by Shaun Tilghman
Earlier this month, Manchester Jr.-Sr. High School senior Mariah Mobley received a disheartening letter from the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship committee stating that she had not won the prestigious, full-tuition scholarship. However, for the first time in Wabash County, the winner of the scholarship, Northfield Jr.-Sr. High School senior Emily Eckelbarger, declined the award, allowing the first alternate, Mariah, to take the prize.
Originally, Mariah took pride in at least being named a finalist, and joined in praising Eckelbarger, but she now has even more reason to be proud, as she becomes the 25th Wabash County Lilly Scholar. Not long after Eckelbarger received the Lilly Scholarship, she got an offer to join the Cox Research Program at Indiana University, which included full tuition, full room and board, a research stipend, and a travel stipend for four years, according to Julie Garber, program director for the Community Foundation of Wabash County.
“Not only was it a better offer than the Lilly Scholarship, but she also knew that, by declining the Lilly Scholarship, she could make it possible for another Wabash County student to get a full-tuition scholarship for college,” Garber said. “So, she came to me on Monday (April 21) to decline the scholarship. I was momentarily disappointed that Emily had to decline, but the turn of events demonstrates what great education and talented students we have in Wabash County.”
Even though the research program provided such a great opportunity, Eckelbarger was still reluctant to turn down the scholarship that had been conferred by her own community. In the end, she showed tremendous character by declining the Lilly Scholarship, but she admits it was a very difficult decision.
“It was excruciating!” Eckelbarger stated while on hand for Mariah’s surprise ceremony Friday morning at MJSHS. “You have a lot of personal ties to the Lilly because it’s a very community-rooted scholarship. So, it was very difficult parting ways with the Lilly Foundation, but I think the opportunity I’ve been offered will provide a lot of opportunities for me down the road. I do hope to maintain some connections with the Lilly Foundation, so hopefully I’ll have the best of both worlds.”
Eckelbarger, who will study journalism at Indiana University, went on to say that she was excited not only for herself, but for Mariah as well. As this year’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholar from Wabash County, Mariah receives full tuition to the Indiana college or university of her choice, as well as a $900 yearly stipend for required books and equipment.
Mariah, who is the daughter of Keith and Julie Anna Mobley, of North Manchester, is considered an exceptional student at MJSHS. She has a variety of interests, but she plans to study pharmacy and art in college, and she narrowed her college choices down to Purdue University and Butler University, respectively. On Thursday night, she made the decision to go to Purdue based on cost, but that was prior to finding out about the Lilly Scholarship.
“I’m completely blown away, I guess,” Mariah said, shortly after receiving the life-changing news Friday morning. “I was even about to fill out more scholarships because I thought I needed more money. Now, I’m definitely going to have to rethink things between Purdue and Butler.
“I was waiting for my financial package from Butler, and when it came, the cost was going to be [thousands of dollars more than] the cost of Purdue, so I knew there was no way I was going to be able to go to Butler. That’s pretty much why I decided on Purdue, and I even told my mom last night (Thursday) that we needed to send in the money by the May 1 deadline, but now I have no clue.”
With regards to her college choices, Mariah said she narrowed it down to Purdue and Butler because they’re the only two schools in the state – besides Manchester University, which she feels is too close for her – that have a full pharmacy program.
“The first two years are just pre-pharmacy, which I could really go to any college for,” Mariah added, “but if I want to have preference into the actual program then I need to be at one of those schools. At Butler, I would automatically go into the next four years of pharmacy school, while at Purdue, I would have to take a test and hope that I get in to the next four years.
“I want to study pharmacy because I really like helping people, but I guess it also comes from when I was younger and got sick a lot. People told me that I’d probably end up being a doctor, but I hated getting all of the tests done. The medicine always made me feel better without giving me any pain; so, I thought this would be a good way to help people and to have contact with people that need help without putting anybody through pain.”
Mariah’s parents had to keep the secret from her for two days, which they admitted was harder than they expected because they were so proud of her.
“[Julie Garber] called me at work and I had tears in my eyes – I was just shocked,” said Julie Anna. “Mariah is a hard worker, and this is just amazing. [Her father and I] didn’t go to college, and we didn’t want our kids to have to work as hard as we did to have what we have.
“We’ve pretty much told them all of their lives that they’re going to college. Our oldest daughter is a teacher, and she says the kids have no concept of going to college, but she remembers her dad and me talking to her about college as early as kindergarten or first grade. We have five kids; the oldest three have made it and now Mariah is going, so we just have one more to get there.”
Garber eventually told Mariah that she had notified the Lilly Scholarship committee of the events that had transpired. “They were thrilled about your opportunity – it was like getting to pick two people on our wish list instead of just one,” Garber explained.
Manchester Community Schools Superintendent Dr. Bill Reichhart added, “It’s really a win-win for Wabash County, so thank you very much Emily. Mariah, you’re just a great role model for our students here at Manchester, and you’re a hard worker like your mom said. I know it doesn’t always come easily for you, so this is an example of what hard work can do. I wish you the best next year; you will represent us very well.”
Mariah’s favorite areas of study are science and art. She is also a leader in her class, having served as secretary, treasurer, and vice president of the Student Council.
Mariah plays varsity softball and soccer, is a member of National Honor Society, and is vice president of Manchester’s FFA. She also participates on the Crossroads Bank Junior Board of Directors.
Outside of school, Mariah is active in 4-H and her church youth group. She also works part-time at Timbercrest Retirement Community and is self-employed during the summer.
Mariah describes herself as confident, competitive, free-spirited, reliable, and persevering. In this case, the last characteristic obviously paid off for her.