Two Petal natives will be interviewing for the prestigious Harry S. Truman scholarship after being named a finalist.
Allen Coon of the University of Mississippi and Jack Hoda of the University of Southern Mississippi, both graduates of the Petal School District, were named finalists. Two other Ole Miss students, Jarvis Benson and Jaz Brisack, were also named finalists and will interview for the award March 13 in Nashville, according to an Ole Miss press release. Winners will be announced April 18.
“This is the first time in history that the University of Mississippi has had three Truman finalists,” said Tim Dolan, director of the UM Office of National Scholarship Advisement. “It is rare for universities to have multiple finalists."
“It’s a privilege to represent the University of Mississippi and our state in this national contest,” Coon said.
Coon is a public policy leadership and African American studies major with a minor in sociology, according to the release. He would like to prepare to become a state representative and community organizer.
“Generations of inequitable education access and allocation have exacerbated state racial income disparities, culminating in a chronically underfunded public education system that fails our poorest and most marginalized communities,” Coon said.
Coon has worked with the NAACP, Mississippi Vote Everywhere and Young Democrats of Mississippi. His accolades include the university's Lift Every Voice Award and the Andrew Goodman Foundation Hidden Heroes Award.
According to the press release, Coon would like to attend the University of California at Berkeley after graduation to pursue a concurrent degree in public policy and law at the Goldman School of Public Policy and School of Law. He said he would then likely return to Mississippi to work on civil rights, voting rights and education.
“I’ve been blessed to attend alongside Jarvis and Jaz, whose dedicated voter engagement and union organizing work, respectively, have bettered our community and inspired my own work,” Coon said. “The other Mississippi candidate, Jack Hoda of the University of Southern Mississippi, is an old friend and fellow Petal School District graduate."
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation awards the scholarships to students who plan to pursue careers in government or elsewhere in public service. Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate or professional school, participate in leadership development activities and have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government.