New Chicago native and 2009 Andrean High School graduate Nicole Grabos didn’t always want to be a teacher. Grabos, a freshman elementary education major who is this year’s Herbert Presidential Scholar for Indiana University Northwest, initially planned to study engineering, though she admits today that she can’t exactly recall why.
“I got recruited to teach in my church,” Nicole said during an Aug. 19 campus luncheon with her parents, John and Madonna Grabos. The luncheon was hosted by IU Northwest Chancellor Bruce Bergland in honor of Grabos’s selection for the full academic scholarship that is named for former IU President Adam W. Herbert. “It’s a religious education class, and I did it once a week for a couple of hours. I just had a lot of fun with it.
“Then I thought, ‘How on earth did I come to think I wanted to be an engineer? How did I even decide that?’ So I decided to go into education,” she said.
It’s possible that both education and Indiana University are genetic predispositions for Nicole, who grew up in the small New Chicago community that is nestled between Hobart and Lake Station. Her maternal grandfather is IU Professor Emeritus of Education Carl B. Smith, Ph.D., and her mother attended IU Bloomington for three years as a physical therapy student before completing her degree at Northwestern University.
“Originally, I was looking to go to University of Dayton, and then I got something back saying that I was accepted but that I still would owe tons of money,” Nicole said. “So I started looking at other options. I eventually said, ‘You know, I should apply to IU.’ It just kind of all fell into place.”
Nicole applied and was accepted to IU Northwest in the spring – she registered for her classes back in May. It was afterward that she and her parents learned of her selection as this year’s Herbert Presidential Scholar, an honor that carries with it a full academic scholarship and a MacIntosh laptop.
“It was totally unexpected,” Nicole said. “It feels like, ‘Hey, this is where I’m supposed to be.’”
IU Northwest Director of Admissions Linda Templeton, who conducted phone interviews with this year’s Herbert candidates, praised Nicole’s significant academic achievements at Andrean but also commended her poise, maturity and clarity of purpose about her education. Nicole said that she plans to teach for a few years but ultimately expects to pursue her doctorate and become a university professor of education.
“You could tell that she was focused and that she had a plan," Templeton said. "She knew the direction in which she was going, and she knew that there were obstacles that she might have to deal with. What amazed me was the maturity she had as an incoming freshman, because she had that good balance between independence and responsibility. That’s the number-one challenge for freshmen.”
Nicole’s parents attested to their daughter’s ambition and work ethic. Her mother, Madonna, said she was happy to see Nicole remain close to home for college.
“It’s such an honor to see her do this. She’s very focused. She’s always been that way, since the time she was little,” Mrs. Grabos said. “She had a lot of opportunities, and for her to make this choice and stay home, it really means a lot.”
Nicole credited her father, John, with always pushing her toward high academic achievement. Though she did play occasional sports in school, including a stint on Andrean’s cross-country team her senior year, academic competition is where she excelled.
“Everything was always ‘Study, study, study,’” Nicole said. “Even when I was in sports, he would ask me, ‘Why don’t you go out for academic teams?’ He pushed me toward that, and I wound up loving academic teams.”
Mr. Grabos said he always emphasized the importance of classes and grades to his daughter because he wanted her to succeed to the best of her ability.
“I told her, ‘I want you to have more than I’ve had, and I want you to do more than I’ve done,’” he said. “I feel very blessed. We’re very appreciative of (this scholarship). I don’t know what else to say.”
Though she’s staying local, Nicole is trying out living on her own for college – she is sharing an apartment building in Hobart with two other education majors, and she plans to keep her job at Westfield Shoppingtown Southlake. Having attended an academically rigorous high school, Nicole said she feels prepared for the challenges of university work.
“I’ve had so many students come back (from college) and tell me, ‘High school was harder than college!’ (Andrean) has gotten me used to studying, the workload and everything, so I think I’m well-prepared," she said.