Naperville woman could win $100,000 by throwing a football
Naperville woman aiming to win a scholarship at Pac-12 title game
Kotryna Staputyte's basketball passing skills might come in handy in an unusual way as she aims to win a $100,000 scholarship.
The Naperville resident and College of DuPage student will try to make some lucky throws Friday -- but with a football, not a basketball -- in the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway.
Already one of 16 national finalists, Staputyte will aim for enough on-target tosses Friday in a preliminary round to earn her a chance to throw the pigskin for the big money during halftime of the Pac-12 Championship game at 6:45 p.m. Saturday in Santa Clara, California.
The contest involves throwing as many passes as possible in 30 seconds through a 5-foot-high circular target with a 2-foot diameter.
After making it to the national finalist round on the strength of her medical career goals and passion for helping people with disabilities, Staputyte, 20, likes her chances.
"I've developed an interesting technique," she said. "I throw it almost like a chest pass like in basketball, but it's kind of on the side, so the football spirals the other way than a regular spiral. It's been pretty accurate."
Staputyte has banked on her connections at College of DuPage, where she runs on the cross-country team and is taking classes in biology, chemistry and humanities, to prepare her for the contest. But she handled the first step alone.
The contest asked participants to write and briefly explain their career goals. Staputyte told a story about her experience helping a new student with a developmental disability acclimate to Naperville Central High School during her senior year.
The student, Dominykas, arrived from Lithuania, where Staputyte was born. She helped him navigate the language barrier and find social supports at the school.
Although Dominykas has difficulties with seizures, vision, cognition and speaking, Staputyte said she noticed a marked improvement in his condition during the year when she became his guide and friend. That solidified her interest in helping others through a health career, specifically as a doctor.
"I've always had an interest in the medical field and I've always liked helping others," said Staputyte, who has worked since her senior year of high school as a dental assistant at a Naperville practice. "His transformation really inspired me to hopefully become a doctor to be able to help other people, other students, or anyone in general who has any disability."
After writing her own career story, Staputyte enlisted friend and fellow COD student Matt Miltonberger of Lemont to help her tell it in video form. In a one-minute clip posted on her profile page at the contest's website, Staputyte makes her pitch for maximum scholarship support and introduces viewers to Dominykas.
Miltonberger said he was glad to help by shooting the video and editing it in his free time, especially because he senses Staputyte's passion for attaining a medical career.
"I had never made a scholarship video," Miltonberger said. "I knew that she'd put it to good use if she ended up winning."
For making it this far, Staputyte is in line for a $2,500 scholarship. If she competes at halftime Saturday but loses, she'll win $20,000. Anything will help, she said, as she aims to transfer to DePaul University to study biology after attaining an associate degree in science at COD.
"For me it'd be awesome to attend DePaul and focus on my studies and not have to worry about the financial situation," Staputyte said. "Without stress, you're able to study better and remember things better."
COD student Tom Almassey of Lisle has confidence in the friend for whom he built a plywood replica of the Dr Pepper can-shaped target she'll aim for Friday and Saturday.
"I'm extremely hopeful. I think that she's got it," Almassey said. "I think she'll be able to compete with everybody."
To make it into a career as a doctor, Staputyte knows she'll have to compete with other talented students for internships and medical school spots. But she's up for the challenge, especially now that she's so clearly expressed her goal.
"You're so much closer to getting it done," she said, "if you just write it down and verbalize it and tell everyone."