Church service, leadership honed with football team help student earn McLean County Full Tuition Scholarship
For Luke Knecht, giving back to his community has always been a priority. Extracurricular involvement has also been a priority for Knecht, as he has always been unafraid to put himself out there and try new activities.
At Tri-Valley High School in Downs, Knecht intertwined community service and extracurricular activities.
“On my football team, we did a lot of community service,” said Knecht. “We would give back to people who would come to our games and support us. It feels great to be able to give back to a community that gives so much to you.”
Off the field, Knecht was involved in plays and musicals and volunteered for a program that mentors new students at Tri-Valley. However, playing football made the largest impact on Knecht.
“I would say that football shaped me the most,” said Knecht, who played defensive tackle and was a captain of Tri-Valley’s football team. “There’s a lot of leadership that’s needed on a football team, and leadership has always been very important to me.”
The criminal justice major has embraced leadership on and off the field, striving to make a difference in the lives of others. His commitment to community has earned him the McLean County Full Tuition Scholarship. Knecht is one of the seven inaugural recipients of the scholarship, which provides free tuition to students who have a history of leadership, community service, and civic engagement within the county.
“I was speechless,” Knecht recalled. “Almost everybody in my class had applied for the scholarship, and I found out that I won while I was in class. I had to reread the email; I was in pure shock.”
The scholarship has taken a great deal of pressure off Knecht and his family. “I used to be very stressed about how I would pay for school,” said Knecht. “It feels amazing to not have to worry about that anymore. I’m truly blessed.”
Knecht has volunteered as a Sunday school teacher and at Safe Harbor, a local homeless shelter, but one service commitment in particular left a permanent impact on him.
“My favorite volunteer experience was with the Eastview Christian Church Serve Project,” said Knecht. “I was a part of it for two years and built 11 park benches around Bloomington-Normal.”
For Knecht, the most rewarding part was seeing the difference that he made in the community.
“The people who lived near the benches were very appreciative and would often come out and thank us,” said Knecht. “It seemed small at first, but it felt great to see the difference it made in the community. It feels great to be appreciated while helping others.”
Serving his community is a lifelong commitment for Knecht. “I would love to be a police officer,” said Knecht. “However, my end goal is to become a federal officer.”
Knecht has joined Illinois State’s Army ROTC and also embraces the possibility of a career in the military. In addition to ROTC, Knecht has found his place in a handful of registered student organizations at Illinois State. Knecht is a part of Encounter, a religious group on campus, as well as Redbird Esports.
For Knecht, choosing Illinois State was an easy decision. “It fit perfectly with my major and my scholarship,” said Knecht. “Every piece fell into place, and I knew that ISU was my school.”
A new Red Alert passholder, Knecht is excited to cheer on Redbird Athletics for the next four years. Knecht is also excited to continue to meet new people and make a difference in Bloomington-Normal.
Learn more about the McLean County Full Tuition Scholarship, awarded to freshmen from McLean County for demonstrating leadership, service, and commitment to our community.