Six Boonville High School seniors got a special surprise visit last week as the committee for the Bill Mohler Education Scholarships dropped by to present awards.
Each year, the scholarship grants around $50,000 to Boonville High School graduates who are planning post-secondary education at any accredited technical or vocational school, college or university in the United States. Typically, the recipients are surprised by being called out of class for an awards ceremony, but with school taking place virtually for the rest of the school year the committee had to come up with a new plan to surprise the recipients with the presentation of their awards.
As a result, the committee decided to surprise each of the six recipients with a “Publisher’s Clearing House Style” awards program. The committee, including Mohler, his wife and family members, Boonville High School Principal Mike Whitten, guidance staff and teachers, travelled by caravan and dropped in on the recipients with confetti and jumbo checks.
Whitten said the scholarships are unique to Boonville and highlights the best parts of a small community like Boonville. He said funds are often directed towards school projects, but are rarely granted directly to students.
“I mean, they’ve got people that will give a bunch of money to get their name put on the football field or give a bunch of money to build a building, but nobody gives money back to kids,” he said. “In true pioneer fashion, [Mohler]’s done that for not only us, but for the entire state.”
Whitten said seniors have been dealt a bum hand with requirements to stay distant in their final semester as high schoolers, but the opportunity to connect again offered the students a needed reprieve.
“We got teachers and other scholarship committee members who are here and just giving their time doing this for kids,” he said. “It’s so hard on these kids right now, but if we can bring a little ray of light and then invest in their future it makes it all worthwhile.”
Mohler said he is happy to have the opportunity to support the students and brighten their day with the recognition.
“It’s just a wonderful thing to be able to do for people,” he said. “You can’t do anything better for kids than help them get education. That’s about as good as it gets.”
Senior Reed Overton was presented the top award with a scholarship for $10,000 to be renewed for four years for a total scholarship of $40,000. Overton said the scholarship will go towards tuition at Purdue University where he hopes to study in the pharmacy program.
“It just means a lot for me because I know I’m going to have to go to school for six years,” he said. “Just knowing that I have a little bit of help going through that is just great. Knowing that not only takes some burden off of me, but also off my family for the next four years or six years actually.”
Overton said he was completely surprised by the presentation. He said he was shocked to see the caravan of cars pull into the driveway.
“To come out with something like this, I wasn’t expecting it at all. I saw everybody coming up our driveway and I had no clue what was going on,” he said. “It was just a big surprise. It just feels really great to know that even through all of this we can have some kind of normalcy in the way everything’s happening.”
Overton’s father, Brad Overton said the fact that Mohler and his family have continued to work to offer the scholarships shows the strength of the community. He said the entire family is honored that his son was chosen for the award.
“It just shows how much the community gets behind everybody,” he said. “Reed’s worked really hard and this is just a tremendous honor.”
Overton’s father said it hasn’t been easy to see his son miss out on track season and muddle through the cancelation of senior year traditions.
“That’s just the one bit of a nice ray of sunshine here,” he said. “This has just been great to get a little bit of the school coming back and the community. That’s one thing he has loved his four years at Boonville. He’s loved it from the first day to the last. He’s loved every minute of it.”
Senior Kiley Hart was presented a scholarship for $5,000. She said she plans to use the funds to help with the cost of tuition at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
Hart said the funds will definitely help with her post secondary plans. She said she was shocked and appreciative of the surprise presentation.
“It’s such a welcome thing. It’s very surprising,” she said.
Boonville senior Taylor Rusin was presented a scholarship for $1,500. She said she will use the scholarship as she plans to attend Ivy Tech for two years before transferring to Indiana State University.
“I know that Bill Mohler is a man who wanted to change lives and I feel like as a teacher I’m going to get to do that and follow exactly what he wanted for us,” she said.
Senior Grayson Thomas was presented a scholarship for $1,500. He said he plans to use the funds towards tuition at Murray State University.
“It’s one more small way that I’m able to pay my parents, my teachers and the rest of the community for all the work they’ve put in to me for the past 13 years,” he said.
Senior Braden Chapman was presented a scholarship for $1,000 he’ll use toward tuition at Indiana University — Bloomington.
“It means a lot and it’s really cool to see everybody during quarantine,” he said. “We can do this instead of meeting at school like we normally would, but this is really awesome and it’s a great opportunity.”
Senior Jordan McKinney was presented a scholarship for $1,000 she’ll use toward tuition at the University of Evansville.
“It’s just really special because even though we can’t be at school and we couldn’t have our normal day where we get recognized, it’s really special to me that everyone is taking time out of their day to come all the way out to my house and just really recognize us in this way,” she said. “I’m just really happy and grateful I could receive this scholarship.”
The Bill Mohler Education Scholarships were established in 2012 to benefit well deserving Boonville High School graduates who are planning post-secondary education at any accredited technical or vocational school, college or university in the United States.