The Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most prestigious scholarships that allows awardees the chance to study at Oxford University in England. Only 32 Americans are awarded the scholarship every year, and this time, a fellow Portlander received this award.
JaVaughn T. “JT” Flowers was a student at Lincoln High School. He did not perform well academically and even stayed a fifth year in high school at a boarding school in Connecticut. His efforts payed off, and he went on to study at Yale, founding an organization called A Leg Even to assist low-income Yale students by offering mentoring and tutoring services as well as connections to faculty. During his years at the Ivy League school, he studied in six different countries to examine the various cultures and politics. His thesis investigated Portland’s sanctuary city policy for immigrants undocumented in the United States. His academic excellence also resulted in receiving the Truman scholarship in 2016, which gives gifted students graduate support to help them prepare for government or public service careers.
He currently works for Representative Earl Blumenaur in Portland. “I’m essentially getting paid to learn about all the incredible work going on across all these different silos in Portland,” Flowers said in an interview with The Oregonian.
The competition for the Rhodes Scholarship is intense and involves a difficult, time-consuming application process. Finalists were flown out to Seattle for several events, including standing in front of a seven-judge panel. Rhodes Scholars have their tuition and all expenses covered to study for two or three years at Oxford.
Flowers was floored by the news. “I really don’t know how to attach words to it. I’m really at a loss. I’m so humbled.”
Blumenaur was thrilled by Flowers’ success. In an interview with the Associated Press, he stated, “He’s just an outstanding candidate for the Rhodes. He’s a very quick study, very good wth people, an incisive listener who is able to translate that back to people who contact him and to the staff in our office. We’re excited for him, and we’re excited for what he’s going to do when he’s back.
Flowers plans to earn degrees in Comparative Social Policy and Public Policy in order to give back to his hometown, Portland. “Portland is home for me and will always be home for me. I was born and raised here in the heart of Northeast Portland. I want to set up permanent shop here. I’ll be gone for a couple years, but then I’ll be right back here.”