HU Student Realizing the Dream

On Saturday, November 2, the 30th annual Realizing the Dream banquet celebrated 30 students from Indiana’s private non-profit colleges and universities. Among the award recipients was Huntington University student Brooke Bolinger, who hails from Fort Wayne.

Now sophomores, Bolinger and the other award recipients have realized the dream of being the first in their families to go to college, have been selected by their colleges for outstanding achievement in the freshman year, and are successfully advancing towards completing their bachelor’s degrees.

Made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc. to the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI), the event recognizes first-generation students attending ICI campuses, along with their inspirational teachers and families. The event took place at Sheraton Indianapolis at Keystone Crossing and included a reception, dinner and a keynote address from Sally Reasoner, the vice president of talent identification at Ascend Indiana.  

Each honored student received a $3,000 check to help with college costs, and each student’s selected “most influential” teacher/mentor received a $1,000 professional development grant. Bollinger named Amy Swartz of Greenfield Intermediate School in Greenfield as her most influential teacher/mentor. Martha Smith, dean of student services and director of career development and counseling, also attended the event with Bolinger as the Huntington University campus liaison.

One out of every three students on ICI campuses is a first-generation college student. 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.

“We are so grateful to the Lilly Endowment for making this inspirational program possible,” said David W. Wantz, ICI president & CEO. “We are proud, too, that because of the higher graduation rates of our ICI colleges and universities, these students are significantly more likely to realize the dream of completing their degrees in four years.”  

Independent Colleges of Indiana serves as the collective voice for the state’s 30 private, non-profit colleges and universities. ICI institutions employ over 22,000 Hoosiers and generate a total local economic impact of over $5 billion annually. Students at ICI colleges have Indiana’s highest four-year, on-time graduation rates, and ICI institutions produce 30 percent of Indiana’s bachelor’s degrees while enrolling 20 percent of its undergraduates. More information about ICI is available at