After the initial shock subsided, Paloma Valdes recoiled from an embrace with her mother, Irma.
“This is like a Christmas gift,” the senior said gently, breaking the silence that had enveloped the Scholl Center Business Lab.
Moments prior, Unity Foundation of LaPorte County vice president Shannon Walker had delivered the news for which Valdes, her family, and many around Marquette Catholic High School had been praying, wishing, and hoping.
A wild ride through applications and interviews ended with a full ride.
Paloma Valdes is a Lilly Scholar.
Valdes is one of two LaPorte County seniors to receive the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship, meaning she will receive full tuition, fees, and books for four years of undergraduate study at the Indiana public or private college or university of her choosing.
“Paloma is proof of what can happen when you take advantage of the opportunities presented. She is as kind and humble as she is intelligent. Bearing the title of Lilly Scholar is something that not only provides immediate financial benefits but opens doors when it comes time to pursue a career. I’m ecstatic for Paloma and her family. This is one of my finest days as principal,” Marquette principal Casey Martin said.
The Michigan City native serves as Marquette’s National Honor Society treasurer, Academic Super Bowl, and Quiz Bowl captain, and competes on the Blazer tennis team. Valdes’s passion and work ethic extend beyond school walls. She is lead volunteer at Reins of Life, a local nonprofit that serves children and adults with disabilities through equine-assisted therapeutic activities. Valdes also stays active at the Sacred Heart Food Pantry in assisting with food collection and distribution for local residents in need.
Valdes is the first Marquette senior to receive the illustrious award since Rebecca Yaw in 2015. The Unity Foundation of LaPorte County cited her servant leadership, community involvement, and academic accomplishments as differentiators across a deep field of candidates. Valdes owns a 4.289 cumulative grade-point average, a figure that projects to climb further following the fall semester.
Valdes is currently undecided on where she will attend college but plans to study computer science.