In addition to full tuition to the Indiana college of their choice, each scholar will receive an annual stipend of up to $800 for required books and equipment.
Funded by Lilly Endowment Inc, the scholarship program is administered by the Wabash Valley Community Foundation and affiliates, the Clay County Community Foundation and the Sullivan County Community Foundation.
"It is such a blessing to have won this scholarship, it is an answer to my prayers," Birkey said. "I took a leap of faith because I didn't have a way to pay for a private college."
Birkey will be attending Grace College in the fall.
"Abby is an amazing young woman, she sets a very good example for other students," NHS Guidance Counselor Don Harrison said.
The second Clay County Lilly Endowment Community Scholar is Clay City High School senior Andrew Nicoson, son of Jennifer Flater, Clay City, and Theodore Nicoson, Spencer.
Clay City High School senior Hanna Moore, daughter of David and Marcey Moore, Brazil, was originally selected as a 2008 Clay County Lilly Endowment Community Scholar, but declined the award as she is the recipient of an additional full scholarship to the school of her choice in Indiana.
Also earning scholarships this year were Michalyn Allen and Alexandria Montgomery of Vigo County and Chloe Pugh and Tara Klobucher of Sullivan County.
More than 200 applications from students in the three counties were received by the foundation.
Each county had its own selection committee composed of citizens from throughout the county.
The selection process was "blind" in that all identifying material was concealed prior to application review by the committees in an effort to make this as fair a process as possible.
Any student entering college for the first time in the fall of 2008 who resided in or attended school in Clay, Sullivan, or Vigo counties and was (or would be) a graduate of an accredited Indiana high school in the current or past two academic years was eligible to apply.
The scholarships are intended for "well-rounded individuals,"?according to the foundation. Selection criteria for the area includes 10 percent financial need, 45 percent academic achievement and 45 percent activities outside the academic setting, including extracurricular activities, service to the community and/or part-time employment.
Each county committee then conducted interviews and narrowed selections to two nominees and one alternate.
ICI is a nonprofit corporation that represents 31 regionally accredited degree-granting, nonprofit, private colleges and universities in the state.
The scholarships are the result of a statewide Lilly Endowment initiative to help Hoosier students reach higher levels of education. Indiana ranks among the lowest states in the percentage of residents over the age of 25 with a bachelor's degree. There were 216 scholarships awarded statewide.