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Civil engineer wins prestigious Truman Scholarship

PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD, N.H. -- A N.H. Air National Guard civil engineer and a junior at the University of New Hampshire has been selected as a 2011 Truman Scholar, a prestigious national award that provides $30,000 for a graduate education.

Senior Airman Brooks Payette was competitively selected as one of 60 recipients who were awarded the scholarship last year. Payette competed against 602 applicants from 264 colleges and universities around the country.

Scholarships are given to those who demonstrate outstanding leadership and commitment to public service.

Payette, a nontraditional student majoring in political science, is the first UNH student to be awarded funding from the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, established in 1975 as a memorial to the 33rd president.

The Scholarship is awarded to college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in government, nonprofit or advocacy sectors, education or elsewhere in public service.

It is governed by a 13-member Board of Trustees headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who says the foundation "serves as a gateway for America's public service leaders" and "does a remarkable job of identifying future change agents."

Eight board members are appointed by the U.S. President, including a state governor, a city or county chief executive, a federal judge, a state judge, a representative of higher education, and three members of the public.

The competitive selection process requires a strong record of public service, as well as a policy proposal that addresses a particular issue in society. Payette's proposal, addressed to the U.S. Department of Education, urges an increase of physical fitness activities in schools to address and combat childhood obesity.

Payette, a civil engineer with the 157th Air Refueling Wing Civil Engineer Squadron since 2008, transferred to UNH in 2009 after a six-year break from education.

"To say receiving the Truman Scholarship is an honor is an understatement. This selection puts me in an inspiring association of people who have made a difference in public service," said Payette. "What makes it even more special is being the first UNH recipient ever. In a way, I feel like it is something I can give back to a university that has provided so many opportunities for me."

Payette will attend the Truman Summer Institute this summer.

After completing further education, the Berlin native plans to work in the area of public education with a focus on children's health, specifically addressing childhood obesity.
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