Castle honored as “Realizing the Dream” award recipient

Jessica Castle, a sophomore art education major at Huntington University, was recently honored as a 2016 “Realizing the Dream” award recipient. Castle, originally from Topeka, Indiana, is actively involved as the vice president of the National Art Education Association on Huntington University’s campus, a volunteer at Life Church, and is an Alpha Group Mentor for HU transfer students.

Castle was one of 31 students from Indiana’s independent colleges and universities celebrated at the 27th annual “Realizing the Dream” banquet held in Indianapolis, Indiana. Realizing a dream takes commitment, hard work, and, most often, a helping hand from family and others. Now sophomores, the students selected for the award have realized the dream of being the first in their families to go to college, have been selected by their colleges for outstanding achievement during freshman year, and are successfully advancing towards completing their bachelor’s degrees.

Martha Smith, Huntington University’s dean of student services / director of career development & counseling, nominated Castle for the award.

“Huntington University is honored to nominate Jessica Castel to receive the Realizing the Dream Award. She has demonstrated strong leadership skills and academic achievements during her time at HU,” stated Smith.

Made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to the Independent Colleges of Indiana, the event recognizes first-generation students attending ICI campuses, along with their inspirational teachers and families. Jesse Martin of Westview Jr. / Sr. High School in Topeka was recognized with an award as an influential educator in Castle’s life.

“I am beyond thankful to be chosen for this award. The opportunities that receiving this award have given me and are still going to give me are beyond appreciated. There is a huge, positive impact on my education as this award will help me continue my schooling,” Castle said.

Each student honored will receive a $2,500 check to help with college costs, and each student’s selected “most influential” teacher/mentor will receive a $1,000 professional development grant. One out of every three students on ICI campuses is first-generation. Generous financial aid provided by the campuses themselves, combined with state and federal grants, makes a private college education a possibility for all students in Indiana.

Independent Colleges of Indiana serves as the collective voice for the state’s 31 private, nonprofit colleges and universities. ICI member institutions enroll almost 100,000 students (approximately 17 percent of all students statewide) and annually produce 32 percent of all bachelor’s degrees in Indiana. Information about ICI is available at