For 20 years, middle and high school students in southwest Iowa have filed into gymnasiums and auditoriums to hear from speakers who educate, inspire and empower through TS Promise.

TS Bank will celebrate the milestone during this year’s TS Promise, Sept. 4 to Sept. 6, with 11 assemblies at schools in southwest Iowa, along with a youth rally in Oakland.

TS Bank’s Mick and Judy Guttau were at an American Bankers Association conference in the late ‘90s when they heard General and future Secretary of State Colin Powell talking about touching the lives of youth and the America’s Promise Alliance.

“He said to do ‘10 percent more for children,’” Judy Guttau said. “I took that to heart.”

The Guttaus looked into how they could “do 10 percent more” through the America’s Promise program. Around that time Judy Guttau heard speaker Rick Nielsen give his inspirational message at a luncheon.

“I thought he’d be a great speaker for a school assembly,” Guttau said.

TS Promise — initially called America’s Promise — was born.

Nielsen, who uses humor and magic to reach people, spoke at Treynor High School and Riverside High School during the first series of assemblies, in 1999.

Over the years the program has grown along with TS Bank and its parent organization, TS Banking Group. First via a partnership with Malvern Bank to bring speakers to East Mills High School, and further to the Council Bluffs, Underwood, Tri-Center, Griswold, Riverside, Southwest Valley and other districts.

Speakers have included a strongman, a yo-yo champion, ventriloquist, magician and others, all of whom use their unique talents to reach students.

“It’s amazing to me how in such a short period of time, the speaker can grasp high school kids’ attention, tell their story, how it relates to a lot of the kids in our audience, the struggles they went through and how it made them a better person,” said Jeff Novotny, activities director at Abraham Lincoln High School in Council Bluffs. “The community connection with TS Bank and being able to have assemblies to reach a good portion of our students to reach students is a great partnership.”

About 10 years ago TS Promise added a youth rally, which is now held at Fellowship Church in Oakland. Each speaker performs at the rally as well.

“The speaker can provide a little more in-depth content to use to apply to their lives. The rally has been a very positive influence in all the communities of southwest Iowa,” said Brian Kalstrup, assistant pastor at Fellowship. “We like working with other organizations to be a positive influence in students’ lives.”

This year’s speaker is a perennial favorite — Eric Samuel Timm. Timm is a Minnesota-based hope communicator, per his website. He’s a live artist painter, who uses his ability to creatively combine his messages with live art performances and simple illustrations — reaching more than 3 million people in 36 countries over a 19-year career.

“He gave a very touching and motivational speech that impacted a lot of the students,” said Riley Lemke, who as a junior at Thomas Jefferson High School in Council Bluffs saw Timm speak in 2014. “While giving the speech, he was painting what looked like an abstract painting and it was hard to gauge what it was, and at the very end he flipped the canvas over and it ended up being a painting of Albert Einstein.

“I thought it was a really unique talent and to be able to give a whole speech while painting, seemed to leave a lot of people astonished.”

Twenty years of TS Promise means some of the very students reached through the program eventually moved on to careers with TS Bank. Lemke is now the branch manager of the TS Bank West Broadway location.

Krysta Stevens, a client service coordinator with TS Prosperity Group, TS Banking Group’s wealth management and trust division, remembered seeing the speakers during her four years at Riverside High School in Oakland, Iowa.

“I always really enjoyed listening to the speakers every year for TS Promise and getting to hear their message. I remember always leaving feeling very inspired,” Stevens said. “Since high school this has been an even more amazing experience to be a part of being on the other side of it and being able to volunteer to make sure these messages reach the right ears and help any kids struggling and not knowing how to reach out and get the help they need.

“All in all I think this program is great and I am always amazed at how well the message is received. It has always given me a great feeling when that shy or even outgoing kid comes up at the end of the program and asks for someone to help them with their everyday struggles that they otherwise wouldn’t have shared.”

Did Judy Guttau think the program would last 20 years? She did.

“We hoped it would just go on forever. Back then we got the board to buy in on it, and they have ever since,” said. “It’s been a great 20 years.”

This year’s TS Promise Youth Rally will be held on Sept. 4 at Fellowship Church, 18999 Highway 59 in Oakland. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the start at 7 p.m.

The youth rally is open to all area middle and high schoolers, their siblings and their parents.

— Mike Brownlee is a copywriter for TS Bank.

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