A University of North Georgia student has been awarded one of the most prestigious scholarships for future government and public service graduate school students in the nation.
John Blessing, a history/political science with a focus in pre-law double major at the Gainesville campus, is the first UNG student to be named a Truman Scholar.
The Gainesville native first heard about the Truman Scholar opportunity through a professor, Dr. Anastasia Lynn, who suggested he shoot for Truman after he was honored on campus as a Newman Civic Fellow.
"It was supposed to be an award for leadership on campus and she was like, if this is the route you want to keep going - because at the time I had created a new group and I got everyone involved in politics because I believed that was something our campus was missing, the balance between the left and the right, so I started a dialogue between the two - and it kind of just led to that award. From there she said, you know what? I think for the next few years we should start working towards Truman," said Blessing. He said he had no clue what a Truman Scholar was at the time.
"From there I worked on political campaigns, local ones, state ones, I started a voter drive, a lot of political stuff mostly. And beyond that, I started several student organizations and things of that nature."
The scholarship offers $30,000 a year for students that are pursuing graduate degrees for careers in government or public service.
"When I go to grad school, my hope is that - especially with Truman opening a lot of doors open for me - I can do a dual program with an MPPJD," Blessing said. The letters stand for Masters of Public Policy - "It's catered more towards people who want to get involved in international relations, things of that nature. A lot of people are consulates, ambassadors, things of that nature, the state department is really what that focuses on." - and Juris Doctorate, or a law degree. He is considering Harvard, his initial choice for law school, as well as Sanford, Michigan and Virginia currently but said he had more to look in to. He said he wants to focus in constitutional law.
Blessing said politics takes up most of his free time, however the busy student also finds time to engage with his peers through friendly competition as the founder of the Guild of Tabletop Gamers.
"I love video games myself, but I feel like sometimes, to actually get together and play games, so I started a club where it's supposed to increase social capital. Because my belief is if people come together and people talk, it gets them more involved on campus, period, regardless of what the club is," Blessing explained. "So in this case, a lot of my club were political and I thought, maybe people don't connect to that, but they'll connect to games. It's been vastly successful, and I love games, that's my other passion besides politics." Beyond that, Blessing also is venturing into the world of podcasting, working alongside his friends.
As a teen, Blessing wasn't so sure that college was even in his future. He said UNG turned out to be the perfect fit for him, and he's grateful he could give them some recognition as their first Truman Scholar.
"What it's done is it's made me actually start to evaluate what's next," said Blessing. "I've always been the kind of person that's like, you know what? I don't know exactly what's next but I'm going to keep pushing towards it. Whereas now, Truman has basically said this door is open and now you need to figure out where you want to go with it."
"This isn't just a dream anymore. Now I really need to think about what grad school I'm going to, and I have a lot more opportunity now. It's not just local colleges or anything, I can go almost anywhere now. And that's a big deal for me, because I've always wanted to go somewhere and I haven't been able to."
Blessing was selected out of 840 candidates and eventually 199 finalists to be one of the 62 students selected. Blessing is the only college or university student in Georgia selected, though he is one of two Georgia natives that were selected, with the other attending Boston University.