Legacy Foundation announces Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship recipients

Cassandra Firchau, Tanisha Howard, Taylor Hillegonds, Jackeline Fernandez, Sarah Guistolisi and Desiree Swartz are the Legacy Foundation 2012 Lilly Endowment Community Scholars.

Cassandra Firchau, Tanisha Howard, Taylor Hillegonds, Jackeline Fernandez, Sarah Guistolisi and Desiree Swartz are the Legacy Foundation 2012 Lilly Endowment Community Scholars.

Six outstanding Lake County students have been named recipients of four-year, full-tuition scholarships as the Legacy Foundation 2012 Lilly Endowment Community Scholars.

Each Lilly Scholar will receive full tuition to the Indiana college or university of her choice and a $900 yearly stipend for required books and equipment.

The local 2012 Lilly Scholars are:

  • Jackeline Fernandez of East Chicago Central High School, daughter of Marie Maysonet
  • Cassandra Firchau of Crown Point High School, daughter of Leo and Rosanne Firchau
  • Sarah Guistolisi of Griffith High School, daughter of Michael and Laura Guistolisi
  • Taylor Hillegonds of Hanover Central High School, daughter of William and Michelle Hillegonds
  • Tanisha Howard of West Side Leadership Academy in Gary, daughter of Patricia Howard
  • Desiree Swartz of River Forest High School in Hobart, daughter of Sherri Swartz

"As Lake County's leading philanthropic resource, one of Legacy Foundation's most important roles is to support educational opportunity," said Harry J. Vande Velde III, president and chief executive officer of Legacy Foundation. "We are proud to recognize the many accomplishments of these young people as they begin their promising college careers, and to partner with Lilly Endowment in advancing them toward their futures."

Legacy Foundation recognized the Lilly Scholars with a dinner in their honor at Innsbrook Country Club. The event featured keynote speaker Jared Tomich, a former National Football League player and Lake Central High School graduate who returned to the Lake County community to found Ignite Sports Performance Centers, Fuel Fitness Centers and the Halo of Hope Foundation. The foundation offers camp experiences to children undergoing treatment for cancer.

Tomich encouraged the young scholarship recipients to enjoy college and life experiences, and to come back home to give back to their community.

"When I was done playing (in the NFL), there was no question, my roots were here. I came home and started my businesses," Tomich said.

Each high school in Lake County was invited to submit an applicant for the prestigious Lilly scholarships. A total of 224 students from 27 schools applied for the 2012 awards. Those nominated by their high schools were evaluated based on academic performance, demonstrated leadership skills, service to others, character, a written narrative, demonstrated financial need and an interview.

After Legacy Foundation's scholarship committee narrowed the field to six nominees and four alternates, the finalists' names were submitted to Independent Colleges of Indiana, Inc. (ICI) for the selection of the recipients. ICI is a nonprofit corporation that represents 31 regionally accredited degree-granting, nonprofit, private colleges and universities in the state.

"The selection process was challenging because all the candidates showed significant academic achievement while participating in extracurricular activities, holding jobs and giving back to the community," said Martha Rivas-Ramos, a member of Legacy Foundation's board of directors as well as a member of the Scholarship Committee. "The applicants from throughout Lake County have achieved a great deal at a young age, and we are confident that they will make important contributions to our community in the years to come."

The Lilly scholarships were created in 1998 by a statewide Lilly Endowment initiative to help Indiana students reach higher levels of education. Indiana ranks among the lowest states in the percentage of residents over the age of 25 with a bachelor's degree.

This year community foundations around the state awarded 142 Lilly scholarships. Since the inception of the program, Legacy Foundation has awarded 145 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarships to Lake County students.

Legacy Foundation manages 30 scholarship programs. Lake County residents are encouraged to check Legacy Foundation's Web site for information at www.legacyfdn.org/scholarships.