National scholarship winner Valerie Lynch
walked into Elizabeth Dole's Washington, D.C.,
office thinking to herself, "Am I really here?"
"Everything was really unreal," Lynch, a UF freshman,
said about her time with Dole in the capital city about
three weeks ago. "It went by so quickly."
Lynch, a political science and business major,
flew to Washington to spend time with her mentor Dole,
former president of the American Red Cross, presidential candidate
and a presidential cabinet officer.
"I was impressed with how elegant she was," Lynch said.
"She was very warm and friendly with me.
She spent an hour and 15 minutes with me when I
was only expecting her to spend 20."
The National Alliance for Excellence awarded Lynch a $1,000 scholarship
and the chance to meet any individual in America who inspired her for
her tap dance talent. As a leader in Washington,
Dole was an obvious choice for Lynch.
"I chose Elizabeth Dole because she's a woman who
embodies a lot of characteristics I'm striving toward," Lynch said.
"I thought being able to speak with her would give me
a better idea about how to get there."
Lynch, who before she met Dole was interested
in a career in entertainment law, now plans to
work in a field in which she will have an impact
on people's lives.
"I'll either be working for a law firm or for
the government in a position of public service
and leadership," Lynch said.
Dole, when asked by NAE President
Linda Paras to be Lynch's mentor, agreed and was pleased
the first year student had requested her.
As a mentor, Dole will be available for contact anytime
Lynch has questions concerning her academics or
future career in law.
The NAE is an educational nonprofit foundation
that recognizes students and artists through this award.
It is given to 10 students in four categories every year.
Lynch submitted an
application and videotape of her tap dance performance.
In the semi-finalist round, she was asked to write two
letters to government officials stating why scholarships
are necessary to students.
"You can reapply as many times as you want for the
scholarship," Lynch said. "I don't know if I'll win again,
but I was honored to be selected this year."
And even if she isn't selected again,
Lynch's impression of Dole will last forever.
"She genuinely desires to help people," Lynch said.
"She's not someone who is driven by ambition,
and that really impressed me."