First Trust Credit Union Awards Scholarships to Kankakee Valley Seniors in 2018

First Trust Credit Union Awards Scholarships to Kankakee Valley Seniors in 2018

First Trust Credit Union is proud to have awarded seven $1,000 scholarships to graduating seniors at high schools in LaPorte, Porter and Jasper Counties. First Trust offers Bachelor’s Degree scholarships, and scholarships for seniors pursuing an Apprenticeship, Certification, or Associates Program. Scholarship winners are chosen based on their enrollment in an accredited institution for post secondary education or training, scholastic achievement, involvement in high school and community activities, an essay, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher.

First Trust’s Wheatfield Branch awarded $1,000 scholarships to three Kankakee Valley High School graduating seniors: Nicholas Raymond (Bachelor’s Degree), Gavin Tillema (Associates Degree), and Payton Ritchie (Bachelor’s Degree in Education).

Nicholas Raymond received the $1,000 scholarship awarded to a senior pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree. He plans to attend Calvin College pursuing a double major in Speech & Language Pathology, and Spanish. He has achieved an academic honors diploma with an overall GPA of 4.0. His list of many impressive accomplishments include: National Honor Society, an honors diploma from the IU Honors Program for Foreign Languages, and an award for most outstanding orchestra member. He has been a member of many clubs & organizations including Foreign Language Club, Interact Service Club (Treasurer), Technology Student Association (Treasurer & Vice President), Student Council, and Science Olympiad. He has also been actively involved in community service hosting a Red Cross Blood Drive, and serving at his church in the NXT Gen Youth Group, and translating sermons to Spanish. His desire to pursue a career in the development of speech and language (in both languages – English & Spanish) started one average day when a customer, who spoke mostly Spanish, walked into his mother’s hair salon to get a haircut.

Gavin Tillema received the $1,000 scholarship awarded to a senior pursuing an Associates/Apprenticeship/Certification. He plans on studying to become an electrician through IBEW Local 531. He earned an impressive GPA of 3.24, and was an active member of Student Council as Class President. He has proven to be a very versatile student participating as a Team Captain in both Wrestling and Track, he was part of the theatre cast of Guys & Dolls, and learned necessary skills in the Building Trades program. His community service experience includes volunteering for Turkey Trot Run, Student Council’s Community Night (helped cook and was SANTA), and assisting with the organizing of KV High School’s Family Game Night . With his choice to study to be an Electrician, he will be following in several of his family members’ footsteps - including his father, grandfather, uncles, and cousins.

Payton Ritchie received the $1,000 Education scholarship. This one-time special scholarship was added for 2018 in honor of Arnold Bass, long-time Board Member at First Trust Credit Union. Arnold Bass was an educator and Assistant Principal in Michigan City for many years. He has been a member of First Trust for over 50 years, and served on the Board of Directors for 48 of those years. “Arnie” has served the Credit Union well, and with his recent retirement from the Board, the Board of Directors felt it was only right to honor him by giving away a scholarship, in his name, to a deserving senior who is planning to pursue a career that mirrored Arnold Bass’s career - in Education.

Ritchie is planning to attend Valparaiso University to study Elementary Education. She has earned an impressive GPA of 3.94, and has been the Class Treasurer all 4 years of high school. She is member of National Honor Society, and Student Council. Perhaps one of her most impressive achievements was being a Freshman Mentor her Junior & Senior years, where she not only helped with homework, but mentored her students in life and finding their way throughout high school. She has also been a part of the Cadet Teaching program, teaching 1st grade students at DeMotte Elementary School. Her passions are to teach her students to have good reading comprehension skills, to make learning fun, and to ensure her students are improving each day. She also hopes to someday come back to teach in a local school so she can spend her life in the community she calls HOME.

Additional $1,000 scholarship winners for 2018 included: Madelyn Gondeck of Michigan City High School, daughter of Tim Gondeck and Michele Passmore; Joseph Funk of Washington Township High School, son of Andrew and Jennifer Funk; Abigail Zila of LaPorte High School, daughter of Scott and Tricia Zila; and Hailey Meyers of Westville High School, daughter of Jason and Crystal Meyers.

$8,000 in Scholarship Applications will be available to 2019 graduating seniors this fall. $4,000 will be awarded for students pursuing a traditional Bahelor’s degree, with an additional $4,000 available for graduating seniors pursuing an Apprenticeship, Certification, or Associates Program that does not require a four-year degree. Applications can be picked up at school guidance offices, or downloaded from the First Trust website at For further information contact Dana Koselke, Human Resources Director, at (219) 877-2305, or via e-mail at