1 winner pursuing teaching, another weighs pharmacy, political science

Rebekah Stanley needed to resolve a problem with her college financial aid application.

Aubrey Morgan thought she’d encountered class scheduling difficulties for next semester.

However, neither situation was true. Both Wayne County students were called out of class Dec. 12 on false pretenses.

Instead, they were pleasantly surprised to learn that as winners of a prestigious scholarship, they won’t have to pay for four years of undergraduate tuition.

Several weeks after the five finalists were interviewed, Wayne County Foundation staff delivered the good news to Morgan at Centerville High School and Stanley at Richmond High School.

Those two seniors were chosen as Wayne County’s 2023 Lilly Endowment Community Scholars from a pool of five finalists, and a total of 83 qualifying applicants.

Rebekah Stanley

Stanley set a goal to apply for the Lilly scholarship after learning about “the great opportunity” years earlier. She sought feedback on her essays before submitting them and gathered the required recommendation letters.

However, she had no inkling she could have won until a friend came into her class on that memorable day and asked why she’d seen Stanley’s mom at school.

Stanley was surprised to learn her mom was in the building, and she quickly wondered if it was because of the Lilly announcement, but she tamped down her hopes. Soon, she was summoned by a counselor to the school’s computer lab to solve an issue with her Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

However, when she walked into the lab, she recognized Wayne County Foundation staff as well as her mom, and realized she’d been pranked.

Stanley called the scholarship “a life-changing opportunity” because she’ll be the first in her family to go to college, and the Lilly money gives her more freedom to choose where and what she’ll study.

“It’s a blessing, really,” Stanley said for herself and her parents, Tasha and Jesse Stanley.

Stanley first thought she wanted to be a nurse, but after taking medical classes at RHS, she decided that wasn’t her path.

Instead, she has been inspired by the possibility of helping students like her brother, Zechariah, 9, who has autism and benefits from an aide in his general education class. Stanley has helped him with homework and sat in on some of his therapy.

Stanley now plans to study elementary education at Ball State University, believing her family’s experience with special education could help her be a better teacher to all students in her classroom.

After a September visit to the Muncie campus, Stanley decided that was her desired destination after admiring the facilities, friendly students and strong education program.

One of her teachers said she has “seen nothing from Rebekah but an intense desire to succeed and to bring others with her.”

By the end of her junior year, Stanley earned a 4.48 grade-point average. During her time at RHS, she has participated in Student Council, National Honor Society, Red Devil Mentors and HOSA-Future Health Professionals. She also is very involved with her church, Victory Church in New Castle, where she helps organize teen activities.

Aubrey Morgan

Alex Painter, left, and Rebecca Gilliam, far right, representing Wayne County Foundation, congratulate Jessica Maule and her daughter Aubrey Morgan on Morgan’s full-tuition Lilly scholarship to the college of her choice. Supplied

Morgan was in her homeroom, working on calculus that was due second period, when she was called to the counselor’s office.

She expected to discover a conflict with her schedule for next semester since she takes several Advanced Placement and dual-credit college classes.

Morgan just finished psychology through Indiana University East and philosophy through Ivy Tech Community College. She plans to take an introductory German class in the spring semester through IU East. She started stressing about what could be messed up.

Upon arrival, Morgan saw several people in the nearby conference room. Her suspicions were confirmed when she noticed Wayne County Foundation staff and administrators, including Superintendent Mike McCoy and Principal Tim Hollendonner.

However, it wasn’t as much of a surprise for Morgan to see her mom at school as it was for Stanley, since Morgan’s mom, Jessica Maule, is her AP chemistry teacher. Her dad is Chris Maule.

Once she realized she’d won, Morgan began tearing up.

Even after having time to process the news, she said it’s ludicrous to think that she was selected out of the applicant pool and the five finalists because of so many great candidates.

“I still wonder, ‘Why me?’ when all of my friends and classmates are so talented, so intelligent and hardworking,” said Morgan, the 16th Bulldog to win the scholarship. “They’re all super deserving.”

By the end of Morgan’s junior year, she had earned a 4.14 grade-point average. Some of her extracurricular activities include cross country, track and field, Model Legislature, National Honor Society and yearbook. Morgan also plays alto sax in the band and is the woodwind section leader.

Cross country is really important to Morgan because of the connections she’s made with her team and coaches and the life lessons she has gained.

Being part of the team proves that hard work pays off, said Morgan, even when positive results might not be visible at that time.

“People working hard are getting results,” she said, now applying that long-term focus to her studies.

In her application, Morgan was described by a teacher as “the best student I have ever taught.” Another teacher stated she is “the hardest-working student I have ever come across.”

Although Morgan initially was leaning toward studying politics at University of Notre Dame, she’s now considering pharmacy at Purdue.

“I like a lot of different things,” Morgan said, acknowledging that those are quite different career paths.

She notes her college and major decision will be even harder, especially now that she has more options because of the Lilly support.

“It opens up a lot of doors,” she said of the scholarship.

About the scholarship

“After careful and exhaustive review of all the candidates, Aubrey and Rebekah represent the very best and brightest of our community,” said Rebecca Gilliam, the foundation’s executive director, in a news release. “These students are incredibly well-rounded, and we are so thrilled to see what their futures hold.”

Each will receive full tuition, required fees, and as much as $900 for required books and equipment for four years at the Indiana public or private nonprofit college or university of their choice.

The Lilly scholarship program aims to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana, to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities, and to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to improve the state’s quality of life.

Since the 1998-1999 school year, Wayne County Foundation has awarded the Lilly scholarship to more than 50 students.

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Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.