BCHS senior receives Lilly scholarship

Grant Elliott was called down to the guidance office at Brownstown Central High School on Friday.

The senior was greeted by Principal Joe Sheffer, guidance counselors Derrick Koch and Emily Sommers and Community Foundation of Jackson County Vice President Sue Smith.

When they walked back to the conference room, Elliott was congratulated for being the recipient of the 2022 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship for Jackson County.

The annual scholarship provides full tuition, required fees and a stipend of up to $900 per year for required books and equipment for four years of undergraduate study on a full-time basis leading to a bachelor’s degree at any eligible Indiana public or private nonprofit college or university.

The scholarship winners also may participate in the Lilly Scholars Network, which connects them with resources and opportunities to be active leaders on their campuses and in their communities. Both the scholarship program and network are supported by grants from Lilly Endowment to Independent Colleges of Indiana.

“I was shocked. I was shaking. I just couldn’t believe it,” said Elliott, 18, the son of Autumn and Steve Hackney and Bruce Elliott.

“It will make a huge impact on me because you look at the return on investment of certain careers, and my return on investment is going to be positive from the get-go just because I don’t have to take out those student loans,” he said. “Once I graduate college, I’m starting my career without any student debt, so I start making money right as soon as I get out of college. I don’t have that burden of paying off those student loans.”

That’s more money he can put toward his family in the future, he said.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Elliott said. “I truly am grateful. I’m so appreciative of it, and I’m honored. It truly is a blessing.”

In nominating Jackson County’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholar, consideration was given to academic achievement, advanced curriculum, school and community activities, a required essay and financial need by the Community Foundation’s scholarship committee.

There were 99 applicants for the scholarship. After the field was narrowed, the nominee was submitted to the statewide administrator of the program, Independent Colleges of Indiana, for the selection of scholarship recipients.

Elliott was selected from a group of outstanding applicants from all six high schools in Jackson County, Smith said.

“We have so many high-caliber applicants that it always seems to be such a daunting task to decide on our finalists, but with our thorough application process, the field just seems to automatically narrow down to the best of the best,” said Sue Nehrt, chairwoman of the Community Foundation’s scholarship committee.

Elliott said he began applying for scholarships in the summer and continued into the fall.

“Technically, I’ve applied for over 100 because certain forms make me eligible for a bunch of different scholarships, so I haven’t filled out that many forms, it’s just I’m eligible to receive over 100 because of different things I’ve applied through,” he said.

Through the Community Foundation, Elliott applied for 12 different scholarships, including Lilly.

“Everyone knows the Lilly. That’s the miracle scholarship,” he said, smiling.

On his application, he had to list his school activities, which includes tennis, musicals, girls tennis manager, National Honor Society, student council (including student body president this school year), Spanish Club and Braves Against Destructive Decisions. He also is a 10-year 4-H member and is involved with Teens for Change.

While staying busy with those activities, Elliott has managed to make the high honor roll every trimester in high school.

By the time he graduates in May, he will have 30 credits from Ivy Tech Community College dual-credit classes and four credits through Advanced Placement courses.

“It was extremely challenging,” he said. “It really forced me to develop some time management skills. That’s not something I had prior to high school. Especially as a freshman, you take your first college-level class, you’re jumping from eighth grade to an AP college-level course, the teacher gives you the entire unit and there are no due dates. It’s just all due at once whenever you have your test, and you really have to structure your time accordingly.”

Even though his credits could allow him to finish college early, Elliott won’t be able to do that due to Lilly scholarship stipulations.

“Which is worth it because now, what I plan on doing is I’m going to have extra time, so I’m thinking of maybe doing a double major,” he said.

He’s in the process of determining where he will attend college, but he plans to major in secondary education with a concentration on social studies. If he double majors, he may add English.

He said he was drawn to that career field because the organizations he has been involved with provided him with opportunities to utilize his ability to lead others, empathize with them, listen to them and guide them.

This school year, he is cadet teaching with Choral Director Stephanie Brock at Brownstown Central Middle School.

“I realized with certain teachers, as well, they really went beyond their duties in the classroom and they helped enrich my life by being that mentor, that person that would listen to me, give me advice, and it’s just about really guiding someone and helping morph them into the person that they become,” Elliott said. “It’s all about really taking someone and helping them get through life and having an impact. That’s what teaching is all about.”

While he won’t be applying for or accepting any other tuition-based scholarships, Elliott said he’s looking into scholarships to cover his room and board. Some colleges pay those expenses for Lilly recipients, so that will help Elliott make his final decision on where to study.

With the selection of Elliott, there are now 41 Lilly Endowment Community Scholars from Jackson County with the first recipient selected in 1998. During the 2022-23 academic year, there will be four Jackson County Lilly Scholars on college campuses throughout Indiana.

Lilly Endowment Inc. created the program for the 1998-1999 school year and has supported it every year since with tuition grants totaling in excess of $439 million. More than 5,000 Indiana students have received the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship since its inception.

The primary purposes of the scholarship are to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana, increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities and encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.

Increasing educational attainment among Jackson County residents is an important part of the foundation’s mission to help grow better tomorrows, said Dan Davis, president and chief executive officer of the Community Foundation of Jackson County.

“Concern about the education levels here was a key factor when the foundation brought other partners from across the county together to establish the Jackson County Learning Center, and we remain committed to that goal,” he said. “It is certainly part of our guiding efforts in administering scholarship funds entrusted to the foundation.”

The foundation’s efforts to improve educational opportunities extends beyond programs focused on college, including support of the Jackson County Education Coalition’s On My Way Pre-K pilot program for 4-year-olds and the encouragement of workforce development in partnership with Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. and others.