Chauncey Stephens, a Gonzales native, said she was shaped by great teachers and excellent educational opportunities growing up in Ascension Parish.
But she’s learned that not every child is as lucky as she was, and she’d like to dedicate her life to public service and ensuring more children get the same access and opportunity she did.
The 22-year-old LSU senior was announced as a Harry S. Truman Scholar on Wednesday, one of 54 named in 2016 across the nation.
The Truman Scholarship was created by Congress in 1975 as a living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The foundation focuses on selecting and supporting future public service leaders. The award has become one of the most prestigious scholarships in the country.
Scholars receive $30,000, which must go toward graduate school and professional development related to public service leadership.
“Initially, I was in shock and in disbelief, this is something my peers and I have been working on for so long,” she said. “This is huge for me because it gives me the opportunity to follow through on the passions I have for public service.”
Stephens said after she graduates from LSU in December, she wants to spend time in AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program that targets poverty. She said it will give her an opportunity to work directly with communities but also to understand how nonprofits operate and organize.
After that, she wants to go to graduate school and get master’s degrees in social work and education.
Stephens is a member of the LSU Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College and is studying elementary education in the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education. She served as a resident assistant in LaVille Hall and worked with Volunteer LSU.
“Chauncey is further proof that, indeed, our students are making our world a better place to live,” said College of Human Sciences & Education Dean Damon Andrew. “She is an example of our college’s mission in action — her research and personal passion for education is helping address complex issues in our state, nation and even the world.”
Stephens said her dream job isn’t a traditional one — she’s not even sure it’s a job that exists. She said she wants to be a social worker in a school setting who works as a liaison with community and state partners. She said she would “bridge the gap” between schools and other service providers that can round out an child’s educational experience.
“I have learned that education can make a huge impact on a child’s trajectory, but you can’t focus on education in a silo,” she said. “It doesn’t operate that way.”
Stephens made the cut out of 775 candidates nominated across 305 colleges and universities. She’s the 11th Truman Scholar to come out of LSU since 2003.