Truman finalist plans to ‘incite a creative education revolution’

Gabby Arenge '14 poses with children in Kibera.
Gabby Arenge '14 poses with children in Kibera.

Gabrielle Arenge ’14 has big dreams and lofty goals, and now, as a finalist for the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, she is one step closer to making it all a reality.

The Truman is a $30,000 federal scholarship for graduate school, awarded to college juniors with exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in public service. Arenge says she would use the scholarship to prepare herself “to incite a creative education revolution.”

Modern approaches to education and massive curriculum standardization efforts have stymied creative thought and alienated significant portions of the population, Arenge says.

“It is my goal and passion to advocate for and develop a system of education in which all people have the opportunity to uncover their creativity and potential for intellectual, personal, social and economic achievement,” she says.

Arenge understands that great potential – and even greater challenges – exist. Last summer, with a $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace, she founded an art-based mentorship program in East Africa’s largest slum, Kibera. She describes the experience as equally terrifying and empowering, as she struggled to gain the respect and the trust of the people of Kibera. Despite initial challenges, mentor membership has doubled, the youth in the program show increased confidence and more than 70 organizations and artists and 1,500 Kibera residents participated in a culminating summer event. The program is now transitioning to a community-based organization.

Psychology professor Jefferson Singer says Arenge, a scholar in the College’s Holleran Center for Community Action and Public Policy, Big Sister mentor, tutor in the New London schools, women’s center volunteer, a cappella singer and student leader in the College’s current effort to reform general education, is one of the best multi-taskers he has ever met. 

“She is a force of nature in her energy, social justice commitment and multiple talents,” he wrote in a letter recommending Arenge for the scholarship.

A psychology major and art minor from Columbus, N.J., Arenge is one of 199 finalists from 136 institutions. More than 600 students were nominated for this highly competitive scholarship, which will be awarded to 68 students this year. Arenge is Connecticut College's fourth finalist in five years.

The Truman Scholarship Foundation was established by Congress in 1975 as the federal memorial to the 33rd president of the United States of America. The foundation awards scholarships for college students to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or elsewhere in public service. The activities of the foundation are supported by a special trust fund in the U.S. Treasury.

February 27, 2013