At just 20 years old, Simone Askew has already made history.
In August, she became the first African-American woman to hold the position of First Captain of the U.S. Military Academy's Corps of Cadets. Now, the Fairfax, Virginia native is upping her accomplishments after recently being named a Rhodes Scholar, The Washington Post reports.
Askew is among 32 U.S. students selected for the prestigious scholarship out of 866 candidates. She is one of 10 African-Americans chosen, the most ever in a single Rhodes class. Under the scholarship, recipients will have two or three expenses-paid years of study at Oxford University in England. In some instances, funding can be provided for four years.
"This year's selections — independently elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously — reflects the rich diversity of America," Elliot F. Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Trust, said in a news release.
In addition to 10 African-American students, this year's class includes a transgender man and four scholars from colleges who have never had a Rhodes Scholar before. These institutions include Hunter College, Temple University, the University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
"They plan to study a wide range of fields across the social sciences, biological and medical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and the humanities," adds Gerson.
In August, when Askew stepped into her role as First Captain of the U.S. Military Academy's Corps of Cadets, her leadership position broke both racial and gender barriers.
According to the Associated Press, women make up just 20 percent of cadets, who are mostly commissioned as second lieutenants in the Army after graduation. In 2014, the Academy created a diversity office to help widen its student demographics and recruit more women and African-Americans for department heads and leaders.
Pam Locke, who serves as Askew's mentor, was one of two African-American women to graduate from West Point's first class of women in 1980. She tells the AP that to date, the academy averages less than 20 African-American women graduating each year out of a class of 1,000 students.
"And yet, out of that 20 we got a first captain," she says of Askew's new appointment. "Isn't that amazing?"
For many, Askew's history-making position came as no surprise. According to The New York Times, the young leader served as her school's student body president in high school, was the captain of her volleyball team, started her school's Black Student Union and spent her high school summers volunteering at an orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
"That leadership is something I've seen throughout her life — wanting to be first, wanting to be the best, wanting to win, in sports, in academics, in every aspect of her life," her mother tells the AP. "And to serve others, as well."
Askew earned nominations for her West Point and Naval Academy applications from prominent figures such as Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and the superintendent of West Point. Her former volleyball coach, Christine Zanellato, tells The New York Times that all of the young leader's accomplishments are a testament to planning and hard work.
"To achieve what she's achieved, it takes thoughtful, long-term planning," Zanellato says. "It's not something that just happens. It's something she worked for."
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