The opportunity to attend college was a blessing, according to Jonathan Isbill.

And the 21st Century Scholars program was like the angel that provided it.

“I really wanted to change the world with health and nutrition. They gave me the opportunity to do that. I don’t know that I would have gone to college without it.”

The reason Jonathan needed help from the scholarship program and the reason he cares passionately about health and nutrition are the same.

Janice Isbill was raising Jonathan and his brother on her own when the state eliminated funding for her position as a career counselor in 2012. Until then, Janice had been able to control the symptoms of Crohn’s disease. But the stress of unemployment triggered a debilitating flare-up, according to Jonathan.

Jonathan was a sophomore at Hauser High School in Hope. Seeing his mom suffer ignited a passion that continues to this day. He quit the basketball team and began staying after school to research Crohn’s in an out-of-the-way computer lab, alone.

“The janitor would close up shop and I would still be in there cranking away,” Jonathan recalled.

Jonathan researched recipes that would ease his mother’s symptoms. He convinced her to eliminate junk food, limit dairy, and accept other dietary changes. Slowly, Janice’s health improved.

After high school, Jonathan attended Ball State University with support from 21st Century Scholars. As an undergrad, he studied nutrition and dietetics, graduating with honors in 2018. In December 2019, Jonathan graduated with a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from Ball State.

Currently, Jonathan works for the Whole Kids Foundation through a partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health. He travels to schools throughout Indiana teaching educators how to prepare healthy meals. Teachers can then pass that knowledge along to their students.

Closing the Gap in Educational Achievement

Ball State University’s 21st Century Scholars have been vital to closing the achievement gap, curbing the brain drain, and more. Want to know how this program has made a difference for our students? Read more of their stories.

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