A La Porte County Life in the Spotlight: Stephanie Leon

A La Porte County Life in the Spotlight: Stephanie Leon

Stephanie Leon, a senior at La Porte High School, has arrived at an exciting point in her life. Not only is she preparing to graduate soon, but she was also one of two La Porte High School students to win the Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship. In addition to this impressive accomplishment, she also won the prestigious Posse Scholarship. Having won both the Lilly Scholarship and the Posse Scholarship, she will be able to attend Purdue University, where she plans to pursue a degree in visual design engineering, with her tuition and room and board fully paid for. Leon is excited to explore the college academic experience.

“I'm looking forward to taking college classes that are more closely related to what I enjoy and what I want to do,” Leon said. “I’m excited about creating my own schedule and choosing my own classes. That increased flexibility will be great. I'm also really looking forward to being in a new place and meeting new people.”

A lifetime resident of La Porte, Leon began her education at Handley Elementary School. She went on to attend Boston Middle School before attending La Porte Middle School for her eighth-grade year. Leon then began her studies at La Porte High School, where she also participated in a number of extracurricular activities, such as art classes and track and field. However, Leon made a decision about these activities early in her high school career that would prove to be life-changing.

“Choosing to fully focus on my academics was probably the most impactful decision I made in high school,” Leon said. “When I started, I did a lot of extracurricular activities in addition to my coursework. However, by the end of my sophomore year, I decided to leave the extracurriculars and begin focusing on my academics. I started taking more math and science-based AP and dual credit classes. If I hadn’t let go of my extracurricular activities, I likely wouldn't have pushed myself to take on more rigorous coursework. The decision to take these tougher classes also gave me the opportunity to meet some of my closest friends.”

Leon first heard about the Lilly Scholarship when other students discussed it at school. Although Leon didn’t expect to win the scholarship, she decided to apply anyway. After submitting her background information and a list of her extracurricular and volunteer activities, Leon wrote three personal essays about her past experiences and her plans for the future. She was then chosen as one of the 10 semi-finalists to be selected in all of La Porte County. Finally, Leon was interviewed by a panel of previous Lilly Scholarship winners who asked her questions about her college plans and how she interacted with her community. She learned in December of last year that she had won the Lilly Scholarship.

Leon first learned about the Posse Scholarship about a year ago when her counselor sent her an email about the program. After entering the application process, Leon provided her background information and filled out a personal questionnaire. She then began an intense series of virtual group interviews alongside more than 100 other students. As students were eliminated, the groups became increasingly smaller until the finalists participated in their last interviews. It was all worth it, however, because she received the much-anticipated news that she had won.   

The funds that Leon will receive from the Posse and Lilly scholarships will greatly assist her as she pursues her visual design engineering degree. The scholarship money will essentially allow her to attend college free of charge as she pursues her degree. Leon says that, before her college search, she had never heard of this major.

“While filling out my application to Purdue, I was scrolling through the list of the different engineering majors they offer,” Leon said. “I came across the visual design engineering major, and it drew me in. I was excited to discover it because I believe it will let me tap into my analytical side while also giving me the freedom to be creative.”

Leon expressed her gratitude for the guidance that her older brother Cesar Leon, a Purdue alumnus, has given her over the years as she worked towards getting into college. 

“I would like to thank Cesar for all the guidance he has given me,” Leon said. “He was the first one in my family to ever go to college, so he was completely on his own. I always pay attention to what he does and try to learn from it. He's always been the one to push me to do more than I think I can, and I’m grateful that he was there to help me along the way.”

In her free time, Leon enjoys baking different kinds of desserts, running, and painting. She has also recently started crocheting and is always on the lookout for new hobbies that she can use to develop her skills. As she looks back on her time at La Porte High School, Leon also reflects on her hometown’s values.     

“I like that we always strive to be better and do more when we encounter a problem here in La Porte,” Leon said. “That's probably one of my favorite parts about our community. Whenever we have an issue, everyone tries to find a way to solve it. They may not always find a solution, but they always keep trying. I primarily see that determination in La Porte’s general community, but I also see it in our school system as well.”

Now that her years of commitment have finally paid off, Leon is looking forward to celebrating graduation with her friends as she makes the transition into the next exciting chapter of her life.