Community Service Leads to Student's Ticket to Learn

By MacDonald, Mary | The Florida Times Union, April 6, 1998 | Go to article overview

Community Service Leads to Student's Ticket to Learn


MacDonald, Mary, The Florida Times Union


Elaine Reynolds had to abandon her college education a decade

ago, after her university decided that money set aside for

debate scholarships was better spent on a new football program.

Without a scholarship, she couldn't afford to continue.

Heartbroken and angered, she left school one year short of

completing her degree.

This year, as a 34-year-old undergraduate at the University of

North Florida, Reynolds has learned to appreciate the

unexpected.

She was named a Truman Scholarship recipient, an award her

debating skill undoubtedly helped her secure. The highly

competitive national scholarship is provided to 75 college

students who have outstanding leadership potential and a desire

to pursue a career in public service.

She is the only student attending a Florida college to win the

scholarship this year. Her selection followed a lengthy

application process that ended with a 30-minute interview by a

panel of scholarship judges.

Reynolds, who was too broke to continue her studies a decade

ago, now can expect to have the nation's most prestigious

universities offering her incentives to enroll in their graduate

programs. A sociology major with a 3.98 grade point average,

Reynolds expects to receive her bachelor's degree in December.

Her advisers in the UNF Honors Program have told her the $30,000

Truman Scholarship likely will carry her through a doctorate.

"It is such a monumental award," she said. "I felt so

affirmed."

In her interview with the scholarship panel, she defended a

public policy proposal that would provide tax incentives for

volunteers.

Eventually, Reynolds would like to work for or create an

organization that would provide non-partisan analysis of public

policy initiatives. Too often, she said, proposals are dismissed

without evaluation because they are introduced by special

interest groups or political parties.

"There is a strong need out there for voters to understand what

an issue means."

Community service, the basis of the award, has been a part of

Reynolds professional career for years.

She manages the Community Conflict Resolution Program for

Jacksonville Community Council Inc. Under city contract, the

program trains people to act as volunteer mediators for

community conflicts and dispatches advisers to help

neighborhoods resolve disputes.

In a recent issue, the program helped to relieve pressure on

Confederate Park in Springfield by helping community groups

devise a consensus on how to coordinate assistance to the

homeless. …

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