Connecting with the Political Process
Brooklyn College student Ryan Merola, a junior in The City University of New York Honors College who is pursuing a double major in political science and philosophy, has won the prestigious Truman Scholarship. Merola, a 1999 graduate of Xaverian High School and third-generation Brooklyn College student, is one of only two New Yorkers to receive the scholarship in 2006.
The award, which provides up to $30,000 to students pursuing graduate degrees in public service fields, was announced today by former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, president of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Seventy-five students from 63 American colleges and universities have been selected as 2006 Truman Scholars. This year, 598 students from 311 colleges and universities competed for the honors.
"The entire Brooklyn College community is extraordinarily proud of Ryan and his many accomplishments," said College President Christoph M. Kimmich. "His winning the Truman Scholarship reaffirms that Brooklyn College is a leading institution of higher learning that offers students every opportunity to achieve their academic and professional goals. This is a great day for Ryan and for Brooklyn College."
Merola has an abiding interest in public service, has served as an intern for Sen. Charles Schumer and a staff member for Congressman Edolphus Towns, and is active in Brooklyn's Independent Neighborhood Democrats. A member of Brooklyn College Student Government, he is also Brooklyn College's representative in the University Student Senate.
At Brooklyn College, which his grandmother, parents and numerous aunts and uncles attended, Merola has volunteered for the Center for the Study of Brooklyn and is working with fellow Honors Academy student Mary Pennisi and Professor Lillian O'Reilly to raise awareness about government resources available to the public on the Brooklyn College campus. Merola was also the youngest member selected to serve on the New York Daily News' "Voice of the People" panel, which commented on the 2004 elections.
Merola's prize comes a year after the success of Eugene Shenderov, '05, who won a 2005 Rhodes Scholarship and a grant from the National Institutes of Health to pursue cancer research at Oxford University. Following the example of students such as Shenderov who have won prestigious scholarships in recent years, Merola worked closely with the Brooklyn College Office of Scholarships during the application process. In preparing Merola for his final interviews for the scholarship, Evelyn Guzman, director of the Brooklyn College Scholarships Office, called upon alumnus Chief Justice Edward Korman, of the Eastern District of New York, who met with Merola and ran through a series of questions that might be asked in a typical interview.
"He was really impressive," Korman says, "both in his academic record and his commitment to public service."
After graduate school and law school, Merola aspires to a position he has coveted since high school — that of Kings County assistant district attorney. Merola holds Kings County D.A. Charles J. Hynes in high regard, citing the work Hynes' office has done in community relations, drug and violent crime prevention and support for victims of domestic violence.
The Truman scholarships, given in memory of President Harry S Truman, were established in 1975 to recognize college juniors with exceptional leadership potential and to provide the financial support for study, leadership training and fellowship with like-minded young people who are committed to public service. Scholars receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Brooklyn College student Lisette Nieves, a philosophy and political science student who graduated in 1991, received a Truman Scholarship in 1990.