STARKVILLE, Miss.--A local high school student says Mississippi State and its connection to historic legislation signed by President Abraham Lincoln led to her ideas in a winning essay, which recently earned her a prized scholarship.
Kelley Mazzola recently took the top prize offered by a national scholarly forum devoted to preserving the memory of the 16th president. The award covered the entire cost of attending the annual 2012 Lincoln Forum, held during the fall in Gettysburg, Pa.
The Starkville High School junior has been a history buff since childhood. Like her father, she enjoys reading books and watching historical documentaries. In fact, she loves it so much, she's planning a professional career as a historian.
"She's a little history sponge," said father Michael S. "Mike" Mazzola, a professor at the university, though not in history. His field is electrical and computer engineering and his research areas include power electronics and high voltage, rather than Ft. Sumter or Appomattox.
Kelley Mazzola's love of history is so strong that it spurred her to become a member of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, whose offices are located at MSU's Mitchell Memorial Library, along with the Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Collection.
The Grant files are a trove of resources and memorabilia for professional and novice historians alike. They are curated by John F. Marszalek, the executive director and the presidential library's managing editor.
Marszalek, an MSU Giles Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, was impressed with the student's deep love for history, so much so that he encouraged her to submit an essay.
The Lincoln Forum scholarship program was created to recognize outstanding students with demonstrated academic and extracurricular achievements, as well as an interest in the life and career of Lincoln and the American Civil War.
One of two nationally receiving the 2012 awards, Mazzola was selected on the basis of her examination of the Morrill Act, signed by Lincoln in 1862 to, among other things, establish land-grant institutions such as MSU. In her composition, she detailed how the historic legislation had a direct and personal impact on her life, as well as her father's current employment.
Last year, MSU joined other land-grant institutions to celebrate the Morrill Act's 150th anniversary through participation in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., and an on-campus conference.
Mazzola said she found the Lincoln Forum very rewarding. She said she especially appreciated the opportunity to hear the many presentations, as did her father. He explained that the organization requires that younger participants be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
"The one thing I took away from this was that, while it may seem like I'm isolated in my interest, there always are people interested in history," Kelley Mazzola observed.
While history is not his academic field, her father expressed admiration for the forum's attraction of both professional historians and lay people, many of whom are dedicated annual attendees.
"The quality of speakers was fantastic," Mike Mazzola said. "We want to make every effort to attend in the future."
"This experience really exceeded my expectations," he added. "I felt we made several excellent connections that will help Kelley as she pursues history as her career field."