Two Johnson County students will soon start their college careers without having to pay a dime for tuition or books, thanks to a scholarship given out to a select few.

For more than 20 years, Johnson County students have had the chance to receive a full tuition scholarship through the Johnson County Community Foundation. The Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship provides students full tuition to any Indiana college or university of their choice with an additional $900 yearly stipend for textbooks and equipment. Students interested complete an application, which asks about their volunteer work, leadership and good character. Once submitted, a 12-member scholarship committee carefully examines each application and chooses the finalists.

The two winners this year are Katie Purk, a Franklin Community High School graduate, and Hannah Reid, a Whiteland Community High School graduate.

“We had some amazing candidates for the Lilly scholarship this year, but these two ladies stood out to the committee over all,” said Marcia Grossnickle, scholarship committee chair for Johnson County Community Foundation. “Both were heavily involved in quality community service and in their respective schools. They wrote thoughtful essays, and were interactive and poised during their interviews. We are extremely pleased to have these two impressive young ladies represent our county as they head off to college in the fall.”

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Heading to Notre Dame

While a student at Franklin Community High School, Purk volunteered often for organizations like Rhythm and Reins Horse Therapy and Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

She was president of the Harvard Model Congress, vice president of Business Professionals of America, a committee chair for Dance Marathon, a freshman mentor, a middle school mentor, a member of the social studies academic team and a member of student council. She was also a varsity tennis captain and a member of the soccer team.

Each of these experiences made her more qualified for the scholarship because they allowed her to become more involved in her community.

“I was always very busy in high school, but I loved every second of it,” Purk said.

Purk dreamed of studying at the University of Notre Dame as a neuroscience major. However, with tuition costs of more than $67,000 per year, she and her parents were worried about how they would pay for college. Purk said she knew she would have to get a sizable scholarship in order to attend the university of her dreams.

So, Purk applied for the Lilly Endowment Scholarship through the Johnson County Community Foundation.

The scholarship was first based on an application process that asked about volunteer experience, extracurricular activities and grades. After students filled out the application, they had to wait a few weeks until they knew if they would be accepted to the interview process.

Purk anxiously waited, then she received the email she had been waiting for.

“I remember I was studying with a friend when I got the email, and when I read it, I cried and jumped around and called my parents,” Purk said.

The interview process was nerve-wracking, but because the committee was welcoming, she felt right at home during the interview. Some questions were geared toward community service and personal values, while others were typical questions about her high school career.

Then, the waiting game continued again for a couple of months. Eventually, Purk received a call that would forever change her life — she was a scholarship recipient. She received full tuition and housing at Notre Dame, which will save her more than $250,000 during her college career.

“I don’t think I was able to say anything but ‘thank you’ over and over again during the call,” Purk said. “It was surreal to think that I had actually been chosen, and I was incredibly grateful to the community foundation for thinking me worthy of such an honor.”

After studying at Notre Dame, Purk hopes to go to medical school to become a pediatric neurologist.

Becoming a pilot

Reid had a dream of becoming a professional pilot, but because of the high flight fees, which are an addition to the cost of tuition, she worried she’d be limited to how often she could fly because of money.

However, the Whiteland Community High School graduate no longer has to worry. She will attend Purdue University in the fall to study professional flight on a full tuition scholarship. Tuition and room and board at Purdue costs $20,032 per year. The Lilly Endowment Scholarship allows Reid to save more than $80,000 on tuition over four years.

“I became instantly excited and grateful, the magnitude of this gift took a long time to fully sink in,” she said.

Reid was a four-year varsity soccer player and a three-year pole vaulter. She founded her school’s first robotics team and was president of National Art Honor Society. She also participated in science academic team, PEER Helpers, Best Buddies and National Honor Society. She was also active in her church and was a lifeguard.

Each activity taught her time management and the value of being involved, she said.

Reid spent hours applying for any scholarship she could find.

When she applied for the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship, Reid had only lived in Johnson County for a little more than three years. A school counselor suggested she apply for the scholarship, which she hadn’t known about, so she did just that.

The application required three essays: one about community service and its impact, one about personal goals and one about a mentor and why he or she was a mentor to the student.

Reid plans to become a missionary and humanitarian pilot and interpreter because of her love of traveling and helping people.

“As an incoming college student who knows that most of my education’s financial responsibilities falls on my shoulders, this scholarship is a huge relief,” Reid said.

“Especially as my major requires tremendous flight fees, knowing that future doesn’t have to be limited by money is such a freeing blessing. This opportunity has inspired me to never settle for less than my full potential.”

Katie Purk

Name: Katie Purk

Parents: Dave and Monica Purk

High School: Franklin Community High School

College: University of Notre Dame

Major: Neuroscience

Hannah Reid

Name: Hannah Reid

Parents: Michael and Rebekah Reid

High School: Whiteland Community High School

College: Purdue University

Major: Professional Flight