Hard work pays off for Indiana Rhodes scholar

Hard work to take Indiana Rhodes scholar to Oxford for criminal justice studies
The Elkhart Truth

It’s been a whirlwind past few days for Mishawaka High School graduate Jacob Burnett.

On Saturday, Burnett was among 32 Americans who were selected as 2015 Rhodes scholars, with the opportunity to study at Oxford University starting in the fall of 2015. This week, Burnett is home in Mishawaka helping his mother and siblings prepare to move into a new Habitat for Humanity home. And next weekend, the first-generation college student will return to Wabash College in Crawfordsville to continue his senior year.

“I was extremely surprised,” Burnett, 21, said Monday about learning he had won the prestigious scholarship. “I was speechless and kind of shaking.”

When he flies to England next year to enroll at Oxford, it will be Burnett’s first time on an airplane. Except for a summer job earlier this year in Washington, D.C., he’s never traveled beyond the four states bordering Indiana.

At Oxford, Burnett will study for a degree in criminology and criminal justice. After that, he plans to earn a law degree. “I have a huge passion for working in the criminal justice system,” he told the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/1vaGjok ).

He wants to pursue a career that helps to redefine the concept of justice in society, such as working on death penalty issues, voting rights and other matters.

Burnett is one of two young men with local ties who were named 2015 Rhodes scholars. The other is Alex Coccia, of Columbus, Ohio, who graduated in May from the University of Notre Dame. Coccia was the 2013-2014 Notre Dame student body president.

At Wabash, Burnett is majoring in political science, with minors in psychology and rhetoric.

Burnett was born in South Bend, adopted at birth and grew up in Mishawaka. He is the son of Rita Burnett of Mishawaka and William Burnett, also of Mishawaka. He has two sisters and four brothers.

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