Saunders is this year’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship winner

By: 
Staff Writer Kate Wehlann

One of the biggest stressors on college-bound high school students and their families is how they will pay for college. The cost of college tuition has risen drastically over the past several decades and the cost of a four-year degree for current students is far higher than it was for their parents.

One local student just found out that’s one thing she won’t have to worry about as she pursues her college career. Cora Saunders is the Washington County recipient of the full-ride, Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship for 2019.

Saunders is a senior at Salem High School and has been involved in a variety of community activities that helped her stand out among other applicants in the county, including helping in the Washington County Community Foundation, the Salem Community Church youth group, 4-H and other school activities, like choir, Tri-Hi-Y, student council and the National Honor Society, among others. She was named Miss Washington County Teen in 2016.

She plans to attend IUS to study nursing and work for a time as a nurse before pursuing a masters degree, possibly at Indiana Wesleyan, with the hopes of working as a nurse practitioner.

“I think it’s the hands-on experience and interactions with people, knowing I’m helping them,” said Saunders. “It just gives me satisfaction and gratitude. I also have a lot of family and influences in the medical field. That’s definitely another influence on my decision.”

One of those influences is Nurse Practitioner Lindsey Brough, for whom Saunders job shadows.

“I love it,” said Saunders. “She’s really fun. She answers all my questions and I get to go into patients’ rooms with her and learn from her.”

Saunders said the Lilly Endowment accepts applications only from the top 20% of each class.

“They didn’t have interviews this year, so it was all on paper,” she said. “You had to list your activities, community service, leadership roles, awards you’ve won, and then you tell a little bit about where you plan on going, how much you have saved, work experience. It’s pretty involved.”

She said she was hoping all her activities and community service projects would help push her forward in the understandably competitive scholarship.

“I didn’t want to be boastful, though,” she said. “I told myself to just write it all down and see where it gets me.”

While in years past, students would be surprised by an in-person announcement, Saunders said she received the news via a letter in the mail.

“I was excited, really excited,” she said. “I was relieved to not have to worry about debt, especially with wanting to get my masters. At least my first four years are covered. I kept reminding myself to just stay humble about it. I’m very grateful for it. So many other candidates could have got it because they’re just as good, just as involved and I was like, ‘Cora, this is God’s way of telling you that He’s going to cover this for you so you can focus on your school to help other people in a different way.’ I keep reminding myself of that and just try to stay humble and grateful.”

The scholarship covers tuition, required fees and offers a book stipend for four years. It doesn’t pay room, board or travel expenses, or for a laptop or program-specific equipment Saunders might need as a nursing student, such as scrubs or a stethoscope. While waiting to find out the results of this scholarship, Saunders continued to apply for others and said, should she win any other scholarship money, those funds would go to what the Lilly doesn’t cover.

Saunders is the daughter of Adam and Therese Saunders.

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