July 14, 2023

JSI Scholar: Ben Justice

Tell us about your story

My name is Ben Justice and I’m from Western Kentucky. I was raised Pentecostal in a small town of 3,000. Neither of my parents graduated high school. Growing up, I didn’t always have electricity or running water but the people were always nice. I transferred to Kentucky School for the Deaf during high school and learned sign language. Because I was high achieving, my public school neglected to provide appropriate accommodation so I could have equal access in the classroom. Now I focus on education policy and advancement of the language rights of Deaf people. I am so happy to be blessed with opportunity to attend college. Now I am a politics major and education minor that values volunteering and working with communities.

What path did you take when you first started college?

When I first started college, I knew I already wanted to be engaged in some form of activism. I chose Centre College so I could be close to Kentucky School for the Deaf. At first I thought I was going to be a chemistry major but I changed my mind after taking a class on Fake News.

What made you consider a career in public policy/public service/international affairs?

I was deeply engaged with the 2016 election even though I was a minor. Many of the issues that came up directly impacted me. The coal mines in Kentucky were shutting down and my parents food stamps were cut. I also knew from the internet that many issues affected others directly. My freshman and sophomore year of college helped me discover ways to create meaningful change. I thought getting involved in public policy and public service was one significant way I could do that.

What are you most excited about the JSI program at UW?

I’m really excited about the classes and doing coursework with my peers. I already jotted down everyone’s majors so I could have an idea of what they might know that I don’t. I consider myself a lifelong learner, so this opportunity to engage in lessons on leadership and tools for change means a lot to me.