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2 From Chicago Area, Including Englewood Native, Awarded Rhodes Scholarships

CHICAGO (CBS)-- Thirty-two American students are among the "best of the best" being offered Rhodes Scholarships to study at Oxford University. Two of those best are from the Chicago area.

WBBM's Steve Miller spoke with both.

Yale graduate Rhiana Gunn-Wright, 23, has lived in Oak Lawn with her family for the past few years.

But she is from the heart of Chicago.

"I was born and raised in Englewood on the South Side. That's something I am really proud of," Gunn-Wright said.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Steve Miller Reports


Proud because Englewood gets a lot of flak, she said. And people miss so much of the good that is there. People came together to protect her and care for her, she said, and they wanted to see her succeed.

She graduated in 2007 from the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in Aurora. The Yale graduate is working now in Washington, D.C. and looking forward to studying at Oxford -- focusing on welfare policy, learning how to make it better.

"And to find out the best way to think of issues of race and class and gender and the way that structures, or changes the way people experience poverty. And how to better tailor services to fit those needs and situations."

Rhiana Gunn-Wright begins at Oxford next fall.

Miller also spoke with 22-year-old Rhodes Scholar Ben Wilcox of Winnetka.

Now a Harvard senior majoring in history, Ben Wilcox grew up in Winnetka and went to New Trier High School.

His main interest: democracy, with emphasis on Latin America--and Brazil, specifically.

"When we see images of Rio in films or on the nightly news, we usually hear about the terrible, terrible violence that prevails in Brazilian favelas--the huge urban slums that are scattered throughout Rio."

Wilcox said what we don't hear about is the "beautiful cultures that these favelas have."

"The strong community organizations. The way the people who live in these favelas are a central part of Brazilian society. They're not just a poor outcropping of Rio where violence prevails.

"Violence is a serious problem in these communities, but 95 percent of the people who live there are hard-working. Many of them are extremely entrepreneurial."

Wilcox has ridden his bicycle across the United States--and then rode his bike from Norway to Italy, carrying a tent, food and supplies.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio's Steve Miller Reports


Ben Wilcox
Ben Wilcox, Rhodes Scholar (Wilcox Family)
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