Northern NJ man among 32 new Rhodes Scholars

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TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A northern New Jersey man is among 32 American students selected as the newest Rhodes Scholars.

The prestigious award won by Phillip Yao of North Caldwell provides him with a scholarship for study at Oxford University in England. The winners were selected from 838 applicants endorsed by 302 different colleges and universities.

"I was very shocked when I learned I had won," Yao, 21, told The Associated Press on Sunday, the day the winners' names were made public. "This whole experience has been very humbling."

Currently a senior at Harvard University, where he majors in physics and minors in philosophy, Yao said he has always been passionate about education and related matters.

A poet and pianist who has mentored students in New York City's "Prep for Prep" program, Yao also has worked in the New York City mayor's office on a new computer science curriculum. He also founded a virtual library for over a million students in Mumbai while on a summer fellowship.

He plans to study education during his time at Oxford, where he plans to spend two years. Yao said he hopes to help develop new ways of integrating technology into teaching, especially in the areas of math and science.

"Research needs to be done in this area so we can learn how to do things better and how we can really inspire students," Yao said.

He also hopes to do some traveling while overseas. One trip he wants to make is to Finland, so he can learn about how their highly recognized educational system operates.

"I would love to visit some (primary) schools there, see how they operate and how the students learn, and learn how we can use that information to improve our education system" he said.

The Rhodes Scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist Cecil Rhodes and have a value of about $50,000 per year. The American students will join an international group of scholars selected from 14 other jurisdictions around the world. About 80 scholars are selected each year.

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