Bethel sophomore awarded “Realizing the Dream” scholarship from ICI

by | Mar 11, 2024

Twenty-nine first-generation Indiana college students got a boost to their education funds this academic year and re-connected with influential educators who helped along the way after being named “Realizing the Dream” recipients by Independent Colleges of Indiana (ICI). These 29 scholarship recipients, one from each of Indiana’s private, non-profit colleges and universities, were celebrated at a banquet on February 24 at the Eiteljorg Museum.

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 as they successfully advance toward completing their bachelor’s degrees.

This year’s Bethel University recipient is Smyrna Masih, originally from Pakistan, a Christian ministry major with a minor in psychology. Masih overcame incredible obstacles to pursue her education. Her family fled their home country due to religious persecution when she was 13 and lived as refugees overseas for seven years before emigrating to the United States in 2020. Due to her age, she could not attend traditional high school but completed her high school diploma online in less than 18 months, despite the culture shock her family experienced. Today, she is thriving at Bethel, learning from professors who invest in both her education and wellbeing. After she graduates from college, she plans to pursue ministry alongside her father. Read more of her story here.

To honor recipients, ICI created individual videos of each student describing what it means to them to be a first-generation college student and thanking the influential educator they have chosen to honor. Videos can be found at

“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 Dottie L. King, ICI’s president & CEO. “These scholarship awards will provide critical support for these young people who are dreaming of future success.”

In addition to the students’ scholarship awards, the influential educators also receive $1,000 in professional development grants. Masih’s influential educator was Umeki Williams of Mishawaka High School.