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Joe Barrett of Port Washington receives Rhodes scholarship

Recently named Rhodes Scholar Joe Barrett, 23, poses

Recently named Rhodes Scholar Joe Barrett, 23, poses for a portrait near Union Square Park on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. Barrett, who grew up in Port Washington, will go to Oxford next year. Credit: Charles Eckert

A man who grew up in Port Washington is among 32 Rhodes scholars heading to Oxford University in England next year.

Joe Barrett, 23, was one of three recipients from New York receiving the scholarship to the prestigious university, said the Rhodes Trust, which hands out the scholarships worth an average of $50,000 a year.

Barrett said after Sunday's announcement he was fortunate to have been raised where he was, but also credited his experience volunteering abroad.

"Port Washington is a great town, with a wonderful public school system that I was the beneficiary of," he said. "But I've also benefited a lot from exposure to different places."

He graduated from the Paul D. Schreiber High School in 2009, where he played baseball and soccer for the school and travel teams.

Barrett graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University in June with a major in history and a minor in South Asian studies. He also played midfielder for Princeton's club soccer team.

At Oxford, he plans to pursue a two-year master's in philosophy degree, focusing on economic and social history.

After that, he wants to work on anti-poverty policy at the domestic or international level, he said in an interview Sunday.

"There are a lot of ways to do that, and that's the part I haven't figured out yet," he said.

He's considering running a nonprofit, working on policy in a governor's office, for the federal government or in academia.

Before starting college, he found out about a "bridge year" program, run by Princeton, in which students volunteer prior to their freshman year. He texted his mother, "I have to do this."

He volunteered in northern India. "It was the farthest from home, and the biggest adventure," he said.

"He has always been a sort of determined, hardworking, high-achieving, and broadly curious person," said his dad, John Barrett, a law professor at St. John's University.

His mother, Sarah Walzer, is chief executive of the early literacy nonprofit Parent-Child Home Program. His sister Katya, 20, is a sophomore at Brown University.

Joe Barrett spent the year in India living with a family, learning Hindi and teaching literacy.

"He came back a much more determined student, but also, I'd say, a gentler and more informed person," John Barrett said.

The Rhodes Scholarship announcement was made to the 11 finalists Saturday at the Knickerbocker Club in New York, after a dinner Friday night and interview on Saturday.

"They could've picked any one of us, it would've been a great choice," Barrett said of the other finalists.

Among the other Rhodes scholars is Gabriel M. Zucker of Brooklyn, who graduated summa cum laude from Yale in 2012 with majors in ethics, politics, economics and music.

Matthew J. Townsend of upstate Chappaqua also was named a Rhodes scholar. He is a senior at Yale University who has studied the roots of obesity-related diseases.

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