Meet Zoe Jones, the latest winner of the BTDC Civic Scholarship! Zoe, an 18-year-old recent Ridge High School graduate, was awarded the scholarship based on her commitment to democratic values, including diversity, equality, truth, justice, and community service. The award was presented at the Ridge High School awards ceremony on June 5 by Ana Duarte McCarthy, BTDC member and candidate for Bernards Township Committee.
In addition to receiving $1,000, Zoe will be given the chance to work as an intern this summer in the office of Somerset County Commissioner Deputy Director Sara Sooy.
For the scholarship, Zoe submitted her resume along with an essay discussing why she values democracy and civil discourse. “My family is very politically attuned,” she said. “I’ve used my mom’s New York Times account since I was in 7th grade.” Zoe frequently discusses news and global events with her mom, Rebecca, and dad, Christopher. A common topic in recent months has been war, particularly the Ukraine-Russia and Taiwan-China conflicts and how they impact the world from a trade and economic standpoint.
Along with international events, Zoe takes an interest in homegrown politics. She regularly reads the Bernardsville News, noting that “the opinion section of the newspaper grows more and more divided, and you see all the different perspectives that are represented in our town.” Rather than being part of the background, local politics now is “much more resource driven, much more intense, with people doing longer campaigns and more active campaigns,” she said. “Local politics has an even greater impact on your life than state-level or national-level politics.””
As a member of former congressman Tom Malinowski’s Youth Advisory Council, Zoe worked with her fellow students on the Ways and Means Committee to investigate issues and craft mock bills for presentation. “It was a large time commitment but also eye opening because we did tax policy, particularly capital gains tax policy,” she recalled. To ensure fairness for lower earners, the legislation Zoe and her teammates created raised the maximum capital gains tax rate and closed the carried-interest loophole.
Zoe’s work on the Ways and Means Committee cemented her desire to study economics and political science in college. She’ll head to the University of Rochester this fall, where she’ll not only take courses in those disciplines but continue her political activism by joining clubs and organizations focused on voting rights and community service. One goal is to learn more about how local politics differ by state, something she thinks is more important than ever.
Another passion Zoe will continue to pursue at college is music. A tuba-playing member of the Ridge Marching Band, Zoe performed with various competition bands, ensembles, and orchestras throughout the state during her school years. She also was a member of the Ridge Drama Club, which she found a fun diversion from the academic pressures of her classes.
Zoe aims to make the world better by encouraging everyone in her life to become and stay politically active. Ultimately, she hopes to work in the Federal Reserve or Treasury Department in roles that explore the intersection of government and economics. In the meantime, she would love to see her hometown and alma mater flourish. She’s particularly grateful to the entire social studies department at Ridge High School and called the teachers in that department her biggest mentors and supporters. “I care a lot about Ridge High School,” she stated. “I am very, very grateful that I went to school here.”
We imagine all who have come into contact with Zoe are similarly grateful.