Immanuel Lutheran student wins state contest

A Christ-centered education, amazing friends and teammates, teachers and favorite subjects.

Also, extra learning experiences, music, family legacy and the Warrior Way.

When asked “Why do I love my school?” those responses were given by Immanuel Lutheran School sixth-grader Zach Lister.

He incorporated those into a 3-minute, 31-second Google Slides video as the Christian song “10,000 Reasons” plays.

The work he put into the video garnered him overall winner of the Lutheran Scholarship Granting Organization of Indiana’s Why I Love My School contest to celebrate the organization’s 10th anniversary.

There were more than 200 submissions from students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and only six awards were given.

“I thought I was pretty lucky,” Lister said of being selected the overall winner.

He won a $50 gift card and an overnight stay, including parking and travel expenses, with his family in downtown Indianapolis on Monday, and then breakfast, a tour of the Statehouse and guest of honor for a thank-you lunch with 150 state legislators on Tuesday.

“It was pretty cool,” Lister said of his second time at the Statehouse, as he went last year with his fifth grade class.

His sponsoring teacher, Sandra Franke, got to be part of it, too, and received a $50 gift card to use for her classroom.

“That was very special,” she said.

The SGO program allows individuals and businesses to reduce or eliminate their state taxes by funding scholarships for families wanting a quality, Christian education.

There are five main SGO organizations in Indiana authorized to administer the program. They work with various Lutheran and other Christian schools and have a general fund for those wanting to support families regardless of the school. Each nonpublic school chooses the SGO organization that donors will use to facilitate gifts.

The Lutheran SGO is a separately incorporated 501(c)(3) charitable organization and is approved by the Internal Revenue Service to receive tax-advantaged contributions. It also is recognized as a scholarship granting organization under Indiana Code for school scholarship programs certified by the Indiana Department of Education.

Since 2012, the organization has awarded more than $24 million to fund more than 20,000 scholarships to students in its 54 schools, board chairman Karl Davis said.

To say thank you to state legislators for their support of School Choice, the Lutheran SGO hosted a lunch Tuesday that included available students, families and teachers from the recent contest and a unique gift for each of the 150 legislators.

In the fall of 2022, essays, videos, pictures and slideshows could be entered into the contest.

Students could submit an essay 150 words or less, a hand-drawn or digitally created picture, a still photo, a video or another art form that shows why having a choice of where they go to school is important.

The winning entries, divided between grades K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12, came from communities across Indiana, including Lafayette, Seymour, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis and Columbus.

Franke, a junior high language arts teacher at Immanuel, said she presented the opportunity to sixth- through eighth-graders. All they had to do was pick one of the options, develop a plan and submit their work.

Two did essays, some did artwork and Lister was the only one to do a video.

Lister said he chose to enter the contest because he could earn extra credit, and he decided to do a video because he learned how to use Google Slides last school year.

“Zach is really good with technology, and so I think maybe when I presented the options that they could write an essay or they could do a video, I feel like he grabbed onto that video right away,” Franke said.

Lister said it took him a few nights to complete.

“I was very impressed with how driven Zach was with revisions,” Franke said. “He would come in almost every day after he finished with his laptop and say, ‘Mrs. Franke, would you look over this?’ I would make a few suggestions, and he would come back the next day with revisions made, and he kept working on it at home, tweaking it and improving it.”

Coming up with reasons he loves his school was easy for Lister, who has gone to Immanuel since first grade.

“Being able to learn about God and you actually have the opportunity instead of not being allowed to talk about it,” he said of a Christ-centered education.

“Lutheran education is important to me because I believe in the one true Jesus Christ,” he noted in his video, then quoting Luke 18:16: “But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”

From the classroom to playing basketball, tennis and baseball, Lister said he has made a lot of amazing friends and had amazing teammates. This spring, he also plans to play golf.

“My friends and teammates have shown me how to deal with bad times by using the Bible and being very supportive,” he said in his presentation. “We all help each other out.”

He also said his teachers over the years have had their own ways of teaching, and his favorite subject is history because he likes learning about the past.

“These teachers have always showed me that Christ is there,” he said. “They make me laugh and smile. When I am down, they bring me up.”

His extra learning experiences have included robotics, choir, handbell choir and musicals.

“We get to learn more and know how to do more stuff compared to some other schools,” Lister said. “These experiences made me nervous, but then I remembered that God will be with me.”

He included family legacy in his video because he and his younger brother are the fourth generation of the family to attend Immanuel.

“Immanuel has been four generations long in my family, which proves that Immanuel is a great choice for my family. They have been a reliable source for my Lutheran education,” he said.

Finally, the Warrior Way is featured because the school program rewards students for doing good things and having a positive attitude.

“This is my school’s way to represent the Lord in what we say and do,” Lister said.

Once he finished the video, Lister said he felt good about it. Franke was impressed with it.

“Zach has got a great memory, and he’s so creative and he’s very driven. He has a lot of initiative,” she said.

About a month after submitting the video, Lister said his mom, Lori Lister, received a call with the results. The news was shared with Franke, too.

“It was very exciting,” Franke said. “It’s one of those cases where you see a student work hard and you actually get to see the fruits of their labor. Zach was such a pleasure to work with.”

Lister’s video can be viewed online at

All of the winning projects can be seen online at

Why I Love My School contest winners 

Overall winner: Zach Lister, sixth grade, Immanuel Lutheran School, Seymour, teacher Sandy Franke

Administrator’s Choice Award: Sidney Scheumann, 11th grade, Concordia Lutheran High School, Fort Wayne, teacher Faith Felton

K-2: Noah Sattgast, second grade, St. James Lutheran School, Lafayette, teacher Melissa Trautman

3-5: Thomas Ernst, fourth grade, St. Peter’s Lutheran School, Columbus, teacher Carrie Becker

6-8: Theodore Burfiend, sixth grade, Redeemer Classical, Fort Wayne, teacher Nathaniel Pullmann

9-12: Grace Levitt, 11th grade, Concordia Lutheran High School, Fort Wayne, teacher Kevin McGladdery

Immanuel Lutheran School sixth-grader Zach Lister, far left, lists his amazing friends as one of the reasons why he loves his school.

Submitted photo

Immanuel Lutheran School student Zach Lister, left, participated in robotics in third, fourth and fifth grades.

Submitted photo

Immanuel Lutheran School sixth-grader Zach Lister lists performing arts as one of the reasons why he loves his school.

Submitted photo

Immanuel Lutheran School sixth-grader Zach Lister visits the Statehouse in Indianapolis on Tuesday for being the overall winner of the Lutheran Scholarship Granting Organization of Indiana’s Why I Love My School contest.

Submitted photo

Zach Lister is a sixth-grader at Immanuel Lutheran School in Seymour.

Zach Spicer | The Tribune

Immanuel Lutheran School sixth-grader Zach Lister, right, is pictured with his language arts teacher, Sandra Franke, on Tuesday at the Statehouse in Indianapolis. Lister was recognized for being the overall winner of the Lutheran Scholarship Granting Organization of Indiana’s Why I Love My School contest, and Franke was his sponsoring teacher.

Submitted photo

Immanuel Lutheran School sixth-grader Zach Lister, right, talks to Indiana District 44 Sen. Eric Koch on Tuesday as he visited the Statehouse in Indianapolis for being the overall winner of the Lutheran Scholarship Granting Organization of Indiana’s Why I Love My School contest.

Submitted photo

Immanuel Lutheran School sixth-grader Zach Lister, third from left in front, lists his amazing teammates as one reason why he loves his school.

Submitted photo