Bethany Johnson always knew she wanted to pursue higher education after graduating high school.

“Ever since I was little I always wanted to go to college,” Bethany said. “It’s something I’ve seen for so long. Ever since I was little, I knew a lot of people in high school … and I knew they went to college right away so I knew I wanted that college experience.”

Bethany already had the grades and determination to make her dream come true and attend Ball State University; she was accepted by the university in November. Recently, another important piece fell into place — the finances. Bethany is one of just two students in Clark County to receive the Lilly Scholarship, made possible by the Lilly Endowment. The scholarship covers her full tuition for four years and up to $900 in textbook and technology costs annually.

For Bethany, who hopes to study Theater Education and one day take over for Clarksville High School’s Theater Director Dan Bullington, the prospect of graduating without debt makes it that much easier to pursue education.

“I think it’s going to help a lot because I was really worried about how I was going to pay [student loans], especially wanting to go into education because you don’t make as much money in education as you would in something like IT. Not coming out with a ton of student loans is definitely going to be so beneficial in the long run.”

Though the Lilly Scholarship covers her upcoming tuition costs, Bethany will have 27 college credit hours under her belt by the time she graduates also at no cost to her. She has taken seven dual credit classes so far and will take two more this spring, paid for by Clarksville Community Schools. Those classes boosted her GPA above a 4.0 and prepared her for what lies ahead at Ball State next fall. She says taking so many dual credit classes wouldn’t have been possible if the district didn’t cover the cost and if she didn’t have mentors in her school.

“I think if they weren’t free I probably would not have been able to take them just because of my family’s financial situation in the past. I’m really grateful they were free and that I did get the opportunity to take them,” Bethany said.

She thanks counselor Christine Allred for pushing her to take dual credit classes and Dan Bullington for developing her love of theater, which drove her to her major of choice.