GREENFIELD — It’s a badge they’ll wear the rest of their lives.
That’s the message Hancock County Community Foundation president Mary Gibble had for this year’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholars about the honor of being chosen for the award that will send them to college for free.
Abby Poole from New Palestine High School and Brieann Staker from Mt. Vernon High School were selected by the community foundation and Lilly Endowment Inc. from about 50 local applicants to receive full-ride scholarships based on their community service efforts and academ-ic performance.
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In order to be considered for the scholarship, Poole and Staker had to be in the top 15 percent of their high school class and be involved in their school and community.
It’s a prestigious honor to be selected because the students who apply each year are all deserving, Gibble said.
Poole and Staker were chosen from eight finalists, two from each of the county’s high schools. Each of the finalists will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
Picking two from the group of eight is challenging for the foundation’s board each year, Gibble said.
The résumés are always impressive, she said.
“The pool of kids who apply in the first place is great,” she said. “These are kids doing really amazing things.”
Poole and Staker’s dedication to the community, however, stood out among eight selfless kids, she said.
‘A great representative’
Poole is the daughter of Wayne and Dee Dee Poole of New Palestine.
This fall, she plans to attend Huntington University, a Christian liberal arts school located in northeast Indiana, where she’ll study nursing. She hopes to later pursue a doctorate degree in occupational therapy.
She’s volunteered in the community since she was a child participating in Girl Scouts.
In eighth grade, she helped start an after-school enrichment program at Zion Lutheran School, where her sister attended. There, she helped plan after-school activities for students and also was a cheer coach.
As a high school student, she founded the Seeds of Greatness gardening club, which donates all of its organic produce to the school’s food bank and the Hancock Hope House homeless shelter, where she serves on the youth board.
She’s also participated in mission trips through Park Chapel Christian Church, is a 4-H member and golfs at the high school.
When she learned she’d been picked as a Lilly Scholar, she was shocked, she said.
“I don’t think anyone can deserve such a blessing,” she said. “It’s such an honor.”
Her mom, Dee Dee Poole, was equally surprised, not because she doesn’t think her daughter deserves the scholarship but because she knows many local students regularly give back to their communities.
“Some people have said it’s like she won the lottery,” Dee Dee Poole said. “It’s not a lottery. It’s years of commitment to their community. It’s become a way of life for her.”
Abby’s Poole’s dream job is to be a medical missionary in Ecuador, but she’d also like to return home to continue to give back to the community that helped raise her.
New Palestine assistant principal Miles Hercamp said it’s an honor for the school any time one of its students is chosen as a Lilly Scholar. Poole is definitely deserving, he said.
“Abby is a great representative of New Palestine,” he said.
‘I felt so blessed’
Brieann Staker, a senior at Mt. Vernon High School, is the daughter of Brandon and Lisa Staker.
After graduation, she plans to attend IUPUI to become a physician assistant.
Since eighth grade, Brieann Staker has worked with Mini Doves, a Fortville-based organization, to train miniature horses as service animals.
Her mother, Lisa Staker, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Brieann Staker was in seventh grade, which has inspired the teen’s interest in helping others.
“I really enjoy interacting with sick people and making them feel good,” she said.
“That’s why I want to be a physician’s assistant.”
In addition to her work with Mini Doves, Staker also volunteers for Gleaners Food Drop and two nursing homes.
She’s also involved in choir, is the voice president of her school’s tobacco awareness club and is involved in National Honor Society.
She’s honored to receive the scholarship, she said.
“I was so taken aback, I felt so blessed by it,” she said.
Lisa Staker said she was confident her daughter would be chosen because she’s hardworking and selfless.
“I had no doubt,” Lisa Staker said. “I prayed for this for so long.”
Mt. Vernon High School Principal Bernie Campbell said Brieann Staker has all the characteristics educators look for in leaders.
“She’s genuine; what you see in Brieann is what you get,” he said.
“Wherever she lands, I think she will find a true interest in wanting to help others.”