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 first-generation college students from ICI’s 29 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.

To honor recipients, ICI 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. “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

Elliandra Christina Gonzalez, Hobart
Anderson University
Alaina Kent, Indiana Connections Academy

Abbie Suiter, Elkhart
Bethel University
Deborah Yoder, Elkhart Christian Academy

Brianna Copenhaver, Greenwood
Butler University
Stephen Blackburn, Promise Road Elementary School

AnnaMaria Hernandez, Whiting
Calumet College of St. Joseph
Wendy Akers, Area Career Center

Jeremy Espinoza, Elkhart
DePauw University
Elise Maller, Weisser Park School

Diana Santiago-Cruz, Richmond
Earlham College
Tre Ronne, Richmond High School

Darian Porter, Evansville
Franklin College
Knetra Shaw, Lincoln School

Bryan A. Moreno, Goshen
Goshen College
Matthew P. James, Goshen High School

DaZhané Jones, Indianapolis
Grace College
Alicia Hervey, The PATH School

Mya Urba, Westfield
Hanover College
Jason Bousman, Westfield High School

Julian Garcilazo, South Bend
Holy Cross College
Andrea Smolinski, Saint Joseph High School

Olivia Grace Markley, Markle
Huntington University
Mark Buzzard, Huntington North High School

Jaelyn Fox, Churubusco
Indiana Institute of Technology
Jordan Turner, Churubusco Jr/Sr High School

Jaileen Diaz, Portage
Indiana Wesleyan University
Trinitie Braner, Portage High School

Valeria Jimenez, Akron
Manchester University
Kristopher Walker, Tippecanoe Valley High School

Luis Oviedo, Indianapolis
Marian University
Jason Hendrickson, North Central High School

Khloye V. Strickland, Mackey
Oakland City University
Gary Horrall, Waldo J. Wood Memorial High School

Courtney Valmore, Indianapolis
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Jillian Paulen, Herron High School

Isabell Coryea, Plainfield
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Share Abrell, Plainfield High School

Hannah Stewart, Westville
Saint Mary’s College
Bobbi Hall, Westchester Intermediate School

Kelsey Denison, Fort Wayne
Taylor University
Jennifer Knarr, Blackhawk Middle School

Kristen Azzue, Waterloo
Trine University
Susan Zuber, DeKalb High School (retired)

Jenna Littlejohn, Linton
University of Evansville
Bridget Lester, The Indiana Academy for Science

Mariana Fletes-Cuevas, Shelbyville
University of Indianapolis
Jennifer Teague, Shelbyville Central Schools

Gavin Wade Ealey, Fort Wayne
University of Notre Dame
Alicia Baumgartner, Bishop Luers High School

Elma Cehic, Fort Wayne
University of Saint Francis
Greg Novak, Canterbury School

Fatima Garcia, Portage
Valparaiso University
James Asbury, Portage High School

Richard Pan, Crawfordsville
Wabash College
Anita Harris, Mollie B. Hoover Elementary

About Independent Colleges of Indiana

Independent Colleges of Indiana serves as the collective voice for the state’s 29 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.