FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne is once again awarding one incoming freshman with the Pay it Forward scholarship to recognize their work going above and beyond to serve others.

Three finalists were named and on Friday the winner was announced for the 2023-2024 scholarship.

This year’s winner is Audrie Bowman, a senior at Huntington North High School in Huntington, Indiana. Paying it forward is part of her life, and has been for many years.

Audrie and her father, who died in a car accident

Audrie and her father were in a car accident when she was 10 years old. She survived, he didn’t. Pain and grieving followed, but it wasn’t long before Audrie, with the help of family and friends, learned how to turn her grief into giving.

“I feel like my life has been a consistent sequence of me using the skills and lessons and advice I learned from growing through that process to be able to pay that forward.”

One important way she gives back is through a club at her school that she helped start called Deceased Parents Support. It’s a safe place for students who have lost parents to gather and find support in each another.

“I’m able to pay it forward to so many kids that are going through experiences that I’ve been through that I don’t want anyone else to,” said Audrie.

The group has even expanded to elementary schools to help young students work through their pain and grief in a healthy manner.

Audrie Bowman at Riley Children’s Hospital

Audrie has also helped raise more than $30,000 for Riley Children’s Hospital where she spent time as a child. In 7th grade, she was diagnosed with a bone tumor in her leg called Osteoid Osteoma. After surgery, she was cured of constant pain she’d been living with for months.

Because of the care she received from Riley, she now pays it forward through her school’s Riley Dance Marathon, an annual fundraiser that raises money for the children’s hospital. She’s been involved with the dance marathon all 4 years of high school, and is the president of the club this year.

“Helping people is a huge part, I think, of everybody’s life. To be able to take things that you’ve learned and to be able to help other people through it, especially with Riley Dance Marathon, I get to help so many amazing kids that are going through so many treatments that they might not be able to pay for,” she said.

Audrie and her team facilitate different fundraisers to support their cause including Miracle Minutes where they run up and down bleachers at sporting event collecting spare change, and Nelson’s Chicken and Rise’n Roll fundraisers.

“[The Riley Dance Marathon] is coming up in March – our goal is $10,000 and it’s to be able to help all the kids at Riley Children’s Hospital and to raise as much funds as we can,” said Audrie.

A past Riley Dance Marathon at HNHS that raised $15,000

Audrie is also part of the Student Council, Freshman Mentoring, president of her 4H Club, Junior Leaders, the National Honor Society, and much more.

She credits the people in her life, including her father, for shaping her into the person she is today – a person who is always looking for ways to help and serve others.

“The more that people pay it forward in life and the more that people help others, the more that we’re gonna be happy and be a big unit and a happy world.”

If you’d like to support the Riley Dance Marathon at HNHS, click HERE.