Photo Credit Jan Garrison
Heading to Purdue on Lilly Scholarship
May 15, 2018

“Self-advocacy.”

The word comes out of Benjamin Burns’ mouth immediately after the question ends about what one thing he has learned at Culver that gives him a competitive advantage over other high school students.

A Batten Scholar, Burns (New Carlisle, Indiana) will be attending Purdue University on a Lilly Scholarship, which is administered by the St. Joseph County Community Foundation. The Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program offers four-year, full-tuition scholarships to Indiana students who will be attending any accredited public or private college or university in Indiana. The scholarship also provides $900 per year for required books and equipment. The student is responsible for only room and board.

The scholarship is administered by Independent Colleges of Indiana and includes participation by the community foundations in each of the state’s 92 counties. Culver has had students from St. Joseph, Marshall, and Fulton counties receive the scholarships in the past.

Along with completing the application process, students go through an interview. It is there, Burns believes he has an advantage. Talking about yourself and what you have accomplished doesn’t come easily, he explained, but it something you learn at Culver. From applying and interviewing for the Batten, to interviewing for every leadership position, to defending your position in the classroom, Culver students learn how to talk about themselves, their accomplishments, and their positions honestly and objectively.

“You become comfortable with that,” he said. “You learn to represent yourself and talk about the responsibilities that you have had in the past and will have in the future.”

I thought something really bad had happened.

Burns started the Lilly application process in the early fall after hearing about it from his college adviser Stephanie Hall. The official decision wasn’t made until March, and Burns got the news even later than the other three recipients. Since he was at Culver, the scholarship committee called his parents and let them know, and they decided to surprise him with the news.

They arranged to come down on a weekend and take him out to dinner in Culver. During the dinner, Burns’ mother took his hand in both of hers and said, “’We’ve got something to tell you.’”

“I thought somebody had died,” he said. “My grandfather just had surgery the week before, but they said he was going to be OK. I thought something really bad had happened.

“Then she said, ‘You got it.’”

He didn’t know whether to celebrate or be relieved, he laughed. But it instantly made his college decision process a lot easier. “Purdue was the only in-state school I was considering and, after I got the scholarship, the decision was a no-brainer.”

He plans to study either aeronautical or astronautical engineering. The difference is between whether the aircraft or object stays in the earth’s atmosphere (airplanes, helicopters) or operates outside the atmosphere (rockets and satellites).

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