Watch out Jen Psaki, because Eliza Jane Schaeffer is coming for your job.
Schaeffer wants to one day become the White House Communications Director. The politically minded Henry Clay senior was named the 31st recipient of the Tommy Bell Award by the Lexington Rotary Club on Thursday.
She became the third straight student-athlete from Henry Clay to earn the honor, presented each year to a student who excels inside and outside athletics. It is named after the late Tommy Bell, a native Lexingtonian who is the only person to have ever officiated an NCAA men’s basketball championship game and a Super Bowl.
Schaeffer fits that criteria nicely: She will graduate from Henry Clay as salutatorian for the class of 2016 (her weighted GPA is an eye-popping 4.95) and finished second in the 3,200-meter run at the Class 3A state championship as a junior.
“If you watch her, you don’t see much of her because after she runs, she goes back and finds her a quiet place where she goes to study,” Henry Clay Coach Demetrius Gay said. “Which is crazy. Fifteen minutes before she’s supposed to run again, she’s warming up and things and then after that race she does more studying. You very seldom see that in athletes.”
A combination of tendinitis and muscle atrophy has sidelined Schaeffer for much of this season so Gay isn’t sure whether she’ll run in the Class 3A, Region 6 meet Friday. While she’s not been able to leave much of an imprint on the track-and-field season, Schaeffer has left a mark on Kentucky politics. As part of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence’s Student Voice Team, she helped rally support for a bill that would have allowed for high school students to sit on superintendent screening committees. That piece of legislation did not pass, but it did lead to an appearance on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show.
“It was pretty scary, I’m not going to lie,” Schaeffer said of her appearance. “I got to see how it all works. You don’t actually get to see Rachel Maddow when you’re talking to her, which was kind of hard for me ’cause I usually like to pick up on facial cues. It’s kind of like you were talking into the phone but both of your faces are on the screen while people are watching you.”
Schaeffer has been outspoken about the rising cost of college and how much of the Kentucky Lottery funds promised for education actually get appropriated for educational needs, the latter of which she addressed in an op-ed for the Herald-Leader in January.
“Applying for higher education grants shouldn’t be a gamble,” she wrote. “The Kentucky Lottery was justified by politicians because the money would fund student aid. That Powerball promise has been broken, and we now have a moral imperative to fix it.”
She isn’t sure what she’ll major in at Dartmouth, where she’ll attend come fall, but she does know she’ll minor in public policy. Schaeffer doesn’t want to pigeonhole herself into a particular field of study too early.
“I don’t want to get stuck on something and not be open to other things I might be interested in,” she said.
Given her role in political activism among youth and the uptick in interest in this election cycle, what does Schaeffer think of the presidential prospects come November?
“I have to say I’m a little bit disappointed that the first election I’ll be able to vote in, I get to choose between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton,” she said with a laugh. “ ... I was pulling for Marco Rubio.”
Tommy Bell Award Winners
Eliza Jane Schaeffer