Motivated by challenges; Centre student earns PPIA scholarship

Published 12:33 pm Monday, March 13, 2023


Centre College

Lincoln Scholar Ben Justice is motivated by challenges.

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And he has excelled at Centre, finding a mission in working to improve educational opportunities for others like him.

“I’m Deaf, I have ADHD, I’m Autistic. All of those things impact my education,” Justice, a member of the Class of 2024, explained. “Throughout my education, I have struggled with accommodation. I was never taught what accommodations I needed (in public school) — I had to figure that out.”

He wrote about the hurdles he has faced in an essay to the Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA) Program, which awarded him a scholarship to the Junior Summer Institute (JSI), becoming the second Centre College student in as many years to earn the honor.

It’s through those trials that Justice became facilitator of change, said Director of the Lincoln Scholars Program Robert Schalkoff.

“Ben is the co-founder of the Disabled Students Alliance at Centre and a tireless advocate for educational rights of disabled students on campus as well as in the community,” Schalkoff said.

Off campus, Justice stays just as busy. This summer he held an internship at the Jacobs Hall Museum at his alma mater, Kentucky School for the Deaf. He was also a contributor at the state DeaFestival, the Deaf Youth Sports Festival and participated in the National Association for the Deaf conference — all in 2022.

That work, Schalkoff added, “speaks to Ben’s commitment to becoming a change-maker in education policy to create a more equitable life for disabled students.”

Schalkoff is also the leader of Centre’s Office of Fellowships — which has continued to help students earn fellowships and scholarships, in the United States and abroad. Uliana Bazavluk ’23 earned a scholarship to the JSI program last year.

“Our students are not only talented academically, they are engaged in practical ways with pre-professional opportunities — like internships and undergraduate research — that are directly tied to public policy and public service,” Schalkoff said. “These co-curricular experiences make them very compelling candidates for nationally competitive fellowships like PPIA Junior Summer Institute.”

Justice wants to attend law school, and the intensive summer program is an opportunity to be immersed in a graduate-school setting. He wants to learn more about public policy related to education during his time at JSI.

“I feel like deaf education is in a crisis. There are deaf students who are not attending classes with sign language,” Justice said. “And, if they have an interpreter in the classroom, they’re not in a language-rich environment. But it’s not just deaf students, I really care about disabled students in general. I told [PPIA] I was interested in education public policy, reform policy, for special needs students.”

It’s through his time at Centre and as a Lincoln Scholar that Justice has found that he belongs in the conversation for prestigious fellowships like the JSI.

“Being from Centre, I trust myself enough to go out there and do my best,” he said. “I cannot emphasize how I feel getting into these programs. … In some way, it shows me that I’m worth it.”