HARLAN – Harlan Community High School Senior Jack Klitgaard has been named a Coolidge Scholar, and is the recipient one of the most prestigious scholarships in the nation named after Calvin Coolidge, the 30th president of the United States.
Klitgaard, 18, the son of Dr. Don and Laurel Klitgaard, Avoca, was notified July 24 that he is one of four students in the United States to receive the honor. The Coolidge Scholarship is an annually awarded, full-ride, presidential scholarship that covers a student’s tuition, room, board, and expenses for four years of undergraduate study.
The one-of-a-kind scholarship may be used at any accredited college or university in the U.S.
“I am very excited to join the Class of 2020 Coolidge Scholars and the larger community of past scholars and senators,” Klitgaard said. “From start to finish, it took about seven months from the beginning of the application process to my selection.”
Klitgaard said he was looking for private, merit-based scholarships last year and came across the Coolidge Scholarship Program. When he read the description of what the Coolidge was looking for, he felt it was a perfect fit.
“Shortly after I had heard about it, several teachers at the school forwarded emails about the Coolidge recommending that some juniors should apply,” Klitgaard said. “I decided I would throw my hat in the ring. It seemed to be a perfect scholarship for me.”
According to its website, students apply for the Coolidge Scholarship during their junior year of high school. Finalists are chosen based on three main areas including academic excellence, an interest in public policy and appreciation for Coolidge values, and humility and service.
Above all, Coolidge scholars have a distinguished academic record, public policy interest and awareness and appreciation of Coolidge’s values such as civility, respect for enterprise, government thrift, federalism and respect for constitutional government, and humility - considered the hallmark quality of leaders in the Coolidge tradition.
Klitgaard first filled out an online application, which asked for personal information, test scores, a transcription, reference letters and three essays.
“Through the process of writing these essays, I learned a lot about President Coolidge’s values, policies and life story,” Klitgaard said. “The more I learned about him, the more I realized that we share a similar small-town background, I largely agreed with him politically, and his worldview was very compatible with my own.”
In mid-June, Klitgaard received notification that he was one of 10 finalists. In a normal year the finalists are flown to Vermont to the Calvin Coolidge Historic Site in Plymouth Notch for a weekend of community building and interview activities.
“However, due to COVID-19, all of the interviews and selection activities were held online in early July this year,” Klitgaard explained. “In mid-July after completing an interview with the finalist jury, a group of 12 very distinguished individuals including judges, governors, CEOs of businesses, etc., I was invited to a Zoom call where I was told the fantastic news.”
The Coolidge is highly competitive, with more than 3,400 people completing the initial application process, and only four winners being named, Klitgaard said.
“They require high test scores, as well as exemplary service and extracurriculars, but the thing that separates the Coolidge from other similar scholarships is the value they put on one’s character and interest in public policy,” he said.
They aren’t just looking for the best resume, but for someone who embodies the Coolidge values, Klitgaard said.
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