Jessica Barden, a sophomore at Anderson University, was recently honored as an outstanding first-generation student during a banquet entitled “Realizing the Dream,” sponsored by Lilly Endowment, Inc. Barden a native of Goshen, Ind., was honored with students from 31 independent colleges and universities throughout Indiana. Barden is majoring in Spanish Education. Made possible by a grant to the Independent Colleges of Indiana from the Lilly Endowment, “Realizing the Dream” recognizes the triumphs of first-generation students in their first year of college.
The student honorees are Indiana high school graduates who subsequently demonstrated superior academic performance during their freshman year and exhibited leadership in campus or community activities. A $500 contribution will be made to the general scholarship fund of each of the 31 participating colleges in the names of the students being honored.
The program also celebrates the roles played by teachers and parents in shaping student aspirations for a college education. After being chosen by their college, the students then name the elementary or secondary teacher who most influenced them to attend college. These teachers will each receive a $500 professional development award.
Barden selected Stephanie Brown, a teacher at Fairfield Junior/Senior High School in Goshen.
The speaker during this year’s “Realizing the Dream” banquet was Mr. Gary D. Meek, President of Modern Photo Offset Supply, Inc.
Dr. Louis C. Gatto, director of the program, praised the accomplishments of those honored in past years. According to Dr. Gatto, “recently completed studies of the previous classes reveal a 92.4 percent graduation rate, which is approximately double the national collegiate graduation rate. There is no better incentive than this success story to encourage college attendance by others who do not have the benefit of a family college tradition.”
Since 1989, “Realizing the Dream” has honored high-achieving first-generation students from independent colleges and universities in Indiana as well as the elementary or high school teachers who have inspired them. The program was conceived and developed by three former first-generation college students: William C. Bonifield, William DuBois, Jr. and Dr. Louis C. Gatto.
Anderson University is a private, four-year, Christian liberal arts institution of approximately 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, the university offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs of study in theology, business, nursing, and education.