Junior double-major Kendyl Lewis named Truman Scholarship Finalist

Junior double-major Kendyl Lewis named Truman Scholarship Finalist

K endyl Lewis has the heart of a public servant. The Georgia College junior not only started an organization on campus to help students with food insecurity, she’s also championed the initiative in the community.

Couple her service with her stellar academic record and double majors in psychology and economics, and you see why she’s been named a finalist for the coveted Truman Scholarship.

“I had one of those moments where you realize you've worked so hard and to actually get the good news like this— I was in shock,” she said about being named a finalist. “At the same time, it just felt like such affirmation of the work that I have been doing, not that I'm looking for that, but it just made me realize that people do notice, and it's making an impact.”
– Kendyl Lewis

This year 773 students applied for the scholarship named in honor of President Harry Truman. Lewis is one of 190 finalists who will participate in an in-person interview to determine the scholarship recipients.

“I would say it’s the top public service scholarship that helps pay for graduate school,” said Lewis. “I really love the mission of the Truman scholarship because it creates this network of individuals to help the next generation of public service leaders.”

Between 55-65 scholarships are awarded each year by the Truman Foundation. Award recipient receive $30,000 for graduate school. Students must have an extensive record of campus and community service, be committed to a career in government or the nonprofit and advocacy sectors, have good communication skills and possess a strong academic record with likely acceptance to the graduate school of the candidate's choice. Lewis is a prime example of those.

Leadership experience is also taken into account, something Lewis has focused on developing during her time at Georgia College. She is president and founder of the university’s student organization Swipe Out Hunger, part of a national organization that works to end student hunger.

“Kendyl's long track record of working to combat food insecurity by leading important efforts on campus - like Swipe Out Hunger - and also by serving as a Zero Hunger Intern in Washington D.C., have demonstrated that she is going to truly be someone who changes the way that this country works to feed all of its citizens,” said Anna Whiteside, assistant director of the Honors Program and National Scholarships coordinator.

Swipe Out Hunger helps raise awareness about food insecurity and aids students who struggle with hunger.

“My motivation for starting Swipe Out Hunger was that weren't really any readily available resources for students struggling with hunger at Georgia College, and I wanted there to be a way for students to receive assistance in a way that wasn't stigmatizing or a shameful experience for them,” said Lewis.

“It just seemed senseless to me that I had paid for this meal plan and wasn't fully utilizing it, but there might be another student in one of my classes that can't afford a meal plan, and they really would value those swipes more than I do.”

The group has established ways for students to apply for meal assistance without having to have a consultation with financial aid and without having to disclose any of their financial records.

“We accomplished this through working with Sodexo, and basically showing the need that students have, and students are interested in helping out other students,” she said. “So based on that they were able to donate 500 swipes, which essentially came from swipes that have been wasted by students in previous semesters.”

“We've also worked with the George College Foundation for their “A Seat at the Table” scholarship. We do fundraisers for that, and the scholarship goes to students struggling with hunger as well.”

She continues to keep the conversation going even outside the organization, hosting Times Talks, promoting awareness at events and finding fun ways to engage with the campus so students can learn about food insecurity. Now she’s even taken the conversation off campus to meet the community’s need.

“I've been working with a community member who is very passionate about food recovery in the Baldwin County school system,” she said. “We’ve worked to design a plan where Baldwin County Schools can recover unused food from their cafeterias to send home with students over the weekends to meet their needs.”

Lewis’ involvement on campus also includes the Council of Student Ambassadors and Student Government as well as Leadership Programs and the Honors Program.

“I've been involved with all the Leadership Programs offered on campus, and I'm currently in the GEM (Georgia Education Mentorship) program,” said Lewis. “Leadership Programs have really just given me a foundation for a lot of the other work I'm doing on campus. I don't think I could have done everything I’ve done with my food insecurity work, if it weren't for the support from leadership programs.”

“The community aspect provided through the Honors Program has been amazing. I've been able to connect with Honors students that care about the same issues as me. They have provided me with a community that helps me in all aspects of my life.”

Through her journey at Georgia College, faculty and staff have been there to support and encourage her. Dr. Harold Mock, director of leadership programs, provides her with “a well-rounded perspective” and has shown her what she’s capable of; Dr. Chris Clark, professor of economics, “really pushed” in her classes; and Dr. Kristina Dandy, associate professor of psychology, advised Lewis for her research and is a “great role model.”  

Over the next year, Lewis plans to continue her involvement on campus in Swipe Out Hunger and engage in independent research on food insecurity. After graduation her goal is to pursue a public policy master’s degree.

The winners of the Truman Scholarship will be announced in mid-April.