Former Boyle student garners Truman Scholar honor

June 06, 2004|EMILY BURTON

Jeremiah Wolfe was in the Muslim district of Berlin, Germany, sitting at an Internet cafe when he checked his e-mail and found the congratulations letter he had been hoping for for three years. Wolfe learned he was named a Truman Scholar as he traveled abroad in Europe in March.

The Harry S. Truman scholarship program is a prestigious award given to college juniors who show exemplary leadership skills and a dedication to public service. This year, 77 students were selected from 67 institutions.

It was not only an honor for Wolfe, who graduated from Boyle County High School in 2000 and now attends the University of South Carolina, it was also the first time anyone from Boyle County has won the award.

Those who knew Wolfe at the high school said he was a special student who was always engaged and involved.

"It doesn't surprise me at all," said Paul Elwyn, Communications Director of Boyle County Schools, of Wolfe's scholarship. "The Jeremiah I knew was just always there, always aware of what was happening in the classroom."


Wolfe's application process began with an information session his freshman year, and ended last year with a much-revised application, a well-rehearsed interview in Oxford, England, and a public policy proposal.

He's on track to earn degrees in Russian and math

Along with the prestige of the Truman award, Wolfe will also receive a $26,000 scholarship to cover his senior year at USC and subsequent graduate-level studies. He's on track to earn degrees in both Russian and math next May.

Wolfe said he hoped to take a year off before graduate school to gain some real-life experience working for the government in Washington, D.C.

Spending a year away from his Boyle County roots is nothing new for the self-proclaimed explorer and country-hopper. His parents, Greg and Beverly Wolfe, have adapted to his adventures in the states as well as foreign lands, said Wolfe. He has traveled to 37 different countries and recently lived in Russia for a year as an English teacher.

"They (my parents) were a little apprehensive when I told them I was going to Russia, especially since I was leaving three weeks from then," said Wolfe.

While in Russia he volunteered at a children's home, where he organized the first Halloween and Mardi Gras celebrations. While near Libya, a week after that country's borders opened, he appeared at the embassy, sporting a beard that he hoped would help him get into the country.

"They're really nice people at the Libyan Embassy," he said, but they didn't allow his passageinto the country without an invitation.

On Tuesday, Wolfe will be off again. He begins a nine-week study in Kyrgyzstan, where he hopes to pick up the native language and culture.

At USC, Wolfe is president of the Russian club, a university ambassador and fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He is also a very firm supporter of citizen involvement in public agencies..

"It is the only way they can actually have a voice in the decisions that affect their life," he explained.

He will pursue career in Central Asian legal reform

Upon graduation, his public service will continue as he pursues a career in Central Asian legal reform. Wolfe hopes to bring constitutional and political freedoms to fledgling governments, he said. Eventually, he hopes to use his Russian degree as a NASA astronaut.

Those globe-trotting goals stem from a childhood of exploration and education in Boyle County Wolfe said, as well as the support of the teachers at the high school. His guidance counselor, Jackie Smith, was especially instrumental in his award, he said.

"She was really helpful to me in finding scholarships and I wanted to thank her," he said.

Smith deflected credit for Wolfe's achievements, saying he was driven to achieve without much prodding.

"He's probably one of the most motivated and goal-oriented people I have met," Smith said. "We're very proud of him, everybody at the high school."

While previous scholarships have helped Wolfe get to this point, the Truman award is by far the pinnacle of his achievements,he said.

"I've won a few awards in the past, but this is much more important," said Wolfe.

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