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Knox teen shows faith, maturity en route to scholarship

Inspiring Youth Jaigan

Jaigan Allport, a St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner and Knox Community High School senior, sits for a photo in Knox. The 18-year-old was named this year’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program winner for Starke County and continues to focus on academics, extra-curriculars, and volunteering during his last semester before college. (provided photo)

 

by Anthony D. Alonzo

Northwest Indiana Catholic

 

      KNOX – When Jaigan Allport was a young boy, an inward focus and perfectionistic tendencies had him set on being the first to turn in his classroom assignments. Over the years, a little patience and a lot of maturity have ushered in a more balanced approach and a host of opportunities for the 18-year-old Knox resident.

      A St. Thomas Aquinas parishioner and this year’s Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship Program winner for Starke County, Allport said success is “not necessarily about being the best. It’s about becoming better.”

       “There was a lot of work and the results were unbelievable – it led me to (win) the Lilly Scholarship, which is an amazing opportunity,” said Allport, one of 143 recipients of the college scholarship statewide.

      Allport is focusing on the second half of his senior year at Knox Community High School, the latest chapter in a whirlwind academic career. While striving for As in the classroom, he has also dedicated much time as a 10-year member of the 4-H Club, a three-year member of the National Honor Society and participant on the Indians cross country team.

      Each Sunday he joins his parents Rusty and Jennifer Allport, and younger brother and sister Jarin Allport and Jianna Allport at Mass. At St. Thomas Aquinas, he has been a lector for more than a year. The teen admitted to being nervous when he first started to read the scriptures at church.

      Yet, he looks out at the Catholic faithful and sees people who have loved and supported him all his life.

      “My family has always been there for me, even when I didn’t realize it,” Allport said. “It’s been a reliever.”

      Such support was particularly important during times when Allport let his shyness get the best of him.

      “Elementary and middle school was hard; in the social sense, I was not someone who had a lot of friends,” Allport explained.

      Describing himself as “a bit different,” Allport said he finally gained the confidence to be expressive, in part, due to a clerical error. As a freshman at KCHS, Allport was accidentally scheduled to take speech in an upperclassmen section.

      As he overcame vocal squeakiness, he soon impressed his classmates with detailed deliveries on cosmic topics, such as black holes. 

      “In my first speech I received a 98 out of 100 points,” Allport recalled. “Instead of being happy, I tried to work toward a 100%. But no one is prefect… I’m not sure, I (just felt) a drive to be something more.”

      In recent years, Allport has accepted certain extracurricular challenges that have helped him express himself and develop more friendships. Including his lead role in KCHS’s theater production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” he has participated in eight plays and musicals.

      “I had to memorize 200 lines,” Allport said of the sometimes “exhausting” experience. “It’s incredible to see a project like a show come together. It was a challenge, but I liked doing it. I would come home from practice happy and satisfied.”

      People would be surprised, he said, to know he is still working on some challenges with his one-on-one communication.

      “For some reason ­– and I’ve never been able to figure this out – I’ve been more comfortable in front of audiences. With (an individual) I feel there’s a lot more attention directed toward that person and what they think,” he said.

      He hopes to continue to make personal connections by holding himself to a higher standard, such as the example of kindness and compassion shown by his immediate family, as well as his church family and family of friends.

      “As long as you treat everyone with kindness – treating others as you would like to be treated – it will be repaid in some way to you,” Allport said.

      Allport reflected on the competitive process, which earned him the Lilly scholarship and the opportunity to attend Purdue University in West Lafayette, where he hopes to major in mechanical engineering. Looking forward to the “freedom and opportunity of college,” he praised the efforts of his peers and offered encouragement.

      “I know that there were so many good people from Starke County who I was up against,” Allport explained. “I would tell them … All the work you did beforehand that makes you eligible for a scholarship should let you know you are an incredible person and deserve a lot in life. You will get that because you’ve worked so hard.”

 

 

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