Campus Currents

Motivated by Obstacles
Brooks Payette '12 wins UNH's first* Truman Scholarship

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Brooks Payette '12 was devastated when he was cut from the ice hockey team his senior year in high school. Two years later, he had to drop out of college when his father was laid off from work. But he stayed in the game by coaching the girls' hockey team at his old high school and took a job at a local newspaper. In 2008, he joined the Air National Guard and, a year later, enrolled at UNH with a major in political science.

Brooks Payette '12
Perry Smith/UNH Photographic Services

"I've been motivated more by the obstacles in my life than anything else," says the newly graduated 30-year-old. "Growing up in a city like Berlin, N.H., people might look at me and wonder how I got here. The truth is I'm pretty driven."

It was perseverance, Payette believes, that helped him become the first* UNH student to be selected as a Harry S. Truman Scholar. The award, given annually to 60 college students nationwide, provides up to $30,000 for graduate studies in public service.

Truman candidates have to present a proposal that addresses a vexing social issue. Payette's proposal called for the U.S. Department of Education to increase physical fitness activities in schools to combat childhood obesity.

"I'm not trying to solve something we don't know the answer to," Payette says. "We know the key to fighting obesity is fitness and nutrition. It's not even a matter of coming up with the science—the science is already there."

Payette says what needs to happen is effective outreach. "Obesity is eating our health care system alive. More than 20 percent of our health care costs are obesity-related," he says. "And the problem is only going to get worse if we don't do something about it."

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