Scholarship program recognizes 25 students overcoming obstacles

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Twenty-five area high school seniors inspired countless families with their courage to overcome hardships and tragedies Friday.

Their tales were shared at the Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis’ 42nd Annual Abe Lincoln Scholarship Awards Banquet. The students were nominated by their high schools for facing challenges ranging from mental health issues to sudden tragedy and crime.

“I put a lot of work into getting better and getting over my challenge which was mental health issues,” nominee Samantha Jones said.

Four students received scholarships ranging from $5,000 to $16,000. The remaining students received $250 stipends.

“It feels amazing that I was nominated for such a prestigious and honorable award,” DeShawn Thompson said.

The Speedway High School senior was assaulted at the age of 7. Now, he’s a stand-out student and this year’s first place scholarship recipient.

“I just look ahead to brighter and better futures and just keep looking ahead and not focusing on that past,” he said.

He plans to start at the University of Chicago in the fall and hopes to one day become a surgeon. It’s those dreams that inspired so many at the banquet.

“It’s just amazing that they’ve been able to do what they have, on their own often times,” Steve Willem, the chairman of the program, said.

The students now spend their time looking ahead and sharing this message to anyone else struggling:

“Just try and not focus so much on the past because that’s the past is over the future is still, is still there,” Thompson said.

The program has awarded nearly $1 million in scholarships since 1976.