Thousands of students picked up their diplomas this week from Mesa Public Schools’ collection of high schools, but just two left after earning one of Arizona’s most renowned scholarships.
Red Mountain High School’s Alexander Buckley and Mountain View High School’s Jaylia Yan were among 20 students chosen from around the state to become Flinn Scholars this year. Those 20 come out of a pool of more than 600 students who applied for the Flinn Scholarship Program.
The program provides quite a bit to students; they get full tuition, room and board, funding to study abroad, mentorship and access to a community of Flinn alumni and scholars. Flinn Scholars also go to China at the end of their first year to meet politicians and business leaders and do a home-stay program with locals.
Receiving the scholarship requires a great deal from applicants. They must have a 29 on the ACT or a 1300 on the SAT, a 3.5 grade point average, finish in the top 5 percent five their graduating class, and participate in a variety of extracurricular activities.
On top of all that, applicants must submit a resume and essay, which is followed by two rounds of interviews. Eighty semifinalists are selected based upon the initial submissions, and that list is reduced to between 40 and 45 after the first round of interviews.
“We really look for well-rounded individuals who are not only bright in the classroom but like to get involved in the community,” said Brad Halvorsen, Vice President of Communications for the Flinn Foundation.
Buckley is an Eagle Scout, award winning trumpet player, autism research fundraiser and led Red Mountain’s robotics team in its successful attempt to qualify for the world championship. He plans to attend Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University to study engineering.
He said meeting the other 19 scholars has been a humbling experience.
“The Flinn scholarship looks for really well rounded people … it really did take a village to get me there,” said Buckley.
Yan was a leader in the Mayor’s Youth Committee, president of the Model United Nations and a varsity member of the speech and debate team. She also plans to attend ASU’s Barrett College and is considering studying global studies and international business.
She said qualifying for the scholarship was an arduous process, but ultimately worth it.
“The process of application and interviews was extensive,” she said. “It’s a lot of hard work — grades, extracurricular activities ... and quality community contributions. It’s worth it. A lot of the extra things I do, I will continue to do … it’s not just for the scholarship.”
She has been to China before, but said that this will be an opportunity to see a side of it she hadn’t witnessed simply visiting as a tourist. She compared her previous experience there like going to Las Vegas versus getting to see the heart of the country.
Notable Flinn scholars include Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Professor Kristin Mayes and Marla Smith-Nilson, who was recently recognized by SELF Magazine for her organization “Water 1st,” which builds essential water systems for those who need them most around the world.
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