Several first-generation Indiana college students are getting a boost to their education funds this semester and re-connecting with influential educators who helped along the way after being named “Realizing the Dream” recipients by Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI).

Made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the scholarship program annually recognizes 30 first-generation college students from ICI’s private, non-profit colleges and universities. Students are selected for the $3,000 award for outstanding achievement during their freshman year as they successfully advance toward completing their bachelor’s degrees.

The program historically honored recipients, their families and influential educators at an annual event. However, due to the current pandemic, organizers created individual videos 

of each student describing what it means to them to be a first-generation college student and thanking the influential educator they have chosen to honor. Videos can be found at

“Thanks to the continued support of Lilly Endowment, we get the opportunity to hear the inspiring stories of these first-generation students and the impact local educators have had on their drive to succeed academically,” ICI President & CEO David W. Wantz said. “Especially during these challenging times, these scholarship awards will provide critical support for these young people who are dreaming of future success.” 

In addition to the students’ scholarship awards, the influential educators also receive $1,000 in professional development grants. 

This year’s recipients and their influential educators are listed below. Information includes: 

  1. The student’s name and hometown; 
  2. The college/university the student is attending
  3. The name of the student’s most influential teacher/mentor, the name of the school

Vanessa Weaver, Winamac
Ancilla College
Shanna Ricker, Ancilla College

Alice Dang, Anderson
Anderson University
Christy Kaufmann, Anderson Christian School

Samarah Williams, La Porte
Bethel University
Camellia Dabagia, Knapp Elementary School

Hannah Weiler, Sunman
Butler University
Marcie Trossman, East Central High School

Hailey Jenifer Brown, Whiting
Calumet College of St. Joseph
Jenifer Toth, Frank O’Bannon Elementary 

Hannah Shrock, Waterloo
DePauw University
Shanna Lank, Dekalb High School

Bailey Elisse Owens, Centerville
Earlham College
Kim Carter, Centerville High School

Madison Van Gorden, Flat Rock
Franklin College
Lindsay Chase, Southwestern Jr./Sr. High School

Daniela T. Castro, Goshen
Goshen College
Theresa Collins, Goshen High School

Trinity Christmas, Indianapolis
Grace College
Aaron Burkhart, Pike High School

Allison Speas, Quincy
Hanover College
Daniel Varnes, Cloverdale High School

Hannsel Lopez Alvarez, Elkhart
Holy Cross College
Juan Carlos Alvarez, Adams High School

Preston Moistner, Milton
Huntington University
Joy Miller, Lincoln High School

Daniel Heredia, Hammond
Indiana Institute of Technology
Enrique Catalan, Hammond High School

Marqueshia M. Allen,
Indiana Wesleyan University
Michelle Hawk, Indiana Wesleyan University

Heather Binion, Lebanon
Manchester University
Most Influential Educator: Alan Conrad, Lebanon Middle School

Micah Elise Thompson, Anderson
Marian University
Most Influential Educator: Melissa Thompson, Anderson High School

Jasmine Hamer, Indianapolis
Martin University
Viveca Carter, Martin University

Maizy Gilliland, Bloomfield
Oakland City University
Kristie Bladen, Bloomfield Jr./Sr. High School

Blake Deckard, Ellettsville
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Brian Rosenburgh, Edgewood High School

Ethan Stattner, Cloverdale
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Suzie Jorden, Cloverdale Elementary School (retired)

Elizabeth Mendez, Plymouth
Saint Mary’s College
Jena Dreibelbis, Lincoln Junior High 

Jessica Ditton, Huntington
Taylor University
Chelsey Wiley, Roanoke Elementary School

Emily Wampler, Bloomington
Trine University
Michelle Klawans, Bloomington High School North

Paige Johnson, Fort Branch
University of Evansville
Kyle Brasher, Gibson Southern High School

Siang Tha Len, Indianapolis
University of Indianapolis
Sara Berghoff, Southport High School

Camryn Barnett, Noblesville
University of Notre Dame
Most Influential Educator: Jason Giordano, Noblesville High School

Yamilex Diaz, Columbus
University of Saint Francis
Kyle Allison, University of Saint Francis

Larissa Chavarria, Valparaiso
Valparaiso University
Benjamin Kerezman, Valparaiso High School

Bryce McCullough, Greensburg
Wabash College
Jeff Maupin, Greensburg Community High School

About Independent Colleges of Indiana
Independent Colleges of Indiana serves as the collective voice for the state’s 30 private, non-profit colleges and universities. ICI institutions employ over 22,000 Hoosiers and generate a total local economic impact of over $5 billion annually. Students at ICI colleges have Indiana’s highest four-year, on-time graduation rates, and ICI institutions produce 30 percent of Indiana’s bachelor’s degrees while enrolling 20 percent of its undergraduates. 

About Lilly Endowment Inc.
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J.K. Lilly, Sr. and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. Although the gifts of stock remain a financial bedrock of the Endowment, it is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with the founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. The Endowment funds significant programs throughout the United States, especially in the field of religion. However, it maintains a special commitment to its founders’ hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.

Media Contact: Jen Zentz