Dec. 12 was a life-changing day for Zionsville Community High School senior John Gunderman.
Gunderman, who has attended Zionsville Community Schools all his life, was recently named a Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship recipient for Boone County. The news came as a surprise.
“They were sneaky about it,” Gunderman said. “I went to school not knowing anything. My counselor was waiting for me in my math class and said she wanted to discuss some things. She led me down to the Student Union, and when I walked in, all of the Community Foundation of Boone County board members, the people who I interviewed with and my mom and dad, were there.”
Students who earn the Lilly Endowment Community scholarship receive a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to any college or university in Indiana. Emma Hornbecker, a senior at Lebanon High School, was the other Boone County recipient.
“John and Emma were selected from a pool of outstanding Boone County seniors,” said Julie Reagan, CEO of the Community Foundation of Boone County. “We continue to be impressed by the leadership and poise of applicants. Boone County truly is in excellent hands with this next generation.”
Gunderman, who is involved in numerous activities and clubs, said receiving the scholarship has relieved a lot of stress in planning for college.
“I didn’t know how I was going to pay for college, but I knew I was going, regardless,” Gunderman said. “If that meant taking out student loans or doing a work-study program, then I was going to do it. Now that I have the scholarship, a weight is partially off my shoulders.”
Gunderman, 18, found out about the Lilly scholarship while browsing online for scholarships to apply for. He said he put all his effort into applying for the scholarship.
“It was interesting,” Gunderman said. “It was the first thing that I really applied for. I had done one college application before that, but otherwise, I hadn’t written many essays yet for college applications or scholarships.”
Gunderman, who has been involved with Boy Scouts since first grade, said his Scout leader and church pastor wrote recommendation letters for him. He is actively involved in Student Council, is a member of the National Junior Honor Society and is an audio and visual specialist at Zionsville Christian Church.
“I am so grateful for all of the things Zionsville has provided me,” Gunderman said. “I am a big Scouting guy, and everyone involved with Zionsville Scout troops is awesome. Zionsville is a place where you have the opportunity to do great things, not only academically, but also because you can engage with the community.”
Gunderman has applied to several in-state colleges, such as Purdue University, Indiana University and Wabash College but is still pondering his options.
“I plan to study chemistry and then eventually move on to medical school,” Gunderman said. “I have always wanted to be a doctor, and I found an interest in chemistry during high school. I think that is the best way to get where I want to be. Once I hear where I get in, I will make my decision.”
Outside the classroom, Gunderman threw the shot put and discus for ZCHS’s boys track and field team before suffering a broken back during his sophomore year that ended his athletics career.
“I loved the track and field team, but unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for me, and I have not been able to participate again,” Gunderman said. “I was squatting a fair amount of weight and just heard a pop. We eventually found out I had a bilateral pars defect. I had to deal with that, but it led me to other avenues of involving myself with the school and community, so I am grateful.”
Gunderman is focusing on his schoolwork as he prepares for college. He previously had an apprenticeship with Zionsville Auto Service and volunteered with SullivanMunce Cultural Center on its annual Ghost Walk event in October.
Gunderman credits his parents for pushing him academically.
“I am so grateful to my mom and dad for supporting me throughout the scholarship process,” Gunderman said. “Everything I have done is a product of their love and support.”
The Gunderman File
Name: John Gunderman
Birthday: Nov. 22, 2005
SAT score: 1550
GPA: 3.9 unweighted, 4.3 weighted
Parents: Richard and Laura Gunderman
Siblings: 1 sister, 2 brothers
Hobbies: Reading, watching football, hanging out with friends and family
Favorite places in Zionsville: Lions Park, Rush on Main, The Scoop