Every year, one Cornell senior is awarded the John F. Kennedy Memorial Award, a $15,000 grant given to a student who best demonstrates the “dedication and idealism” of the “Kennedy Generation.”
First established by the Class of 1964, the award seeks to honor the legacy of President John F. Kennedy, as that class considered themselves to be the “first beneficiaries of Kennedy’s efforts to tap the leadership potential of America’s youth,” according to their website.
Inspired by the late President’s commitment to service, the grant is intended to help students jumpstart an internship, research project or continue something they may have started while Cornell, according to Cynthia Wolloch ’64, chair of the award committee. However, she said that any current senior should feel eligible to apply.
The committee is looking “not just [for] the usual round of volunteer work, but activities that demonstrate some kind of passion for taking on an issue and making it their own,” Wolloch said.
“We don’t want [students] to define public service [too narrowly],” said Renée Farkas, associate director of Cornell’s Public Service Center, who went on to highlight a wide variety of interests and experiences could meet the award’s definition of public service.
For example, Nicole Agaronnik ’19, last year’s winner of the award, is a professional ballroom dancer and nutritional sciences major who worked to raise awareness about disabilities by combining dance with contributions to medical journals. Agaronnik, a certified wheelchair ballroom dance instructor, organized Cornell’s first disabilities studies symposium.
“When I found out, I was really excited and extremely grateful . . . this opportunity has been very helpful in jump-starting my career goals and pursuing a future in public service.” Agaronnik told The Sun.
According to Wolloch, the award was initially funded in her graduating year by “our cap and gown deposit money” that the seniors gave up. These deposits provided the money for the first ever JFK award, which Wolloch recalled was then $350.
Now, the JFK Award is funded by an endowment managed by Cornell’s Investment Committee, which reported that in the last two years, 55 alumni have donated close to $6,000 to the ongoing fund.
To apply, current seniors must submit the application on the Public Service Center website, as well as two recommendation letters by Nov. 21.