First Trust Credit Union awards $8,630 in scholarships to local students

Curtis Hankins
By: Curtis Hankins Last Updated: August 21, 2020

This year, First Trust Credit Union distributed a total of $8,630 in scholarships to eight local high school students. Representing Michigan City, New Prairie, Washington Township, Kankakee Valley, and Covenant Christian, the winning students are set to pursue a diverse array of educations and career paths.

“We’ve been awarding these scholarships for many years,” said Dorene Martinson, Marketing Director for First Trust Credit Union. “What’s very exciting about our scholarship program is that we offer scholarships to both students pursuing typical four year degrees, and also students pursuing associates degrees, certificates, and apprenticeships.”

A large part of the workforce is made up of people working trades – especially here in Northwest Indiana. First Trust designed their scholarship program with that in mind. “Many times, students think that if they aren’t pursuing a bachelor’s degree, they’re not eligible for scholarships,” Martinson said.  “We want students to know that couldn’t be further from the truth at First Trust.  “Half of our scholarships are only available to students exploring other ways to pursue their careers.”

One of the winners was Tyler Cuma, a Michigan City High School graduate who is entering a steel worker apprenticeship while attending Ivy Tech Community College.  “As a young boy, I loved working with my hands and being busy,” Cuma said. “That’s why electrical work will be great for me.”

Tyler Cuma

Another winner was Leanna Buiter.  She is a Covenant Christian High School graduate who is planning to study cosmetology at the Paul Mitchell Beauty School. She already got a head start on her career by working as an intern at a local salon and spa. “Not only have I become more educated about hair, but it has made me more excited to attend cosmetology school,” Buiter said. “I’d also like to thank First Trust Credit Union. It’s very special that they’re able to provide something like this for people in each of their communities.”

The students pursuing four year degrees were no less remarkable, as exemplified by Washington Township High School graduate Jonathan Stewart. He participated in the Duke Energy Academy summer program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, and is planning to return to the school to major in Engineering.  “The academy showed me the real world aspects of energy,” he said. “It taught me valuable skills in making friends and working as a team to accomplish a real project goal.”

Jonathon Stewart

Sarah Poulin, who is planning to study Education while attending Purdue University, claimed the honor of receiving a special one-time $1,630 scholarship.  

First Trust Credit Union awarded this special scholarship in memory of Dennis Knaup, a past board member and Michigan City High School retired teacher. Only Michigan City students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education were eligible.  “We partnered with Dennis’ family to offer this scholarship,” Martinson said. “They raised $1,630 for it, and it was designed to honor his long career as a Michigan City teacher.”

Every student in the Class of 2020 faced a unique challenge thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Martinson noted that getting the checks in students’ hands felt extra important this year.  “There are a lot of people out there that need extra help right now,” she said. “This year, it felt very rewarding to supply these scholarships and help these families out by lifting a little bit of that financial burden.”

The rest of this year’s winners were as follows:

Arie Johnson – Michigan City High School. Majoring in Biochemistry at Indiana University.

Abigail Huff – New Prairie High School. Majoring in Elementary Education at Ball State University.

Paige Dew – New Prairie High School. Majoring in Nursing at Ball State University.

Richard Fraticelli – Kankakee Valley High School. Majoring in Electrical Engineering Technology at Purdue University.

To learn more about First Trust Credit Union’s scholarship program for the senior class of 2021, visit