Katie Browning, left, jokes with classmate Lauren Anderson in an art class at Madison Consolidated High School on Monday. Browning was named a Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship recipient and plans to go to college for a degree in communications. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com
Katie Browning, left, jokes with classmate Lauren Anderson in an art class at Madison Consolidated High School on Monday. Browning was named a Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship recipient and plans to go to college for a degree in communications. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchie/kritchie@madisoncourier.com
Katie Browning was in school when she found out she was this year's Lilly Endowment Community Scholar.

The Madison Consolidated High School senior quietly answered her cell phone and tried to stay calm and collected as she heard the incredible news.

"I was in shock for like the first week," she said, adding that she kept the information to herself until the end of the school day.

After school, she first visited her mother at work to tell her face-to-face.

"I just remember I was in the car smiling the whole way there," Browning said.

As part of the scholarship, Browning will receive full tuition to any four-year Indiana college or university of her choice and a $900 yearly stipend for required books and equipment.

Browning, who is the daughter of Steve and Martina Stokes and Jason and Jennifer Browning, said the scholarship will help her family because she has a step sister who also will enter college this fall.

Browning is undecided on which school she will attend but plans to pursue a degree in communications. She had been looking at a school in Kentucky, but changed her focus to DePauw University, a small liberal arts school in Greencastle, once she won the Lilly.

She said she looks forward to participating in student groups in college, much like she has in high school. At Madison, she is involved in the National Honor Society, Team LEAD, the Senior Advisory Board and she has cheered since the seventh grade.

Thirteen Jefferson County students applied for the scholarship this year, and each of the finalists were from Madison Consolidated High School.

Browning said she originally applied in August, then went through the interview process and wrote an essay. Her essay - which had to be about a piece of advice and how it has impacted her - was on the children's book "The Little Engine That Could," famous for its classic phrase, "I think I can, I think I can."

With that in mind, Browning went through the application, interviews with different boards and became the award's front-runner.

"I'm glad I stuck with it," she said.

After the scholarship committee from the Community Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County selected Browning, her application was then submitted to Independent Colleges of Indiana Inc. (ICI) for review and final approval.

The scholarships are the result of a statewide Lilly Endowment initiative to help Hoosier students reach higher levels of education. Indiana ranks among the lowest states in the percentage of residents older than 25 with a bachelor's degree. There were 143 scholarships awarded statewide.

"The Lilly Scholarship is a highly esteemed award, and I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to be this year's recipient," she said in a news release. "Thanks to the support of the Lilly Endowment board and everyone at the Community Foundation, I now have remarkable opportunities available to help me accomplish my goals toward success. I look forward to representing Jefferson County as I further my post-secondary education."

Browning will be publicly recognized at the Community Foundation's annual report to the community on May 13 at the Old Market on Main.