Realizing a dream takes commitment, hard work, and, most often, a helping hand from family and others. And that’s exactly what 30 students from Indiana’s private, non-profit colleges and universities are being celebrated for this Saturday evening, November 2, at the 30th annual Realizing the Dream banquet. (Award recipients are listed below.)

Now sophomores, they have realized the dream of being the first in their families to go to college, have been selected by their colleges for outstanding achievement in the freshman year, and are successfully advancing towards completing their bachelor’s degrees.

Made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), the event recognizes first-generation students attending ICI campuses, along with their inspirational teachers and families.  The event is being held at the Sheraton Indianapolis at Keystone Crossing, with a reception at 6 p.m. and an awards dinner at 7 p.m.

Each honored student will receive a $3,000 check to help with college costs, and each student’s selected “most influential” teacher/mentor will receive a $1,000 professional development grant. One out of every three students on ICI campuses is first-generation. Generous financial aid provided by the campuses themselves, combined with state and federal grants, makes a private college education a possibility for all students in Indiana.

The keynote speaker for the evening is Sally Reasoner. She joined Ascend Indiana in August of 2016 and serves as the Vice President of Talent Identification. In this role, Reasoner works to attract talent to Central Indiana and connect talent with employers and training.

Reasoner started her career through the Governor Bob Orr Entrepreneurial Fellowship and credits that program with keeping her in the Hoosier state. As an Orr Fellow, Reasoner worked at FinishMaster and was elected to serve as the Fellowship’s Chief of Staff. Upon completion of her Orr Fellowship, Reasoner joined the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership to build the talent initiative at TechPoint, Indiana’s technology growth initiative. While at TechPoint, Reasoner served as the Director of Talent Initiatives and successfully launched four college-to-career programs aimed at building a tech talent pipeline for Central Indiana companies. Reasoner holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from DePauw University.

“We are so grateful to the Lilly Endowment for making this inspirational program possible,” says David W. Wantz, ICI president & CEO.  “We are proud, too, that because of the higher graduation rates of our ICI colleges and universities, these students are significantly more likely to realize the dream of completing their degrees in four years.”

Realizing the Dream: Student & Teacher Award Recipients

Information includes:

  1. the student’s name and hometown;
  2. the college/university the student is attending with the name of the campus liaison;
  3. the name of the student’s influential teacher/mentor, the name of the school and its location.


Kristina Merriman, Knox, Plymouth
Ancilla College, Ms. Marcella Hopple
Jacob Hogan, Oregon-Davis Jr/Sr High School, Hamlet

Victor Aldama-Moreno, Muncie
Anderson University, Mr. Chris Luekenga
Abigail Comber, Burris Laboratory School, Muncie

Dominic Nipper, Goshen
Bethel University, Dr. Barbara Bellefeuille
Denise Sanders-Honaker, Penn-Harris Madison School Corp., Mishawaka

Raziya Hillery, Indianapolis
Butler University, Ms. Jan Ruston
José Francisco Gómez, Warren Central High School, Indianapolis

Brooke Schrombeck, Hebron
DePauw University, Mr. Elreo Campbell
Teri Rickaby, Lowell High School, Lowell

Jessica Mohler, Richmond
Earlham College, Mrs. Bonita Washington-Lacey
Tre Ronne, Richmond High School, Richmond

Jennifer McGuire, Greensburg
Franklin College, Ms. Kathryn Coffman
Heather Comer, Greensburg Community High School, Greensburg

Joel Lara, Goshen
Goshen College, Ms. Rocio Diaz
Cynthia Cooper (retired), Goshen High School, Goshen

Jalen Williams, South Bend
Grace College and Seminary, Dr. Aaron Crabtree
Julie Congdon, LaSalle Intermediate Academy, South Bend

Amber Shidler, Rochester
Hanover College, Dr. Steve Jobe
Hope Showley, Rochester Community High School, Rochester

Edgar Ramos Estrada, South Bend
Holy Cross College, Mr. Carlos Centellas
Philip Krause (mentor), South Bend

Brooke Bolinger, Fort Wayne
Huntington University, Ms. Martha Smith
Amy Swartz, Greenfield Intermediate School, Greenfield

Heaven Harris, Indianapolis
Indiana Institute of Technology, Ms. Michelle Regan
Malik Austin, Pike High School, Indianapolis

Zebulun Knuteson, Southport
Indiana Wesleyan University, Dr. Nathan Herring
Marya Sherron, Horizon Christian School, Indianapolis

Elizabeth Allred, Huntington
Manchester University, Ms. Amanda Reid
Paige Humphries, Huntington North High School, Huntington

Savannah Chance, New Whiteland
Marian University, Ms. Monique Ware
Justin Brownfield, Whiteland Community High School, Whiteland

Eric Walker, Indianapolis
Martin University, Ms. Kristie Law
Janice Boyd (deceased), Martin University, Indianapolis

Taylor Deffendoll, Winslow
Oakland City University, Ms. Elaine Pauw
Chad McClellan, Pike Central High School, Petersburg

Kaylin Harrison, French Lick
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Dr. Kimberly Henthorn
Andrea Rickelman, Northeast Dubois High School, Dubois

Abigail Rascoe, Rensselaer
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, Ms. Darla Hopper
Kelley Spurgeon, Rensselaer Central High School, Rensselaer

Allyson Emmett, Fort Wayne
Saint Mary’s College, Ms. Sarah Pressey
Heather Briggs, Bishop Luers High School, Fort Wayne

Abriana Carnes, Shirley
Taylor University, Mr. Tim Nace
Nicole Connors, Eastern Hancock High School, Charlottesville

Daniel Shivley, Huntington
Trine University, Mr. Scott Goplin
Reed Sturm, Huntington North High School, Huntington

Alexa Hopf, Huntingburg
University of Evansville, Mr. Chad Hart
Andrew Helming, Jasper High School, Jasper

Yamilet Reyes, Indianapolis
University of Indianapolis, Mr. Ryan McClarnon
Aaron Botsford, College Park Elementary, Indianapolis

Katherine Urasky, Indianapolis
University of Notre Dame, Ms. Elly Brenner
Matthew Cannaday, Cathedral High School, Indianapolis

Rebecca Wetzel, Auburn
University of Saint Francis, Mr. Keenan Habibic
Aaron Willard, Eastside Jr/Sr High School, Butler

Meg Bell, Union Mills
Valparaiso University, Dr. Julie DeGraw
Cortny Barnes, South Central High School, Union Mills

Zachary McKinney, Kokomo
Wabash College, Mr. Greg Redding
Emily Race, Crawfordsville Senior High School, Crawfordsville