IU East’s five Herbert Presidential Scholars have touching stories

The similarities are striking in the touching stories of five freshmen who stand tall as this year’s Herbert Presidential Scholars at Indiana University East.

They all covet the small class sizes and the close interaction with instructors and fellow students.

They all cherish staying closer to home and helping family – and avoiding debt, too.

They all were surprised and honored by the awards. They all are grateful and have great potential for success in their fields.

And their personal stories are powerful:

Jonathan Hardwick of New Castle received a big boost from his mother in considering and choosing to apply to IU East. Then tragedy struck and the award became even more essential. “It’s been a miracle,” Hardwick said. “I figured I could get some help, but I didn’t expect a full ride. It’s amazing.”

A family stands together covered in blue rain ponchos

Jonathan Hardwick (far right) with his sister, Ana, father, Paul, and mother Rosanne. Hardwick is from New Castle, Indiana. He is an exploratory major with interests in informatics, marketing and business.

Ariana Hernandez of Richmond is a first-generation college student who knew she needed to stay close to home for financial and family purposes. “I knew since middle school I was going there. … I am the first of my immediate family to go to college,” Hernandez said. “I knew I had to be the first.”

Kasey Johnson of Centerville is following in her mother’s footsteps as a student at IU East. Her parents waited in the car as awards were given on Scholarship Day. “I’ll never forget the moment I got handed my folder and realized that I was selected,” she recalls. “Chancellor (Kathy) Girten came over to introduce herself to me and personally congratulate me. I remember thinking, ‘Wow. This is a big deal!’”

Kimbriana Settles of Laurel also is a first-generation college student. “It caught me by complete surprise when I opened that packet and saw what I had earned,” Settles said. “There was a flood of emotions coming through me: excitement, relief, honor, and the best one — the ‘I did it’ feeling.”

Lillian Smith of Knightstown wants to broaden her horizons “by experiencing all of the culture and diversity that Indiana University has to offer. “I am humbled by the potential that IU East sees in me, as it really told me that I can make it through college and do great things even when I thought that I couldn’t,” Smith said.

The Adam W. Herbert Presidential Scholars Program includes exceptionally talented and diverse students across IU. To ensure students make the most of their education at IU, the program provides scholars with a number of academic and career resources designed to support, enrich, and educate. All Herbert Presidential Scholars earned a full-ride scholarship that pays fees and tuition at IU East. The award is renewable each school year, but not transferable to any other campus.

The program features several other great perks, including a new computer, $1,000 toward study abroad, chances to meet leaders at Indiana University and special opportunities for internships and research in their chosen fields.

Take a closer look at the recipients and their paths to the IU East campus in the story below.

Ariana Hernandez portrait

Ariana Hernandez is from Richmond, Indiana. She is a social work major.

A mother’s help
Rosanne Hardwick paved the path toward IU East for her son, Jonathan. She helped set into motion the achievements and the application package that brought him to IU East.

She always helped him when he needed it with homework. She helped him hone his writing. She encouraged him to learn computer programming. She pushed him to be an honor-roll student and an early applicant at IU East.

Now, it’s her memory that’s helping to push him further.

That’s because Rosanne Hardwick died on January 1, 2021, due to complications of COVID-19. “My mom was always behind me,” Hardwick said. “She definitely played a big role in me coming here. She worked with (advisors in high school) on getting me a scholarship.”

Hardwick wasn’t even certain where he wanted to apply when his senior year started at New Castle High School but learned that IU East offers degree programs that match his interests. He also learned the class sizes and the costs were lower than most other colleges. “That’s the school for me,” he remembers thinking.

It turns out the prodding provided last fall by his mom and advisors paid off because preference for Herbert Scholars is given to students who apply early. IU East nominated him for the honor from information submitted by November 1, 2020.

Kasey Johnson portrait

Kasey Johnson is from Centerville, Indiana. She is changing to a general studies major.

The ambitious student aims to earn three degrees before he leaves campus. His top choice is informatics, which is defined as information technology applied to human problems. He also is contemplating doing course work toward degrees in marketing and general business.

Hardwick foresees trying to land an internship with a company that deals with computers. “Eventually, I’d like to make video games and then start my own business,” said the self-taught computer programmer who already has entrepreneurial ideas for developing new games. “I’ve been doing that for six years. It’s like a puzzle.”

He travels to campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays for three classes and also takes one online. He lives in the country just outside of New Castle with his father, Paul Hardwick, and 16-year-old sister, Anna.

Hardwick enjoys talking with fellow students about video games and interacting with his professors. “It’s been really great at IU East, I have enjoyed it a lot,” he said. “I definitely have connected to some people on campus.”

He particularly enjoys having far smaller classes than is possible at major universities. “In high school, there were about 20-25 people in classes and it’s about the same at IU East. I like the personal interaction.”

A role model for family
Ariana Hernandez knew she would become a leader in fourth grade after finding success in the Hibberd Early College Academy. “Since then, I knew I was going to be a role model for my younger cousins and younger brothers (now ages 16 and 13).”

She had moved with her parents, Beatriz Ramirez and Isaul Hernandez, to join other family relatives in Richmond when she was 7 years old.

She quickly had her eyes on attending IU East. “I very much like the smallness of it,” she said. “I also like how many resources there are and how close you can get with people. I like starting a whole new journey of meeting people.”

Portrait of Kimbriana Settles

Kimbriana Settles is from Laurel, Indiana. She plans to major in nursing.

Affordability mattered. Her parents don’t have the means to pay for college and she already juggles a couple of jobs.

They were “shocked by the amount of money,” she said. “They are really happy for me, proud of me because it was based on what I have done.”

Hernandez was shocked by the immensity of the award, too.

“I had no idea it was coming,” Hernandez said. “I expected to receive some but didn’t expect I’d receive this.”

Part of her surprise is receiving help in world traveling. “I know I want to study abroad, and now I have the opportunity. I am very excited to do that, but just don’t know when or where.”

She isn’t specific about job plans as she pursues her Bachelor of Social Work degree. “Once I get to my sophomore year and after, I’ll branch out,” she said. “I just want to be open to all the opportunities my major gives me.”

Her educational direction is a direct result of being bilingual and helping her parents, and also people outside the family, as they navigate daily life. She translates papers and helps them to better understand their finances. She works part-time in an accounting job and on weekends as a retail clerk at American Eagle.

She attends classes on campus from Monday through Thursday. Time management obviously is critical, but there always is time to be a leader in her family and community, she said. “I like helping out as much as I can when I can.”

Academic rigor appealing
Its strong academic reputation was the top reason among many that brought Kasey Johnson to IU East.

Portrait of Lillian Smith

Lillian Smith is from New Palestine, Indiana. She is majoring in biochemistry with minors in neuroscience and in psychology.

“The No. 1 reason is the rigor of the coursework,” Johnson said. “I view IU East as a prestigious university, and I am honored to be studying here. I know that no matter what I decide to pursue, IU East will go above and beyond in making sure that I am well prepared for it.”

Johnson also was drawn by IU East’s friendly faculty and staff – and by its proximity to home.

The Herbert Scholar Award was icing on the cake. “It is such a huge honor,” she said. “I am so appreciative of IU East for this generous award.”

Her experiences so far have proven she made the right choice. “I have really enjoyed getting to know my professors because I can tell that they are all genuinely interested in my success as a student.”

Johnson believes it’s a huge bonus to have a university like IU East so close to Centerville. “I live only about 15 minutes away, which makes it quick and easy to come to campus each day. This, in turn, makes it much easier on me financially because I am able to still live at home with my family.”

The award offers financial relief for Johnson and her encouraging parents, Terry and Tonya Johnson. “They have helped me grow as a student and as an individual in so many ways, and I am forever grateful for that. It’s awesome to know that my hard work is recognized and is paying off.”

The scholarship helped Johnson buy a new computer “that has helped me tremendously in working on my assignments.”

She originally planned on majoring in elementary education but is switching to general studies. “The education program here is wonderful, but I am just not sure that I see myself as a teacher. I chose to switch … so that I can explore different types of courses and make a more informed decision later about which career I would like to pursue. I am considering the field of accounting, but I am currently open to many different paths.”

Award ‘means the world’
The Herbert Scholar award carries huge significance for Kimbriana Settles.

“This scholarship goes deeper than just getting school paid,” she said. “It means the world.”

It means the hard work in high school paid off.

It means her parents are being repaid for their sacrifices.

It means she has a better chance of reaching the primary goal that she’s had since middle school — being employed as a pediatric oncology nurse at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Settles vividly recalls the thrill of Scholarship Day, the unknowns of what she would receive. She had no idea about the Herbert Presidential Scholar program. “How could I get this lucky?” she thinks.

Ironically, she chose to attend IU East because it has amazing financial-aid opportunities and the nursing program she needs to reach her goals. It also is close to her home and loved ones.

She believes the award is a gift for her parents, Donnie and Kathy Settles, for their dedication. “All I have ever wanted in this world is to find a way to repay my parents for the sacrifices and the time and the energy they have put into me. This scholarship did that for me. It gave me the opportunity to say, ‘Here mom, here dad, I did this. I did this for me and you.’”

Settles plans to make the most of her opportunities at IU East. That includes seeking paid and unpaid internships to gain experience as a nurse. “I want to be a labor and delivery nurse (in an intensive care unit) as of right now. There is a hospital around where I live that I would love to get an internship at during the summer. Some of my siblings even had their kids (born) there.”

She already plans to use the travel stipend on a senior nursing trip. “I have always wanted to travel abroad, and this is a perfect opportunity for me to do something that I may never get to do again,” she said.

Her experiences so far with her classes have proven that she chose the right university. “What has stuck out most to me is the teachers. (They) genuinely care and want the best for you. They work well with you if you are struggling, may need to miss a day, or just genuinely want to help you succeed in their classes.”

Financial relief for future doctor
Lillian Smith is following in the footsteps of her grandmother — a nursing graduate of IU East — in seeking the degrees necessary to forge a successful career in the medical field.

Smith has long-term plans to attend medical school with her sights set on becoming a surgeon.

Toward that goal, she is majoring in biochemistry at IU East with minors in neuroscience and in psychology.

Smith said the Herbert Scholars award certainly was unforeseen, but it’s much appreciated. “It was a huge surprise, as I wasn’t expecting to be picked for such a prestigious honor,” she said.

The financial aspects of the award will make her college path much easier. It delivers a much-needed relief from her initial concerns about ways to pay for her undergraduate classes.

Simply put, her parents couldn’t afford to pay for college, Smith said. “Getting this scholarship made me less apprehensive about starting, as I wouldn’t have to work full time in order to pay for school. This has also eliminated my need to take out student loans, allowing me to finish college with no debt.”

She is happy to have the stipend option for studying abroad but hasn’t decided on whether she will use it.

Smith works at Brewfus, IU East’s coffee shop, as a barista while also working toward her degree.

Her classroom experiences so far have been very positive, something she had expected. “I picked Indiana University East specifically because it has a much smaller class size, and I wanted a more personal touch on my education than I could get elsewhere. Now that I’m here, the personal attention I’ve received in class has really solidified that I made the correct choice.”