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Sioux City Public Schools Foundation

Father, daughter duo participate in 'Are You Smarter Than Our Fourth Graders' fundraiser

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Michael Rohlena and daughter Harper both participated in the “Are You Smarter Than Our Fourth Graders” fundraiser hosted by the Sioux City Public Schools Foundation. Michael was a contestant and Harper was a classmate.

SIOUX CITY -- When a last-minute contestant substitute was needed for a “Are You Smarter Than Our Fourth Graders?” fundraiser, Michael Rohlena was asked to fill in. The exciting part - his daughter, Harper, was also a part of the program.

Rohlena, associate dean of career and tech education at Western Iowa Tech Community College, was originally a backup contestant.

This is the fifth year of the competition and due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was prerecorded. The fundraiser will air from 7-8 p.m. Friday on the foundation’s YouTube channel. Visit for the video link.

The day of the competition filming, Rohlena was asked if he could fill in for someone who was sick. When he told Harper he was going to be a contestant, she was excited.

Harper said she liked having her dad on stage with her because she was nervous.

“Are You Smarter Than Our Fourth Graders” is a fundraiser hosted by the Sioux City Public Schools Foundation to fill a funding gap between what the school can receive and what they need for programs and improvements, said Lisa Niebuhr, development director for the foundation.

It is also an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of teachers and students during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Niebuhr said the event shows what students have learned while testing the adult’s knowledge.

The fundraiser is based on the game show “Are You Smarter than A Fifth Grader.” The game tests adults’ memory of various topics from history to science at the elementary school level. A group of kids known as “classmates” also answer the questions and the contestant can ask for their help.

The Sioux City version features six “Sioux-lebrities” and eight fourth grade students.

Kids are picked from throughout the district by principals and teachers. Niebuhr said the kids are a well-rounded group from various schools and have fun personalities.

The contestants are individuals from around the community who are good examples of what students can become and some are also Sioux City School District alumni, Niebuhr said.

The contestants are:

-- Dave Bernstein, officer and co-owner of State Steel;

-- Michael Rohlena, associate dean of career and tech education at Western Iowa Tech Community College;

-- Jaret Lansford, morning meteorologist at KTIV;

-- Treyla Lee, recruiter for Four Oaks;

-- Travis Morgan, CEO of the Sioux City Musketeers'

-- Todd Siefker, Sioux City Community School District Spanish teacher and 2021 teacher of the year.

Serving as hosts for the show were Sioux City Journal Editor Bruce Miller and Heidi Reinking, Siouxland Chamber of Commerce and wife of Sioux City school district teacher, Ryan Reinking.

Rohlena was supposed to participate last year but the event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The kids and contestants are given a study guide of 154 to 170 questions that may appear during the competition. Harper said she studied with her friend Sophia who was also a contestant.

During the school day, they would randomly ask each other a question.

“Hey what’s the only U.S. national holiday that falls on a Thursday,” Harper said. If they got it wrong, they would repeat it over and over again. Because Rohlena became a participant at the last minute, he did not get the chance to study.

The event was filmed on April 25. Niebuhr said the kids and contestants were amazing. She also said it would not have been possible without all of the sponsors and volunteers.

Harper said it was really fun and she only got a few questions wrong. She  said she feels smarter now.

"Now I know I’m smarter than like five grownups," she said. "I’m even smarter than a weather man."

There are 80 different auction items available to bid on. Niebuhr said all of the items are from Siouxland.

The items include:

-- Tuition vouchers to WITCC and Wayne State College and merchandise from Iowa State;

-- Tickets to Nebraska Huskers football game;

-- 3-month membership and enrollment fee to the Norm Waite Y;

-- American Girl Doll;

-- Passes to the LaunchPad, Sioux City Explorers and Old Creamery Theatre;

-- 8 seats in the Thompson Electric suite to one of three Sioux City Bandit’s 2021 home games.

Caitlin Yamada


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