A Philadelphia native and senior at the University of Pennsylvania, who lost both her parents while she was in high school and college, has won a coveted Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford in England.
Anea B. Moore, a senior, is a sociology and urban studies major who has a concentration in law and a minor in Africana studies. She is the first in her family to attend college and has served as co-president of the Penn branch of a nonprofit dedicated to providing more services to first-generation students such as her.
"Anea is committed to the needs of low-income families, reflected in a variety of important roles in Philadelphia public schools, for City Council members, and at her university," the Rhodes Trust wrote in its profile of Moore, also noting that she was co-president of the largest student conference in the world for first-generation, low-income students.
She is among 32 national winners announced this weekend for what are considered to be one of the most prestigious postgraduate awards. Winners study for free in Oxford for two or three years. The scholarships are worth about $70,000 a year.
Four other winners have local ties. Three attend Princeton University: Nicolette C. D'Angelo, of Hewitt, Passaic County, N.J.; Katharine H. Reed, of Arnold, Md.; and John Hoffmeyer, of Florence, S.C.; and a fourth, Margaret H. Dods, of Linwood, Atlantic County, attends the U.S. Naval Academy.
"I don't know if it's quite real yet," Moore, 21, said in a phone interview Sunday afternoon. "It might not get real until I get there. You just don't think that people like you win these things. It's like, 'Wow, a little black girl from Philadelphia, a public school kid, who was raised with parents who didn't go to college, won this scholarship.'"
Moore grew up in Southwest Philadelphia and attended the city's public schools, first Penrose and then Masterman, one of the district's prestigious magnets. Both her parents did secretarial work and her mother also worked as a cashier, she said. Her father, Darryl Moore, died of lung disease when she was a senior in high school and her mother, Tracie Moody, of a heart attack during Moore's first year at Penn.
She credits them for part of her success and wishes their name could go on the scholarship, too, she said.
"It's their award, too," she said.
Moore and the other scholars were among 880 applicants from 281 universities in the United States. Nearly half of the winners are immigrants or the first in their families to attend college, the Rhodes Trust announced. Twenty-one women were among the winners, the most ever since the scholarship became available to women in 1976. The fields of study that the scholars will pursue include the social sciences, biological and medical sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, and the humanities.
Moore, the 27th Rhodes scholar in Penn's history, would like to pursue a doctorate in "evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation" and intends to go to law school when she returns. She hopes to spend her career in public service in Philadelphia, helping low-income families and focusing on education and economic development.
Moore's application to Rhodes focused on her work at the district's Lea School, where she worked with a student choir, helped teach a cooking class, and assisted families, through her position as chair of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships student advisory board.
"It's been my home since my parents died," Moore said of Lea. "The staff, the teachers, the students there, have … provided me with a very safe space."
She has held a variety of leadership positions at Penn and is a Philadelphia Mayor's Scholar, which covers her Penn tuition. Moore also received the 2017 Penn Undergraduate Women of Color Award.
She pursued the Rhodes because she wants to understand social policy better and share with her community all that Oxford has to offer, she said.
"There's knowledge there that people in my family never had access to, never touched," she said, "that the students I teach at Lea have never had access to, have never touched. Going to Oxford is about more than just the degree. It's about going there and getting all the knowledge … and bringing it back to my community."
She got involved with helping other first-generation students because she saw the difficulty firsthand of adjusting to college.
"I was walking a tightrope between my home and school," she said. "I didn't quite belong at home, but I also didn't belong at school."
At times, she said she wondered whether she was smart enough or worthy.
She wonders no more.
"We are good enough," she said of herself and others like her. "We are worthy and we are definitely as smart as the next kid and we can be Rhodes scholars, too."