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On Monday, April 26, 21-year-old Kelsey Vaughan not only graduated with a bachelor's degree in international relations from Florida International University in Miami sporting a 3.96 grade average, she did so while becoming the university's first student to earn the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship.
Awarded by an organization headed by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the scholarship is annually presented to college juniors or third year seniors who have a track record of public service in addition to achieving academic excellence.
Through a program sponsored by the Center for Student Leadership in Rye, Vaughan earned herself an opportunity to participate in a 10-day mission trip to Bolivia.
"I was captivated by the language and the warmth and generosity of the people despite the fact they had nothing. The trip really left an impression on me," she said.
Upon returning home, Vaughan began taking courses at the University of Southern Maine in Gorham, but after a year found herself yearning for something different.
Intrigued by the international studies curriculum offered at Florida International University, Vaughan transferred there in August 2002 and took classes for two semesters before entering an internship program at the American embassy in Bolivia's capital city of La Paz last summer.
During her stay, Vaughan was offered the option of working on a unique program designed to study child prostitution in the country.
"I've always been interested in social issues, and this was one that needed to be addressed. Through my research and personal inspection I found girls as young as six living in brothels under abusive conditions," she said.
Not content to merely study the matter and write reports, Vaughan used her contacts at the American embassy to help secure $150,000 in funding to help rescue as many as 150 girls.
"After I complete my education action I want to continue on the issues I worked on in Bolivia. I've learned that the core of the problem centers around poverty and lack of education. If we can help create better opportunities for these people it will go a long way toward putting an end to these conditions," says Vaughan.
For more information about FIU's International Studies Program: http://intered.fiu.edu/.