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Merrillville-based foundation puts education first with streamlined scholarship process

Donald Jones, president of the Lake County Fish & Game Association, from left, with association scholarship recipients Lindsey Forbes of Merrillvile and Paige Kruk of Dyer, Jodi Kateiva, Legacy Foundation scholarship administrator, and John Hansen, chairman of the Legacy Foundation scholarship committee in a 2016  photo.

Provided

Education, it is said, is the key to the future. It only stands to reason, then, that any organization dedicated to creating a lasting legacy would invest in education.

So it is with Merrillville-based Legacy Foundation.

Though a scholarship program that has benefited thousands of local students in the last 25 years is but one aspect of the foundation’s broader mission, it's possibly the most forward-looking of the organization’s community-focused initiatives.

         

“Legacy Foundation’s mission is to build a culture of philanthropy across generations that will positively transform Lake County,” says scholarship administrator Jodi Kateiva. “The scholarships align with that mission by working with donors to build a culture of philanthropy, and by positively transforming Lake County by helping students go to college and raise the educational level of attainment in Lake County.” 

That educational level has been raised to the tune of $40 million through the scholarship and grant options the foundation administers on behalf of a variety of charities. 

The more than 25 scholarships administered are divided between high school seniors and college students or adults returning to school. Award amounts range from $100 to $10,000. Applicants with at least a 2.0 GPA can apply for multiple Legacy scholarship opportunities using one common application. Eligibility for the individual awards may vary and include a higher minimum GPA, residency or family income restrictions, employment requirements and/or specific academic goals or areas of study.

In addition to the extensive roster of scholarships available via the common application, the foundation also administers the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarships, six full-tuition awards to any Indiana public or private university or college for applicants nominated by their high schools.

Kateiva says the foundation received more than 450 applications for its scholarship program this year, along with another 250 applications for the Lilly Endowment awards.

The foundation helps donor organizations set up and administer the scholarships, while giving students one place to find and apply for these opportunities. The common application process takes a lot of guesswork out of the equation. 

“Each scholarship has its own unique criteria,” Kateiva explains, “but the common application allows students to apply just once, and the system automatically determines the scholarships for which they are eligible.”              

That streamlined process helped 21-year-old Crown Point nursing student Valerie Soy. She first applied for the Bill and Sue Modrak scholarship for McDonald's employees or their relatives after hearing about it through work, but she was surprised to find that she was also eligible for the Continuity of Care award because she was enrolled in a health science program. She ended up securing both for a total of $2,000 to continue her academic pursuits. 

“My goal is to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in nursing, and hopefully move on to a Master's program,”  says Soy, who is attending the IU Northwest School of Nursing. “These two awards are humongous stepping stones that allow me to go to school, focus on my studies and have confidence in my skills — all with a lot less weight on my shoulders. School is stressful enough, so knowing that I have such a generous amount of money to fall back on helps keep me motivated and determined to do my best.”  

For more information on the Legacy Foundation scholarship program, visit legacyfdn.org/scholarships.

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