Lilly Scholar winners announced

Lilly Scholar winners announced

Posted: Tuesday, April 1, 2014 12:00 am  |  By Jillian Fellows  |

Two Grant County students have garnered full tuition to any university in Indiana as top winners in the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program.

Michael Riddle from Eastbrook High School and Steven Ngo from Marion High School were the scholarship recipients, chosen from among five top students in the county, one from each high school.

“It’s an incredible achievement and I’m happy that I got it,” Riddle said. “Since only two people get it, that means that three other people don’t get it but it’s a great achievement for all of us to be nominated.”

Riddle and Ngo were surprised during their classes on Monday morning as Community Foundation members, school officials and family members gathered to make the announcement.

“We really like to surprise them but also do it in front of their peers because these are the people that they’ve grown up with,” said Dawn Brown, executive director of the Community Foundation. “Some of these kids have gone to school with him for 12 or 13 years and these are the people who know him best so it’s really nice to present it in front of his peers to show them that somebody just like them is capable of doing something so big and maybe they can too.”

Ngo and Riddle were applauded by their classmates and teachers as they received a bouquet of flowers and a small trophy from representatives from the Community Foundation.

“I’m speechless,” Ngo said. “I’m one of the valedictorians of my class out of three and either of the other two would have been just as good of an applicant as I was. I know that I’m extremely lucky to receive this award and I’m very excited to go to Notre Dame with it and do my very best.”

That humble attitude is one of the reasons Ngo was selected as one of the scholarship winners, said Kent Cocking, director of guidance at Marion High School.

“I think it’s fantastic,” Cocking said. “He’s a great young man. He’s a well-rounded student and he’s an athlete. He’s at the top of his class. He’s just a great young man with a lot talents and he’s very humble. We’re very proud.”

Ngo has been accepted to the University of Notre Dame and plans to study pre-med. He is ranked number one in his class and scored a 33 on his ACT and a 2170 on his SAT. Ngo is also an avid tennis player and pianist, among other activities.

“There’s no question about it that we’re looking at the whole person,” said Brown. “We’re looking at their involvement in school activities and their academics and all of that. They are well-rounded students and they should be very proud.”

Riddle plans to study biochemistry at Indiana University. He is ranked third in his class and scored a 29 on his ACT and a 1960 on his SAT. He is also involved in many clubs at Eastbrook High School, including the Drama Club and Quiz Bowl.

“College is the main thing I’m looking forward to,” Riddle said. “I’m ready to meet a lot of people because IU is a huge community of 40,000 students and I can’t wait to look for a way to help the people on campus and make it a better place.”

Brown said that Riddle was a strong candidate who interviewed well.

“He was amazing and as he said, all of the candidates are just stellar,” Brown said. “They’re the best in Grant County. He had a tremendous interview, he has an excellent story and is very grateful for the opportunities that he’s had and we know that he’s going to turn all of this investment into not only his future, but the future of Grant County as well. We’re really excited for him.”

Eastbrook Superintendent Brett Garrett was on hand to congratulate Riddle on winning the Lilly scholarship.

“He’s a fine young man and he’s a great representative of Eastbrook, our community and he’s very deserving,” he said. “This is an award that a lot of people had a hand in, his family and the staff at Eastbrook, his classmates had a big role in this so it’s a big deal. It couldn’t happen to a better boy. We’re very, very happy for him.”

To make the morning even sweeter, Ngo and Riddle are old friends who have supported each other throughout the scholarship process. Brown and the Community Foundation team went to Eastbrook High School first and when Riddle asked who the other winner was, they had to keep it a secret to surprise Ngo later in the morning.

“Obviously, (Steven) is an outstanding kid, very humble yet really bright as well and just completely deserving of the award just like Michael,” Brown said. “Ironically, Michael had asked about Steven and then Steven wanted to know about Michael. They don’t go to the same school anymore but they were childhood friends so it was really nice to see the both of them continuing to grow on a good path and to both be awarded the scholarships this year.”

When Brown told Ngo that Riddle was the other winner, he dropped to his knees and laughed.

“We have been friends since childhood and I’m so happy for him and I know he’s so happy for me,” Ngo said. “It’s such a great thing. He moved to Eastbrook during middle school and I haven’t kept in contact with him but the Lilly scholarship has let me reconnect with him. I’m so happy for him for getting this scholarship.”

The other three nominees, Kayla Martin from Madison-Grant High School, Samuel Cerny from Mississinewa High School and Rene Spaulding from Oak Hill High School will receive separate scholarships from the Community Foundation worth $18,000 over four years.

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