Mentor Iowa has two scholarships available for mentees who are obtaining a higher level of education.  These two scholarships are for mentees who have been in the Mentor Iowa program and each are up to $1,000 to help with higher education expenses.

Mentor Iowa also has a mentee assistance fund available for mentee’s who are in need of special items.

In 2020, Mentor Iowa created our newest program to benefit graduating seniors while honoring one of our biggest champions, Judge Colin Witt.  The Honorable Colin J. Witt “Phoenix” award will provide a $100 stipend to help graduating seniors achieve their educational or career goals.

The following describes our scholarships, mentee assistance fund and Phoenix award along with some information on the wonderful individuals they are named after:


dean lester

Dean Lester Scholarship Fund

This scholarship was created in 2012 to help Mentor Iowa graduating seniors pursue a post high school education.  With a dedicated committee of board members, staff, volunteers and family members, we will provide our mentees with a strong start to their future educational success.  This scholarship is designed for Mentor Iowa mentees during their freshman year of higher education.

Dean Lester was a devoted husband, father and grandfather.  His devotion did not end just with his family.  He was an individual who had a desire to help others and treated all people with respect and saw the good in everyone he met.  His pleasant demeanor always left those he met with a big smile on their faces.

Mr. Lester was the perfect example of what a volunteer should be.  He served a wide variety of roles including:  School Board Member and President for the Ballard Community School District for 10 years, 4-H leader for 15 years, plus many committees and council meetings pertaining to youth.  He could be seen serving food during Mentor Iowa’s “Summerfest” event, and doing behind the scenes work to make sure all their special events ran smooth.  For 55 years, his constant goal was to volunteer and mentor children so they could achieve their goals and dreams.  He was the epitome of leading by example and left a positive impact on all children he worked with.

Dean Lester passed away in 2010 at 75 years old.  This scholarship fund is a fitting tribute to a man who cared so much about others.



Dan & Dee O’Donnell Scholarship Fund

This scholarship was created in 2016 to help Mentor Iowa mentees past their freshman year of higher education.  With a dedicated committee of board members, staff, volunteers and the O’Donnell family, we will provide our mentees with a continued effort to help them achieve their future educational goals.  This scholarship is designed for Mentor Iowa mentees during their Sophomore, Junior and Senior years of higher education.

Dan and Dee O’Donnell married in April of 1951. From this union they raised nine children on the south side of Des Moines. Both were active in their children’s sporting activities of baseball and softball with Dan being inducted into the Fort Des Moines Little League Hall of Fame. Involvement in the community was important to both, with Dan being actively involved in the Friendly Son’s Of St. Patrick. This organization, with the fundamental goals of charitable giving, named Dan “Irishman of the Year” in 2001.

Charity was the mainstay of the family which led to the formation of the O’Donnell & Friends Open in 1994, a golf event held each year to benefit charitable organizations in the Greater Des Moines area. Through the leadership of Dan and Dee, this annual event has raised cash donations to numerous local charities that will surpass $1,000,000 of total contributions raised at this year’s Open.

Due to Dan and Dee’s lifelong commitment to giving, they were both inducted into Van & Bonnie’s Hall of Heroes in June of 2012.  Their leadership and work with the O’Donnell & Friends Open led to the O’Donnell Family receiving the Spirit of Philanthropy Award in 2013. With the involvement of the children, grandchildren, friends and volunteers, the goal is to continue the tradition and legacy of giving, led by the example of Dan and Delores O’Donnell.


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Jimmy Millhollin Mentee Assistance Fund

Jimmy L Millhollin loved kids.  He was a devoted husband, father grandfather and great-grandfather. He was always happy and had a smile that would light up the room.  He had a heart of gold but showed tough love when needed to.  He would do anything for a child in need.  It did not matter if they needed a new bike or just needed it fixed.  He was always there.  He was a camp counselor, a boy’s group leader at his church, a babysitter (no matter the age of the child) and a mentor in his own quiet, strong way.  He opened the church he attended for Mentor Iowa monthly events.  Being part of this and being with the kids gave him great joy.  He always had a lap to sit on. A hug to give and an ear to listen.

Jimmy passed away in December 2015 at the age of 83.  His smile and love will live on in the children this scholarship will touch in the years to come.

The Jimmy Millhollin Mentee Assistance Fund will help mentees who are in need of special items.  Requests will be made by mentors to assist their mentees for seasonal clothing items, fees for extracurricular activities or any other item where a cost is involved.  This fund will help build the self-esteem of our children by knowing they can have the opportunity to participate in an activity and not worry about a financial burden to their family.


The Honorable Colin J. Witt Phoenix Award

The Judge Colin Witt “Phoenix” award is designed to help our graduating high school seniors receive funds to help with post high school aspirations associated with education or work.

Colin began his journey with Mentor Iowa in 2001 when he was an attorney with Ahlers & Cooney, P.C.  A famous quote from Colin when he was going through the orientation/training process to become a mentor was he wanted to work with the child who had been on the waiting list the longest.

Colin’s next phase for making an impact with Mentor Iowa was serving as a member of the board.  Colin served as a board member for Mentor Iowa from 2004-2005.  He was able to lend his expertise in several areas to help the children referred to the program.  He served as one of our legal experts and gave a perspective from being an active mentor.

Colin’s time on the board did not last long as he achieved his dream of becoming a Judge in 2005.  Due to a conflict of interest policy, he did have to resign off of the board of directors.  Judge Witt utilized his knowledge of Mentor Iowa to help the children who entered his courtroom.  He referred many children to Mentor Iowa in hopes of them attaining a mentor to help them see life from a different point of view.  He also would lend his name to support Mentor Iowa with letters of support to promote the program to help more children in need.  Judge Witt would look at a quote that was in his chambers before entering his courtroom, “Know what you know, know what you don’t know and don’t confuse the two.”  This quote inspired Judge Witt to make the best decision to help the life trajectory of the family who enters his courtroom.

When it comes to someone who made an impact in the community during their life, Judge Witt was a leader everyone should strive to be.  Not only was Judge Witt involved with Mentor Iowa, he also made an impact with Youth Emergency Services & Shelter, ArtForce Iowa, National Association Counsel for Children and the Iowa Children’s Justice Advisory Committee (just to name a few).  His passions included his love of the Iowa Hawkeyes, arts and physical fitness; which were evident in many of his daily life routines.