For the second year in a row, an Orchard graduate has won the distinguished Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship. Lilly receives a few thousand grant requests each year, and this year they awarded a total of 143 Lilly Endowment Community Scholarships.
Weston Matatall ’15 was one of four high school seniors awarded in Hamilton County. Orchard is very proud of you, Wes. We know you will do great things with your scholarship. Wes considers himself an Owl for life after attending Orchard from preschool through eighth grade. “I will always be an Orchard Owl,” he said. “Our class was really close and the years I spent at Orchard will be with me for life.”
The Lilly Endowment initiative has awarded 4,626 scholarships and funded more than $392 million since 1998.
Orchard Lilly Endowment recipients:
Megan Pritchard, 1998
Maddie Sersic, 2017
Weston Matatall, 2018
Below is our Q&A with Wes where we discuss the scholarship, his volunteer work, and how his formative years at Orchard helped prepare him for the future.
Congratulations on winning the Lilly Endowment Scholarship! Your mom must be very proud of you. How did she take the news?
[Deb Matatall has been a teacher at Orchard for 16 years]
Thank you so much! I actually cannot believe that this has happened. When they told me I earned the scholarship, I literally went numb for a few seconds. It felt like time stopped and I won the lottery. I am still struggling to understand how much this is going to affect my future. I feel like this kind of honor doesn't happen to people like me. It happens to people in other families that we just hear about!
I got an email on my phone during school saying that I had an urgent meeting in my college counselor's office. I had no idea what it had to do with. When I walked in, I was in total disbelief. They immediately had me call my mom to notify her. She was in the middle of class, and told me that she had to call me back. I stressed that it was really important and that Mr. DeFur was with me.
When I told her I got it, she was totally speechless, which if you know my mom…you know that is very rare [laughs]. When I came in to see her, she had all of her students cheer for me before I left her classroom. It was pretty cool.
Consideration for the The Lilly Scholarship is given to student activities and achievements, community and civic service, academic performance and leadership potential. Where do you feel like you did your best work in order to make this happen?
After Orchard, I volunteered at the Martin Luther King Center downtown a number of times. I enjoy helping kids with their homework and such. I've also volunteered at Joy's House, which is another place I really like visiting. Recently, I haven't been able to volunteer as much as I’d like to because I've always had a job throughout my high school years at Brebeuf. So juggling my job and school work has been the biggest obstacle. However, I feel that it's taught me a lot about time management.
What can you say about your education at Orchard and how it helped prepare you for high school and college?
The biggest part that made a difference in my life was the student/teacher relationships that were created during my middle school years. Being able to have those relationships prepared me to be able to speak to my high school teachers with respect and without feeling afraid to ask for help. It helped me advocate for myself in class. I felt that my middle school teachers actually saw me as a person. Of course, I wanted to do well for myself and for my mom, but having the relationships with my teachers helped motivate me to do well, too.
I gained a great deal of confidence in myself at Orchard. I learned to be myself and not change who I was just to please others. Advocating for yourself is so important. Orchard teaches us to do that from an early age.
I also credit Orchard for giving me the confidence to speak in front of others. I can carry on a conversation with my peers as well as with adults. From preschool to eighth grade, Orchard gave me numerous chances to practice speaking in front of others. When I went in for my interview process for the Lilly Scholarship, I felt confident to talk to anyone they put in front of me.
As Orchard 8th graders are just a few months away from graduating, what’s your best advice before they head off to high school?
Be able to look back at your Orchard career and be grateful for the education you were able to receive. Make sure to bring that gratefulness into your future experiences. Your journey will feel more fulfilling knowing that you can look back and see how much you have grown from what you have learned.
Finally, where do you plan on going to college and what areas of study are you interested in?
This scholarship has opened up so many opportunities and paths for my future. I'm still trying to figure out which college I would like to attend. However, a couple of my major choices are Indiana University and Butler. I am planning to pursue a career in sports medicine and/or physical therapy (kinesiology) with a minor or a double major in psychology. After earning my Bachelor's Degree, I plan to go to graduate school, most likely at IUPUI. I'd like to go there because of all of the medical facilities and sports teams that we have available to us right here in Indy.