has given $500 scholarships for 12 years to those planning on entering the education field, and 14 high school seniors have received the money from Petersen since 1989.

She said she gets a great deal of satisfaction from helping out the pupils.

"I get a big kick out of seeing the students that receive the scholarship fund, because they don't know they will be receiving them until the day of graduation," Petersen said. "It's worth that much just to see the expression on their faces."

Petersen started her 30-year teaching career in the music department at Newell, and then made stops in Paton, Sergeant Bluff, Cleghorn, Boone and Ames before her retirement from the educational field in 1969.

She taught both band and vocal music classes, and spent a great deal of time at the schools she instructed at, leading marching band practices in the morning and directing the pep band at evening athletic events.

Her husband was also in education, as he was the superintendent of the Linn Grove School District for a number of years.

Petersen learned the value of education from her parents, who made clear to their children how important school was to their future.

Her father arrived in the United States from Denmark in 1900 with $10 in his pocket, and spent a decade working on a farm before feeling comfortable enough with the English language to buy his own piece of property.

Neither of Petersen's parents went to school past eighth grade, and she said they wanted to see their children receive the education they were unable to have.

"My dad never complained about taxes for education at all," Petersen said. "He didn't have a chance for an education. He had to come up the hard way, and he wanted us to receive a good, quality education so we could have more opportunities."

In 1916, Petersen's father purchased a farm near the town so she could attend the brand-new Alta school building, and said her years as a student there were very enriching.

"I felt the 12 years of school I had here were wonderful and were loaded with information," Petersen said. "We had great teachers, and they didn't let us loaf. They got everything they could out of each student."

Those past opportunities are what Petersen wants to see future students experience.

She said the foundation can help the students coming out of a small school such as Alta be able to compete on the same level in college as those children arriving on campus from larger cities.

"Students here may not have all the opportunities in a small school that those in a bigger school have, and once they get to college, they're all thrown together in the same mix," Petersen said. "If we don't keep our schools up-to-date and be progressive, our kids aren't going to be ready for college. That's where the foundation can really help. It can give these students extra things that may not be in the budget."

Petersen emphasized that donors to the Alta Education Foundation can give any level of monetary contribution, and said they could also be in charge of what educational need they would want their gift to go to.

"Everything goes to what is needed in the school, and donors can give to the field they want to," Petersen said. "They can give to the science department, or the library, or any other projects they feel is worthwhile. Our future is in these young kids, and that's why this is important."

Petersen said she is excited about being able to play such a vital role in the Alta Education Foundation, and said she would continue her role as an active member as long as she feels she is aiding the school system's goal of giving quality education to students.

"I feel as long as my health is good and I'm able to do this, I can give to the school system," Petersen said. "It's that important to me."

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