Two Florida State University students are members of the inaugural class of John Robert Lewis Scholars and Fellows announced earlier this month by the Faith and Politics Institute.
Travis Waters, a junior political science major from Orlando, is one of nine scholars in the program’s first cohort, and Shaina Ruth, a third-year law student from Jacksonville, is one of 12 fellows who received the honor. The John Robert Lewis Scholars & Fellows Program was established by the Faith and Politics Institute in honor of former congressman and civil rights and voting rights icon John Lewis.
Participants in the program will “examine Lewis’s nonviolent philosophy from a historical perspective; define its principles and strategies; and identify their applicability to modern times and movements, current issues, and everyday life.”
Waters called the scholarship, which includes a $2,000 award, an honor and said he’s excited to work hard to advance Lewis’ legacy, especially in the realm of voting rights.
“I’ve always had a sense of awe and reverence for civil rights leaders including Martin Luther King and John Lewis,” he said. “To be able to pick up that mantle and get into that ‘good trouble’ that John Lewis talked about is a dream.”
Waters is well-acquainted with the heavy lifting of voting rights work, having spearheaded the effort to include student signatures on FSU student ID cards so they could be used as a form of voter identification.
Ruth, who is also pursuing her master’s in applied American politics and policy, said now is the perfect time to study Lewis’ legacy and work to implement the nonviolent policies he espoused.
“People aren’t talking to each other right now and the pandemic is a great example of what common ground could do for us,” she said. “If we have empathy for one another, if we all talked about why some people are handling things the way they are and why some people are handling things in another way, it creates commonality. That commonality is how things get done.”
Ruth said earning the Lewis fellowship is inspiring but also carries responsibility.
“It’s an honor just to be associated with such a historical figure but it’s a responsibility to continue that work of bringing people together with courage and compassion,” she said. “That’s what this calls on us to do — to be our best selves and put those best selves forward.”
The 21 winners were selected from a pool of 120 applicants at 61 universities, including Dartmouth, the University of California-Berkeley and Stanford University.
For more information visit, https://www.faithandpolitics.org/jrl-scholars-and-fellows-program.