Scholarship supports students interested in public service careers

A new scholarship program offered by the University is opening up doors for students who have a passion for public service.

The Spirit of Service program was started by ASU’s College of Public Programs and University Vice President of Public Programs Debra Friedman.

Seventeen students were honored at a luncheon held at the Civic Space Park in downtown Phoenix Monday morning as the first group to go through the program.

More than 200 applicants applied last fall, and only 17 were chosen based on their commitment to community service.

The recipients consist of undergraduate and graduate students with different majors, including business and political science. Each student received a $5,000 scholarship.

The host of the event, Ioanna T. Morfessis, announced at the luncheon that the Spirit of Service program is the first of its kind in the nation.

Morfessis also said that the luncheon generated enough money for 15 more scholarships for the program.

Next year, they plan to award 30 $5,000 scholarships, said Mina Hernandez, manager of scholarship and development administration at the College of Public Programs.

SCF Arizona, a worker’s compensation insurance company in Arizona, sponsored the luncheon, donating $20,000 so the ticket sales could go directly to the program, Hernandez said.

Tyson Yazzie, one of the scholars and a criminal justice and criminology junior, received a $5,000 scholarship.

“The scholarship prevented me from getting loans,” he said. “It definitely helped me out.”

Yazzie, who grew up in the Navajo Nation, plans to be a tribal prosecutor, he said.

A tribal prosecutor works for the jurisdiction of a tribe like the Navajo Nation.

Yazzie said he is now an intern at the Navajo Nation prosecutor’s office and drove four hours to attend the luncheon.

Adam Voci, a graduate student at the W.P. Carey School of Business, was not able to attend the luncheon because he is serving in Iraq.

In a recorded video message, he said he was looking forward to being a part of the program.

The program will require that each of the scholars serve as mentors to high school students around the Valley.

Six of those high school students will be from Betty H. Fairfax High School in Laveen.

The projects that the scholars will work on with the high school students are still unplanned, but Raquel Barraza, a senior at Betty H. Fairfax, said she is excited to work with the scholars and hopes to one day participate in a nonprofit organization.

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon attended the event and congratulated the students.

“I wish I had one of you when I was in school,” Gordon said, referring to the mentors.

ASU President Michael Crow also attended and had the closing remarks for the event.

“We don’t have only 17 students in public service, we have thousands, but this 17 serve as an example,” he said.

Reach the reporter at uriel.garcia@asu.edu