Grace Smith, a sophomore at Grace College from Fortville, Ind., was one of 31 college students honored at the annual “Realizing the Dream” banquet on Nov. 5 in Indianapolis. The event is organized by Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), of which Grace College is a part. Each of the honorees is a sophomore student who has “realized the dream” to be the first in his or her family to attend college.
The 27th annual event was made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to ICI to recognize successful first-generation college students and families. One student was selected by each of the 31 independent colleges in Indiana for outstanding achievement during their freshman year. Each honoree received a $2,500 check to help with college costs. Additionally, each student’s selected “most influential” teacher or mentor received a $1,000 professional development grant.
One out of every three students on ICI campuses is first-generation. Generous financial aid provided by the institutions combined with state and federal grants, makes a private college education a possibility for all Hoosier students, including Smith.
When asked why she chose to attend Grace College, Smith said “Ultimately, it was the invested professors I met while visiting, the beautiful campus and the free book rentals that led to my choice.” And, she said “I truly felt the Lord calling me here. I couldn’t be happier with all He has done in my time at Grace thus far.”
Smith has assumed several roles at Grace College since beginning her college career in 2015. Most prominently, she is a Student Activities Board officer and a small group leader in her dorm. “Grace is a stand-out leader on campus,” said Kearstin Criswell, director of student involvement at Grace College. “She demonstrates courage and authenticity as she leads other women and models academic achievement on campus.”
Grace said she was shocked and honored when she received the news that she would receive the scholarship. “It was rewarding to see that my efforts have not been overlooked, and incredibly humbling to have been chosen considering how many brilliant student leaders there are on campus,” she said. Smith credits her parents for much of her success up to this point. “Although my parents did not attend college, they have always encouraged and prodded me to work hard so that I could attend college one day,” Smith continued. “I would not be where I am today without their love and support,” Smith added. “I am beyond thankful.”
Criswell, along with Mrs. Kim Davis, language and literature teacher at Heritage Christian High School, accompanied Smith to the “Realizing the Dream” banquet on Nov. 5. “It was an honor to represent Grace College and celebrate Grace Smith’s accomplishments at the banquet,” Criswell said. “We are very proud of Grace and are fortunate to have her on campus,” she concluded.