The value of college: 21st Century Scholars speak to Brownsburg high schoolers

BROWNSBURG, Ind. (WISH) — Brownsburg High School hosted a 21st Century Scholars alumni event Tuesday.

Indiana’s 21st Century Scholarship pays up to 100% of tuition at public colleges in Indiana, and part of the tuition at private or independent colleges for eligible students who meet requirements.

Five Brownsburg alumni who are former 21st Century Scholars and now in college spoke with Grades 10-12 students in the scholarship program about the value of college and what they could look forward to and prepare for. Alumni answered questions about college life and life in general.

Rachel Meyer, outreach coordinator for the Indiana Committee for Higher Education, was talked at the school about how students can successfully earn their scholarships upon graduation.

Students who are eligible for the program can receive a two- or four-year scholarship as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.

One of the Brownsburg alumni, Amya Gray is a freshman at Ball State University. She graduated from Brownsburg High School in May. She remembers having one-on-one sessions through her sophomore, junior and senior years to discuss the 21st Century Scholars program and other things about college.

“It’s a new environment. You’re kind of alone. You don’t really know what to do and it’s definitely a very stressful situation because it’s just thrown at your all at once: all this information, all this schooling, all this stuff at that,” Gray said.

She believes Brownsburg High School prepared her for college. With her major in nursing, Gray hopes to be a traveling nurse so she can see the world someday while helping people. She doesn’t know whether or not she wants to come back to settle in Indiana, so she hopes to figure that out in her travels. She’s also interested in being an emergency room nurse and or an obstetrician-gynecologist.

Gray says she understands the importance having people who are more like you to convey the value of college. Since she was just in their shoes, she wanted to make sure she answered every question about college speaking in front of the high schoolers. “I think it’s definitely beneficial to have somebody talking to you because I did wish I had that last year,” Gray said.

Morgan Canada is a junior at IUPUI. She graduated from Brownsburg High School in 2021. “It’s definitely different being in college than it is hearing about college. I think people tell you a lot of stuff and you’re like, ‘Oh, whatever’ or, like, ‘Sure,’ like I’m sure a lot of the stuff I said today the students were, like, ‘Sure, right,’ but when you actually get there you see what every one’s talking about,” said Canada, “One of the first things I said was that in college, people were a lot nicer. “Everyone’s figuring it out. That’s one thing I wasn’t expecting. Like, you expect to go there and everyone’s figured it out, but even upperclassman, they’re still figuring it out.”

Canada also stressed that if students need help in their academics, they have to seek out those resources that should be there for them.

In college, if you have a bad grade, professors aren’t necessarily there to ask, “How can I help you?” Canada said students have to be the ones to take the initiative for their own undergraduate career and ask, “Hey, can you help me?” but there’s more flexibility in college than the normalized structure that comes with high school.

“Yeah, you might have to take all of these courses, but there’s a lot a fluidity to planning your schedule, and you essentially get to choose your own schedule,” Canada said.

If it wasn’t for the 21st Century Scholars program, Canada says she would have to think about other ways she’d be able to financially afford college. So, when given the opportunity to share her experience so far to other Brownsburg high schoolers she was honored.

“It’s really easy for a teacher to tell you this is how college is, but not all of them have recently been in college. So, I think it’s nice to hear from someone who’s experiencing it right now,” Canada said.

She’s studying psychology and is looking into being a guidance counselor.

She was inspired by her high school counselor, Chris Douglas, who coordinated the event. Douglas said, “My biggest goal as a guidance counselor here was to make sure we continue to provide all of our students the opportunity to be successful no matter what socio-economic background they come from or what disadvantages they were born with.”

After the panel, Douglas walked the scholars through the school as they talked about how things have changed since they’ve been in high school.