Of the 207 members of the Franklin College Class of 2017, a list was narrowed down to nearly 50 students.
Then it went down to 30 students, and it was up to their peers to select the top 10 seniors.
To qualify for the annual honor, a senior with a grade-point average of at least 3.0 must be nominated by a faculty or staff member.
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A senior also must show leadership on campus — both inside and outside the classroom — and embodiment of the Franklin College values.
Medora native Michael Powell said he was fortunate to be among the top 10 seniors recently recognized during the liberal arts college’s end-of-year awards ceremony.
“It was a blessing. It felt like such an honor,” the 22-year-old said. “I don’t try to be like Mr. Liberal Arts and so on, but it’s just nice to see that people do watch and see that you care so much to put into it. It’s just a triangle — you put into it, they see it and they give back to you.”
The top 10 seniors were introduced one at a time and stood on stage together as President Thomas Minar shared encouraging words.
Two weeks later, Powell walked across a different stage to receive his diploma. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in exercise science with minors in psychology and liberal arts.
That signified the end of a busy college career, which involved participating in a variety of campus organizations along with cross-country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field all four years and diving for two years.
After graduating from Medora High School in 2013, Powell’s only college visit was to Franklin. It made such an impression on him and his parents, Maria and Bryan Powell, that he filled out his paperwork that day and was accepted two weeks later.
He said balancing academics and athletics was a challenge at first, but he persevered.
“I actually came out with a 2.8 GPA my freshman fall, but I just literally hit the books hours and hours,” he said. “I got up at 5 in the morning and studied. I went to classes and ran my mileage, and then hit the books for another four hours. I went to every professor hour they had pretty much for my entire career there. They could quiz you and test your knowledge and just get really personal, which is what I wanted.”
Since his parents were supportive along the way, he said he also wanted to make them and himself happy.
“A lot of it was respect for them, and then of course myself, I want to succeed,” he said.
As time went on, Powell said it became a little easier to balance everything, but some of the classes got a little harder.
That was OK, though, because he said he knew it would help him in the future.
“I did research studies, personal trained countless people, so many lectures, presentations and public speaking,” he said. “It really fit my personality perfect because I’m outgoing, I want to talk and I want to really show that I have the knowledge to help people.”
Powell finished with an overall 3.28 GPA, but it was 3.68 with just his core classes.
To accomplish that feat, he said he followed the motto “Nothing is impossible.”
“For me personally, I just felt like it was God’s path,” Powell said. “He told me, ‘If you want to go to Franklin College, here’s what you need to study, and I’m going to give you the power and faith to give everything you have to your education.’ Religion played a huge role in my success because without my faith in God, I don’t think I could have done it.
“You can do whatever you want in your life, but you have to dedicate yourself,” he said. “If you need the help, get the help. Don’t feel bad for yourself because there’s no need for that. Do what you need to do to be successful.”
After participating in cross-country, track and field and basketball all four years in high school, Powell said he wanted to be active in college, too. He suffered an injury his sophomore year that prevented him from diving his final two years, but he was able to continue with his running sports.
“It was just a blessing from God to have a chance to do,” he said. “The amount of work that goes into it — morning practices almost every day, then mileage in the heat of the day and ice storms in the winter — you have to love it, so it just brings out your true appreciation. That’s kind of the beauty of Division III athletes, too. We’re not getting paid to be here. We’re doing it because we love the sport.”
Of the organizations he was involved with, a highlight was serving as a student mentor all four years. That involved taking a class with freshmen in the fall to help them learn about liberal arts and adjust to college life. During his senior year, Powell was in charge of all of the mentors.
Powell also helped organize the Triathlon Club, which will start next school year, and he was a part of the exercise science team that placed fourth out of 25 Indiana schools at the American College of Sports Medicine Quiz Bowl competition.
Academically, he made the dean’s list twice and conducted a one-year research study on the effects of resistance training on cognitive functioning.
He also spent the month of January doing an internship for prosthetics and orthotics design in Columbus.
He is continuing with that career path by working at Prosthetic Center of Indiana in Bloomington. He started there the Monday after graduation.
Powell had applied for graduate school for prosthetics and orthotics. He made the top 40 out of 400 applicants, but only 18 were accepted.
He said there are only 13 colleges in the United States with that area of study. For most schools, it takes three years to earn a master’s degree — two years in college and then a one-year paid residency.
As he gains on-the-job experience, Powell said that will help when he applies again for graduate school for the fall of 2018. The practitioner can write a letter to include with his application.
His ultimate goal is to become a prosthetics and orthotics practitioner. Soon, he’s going to take a test to become a certified personal trainer.
“I’m just following the path right now that God is giving me,” he said. “I believe my passion right now is for prosthetics and orthotics, but I love wellness, too, so I’m going to try to balance them out to where I can still do personal training and do prosthetics because I know quite a few people that actually do that.”
Powell said he was drawn to prosthetics and orthotics a few years ago when he saw Olympic athletes with prosthetic legs. He learned more about that field while taking an introduction to exercise science class his freshman year.
“Somebody can be in deep depression with amputation, and you can take them out of it and change their lives completely all because you can personalize one piece of equipment for them and add on details and just make them mobile again to where they can live a normal life,” he said. “It’s beautiful.”
With all that he has accomplished, Powell said he hopes to be an example for others coming from a small town like Medora.
“You’ve just got to set your heart to what you want to do and continue,” he said. “If you have it in your heart, get a continuous education and keep going on so you can learn more just to help value yourself more and just know more. Knowledge is power. Just never stop. Keep going for it. Literally nothing is impossible.”
Name: Michael Powell
Education: Medora High School (2013); Franklin College (Bachelor of Arts in exercise science with minors in psychology and liberal arts, 2017)
College organizations: Student mentor, Exercise Science Club, Grizzly Pride Alliance, Earth Club, Habitat for Humanity, American College of Sports Medicine Quiz Bowl team
College sports: Cross-country, indoor track and field, outdoor track and field, diving
College honors: Top 10 senior, dean’s list twice
Occupation: Practitioner assistant at Prosthetic Center of Indiana in Bloomington
Family: Parents, Bryan and Maria Powell; siblings, Mitchell Powell and Danielle Reed