Senior Kiersten Stowe awarded full-ride through the Lilly Scholarship

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Kiersten Stowe receives lilies as she learns that she has won a full-ride Lilly Scholarship.

Lauren Molenda, Editor

After four years of dedication towards academics and extracurriculars, Senior Kiersten Stowe is finally reaping the benefits of hard work, thanks to a full ride scholarship provided by the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program. 

The Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship is awarded to some of the most unique and talented seniors across the state as a way to bring educational and economic growth back into the communities of Indiana, as well as to reward outstanding students for their success. 143 scholarships are awarded each year, providing students with all financial expenses paid for at any public or private Indiana college or university of their choice.

Stowe began her education as a Pirate back in elementary school after moving into the Merrillville community school district, and she has excelled ever since. Through the past four years, Stowe has taken seven AP courses and participated in over 10 extracurriculars, ranging from academic clubs, sports teams, performing arts groups, and community service organizations, all while maintaining a 3.87 GPA and standing in 6th out of 517 in her class. 

Stowe says when she first came across the Lilly Scholarship, she wasn’t interested, as she had planned to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. With a little push from her mom and a little more consideration, Stowe put her reservations aside and applied for the Lilly, which has come to be a blessing for her and her family. 

While the application process may have been intimidating for Stowe, her impressive academic record and down-to-earth personality worked to her benefit.

“Throughout the process of applying, I was pouring my heart and soul into those essays because they asked deeper questions than I was used to,” Stowe said. “During the first interview process, I was so scared that I was shaking like a leaf in the chair. I genuinely thought I did a mediocre job during the interview because I was so nervous. Luckily, I was the representative chosen from my school and I decided to tighten up and prepare for the next interview process – I knew then that shit was about to get real

“During the second interview process, I definitely felt relaxed and it was one of the best interviews I’ve ever had. Although, it was very weird talking about myself when I had to do the little self-promotion parts. I genuinely opened up to the interviewers and I think my hard work in the end finally paid off for me.”

The hard work did indeed pay off, as she was awarded the scholarship on Dec. 16.

“I remember Ms. Jordan calling me down to her office to ask me for a list of things, which was obviously a coy, and next thing I know,” Stowe recalled. “I’m getting rushed into the same conference room where I thought I absolutely tanked the interview and several administrators are in there with my mother! I’m definitely not trying to incriminate myself, but I swear I thought I was in capital trouble. I was whiter than a ghost with fear, then I saw Ms. Jodi Kateiva come out with literal lillies and she told me that I got the scholarship.

“I felt like I received the best gift that someone could ever give to me: free tuition. I was definitely over the moon, but I have a hard time physically showing that I am excited. I can say that I felt my life come full circle when I was shaking in a room I was previously shaking in months prior when I was nervously answering the interview questions. At that very moment, I never felt more proud of myself and my accomplishments.”

In the fall, Stowe plans on majoring in psychology and minoring in economics or applied mathematics at either IUPUI or Notre Dame. Later down the road, she hopes to pursue a career as a judge to make a difference in the current justice system of our country.

“The things that inspired me most to take this path were the BLM movement and my tendency to start arguments (and enjoy them),” Stowe said. “Over quarantine, I noticed that there was a lot of scrutiny surrounding the justice system and how it affects marginalized people. “Understanding that my race, African-American, is one of the marginalized people in question, I realized that I could really strive for change within the justice system. Over the years, I’ve started to realize how corrupt the system is and how it should involve people with good hearts and determined minds.”

Stowe shared the stresses that the financial end of college brought to herself and her own family, and continuously expresses her gratitude for the opportunities the Lilly program has given her.

“When applying to colleges, the first thing I would do is calculate the affordability,” Stowe said. “Before the scholarship, I was literally contemplating going to the military in order to not burden my mother with the costs of my own college. I was trying every scholarship and way to find a way to fully pay off my schooling.

“The scholarship lifted the greatest weight off of my shoulders and showed me that with hard work, comes great reward. The Lilly community really showed me the true gift of generosity, and it also shows me how I want to give right back to my community because of how much they gave me.”