MONROE, Ind. (WANE) – Mary Jones, a senior at Adams Central High School, is one of three finalists for the Pay it Forward Scholarship from the University of Saint Francis. The full-tuition and fees scholarship is worth about $135,000 and is awarded to one student who exemplifies what it means to serve others.

“Growing up, I think just watching my parents and especially my grandma a lot, she spends so much time giving to others and she always told me by serving others and making them happy, that’s what makes you happy.”

Over the years, Jones has involved herself in a number of organizations and programs. In school, she’s part of the Sunshine Society, National Honor Society, Business Professionals of America, and History Club. She’s also involved with FFA and 4-H, all of which have allowed her to give back to her community. She’s led multiple food drives and organized a community blood drive during the pandemic.

Recently, she created and sold wristbands in honor of Rob Hays, who served as the director of the Indiana FFA Association. Hays, who Jones calls a friend and mentor, died from a sudden heart attack. The wristbands were sold to people all over the country.

“I was just wanting to sell those to some people within FFA who knew him and it ended up being people from national FFA that ended up purchasing, his old teammates who have now moved across the country, and hundreds of people. I was sold out within a couple days of about 500 bracelets,” she said.

It was another story of loss that prompted her biggest passion yet – automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

“A connection I had within FFA, he told me about a story with his brother, Dylan, with a traumatic baseball accident and his heart was thrown out of rhythm and they said if there had been an AED at the baseball diamond his chance of survival would’ve been much higher.”

The story made Mary realize the lack of AEDs in her own community, and she was determined to make a difference. After researching locations and raising money with the help of local businesses, she was able to raise almost $10,000.

“I’ve placed 4 of the 6 AEDs that I’ve purchased so far,” said Jones. “I started off as a really small project that I was working with through a friend and the foundation that his family started, and it’s kind of become something just for me that I realize even though I live in small community it can make a pretty big impact.”

Mary has placed the AEDs in Monroe, Berne and Decatur in areas that were determined to have the most need.

“I’ve also have talked with every person I’ve met with to donate an AED to their facility or to their place that while I hope and pray that this device is never used, I hope that those of us who know it’s there can rest a little bit easier knowing it can be used for its purpose.”

Jones placed two of the devices at the Adams County Fairgrounds.

“With as many people who rent out this building and are here during the county fair I was really shocked to hear that there were none of these here, especially with the events in the summer when it’s so hot and there are so many people in one area. I think devices like these are pretty important to have.”

Other AEDs are placed in ballparks and downtown plazas in Berne and Decatur.

Jones is currently working with other FFA members to organize another fundraiser to buy more AEDs and get some of her fellow students AED and CPR certified.

“Continuing to serve others is what we’ve been called to do, and as a Christian that’s extremely important to me.”

WANE 15 is proud to partner with the University of Francis once again for the Pay it Forward Scholarship. A winner will be announced the week of December 6. One student will be awarded the full tuition scholarship and two students will be awarded half tuition scholarships.