GREENFIELD — Eight of Hancock County’s brightest young minds have been named finalists for the prestigious Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship, a full ride to any Indiana college.
Each year, the Hancock County Community Foundation recommends two graduating students for the four-year tuition award. Those recipients are chosen from a pool of eight finalists, who represent top-notch students dedicated to serving their communities.
Applicants must be ranked in the top 15 percent of their graduating class and plan to pursue a four-year degree from an Indiana college or university. All submitted applications are reviewed by out-of-county professionals, who select eight local finalists.
A committee of community foundation volunteers will now work to narrow down the eight finalists down to two recommended recipients, whose names will be submitted to the Lilly Endowment for approval. Winners are expected to be announced in December.
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These are the seniors honored as 2016 Lilly Endowment finalists:
Emily Frost: Mt. Vernon High School
Emily Frost knows about perseverance. When she was in fourth grade, her older sister was diagnosed with leukemia. During that five-year battle, Frost, daughter of Mark and Amy Frost, had to grow up quickly, she said.
It was during this time, when Frost set aside hobbies to focus on family and school work, when she tutored her ailing sister, that she developed a passion for education, which shaped her plans to study secondary education at Anderson University or Ball State University in hopes of becoming a high school social studies teacher.
Today, her sister is healthy and thriving, and Frost said she has come to appreciate the journey that strengthened her family and revealed her career path.
“Through this experience, I’ve been able to become more sympathetic with others,” Frost said. “This is why I love volunteering and working in my home community.”
Mt. Vernon teacher Sarah Terrell looks forward to watching Frost share that compassion with the youngsters she’ll teach one day.
“She is passionate about learning and has the heart of a servant,” Terrell said. “I have no doubt she will make the most amazing teacher.”
Samantha Grunow: Greenfield-Central High School
Samantha Grunow’s dedication to serving others began at a young age. The Greenfield-Central High School senior, daughter of Michael Grunow and Sarah Reid, started volunteering at the Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen in fifth grade.
She also volunteers for the Hancock County Breastfeeding Coalition, helping to orchestrate the organization’s Mom’s Night Out Event, which pampers mothers for an evening while offering child care.
She was a Girl Scout for three years and now helps her stepmom lead her younger sister’s troop.
As a student at Greenfield-Central, Grunow has participated in a number of extracurricular activities, including National Honor Society, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the marching and concert bands.
Her work in the National Honor Society is one area that set her apart from her peers, said Erika Amador, Greenfield-Central teacher.
“(Samantha) is an enthusiastic and diligent leader who has worked very hard organizing, planning and participating in all the service projects,” she said.
Next year, Grunow plans to study marketing at the University of Evansville or Indiana University.
Emily Jones: Greenfield-Central High School
Emily Jones has dedicated hundreds of hours to serving her community, whether at her school, church and extra-curricular groups.
She’s put in more than 400 hours helping with the local Kindergarten 101 program, which helps children preschoolers ease into a traditional school environment.
Sarah Burke, extension educator for the Hancock County Purdue Extension Office, speaks highly of Jones and the work Jones, daughter of Jay and Stephanie Jones, does to help out.
“She has … volunteered the majority of her free time the past four summers in the Purdue Extension Office,” Burke said. “She has been an energetic force.”
Other activities include National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, FFA and Greenfield-Central Track and Field.
Considering Jones’ involvement with Purdue Extension and her additional service with Hancock County 4-H Junior Leaders and the Hancock County 4-H Ag Association, it’s no surprise she plans to study agriculture communications at Purdue University.
Megan Reeves: Eastern Hancock High School
“The last line of the FFA motto states ‘Living to Serve,’ and Megan Reeves embodies that,” said Sarah Williams, Eastern Hancock FFA advisor.
Service is a major theme of Reeves’ life, from her hours of volunteer work through FFA and other organizations to her career goal of becoming an emergency room nurse.
As a step toward her dream, Reeves, who plans to study nursing at Ball State or Indiana University, has volunteered at the Hancock Regional Hospital front desk for two and a half years. Reeves, daughter of Mark and Tina Reeves, directs visitors, looks up patients and room numbers and makes deliveries.
“She has proven herself to be a valuable asset,” said Dawn Earlywine, director of volunteer services, Hancock Regional Hospital. “She is very personable, warm and courteous.” Reeves’ other activities include student council, National Honor Society, drama club, FFA, cheerleading and 4-H.
Meg Schleter: Mt. Vernon High School
Meg Schleter has a soft spot for animals.
For the last year, Schleter, daughter of Kurtis and Peggy Schleter, has volunteered with ReTails Animal Shelter, a nonprofit shelter in Indianapolis. There, she helps care for the animals, keeps the shelter area tidy, assists individuals in finding their new pet and keeps detailed records for the organization.
The experiences Schleter had volunteering at the shelter helped solidify her dream of becoming veterinarian. After graduating from Mt. Vernon High School and obtaining a degree in biology at Purdue University, she plans to pursue veterinary school to obtain a doctorate of veterinary medicine.
Schleter also is involved in cheerleading, track and field, student government, Best Buddies and 4-H.
Olivia Scott: Eastern Hancock High School
Olivia Scott eyed the statistics with dismay: In 2015, 40 percent of Hancock County children scored below or well below kindergarten readiness standards (as compared to 28 percent they year before). Troubled by this, Scott, daughter of Mark and Tina Reeves, got involved.
She now serves as the youth liaison to the executive committee of Imagination Library, an early childhood literacy initiative of the community foundation that provides books to eligible children in Hancock County.
Scott has also been involved with her high school’s National Honor Society, student council, cheerleading, cross-country, tennis and swimming teams.
She plans to study communications at Butler University or Purdue University.
Bryan Shaw: New Palestine High School
Give Bryan Shaw something as simple as duct tape and watch him make a difference.
After watching family members fight cancer, he realized how important a family’s strength is in hard times, and he wanted to help those who didn’t have the same support system as he did. He grabbed a roll of duct tape and decided to get creative.
Shaw, son of David and Janice Shaw, and his siblings designed and sold handmade decorative flowers made of the tape at Eskenazi Hospital’s gift shop. They raised more than $600 and donated it to the hospital’s EMBRACE program, which benefits disadvantaged cancer patients.
Shaw’s community service also includes working New Palestine’s annual Bug Fest at Southeastway Park and volunteering for Junior Achievement of Central Indiana. He is involved in robotics club, quiz bowl, his school’s Brain Game team and Academic Super Bowl. Shaw plans to study mechanical engineering at Purdue University or Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Samuel Voelz: New Palestine High School
Samuel Voelz discovered his dream of working in the medical field while mentoring kids, each who faced a dreaded disease.
First, he was inspired by the bravery of a child he babysat one summer who faced a shocking cancer diagnosis. He saw that same resilience in the smiling faces of four boys at Camp Riley, a summer-long program for patients battling disease.
Voelz, son of James and Krysha Voelz, slowly developed an unbreakable bond with the children in his care; he came to feel like their big brother, he said.
Now, he plans to study health science at the University of Notre Dame or Purdue University to help kids like those he met during his summer adventures.
Voelz’s other community service includes work with Neighborhoods Against Substance Abuse, D.A.R.E., New Palestine Dragon Flyers Program and Brookville Road Community Church.
At New Palestine High School, he is active in student council, National Honor Society, the Dragon Leadership Program, show choir stage crew and more.