According to Judy Eifert, director of the Clay County Community Foundation, an affiliate of the Wabash Valley Community Foundation, the scholarships are funded by Lilly Endowment, Inc. and administered by the foundation. The WVCF and CCCF work with individual donors who want to establish funds and with non-profit charitable organizations that apply for grants. Lilly Endowment, Inc. has given these scholarships for the past three years.
They are awarded on a competitive basis, says Eifert. Students interested had to have their applications in by Jan. 15. Each county affiliate formed a scholarship committee made up of its own county's residents. The members of the committee then followed through with a "blind" review process of their county's students.
The field was then narrowed to 12 students and their names were revealed. CCCF scholarship committee chair Ron Galbraith and fellow committee members, Dr. Julie Anderson Shaw, Shawn Carter, Barbara Mercer and John Coughanowr, then met with each of these 12 and, based on their qualifications and performance in an interview, they chose the three recipients.
At Monday evening's reception, Kelli Miller, WVCF scholarship director welcomed everyone before turning over the microphone to Galbraith, who introduced each of Clay County's Lilly Scholars and their parents. He began by saying, "It's not about me. It's not about most of the people in this room. It's about the students that worked so hard to get here."
Bitzegaio, son of John and Beverly Bitzegaio, was the first student revered. Galbraith informed the crowd that Bitzegaio is salutatorian of his class and spends his summers coaching and teaching children in basketball and sports camps. He also occupies his time with part-time jobs requiring artistic ability that involve logo design and video production. He plans to use his scholarship to attend Ball State University and major in telecommunications. His father expressed pride in the fact that Bitzegaio has achieved all his academic success while also playing sports. "We're very proud," he smiled. "He's been a pretty conscientious student."
Galbraith next paid tribute to Long, son of Richard and Cathy Long, describing him as the "ideal role model for our youth." His extracurricular activities include several clubs, band and athletics. He is graduating in the top 10 percent of his class. Galbraith also mentioned Long's "sweat equity within the farm setting," and the fact that it proves he is "not afraid of hard work." He will be attending Purdue University in the fall to study aerospace engineering. He credits his guidance counselor for helping him to get the scholarship. After his recommendation, Long says, "I just applied for it and luckily I got it."
Last, but not least of the Clay County recipients, was Short, son of Stephen and Gina Short, who Galbraith credited for being "very mature" and as having "a strong vision of goals." He is team captain of various academic organizations and Galbraith pointed out that those who know Short portray him as pleasant and having an "excellent ability to analyze and solve difficult problems." Short plans to attend Purdue University and major in computer science. Because Short's brother will be graduating next year and also plans to go to college, his winning this scholarship will "really help out financially," according to his father, who was quick to add, "He worked really hard, so I'm happy he's being rewarded."
After Clay County's Lilly Endowment, Inc. scholars were recognized, Melinda Metzger spoke about Sullivan County's scholarship winners, Courtney Figg, Michelle Metcalf and Jenny Power. Then Cindy Cox presented Vigo County's winners, Rachel Bush, Chris Conley, Cassandra Hedges, Cassandra Plank, Roy Price and Justin Rice.
The final speaker of the evening was Beth Tevlin, executive director of the WVCF, who discussed the students' ensuing responsibilities regarding their scholarships. The value of the scholarship can range from a total of $16,000 to $110,000, depending on where the student decides to go to school. It is now up to the recipients of the scholarships, she said, to prove to the endowment that its investment in them was worthwhile.
Each of the students must maintain contact with the foundation for the next 14 years. Lilly scholars are required to attend a picnic before the start of each school year and another get-together during the holiday break. Also, students, not their parents, must send their tuition bills to the foundation each semester. If a student decides to change schools or study abroad, the scholarship will follow, but he or she must contact Miller, who Tevlin described as their new "best college friend," in advance.
Tevlin concluded by encouraging the students to get to know the WVCF staff and to tell others about their scholarship. She asked them to serve as "ambassadors" for the foundation by letting those trying to set up memorial funds or who want to give a donation to consider the Community Foundation.