2 Southern California students are prestigious Rhodes Scholars

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Two very smart students from Southern California have a reason to celebrate this morning.

They have been chosen to study at the University of Oxford as Rhodes Scholars.

Carissa Chen, a Tustin native, is one of the 32 students chosen for the prestigious honor.  She tells KNX -- it was "surreal" to find out she was named a Rhodes Scholar.

"I grew up in Tustin. I struggled in my classes growing up. I was never the top student in middle school. I never imagined this would be possible or this would happen," she says.

The Harvard University senior tells us she was able to achieve the academic success thanks to her mother, who raised her mostly as a single mom, and thanks to her local community including Saddleback Church in Orange County.

She offers a message of hope for students who feel stuck while attending classes remotely during the pandemic.

"These things are not as far away as you think they are. Bill Clinton was also just a kid, like going around his neighborhood and struggling in his math classes in middle school. Don't write yourself out from your story and from the way you can make an impact," she says.

Another Southern California native and fellow Harvard classmate, Elijah DeVaughn, will join her in England as a Rhodes Scholar.

"I am born and raised in Compton, California. I'd like to say I'm the son of South-Central. It's amazing that I can bring this victory home to all the people and all the people in this community who have poured into me over the course of my life. It's really amazing. This is really for them," he says.

He grew up raised by his public school teacher mom who told him how important it was to read and learn.

He tells KNX he knew that was the way to rise above poverty and crime.

He's already worked in the offices of Senator Kamala Harris, now vice-president elect, though DeVaughn says he wants to be a lawyer to advocate for the under-represented. He's joined in the honor by Chen, a fellow student at Harvard, raised herself by a single mom.