In the News


Erica Ortiz receives Realizing the Dream scholarship for Manchester first-gen students 

“I would tell other first-generation students that they shouldn’t be afraid to step out of their comfort zone and be the first in their family to attend college,” said Manchester University nursing student Erica Ortiz, a first-generation college student who was awarded the Realizing the Dream scholarship from the Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI).

“It may be scary and intimidating at first, being the pioneer and not knowing how to navigate college life, but advisors and professors make it a smooth process and understand what you’re going through. Receiving a higher education will be worth it in the end when you get to watch your loved ones feel so proud of how successful you’ve become,” Ortiz said.

Erica Ortiz and Gwen MizeShe thanked those who helped along the way, especially Gwen Mize, agriculture teacher at Manchester Junior-Senior High School and FFA advisor.

“Without you, I would not be the woman I am today,” she said. The Manchester sophomore in an ICI video thanked Mize for believing in her and encouraging her. “She was my rock throughout high school.”

Ortiz is among 29 first-generation Indiana college students who got a boost to their education funds this academic year and re-connected with educators who influenced them at the Feb. 25 ICI Realizing the Dream banquet at Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis.

Made possible by a grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the scholarship program annually recognizes first-generation college students from ICI colleges and universities. Students are selected for the $4,000 award for outstanding achievement during their freshman year as they advance toward completing their bachelor’s degrees.

Ortiz plans to become a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital.

“I believe college will equip me with the knowledge to be successful in my career,” she said. 

In addition to the students’ scholarship awards, each student’s influential educator also receives $1,000 in professional development grants. 

“Thanks to the continued support of Lilly Endowment, we get the opportunity to hear the inspiring stories of these first-generation students and the impact local educators have had on their drive to succeed academically,” said Jodie Ferise, ICI’s vice president and general counsel. “These scholarship awards will provide critical support for these young people who are dreaming of future success.” 

Ortiz is also a recipient of Manchester’s Carl and Martha Schmalzried Scholarship. The late Carl and Martha Schmalzried of Wabash did not attend college, and Carl was the first in his family to attend high school. They valued education and wanted to help others.

In addition to attending school full-time, Ortiz has worked at Strauss Feed Meal in North Manchester since 2019.

For the media
To arrange an interview with Erica Ortiz, please contact Anne Gregory at
Cutline information: Erica Ortiz, left, and Gwen Mize at the Feb. 25 Realizing the Dream banquet. Courtesy Erica Ortiz.
The ICI produced a video about Erica and Gwen, and you are welcome to use it on social media.
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Manchester University respects the infinite worth of every individual and graduates persons of ability and conviction that draw upon their education and faith to lead principled, productive, and compassionate lives that improve the human condition.

March 2023