PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Seven Peoria Public Schools students got a life-changing surprise Tuesday morning. Bradley University representatives awarded full tuition to seven graduating seniors as part of the Hometown Scholars Program.

Those recipients are:

  • Sarai Cardona Sainz
  • Joseph Heerman
  • Ana Meza
  • Toriana Hollie
  • Emily Mendez
  • Teyi Lawson
  • Abigail Maher

“It’s really important to engage with and recognize our own hometown scholars and keep them here in Peoria,” said Jessica King, a representative with Bradley University.

The program, King said, started three years ago. To qualify for the scholarship, the student must first be admitted to Bradley University, must come from a “historically underrepresented population,” and must demonstrate financial need.

They must also show engagement in their school and community.

“Our applicants this year had amazing experiences and have done amazing accomplishments throughout their four years of high school,” King said.

The students did not know they had won the scholarship until Bradley representatives and the mascot, Kaboom, showed up at their school.

“I was told that we were going to be doing interviews for a scholarship,” said Peoria Central High School senior Joseph Heerman. “I was pleasantly surprised with a full-tuition scholarship from Bradley.”

Heerman said he is so grateful for the opportunity, and is excited for college life. He hopes to get a bioscience/pre-medical degree.

“Going to Bradley has always been a dream for me,” he said. “This was the best situation that could happen.”

Richwoods High School senior Teyi Lawson said he knew his name would be called for the scholarship when his parents showed up at school. He said he hopes to play for Bradley’s soccer team.

“I’ve been looking forward for something like this, and it’s a great opportunity,” Lawson said. “I love their soccer team, and I’m a soccer player, and this is amazing.”