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A spirit that is not afraid

Auburn students named finalists for prestigious scholarship

Sara Rains, senior in nutrition and wellness, and Jessica Adams, senior in microbial biology, were named finalists for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the most competitive public service award for undergraduates in the nation, according to Paul Harris, associate professor and associate director of the University Honors College.

Harris said Rains and Adams are both hunger studies minors and have been involved with various public service activities.

“They have experience working with the UN World Service program,” Harris said.

Harris said the Truman scholarship is open for anyone.

They have great faculty here who helps to teach them an encourage them.

Since 2009, Auburn has had five finalists, including Rains and Adams, and two winners of the Truman Scholarship, according to Harris.

He said their achievementhas reflected well on Auburn.

“Being named finalists that is a direct reflection for Auburn University meaning that the Truman Scholarship Foundation has recognized Auburn as being a university that consistently sends students to compete for the awards and that is really important,” Harris said.

Rains said her many different involvements stemmed from her experience in the hunger studies minor and the various things she has explored through it.

“I am currently a co-campus leader for the ONE campaign, which actually Jessica is as well,” Rains said. “So that’s basically a global grassroots advocacy organization that works on behalf people living in extreme poverty.”

Rains is also a part of the Hunger Solutions Institute.

Rains said Harris approached her with the proposal to apply for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, and with his help and the help of Kate Thornton, director of global education and director of hunger and sustainability initiatives for the Hunger Solutions Institute, she committed to the application process.

“The Truman Scholarship, so much of it is focused on public service and focusing on people who are really going to make a difference in both their communities and also the world and on a really grand scale, so that was something that really appealed to me because that’s so much of my interest in being able to make a difference for people who are living in extreme poverty and who are hungry,” Rains said.

“So I thought it was a scholarship that really fit what I had done really well and that would hopefully fit kind of what I wanted to do in the future.”

Rains said she hopes to earn a master’s in public health and law after gaining some work experience after graduation.

She also said she owes much of her success to the people that she has surrounded herself with through her time at Auburn.

“I came to Auburn knowing that I wanted to help people but that was about it and so, I mean, I’ve had incredible mentors and both of my majors, especially Dr. Kate Thornton, who is currently my research adviser right now and these people have just been able to push me and really help me to see the different leadership abilities that I can pursue and that I have and just different avenues that I have to do the things that I want to do and kind of opened my eyes to so many different possibilities so its definitely the people, you know, the Auburn Family,” Rains said. “It’s an incredible honor just to be named a finalist and to even be nominated from Auburn and I wouldn’t be here without Auburn and the incredible resources that I’ve had through it and so I’m really thankful for that.”

“I am a member of committee of 19, Auburn’s student organization for fighting hunger here domestically and globally, I was also involved with Bama Cover, which is a student-powered movement to enroll Alabamians through to affordable care and health plans,” Adams said.

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Adams said Harris was very involved in the application process and he took much of his time and committed it to helping her and Rains do what they needed to.

“People always talk about professors who are kind of removed but he’s definitely not,” Adams said.

Adams said she also owes much of her success so far to her family’s support, the College of Science and Mathematics and her hunger studies minor.

“Not only are (Rains) and Jessica brilliant but they are both willing to work hard which is fun to be around them,” Thornton said.

Thornton said that Rains and Adams are the first hunger studies minors to be finalists for the Truman scholarship.

Thornton also said she would advise anyone willing to following their footsteps to show up and work hard.

“Take risks, take opportunities, take advantage of opportunities,” Thornton said.

“Challenge fellows program and hunger studies minor are doing what I’m trying to get them to do, which is provide real world opportunities for students to engage in hard complex problems and come out with tangible solutions to those problems,” Thornton said about the opportunities that Auburn offers.

Thornton said Rains and Adams have been trained by some of the best people in the country on advocacy and lobby work with their co-founding of the ONE campaign.

Thornton said their achievements reflect well on the University and the opportunities that Auburn offers.

“Working with Sara and Jessica and their faculty members and letter writers has been an absolute joy and their entire Auburn Family takes great pride in their accomplishments, and I look forward to working with them in the future for other nationally competitive scholarships and awards,” Harris said. 

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