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Arizona State University online student Alexa Scholl was expecting to talk to a reporter last Tuesday about qualifying as a Truman Scholar finalist.
But that’s not what happened when she logged onto a Skype call.
It was ASU President Michael M. Crow on the screen, telling her that she had just won the $30,000 scholarship.
“It was all very sneaky and I was shocked,” Scholl, a Barrett, The Honors College student majoring in political science and Spanish, said with a laugh. “Seriously, it’s nice that the president of the largest university in the nation took time to personally congratulate a student on an achievement — [it] just makes the whole ASU experience feel much more personal.”
Skype video courtesy of the Office of the President
Scholl was one of 59 college students from around the country to be named as a 2018 Truman Scholar. Some 756 candidates were nominated by 312 colleges and universities for the scholarship, which is named after Harry S. Truman, the 33rd president of the United States. Candidates were chosen by 16 independent selection panels based on finalists’ academic success and leadership accomplishments, as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.
The first awards were made in 1977. Prominent Truman Scholars include Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internships within the federal government.
Many who know Scholl say the scholarship is well-deserved.
“This accomplishment is a reflection of Alexa’s hard work, courage and commitment to public service,” said Kyle Mox, associate dean of Barrett, The Honors College. “The Truman Scholarship awards great people, the sort of people you hope become the next generation of leaders in this country.”
To that end, Scholl is off to a running start. In November 2017, she was elected to the Prescott City Council with the highest number of votes of all the candidates; she is the youngest known member to hold the office and the youngest current councilmember in Arizona. But Scholl very much can hold her own on the dais, according to Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli.
"I know there was some skeptimism in town regarding Alexa's age, but that was born out of thinking of her as a 'normal' 20-year-old," Mengarelli said. "Alexa is wise beyond her years in terms of maturity and intellect. She's always asking the right questions and getting the correct answers. It has been nothing but a great pleasure to serve with her."
Scholl is also a Tillman Scholar at ASU and the co-founder and president of Political Literates, an on-campus organization that aims to fight political apathy by delivering political information in an easy-to-understand and unbiased way.
“I serve on the Prescott City Council because I want other young people to feel as if they can trust government,” said Scholl, who also works for a Prescott-based law firm preparing documents. “It’s important that this generation feels like their interests are represented and that we can help shape the future.”
Scholl’s mother, Marti Read, said her daughter's interest in politics started at a young age.
“Alexa is an only child, and her father and I drug her along to many board and community meetings,” Read said. “The fact that we are related to George Read, a founding father who signed the Declaration of Independence, also sparked Alexa’s interest in government and politics.”
After Scholl completes her undergraduate degree in December and completes her four-year term on the city council, she will attend law school to pursue a career in municipal law and continue to engage citizens in local government.
“In my view, local government is the best form of government there is,” she said. “It’s accessible and affects everyone’s daily lives. It’s important for people to know what’s going on and who their elected officials are.”