Two Columbus East High School students were sure their guardian angels were with them Thursday afternoon as they walked into the conference room.
Seth Frownfelter and Madel Presto were surprised with good news: They had been selected as recipients of the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship by Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County.
The two were chosen from 74 Bartholomew County applicants to receive full tuition for four years at the Indiana college of their choice, with a $900 annual stipend for required books and equipment.
Frownfelter plans to attend Indiana University or Butler University to study law or business, and Presto will attend the University of Evansville to pursue a career as a music therapist.
If Frownfelter attends Butler, where tuition is $34,750 per year effective this fall, the value of the scholarship will be worth at least $142,000. If he attends Indiana, where tuition is $10,208 per year, it will be worth at least $44,000.
At Evansville, where tuition is $31,776 a year this fall, the scholarship would be worth at least $130,000 for Presto.
Students are responsible for their own housing costs.
Both were at a loss for words as about 20 officials and associates of Heritage Fund, teachers and guidance counselors surrounded them with applause and praise.
Frownfelter’s parents, Tammy and Rob Frownfelter, and Presto’s mother, Jannette Presto, were also in attendance — and they were just as overwhelmed with emotion.
Tammy Frownfelter said the news is particularly welcome as her son’s grandfather died just four weeks ago.
“He believed in this boy more than anything,” she said. “He already knew he got it.”
Presto also faced a tough loss in 2010.
“I know your dad is watching over you,” Jannette Presto told her.
There were tears after that — but mostly ones of joy. Their hard work had paid off.
“They are two very deserving students,” Principal Mark Newell said. “They’re the type of student where you want to see what they accomplish in the future.”
Both have extensive records of community involvement, extracurricular activities and displays of leadership. They are both active in Big Brothers Big Sisters and are part of the National Honor Society.
While Presto found her calling in the Acalympians, the high school’s a cappella group, Frownfelter excelled in football and swimming.
“These two stuck out,” said Matt Kirr, a member of the selection committee. “It was not a hard decision for us.”
Frownfelter said he takes pride in a solid work ethic and determination.
“I am a goal-setter and will do what it takes to reach my dreams,” he said.
Presto said her ability to balance responsibilities is a key trait.
“I put 110 percent of my effort into everything I do,” she said. “Whenever I am overwhelmed, I am able to overcome those stressed feelings by using my positivity and self-encouragement to keep going.”
This opportunity will keep her — and Frownfelter — going for years.
“I thought it would be easy to describe, but there are really no words,” Presto said.