GREENFIELD — At the start of basketball practice, Samuel Voelz anxiously handed his phone to his coach.

Voelz, a senior at New Palestine High School, knew someone from the Hancock County Community Foundation was about to call — and the news could be big.

When the call came, the 18-year-old started to shake. On the other end of the line was a voice telling him his college tuition would be paid for as he had been selected as one of this year’s recipients of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship. Voelz quickly called his parents to let them know and returned to practice. His teammates knew by the irrepressible grin on his face that he’d gotten good news and celebrated with cheers and flying basketballs.

Meanwhile, Emily Jones, 17, was preparing for an academic banquet for Greenfield-Central High School when she was notified she was the other recipient.

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Jones said she doesn’t think it will sink in until she receives her first bill from college and realizes that she doesn’t have to pay for any of it.

The Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship offers four-year, full-tuition scholarships to Hoosier high school students who intend to study at an accredited public or private college or university in Indiana; the award also provides a $900 yearly stipend for books and supplies.

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 the winners are those who have logged countless hours volunteering. All submitted applications are reviewed by an out-of-county panel, which selects the eight local finalists.

A committee of community foundation volunteers works to narrow the eight finalists down to the two recommended recipients, whose names are submitted to the Lilly Endowment for approval.

This year was the first year prospective Lilly scholars submitted their applications in the fall, a move from the former springtime deadline. Lilly Endowment officials the changes gives the students more time to plan their college educations.

The change meant organizers had to begin the application and selection processes months earlier, but it went smoothly for the community foundation in part because Hancock County’s Lilly scholars’ financial need, which can be time-consuming to determine, is not part of the application, said community foundation president Mary Gibble.

Each county’s criteria for choosing Lilly scholars is different, Gibble said. In Hancock County, 40 percent of the rubric is based on the individual’s community service efforts.

Susan Bennett, part of the scholarship committee, said while all of the applicants were excellent scholars and volunteers, Jones and Voelz “stood out as just being top-notch.”

Emily Jones Greenfield-Central

Emily Jones has the heart of a volunteer, said Greenfield-Central High School principal Steve Bryant, who introduced her at an open house for the scholarship recipients Monday night.

Jones has dedicated hundreds of hours to serving her community, whether at her school, church and extracurricular groups.

She’s put in more than 400 hours helping with the local Kindergarten 101 program, which helps children who might not have been in preschool or daycare ease into a traditional school environment.

Her other activities include National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, FFA and Greenfield-Central track and field.

A fourth generation 4-H’er, Jones cites the influence of her parents, Jay and Stephanie Jones, as the spark that ignited her love of agriculture.

Jones is considering Hanover College and Purdue University, where she plans to study communications and business. No matter what career path she goes down, Jones said she plans to return to Hancock County and advocate for agriculture by being involved in FFA and as a 4-H leader.

Samuel Voelz New Palestine

Samuel Voelz discovered his dream of working in the medical field while mentoring children battling 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 illness.

“I realized I shouldn’t live just for myself, but for other people, and try and do as much as I can for others.”

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 to help kids like those he met during his summer adventures. He is considering Butler University, the University of Notre Dame or Purdue University.

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.

About the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship

The Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship, established in 1998, aims to increase the number of Hoosier residents holding college degrees. It offers four-year, full-tuition scholarships to Indiana students who intend to work toward a bachelor’s degree at any accredited public or private college or university in Indiana. The scholarship also provides $900 per year for textbooks and equipment.

The scholarships are funded through Lilly Endowment Inc., a private philanthropic organization founded in 1937 by three members of the Lilly family through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly and Co.


2017 Lilly Endowment finalists

Emily Frost – Mt. Vernon High School

Daughter of Mark and Amy Frost

Samantha Grunow – Greenfield-Central High School

Daughter of Michael Grunow and Sarah Reid

Emily Jones – Greenfield-Central High School

Daughter of Jay and Stephanie Jones

Megan Reeves – Eastern Hancock High School

Daughter of Mark and Tina Reeves

Meg Schleter – Mt.Vernon High School

Daughter of Kurtis and Peggy Schleter

Olivia Scott – Eastern Hancock High School

Daughter of Phillip and Jill Scott

Bryan Shaw – New Palestine High School

Son of David and Janice Shaw

Samuel Voelz – New Palestine High School

Son of James and Krysha Voelz

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Rorye Hatcher is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at ​317-477-3211 or