By Kelly Werthmann

BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4) – A University of Colorado Boulder student is among the 32 Americans to win the prestigious 2019 Rhodes Scholarship. Serene Singh, a senior at CU Boulder, is also the first female student from the university to claim the coveted scholarship to study at Oxford University in England.

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Serene Singh (credit: CBS)

“I’m feeling really, really thankful and so excited!” Singh said with a big smile.

Much like her bright grin, Singh has vibrant energy that can light up a room. With a schedule like hers, that’s a really good thing.

“I have a Sikh Student Association meeting, a Supreme Court meeting on campus, an executive board meeting,” Singh told CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann, listing all the meetings and events she was attending Wednesday afternoon.

CBS4’s Kelly Werthmann interviews Serene Singh. (credit: CBS)

Her busy schedule list goes on, and it’s only part of her day. Singh also has her hands full majoring in political science and journalism, serving as president of the Sikh Student Association, president of the Political Science Honor Society, and working with the nonprofit she founded — The Serenity Project, Brave Enough to Fly — to empower at-risk women through the skills she gained in pageantry.

“I’m just a normal college student,” Singh said with a laugh.

Motivated by issued she cares about, the ambitious student from Colorado Springs — who was also awarded the Truman Scholarship and is a Boettcher Scholar — is focused on serving her community.

(credit: Serene Singh)

“I have optimistic energy and sometimes an overly positive attitude about things that can be fixed,” she explained. “I think that’s important because I think sometimes communities feel like nothing can be done. They need someone to say, ‘Wait a second! Let’s challenge this creatively.’ I try to do that in everything that I’m working on, whether it’s gender equality, religious communities, with young women and girls. I just try to say, ‘Let me bring my energy and optimism to this and show everyone even if it’s pessimistic and sad right now, whatever is going on can change.’”

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(credit: Serene Singh)

Singh’s commitment to making a difference in the world, combined with her promise of great leadership and academic successes, are among the many reasons why she earned the Rhodes Scholarship. It is an opportunity that will send her across the pond to pursue double master’s degrees.

“The first one is criminology and criminal justice, the second one is evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation,” Singh explained.

With all her optimistic energy, Singh aspires to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s a role, she says, will allow her to showcase her leadership skills and have long-term impact.

“I think judges are the instruments through which justice is served,” she said. “Judges have a lot of power to change a lot of the issues we’re seeing.”

But more than anything, Singh wants to be an inspiration to other young women to chase their dreams.

(credit: Serene Singh)

“You have to just believe in yourself,” she said.

The Rhodes Scholarship is one of the most competitive academic scholarships in the world. Winners are selected on academic excellence, great personal energy, ambition for impact, the ability to work with others, a commitment to making a strong difference for good in the world, concern for the welfare of others and awareness of inequities. Applicants must be endorsed by their university or college. This year, more than 2,500 students sought their university’s endorsement, and 880 students were endorsed by 281 colleges. Nearly half of this year’s 32 recipients are immigrants or first-generation Americans.

The scholarship pays all college fees, provides a stipend and transportation to and from England, for an award up to $70,000 per year for up to four years.

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Kelly Werthmann joined the CBS4 team as the morning reporter in 2012. After serving as weekend morning anchor, Kelly is now Covering Colorado First for CBS4 News at 10. Connect with Kelly on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @KellyCBS4.