Bethel Sophomore Awarded “Realizing the Dream” Scholarship from ICI

Lissa Diaz

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 30 first-generation college students from ICI’s 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.

This year’s Bethel University recipient is Samarah Williams from La Porte, Ind., an education major.

The program historically honored recipients, their families and influential educators at an annual event. However, due to the current pandemic, organizers 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 on the ICI websiteWatch Samarah’s video here.

“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. “Especially during these challenging times, 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. For Williams, that influential educator was Camellia Dabagia from Knapp Elementary School, who she says impacted her at an early age.

When asked what she would share about receiving this award, Williams says, “Never walk away from a door, or even window, that God has opened for you. He has a plan for everything. For me this was college. Being a first-generation student means there is no one really there at home to help me with the financial forms, but I know that this blessing is from God and this is his plan for my life, so I continue to strive at everything.” 

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