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Ripton’s McKibben earns Truman Scholar award

RIPTON — Ripton resident Sophie McKibben has already drawn a lot of kudos during her young life for her academic prowess and dedication to public service. McKibben’s efforts were recently rewarded in a big way, with her designation as this year’s Truman Scholar for the state of Vermont.
The honor brings with it a $30,000 scholarship through the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Each year, the foundation awards the $30,000 scholarships to support college students in their junior year who intend to undertake graduate studies and are committed to public service leadership. As a condition of the award, scholars are required to work in public service for two years and must enroll in a graduate school program within four years. McKibben, a junior at Brown University, was one of this year’s 58 recipients nationwide. The foundation has made awards to 3,023 students since 1977.
“I’m excited and honored to represent Vermont as the 2015 Truman Scholar,” McKibben, 22, said through an email exchange. “I’m proud to be a Vermonter, and hope to eventually find my way back to the Green Mountains.”
A UWC Davis Scholar, McKibben attended Middlebury Union High School and then spent the last two years of high school at Red Cross Nordic United World College in Norway, where she started an adaptive cross country skiing program and tutored refugees seeking asylum. She continued her work with refugees in Providence, R.I., running a summer camp for recent arrivals and leading a study on refugee health and nutrition in collaboration with Brown’s School of Public Health and the Rhode Island Food Policy Council.
McKibben, a wilderness EMT, also serves on Brown EMS, is a trip leader for the Brown Outdoor Leadership Program, and founded and edits “Now Here This,” the nation’s first collegiate audio magazine. A history and public health double major due to graduate in 2016, she plans to pursue graduate work in public health, with a focus on the health impacts of forced migration.
“My interests lie in the intersection between storytelling and social change,” McKibben said. “I’m committed to using the incredible education — which includes study at the North Branch School in Ripton and MUHS — that I’ve been afforded to work in public service.”
The Truman Foundation this year reviewed 688 scholarship applicants nominated by 297 institutions. The foundation tries to select at least one Truman Scholar each year from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the islands of American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Virgin Islands.
Applicants are evaluated based on their record of campus and community service; their commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit and advocacy sectors; their communication skills and a high probability of becoming an agent of change; and the strength of their academic record in their pursuit of graduate studies.
McKibben was one of two Brown juniors to be named a Truman Scholar this year. The other is Mya Lee Roberson of Bangor, Pa.
“We are thrilled to have two Truman winners this year,” said Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the university. “Mya and Sophie represent Brown’s ethos by richly integrating outstanding academic work with a profound commitment to public service. Brown students are a great fit for the Truman because they are known for their dedication to creating positive change in the world.”
It was five years ago that McKibben received an “Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy” $10,000 scholarship award through the Association of Fundraising Professionals of Northern New England (AFP-NNE), in recognition for her work organizing free skiing vacations for military families. The award recognized her work in establishing and coordinating “Snowjourn,” an annual program through which volunteers, local businesses and Ripton-area households provide free lodging, child care and ski opportunities at the Rikert Nordic Center and Middlebury College Snow Bowl.
In 2010, McKibben organized a bike tour and wrote grants to raise more than $3,000 to buy a sit ski so that disabled veterans could also participate in Snowjourn. Acquiring the sit ski led to the beginning of a local, adaptive snow program and a sit ski race at the annual Middlebury College Winter Carnival.
Sophie McKibben’s dad is noted environmental activist, author and journalist Bill McKibben, who is the Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and leader of the anti-carbon campaign group 350.org. Her mom is the well-known writer, educator and teacher Sue Halpern.
The 2015 Truman Scholars will receive their awards at a ceremony at the Truman Library in Independence, Mo., on May 24.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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