Sugar Bowl scholarship celebrates longtime employees
In honor of employees Celeste Rosas and Salli Nichols reaching special anniversaries with the Sugar Bowl, owners Holly! Schipper and Liz Smith are giving a non-traditional gift to help local students.
Schipper and Smith will be donating a $1,000 Dollars for Scholars scholarship to commemorate Rosas and Nichols each reaching a decade of employment with the downtown Hallmark gift store.
"We wanted to do something that gave back to Storm Lake education," Smith explained. "It's what brought Celeste, Salli, and (former owner) Molly together. We just want to give the scholarship in honor of them, and give back to all the students, like they have given to us."
Friendship between the two owners and employees, who double as Storm Lake educators during the day, runs deep.
In October 2002, Molly Kohler and her husband, Mike, had just purchased the Sugar Bowl and "had no idea" what they had gotten themselves into.
Seeking her Storm Lake High School journalism teacher, Kohler called Nichols and begged her to work, just for Christmas.
That was 10 holiday seasons ago, and Nichols quickly became a pro at creating window displays at the retailer's former location, now B&K Mercantile and Inspired by Time Quilts.
"It's just always been a fun job," Nichols said, regarding why she has stayed with Sugar Bowl so long. "I don't really have a reason to ever stop working here."
Upon Nichol's recommendation, Kohler also hired Rosas, a student in Nichol's homeroom at the time.
"I received my residential permit in 2002, and the first day I got it, I wanted to find a job," Rosas said. "I was very fortunate to have someone who cared, helped me and led me the right way, when it came to college."
Nichols and Kohler helped Rosas prepare for, apply for and enter college. Since no one in her extended family had ever received higher education, the process was confusing and even a little bit frightening.
But Nichols helped to make the process less intimidating, taking Rosas and her family to visit William Penn in Oskaloosa. Rosas later received a four-year minority scholarship to the university, but stuck with the Sugar Bowl during breaks, and even after she received an ELL position with Storm Lake Elementary.
"I've just always enjoyed coming into work," she said. "It's just a different environment, very welcoming and flexible with my schedule. I'm very lucky to have the people I work with."
Both employees felt overwhelmed by the recognition and special gift.
"I'm very thrilled to have them give money to Dollars for Scholars, and having it in honor of us makes it even more special," Nichols said. "It's a big surprise, and I think it's wonderful when anyone is willing to give scholarship money to students, because there are money who are deserving."
Upon hearing about the scholarship, Rosas described her reaction as "proud."
"It's a good feeling," she said. "We are making a difference and are helping someone else."
Like the Sugar Bowl once helped one Storm Lake student, customers will have the opportunity to assist other local graduates' dreams of pursuing college. On Jan. 30, the Sugar Bowl will be adding 10 percent of sales to the scholarship.