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.

WANE 15 is partnering with USF to feature the three finalists for the 2023-2024 scholarship.

Brianna McConnell is a senior at Greenfield-Central High School. She’s also the owner of her own small business, Wood Creation Company. Brianna found a passion for woodworking after pandemic downtime sent her out to her family’s barn where she helped her dad create a large wooden flag.

After getting a feel for the skill and creating many of her own pieces, she began selling them on social media. That’s when her business was born. Now, she sells her work at farmers markets, holiday craft shows, and online.

With the success of Wood Creation Company, Brianna now makes it her mission to pay it forward. She puts aside a percentage of earnings to help those who are less fortunate. Last winter she purchased several backpacks, gloves, hats and cleaning supplies and handed them out to people in need in her community. She also put together goodie bags with money, small wooden crosses, and inspirational quotes and handed them out to homeless people in downtown Indianapolis.

Brianna’s service work also takes her outside of Indiana. Last year for a mission trip, she traveled to Mayfield, Kentucky after devastating tornadoes ripped through the city destroying homes, neighborhoods, and buildings. Brianna’s group helped with clean up efforts in the city.

“We also got to meet face-to-face with people in a shelter, and seeing what they went through really impacted me,” said Brianna. “Through my business I hope to raise up to $1,000 for people who go through natural disasters, and especially Hurricane Ian, seeing that too has really increased my desire to help those people.”

Brianna says she’s been blessed throughout her own life, so she now makes it a point to bless others.

“As a Christian, it’s my goal to spread love and show God’s love through what you do.  I know everyone is going through a battle of some sort, and it doesn’t matter how big or how small,  being kind is super easy and giving back is so important because helping someone can lead to them helping someone and it’s just a domino effect.”

WANE 15 and the University of Saint Francis will name the 6th Pay it Forward scholarship winner the week of December 5th.