Kylei Klein Named 2017 Lilly Endowment Community Scholar

For Kylei Klein of Fayette County’s Harrison Township, it was a goal she had worked toward her entire four years of high school.

And this week, that hard work resulted in the Lincoln High School senior achieving that very goal.

The Fayette County Foundation on Tuesday announced that Klein had been selected as the 2017 Fayette County Lilly Endowment Community Scholar, marking possibly the first time in the FCF’s history that a student outside of Connersville High School has attained the honor.

For Klein, news of her being selected out of the 12 overall applicants for the scholarship – and five finalists – was a shock, to say the least.

“I was absolutely shocked and amazed that I won it. I was incredibly excited,” she told the News-Examiner Wednesday. “I have worked all of my high school career towards this, and it is an incredible honor, so I was really excited.”

What was even more exciting, she added, was being selected given the competition she was facing from the 11 other students who entered this year’s process.

“I was incredibly nervous. I thought I was qualified and I felt I had the things I needed to compete for this, but I’m the only kid who applied that doesn’t go to Connersville High School, so I was really worried,” Klein said. “I was honestly worried that would hurt me. But I know the kids who I interviewed against and they are spectacular people, and wonderful students. They volunteer, they’re hard workers, so I know that anybody they picked would be worthy and accepting of it. I was nervous going into it because the competition was really tough.”

A Lincoln senior with a 4.27 GPA who is a member of the school’s National Honor Society, Student Council, Key, Spanish, Business Professionals of America and Lincoln Teens clubs; vice president of the LHS FFA; a 10-year 4-H member in Wayne County; a member of the Lincoln varsity girls volleyball, basketball and tennis squads; captain of the school’s Math Academic Team and head of its Fellowship of Christian Athletes organization, Klein was definitely a standout amongst a tough field of students vying for the scholarship, according to Katherine Good, program officer for the Fayette County Foundation.

“The Foundation’s Lilly Selection Committee was again faced with a challenging decision to choose among five worthy candidates,” Good said. “Kylei is an outstanding student and athlete in addition to being very involved in other school and community organizations. The Committee is confident that she is an exemplary representative for Fayette County. We wish Kylei, and all our scholarship applicants, every success.”

Being involved, both in her school and outside it in the area community, is simply something Klein feels called to do, she added.

“My dad and I started the FCA program here about four years ago, so I’ve been leading that since I was a freshman. It’s grown a lot in our school and caused a lot of impact this year, so that’s something we’re definitely proud of,” Klein said. “I really enjoy helping others. I like making life better for other people, because I’ve been so blessed. God has given me so many opportunities and I feel like I need to give back to people who are less fortunate.”

As for her future, Klein has narrowed her school choices down to two – Purdue University and Huntington University, where she will pursue a major in an agriculture-related field.

“My two choices are Huntington and Purdue. I’ve been accepted to both and received money from both. I just haven’t decided exactly where I want to go yet,” she said. “I’m going to go into agriculture. I’m thinking ag education or agribusiness, but if I end up going to Purdue, I’m probably going to end up majoring in animal science with a focus on theory.”

That desire to enter the field of agriculture stems from a life which has revolved around the industry, whether through her FFA and 4-H involvement, her family’s farm, and her passion for something so vital to the existence of people worldwide.

That passion extended to her selection, last year, to participate in the National Dairy Academy and her selection this year to participate in the World Science Competition through Purdue, where she had to write a paper – and later give a presentation – on an agricultural issue which affects a third-world country.

“We are dairy farmers and I’ve grown up around animals my entire life. It’s taught me hard work and dedication, and how to be compassionate, and how to take care of another person,” Klein said. “I know it sounds like a cliche, but I want to help change the world. I’ve always said that’s what I want to do, and what better way than to do it than by attacking something people use every day … I want to help make a difference. It’s something I’m passionate about.”

Something else she is hoping is that her selection as Fayette County’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholar inspires other students at LHS to strive for the same lofty heights.

“We had a girl win it at our school two years ago (Kiersten Merida) but before than, no one had won in 10 years or so,” Klein said. “And we are a tiny, really rural school, so I definitely feel it is encouraging for the people who are here to know that, even though we’re tiny, we’re mighty and you can do it, no matter where you come from, no matter what size school you go to.”

She might not be the only LHS senior to capture a Lilly Endowment Community Scholar honor this year, either, as her doubles partner in tennis, senior Lydia Bertsch, is also a finalist for the Wayne County Foundation’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholar award. That news is slated to come out sometime this next week, according to Klein.

“We thought it would be an amazing thing if two students from Lincoln High School got the Lilly in the same year,” Klein concluded. “We thought that would be a great promotional thing for our school.”