Vanderburgh Community Foundation Announces 2022 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Recipients

The Vanderburgh Community Foundation is pleased to announce Brandon Foster, Aleilah Nisley, and Santosharupa Ponna as the 2022 recipients of the Vanderburgh County Lilly Endowment Community Scholarships. Lilly Endowment Community Scholars are known for their community involvement, academic achievement, character and leadership.

“Vanderburgh County is fortunate to have many high achieving students. We received over 90 applications for this year’s scholarship. I’m always impressed with the quality of applicants and how many students in our area excel both academically and in their service to the community,” said Sidney Hardgrave, Regional Director of Community Engagement and Impact for the Vanderburgh Community Foundation.

Each Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship provides for full tuition, required fees and a special allocation of up to $900 per year for required books and equipment for four years of undergraduate study, on a full-time basis leading to a baccalaureate degree at any eligible Indiana public or private nonprofit college or university.

Brandon Foster is the son of Robert and Kimberly Foster, of Evansville. He is a senior at Evansville Day School and plans to study history and biochemistry.  His career goal is to become a physician. In addition to exceling academically, Foster has been involved in a variety of school activities, including Student Council, speech, concert band, Venture Club and numerous sports. Outside of school, Foster spends much of his time giving back to the community. He volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Salvation Army, and Youth Resources. Foster also has a deep passion for Holocaust awareness. He volunteered with CANDLES Holocaust Museum and developed a Holocaust awareness curriculum for middle school students in Indiana.

Aleilah Nisley is the daughter of Adam and Rebekah Nisley, of Evansville. She is a senior at Mater Dei High School and plans to study business management. Nisley’s career goal is to work in international business development.  Along with her academic success, she has been involved in a variety of school activities including Student Council, marching band, and numerous academic bowl teams. Outside of school, Nisley is active with the United Catholic Youth Ministry and volunteers with Vacation Bible School, and SWIRCA & More. She enjoys learning about other cultures and hopes to study abroad while in college. 

Santosharupa Ponna is the daughter of Veera Ponna and Sarita Gogula of Newburgh. She is a senior at Signature School and plans to study chemistry to pursue a career in pediatric oncology. In addition to her academic achievements, Ponna has been involved in a variety of school activities including Student Council, Spanish Club, and Mu Alpha Theta.  Her community activities include participation in Youth Resources and Kuchipudi dancing. Ponna is also the co-founder of the Kickstart Tennis Foundation and Prevention Youth Council in collaboration with Albion Fellows Bacon Center. Through her participation with the Prevention Youth Council, she has assisted with creating a podcast series focusing on creating dialogue around healthy relationships and reducing stigmas and misunderstanding related to sexual and relationship violence.

In nominating Vanderburgh County’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholars, consideration was given to each student’s academic achievement, extra-curricular activities, and service to the community. After the field of applicants was narrowed down by the Vanderburgh County Community Foundation’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program (LECSP) Committee, nominees were submitted to the statewide administrator of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program, Independent Colleges of Indiana, for final review and approval of the scholarship recipients.

The LECSP is administered locally by the Community Foundation, with the support of local high schools, and the administrative oversight by the Independent Colleges of Indiana, Inc. Lilly Endowment created the LECSP for the 1998-1999 academic year and has supported the program every year since with tuition grants totaling in excess of $439 million. More than 5,000 Indiana students have received the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship since the program’s inception.

The primary purposes of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program are: 1) to help raise the level of educational attainment in Indiana; 2) to increase awareness of the beneficial roles Indiana community foundations can play in their communities; and 3) to encourage and support the efforts of current and past Lilly Endowment Community Scholars to engage with each other and with Indiana business, governmental, educational, nonprofit and civic leaders to improve the quality of life in Indiana generally and in local communities throughout the state.