Lacie Ellithorpe '21

Standing at the fence that separates the U.S. from Mexico, Lacie Ellithorpe felt it all come together. It was, she said, a “moment of realization.”

“We were all sticking our hands through the fence, and all of a sudden I could hardly hold back the tears,” she wrote in her Harry S. Truman Scholarship application. “To escape suffering, to have a better life, migrants risk everything—their lives, money, the chance to see their family again. The moment I realized the reasons and risks associated with immigration was the moment I promised myself I would do something about it.”

The moment I realized the reasons and risks associated with immigration was the moment I promised myself I would do something about it.

Lacie Ellithorpe '21 Tweet This

Ellithorpe is Longwood’s 2020 nominee for the Truman Scholarship, and on Friday was named the university’s first finalist. She will interview for the prestigious national award next week in Washington, D.C.

The Truman Scholarship is a highly competitive scholarship for college juniors who plan to pursue careers in public service and have outstanding leadership potential. The scholarship funds graduate study, and recipients engage in unique educational, leadership and networking opportunities. Only about 55 students across the nation are selected each year for the award.

A social work major from South Hill, Ellithorpe found her calling during a Brock Experience studying immigration in Arizona. It was then that she combined her passion for social work with the immediate, pressing problem of immigration. Specifically, she was interested in how children were affected by the immigration process.

She is one of the best students I have seen in 25 years of teaching. She will excel at graduate work and will develop into a professional who can help solve some of the most pressing issues of our time.

Dr. Renee Gutierrez, associate professor of Spanish Tweet This

“Lacie has a knack for seeing policy and how it should be changed,” said Dr. Renee Gutierrez, associate professor of Spanish, who leads the immigration Brock Experience. “As her final project for the second course on immigration, she designed a grant proposal to present a continuing education course on immigrant children in the Virginia school systems. In short, she took a classroom assignment and began a real-world application on her own, as an undergraduate student… . She is one of the best students I have seen in 25 years of teaching. She will excel at graduate work and will develop into a professional who can help solve some of the most pressing issues of our time.”

The centerpiece of each Truman application is a policy proposal that addresses a specific problem. Ellithorpe proposed mandated training for the thousands of public school social workers on issues common to students in mixed-status families. Mixed-status families have one or more members with different immigration statuses.

“There are about 4 million American children with one or more undocumented family members,” said Ellithorpe. “That is an enormous number of people who are at higher risk of poverty, mental illness and chronic stress. If social workers in public schools are trained in the particular risks for children in mixed-status families, they can better address them and students will be more stable and successful.”

Ellithorpe will graduate in May 2021, and plans to pursue graduate study in social work policy.

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