A West Virginia University senior who has overcome a severe physical disability and now dreams of becoming the governor of the Mountain State could become WVU ’s 26 th Rhodes Scholar.

Kristen Antolini, a vocal performance and political science major from Morgantown , has been chosen to represent the Mountain State in the prestigious Rhodes Scholar competition.

Antolini was one of eight candidates (five from WVU ) vying for the state nomination. The 21-year-old will interview Saturday (Nov. 20) in New York City , and winners will be announced that night.

Of the 12 to 16 candidates in West Virginia’s six-state region, four scholars will be selected. If Antolini is among them, she will get a full-ride scholarship to Oxford University , where she will spend two years earning a master’s degree in musicology, or the study of the history of music.

At Oxford , I would be extremely interested in participating in the college’s various vocal ensembles,she said.I would also hope to continue my work in sacred music.

Ironically, Antolini is planning a career not in music, but rather in law and politics. The aspiring attorney plans to attend the WVU College of Law and has her eye on the governor’s mansion.

Walking unassisted to present the State of the State, I want my words and presence to inspire others not only to succeed, but also to serve,said Antolini, who has osteogenesis imperfecta, or OI, a rare disease that causes bones to break easily.

While at WVU , the honors student, through the Department of Political Science, has had an opportunity to see politics in action as an intern at the state capital. She said the experience strengthened her determination to serve in the legislative and executive branches of government.

Throughout college, Antolini has immersed herself in activities. She has been a member of the University Choir, Mortar Board senior honorary and Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity. She is also a music director at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church.

Along with these activities, she has been a staunch advocate for research into OI, a condition affecting 40,000-50,000 Americans. Diagnosed with the disease at 6 months old, Antolini has suffered 35 fractures in her life and has braces on her legs and a rod in her left thigh.

Unable to participate in athletics as a child, she focused her energies on music, participating in numerous choirs. She also turned her disability into something positive, speaking at national conferences and performing volunteer work.

I have endeavored to make a difference in the lives of others by serving the Osteogenesis Imperfecta Foundation and through music ministry,she said.My hope is to expand on these solid beginnings and seek new opportunities to impact the greater good.

As Antolini has prepared for the Rhodes Scholar competition, one of her greatest allies has been Robert DiClerico, a WVU political science professor and Rhodes-Truman Scholar adviser, along with her parents, Joe and Martha Antolini.

That she has managed to accomplish so much despite such a severe physical handicap speaks volumes to her indomitable spirita spirit that will serve her well as she strives one day to make a difference in the public arena,DiClerico said.

In preparation for the competition, he set up three practice interviews with WVU faculty and local leaders serving as panelists. He’s also encouraged her to read The New York Times to keep up with current events.

I’ve been talking to professors who have perspective on issues that affect the state and the United States ,Antolini said.But mostly, I’m just trying to have fun with it and represent West Virginia well.

The Rhodes Scholarships were established in 1903 by politician Cecil Rhodes.

Each year, 32 U.S. citizens are among more than 90Rhodes Scholars worldwide who take up degree courses at OxfordUniversity .

WVU has an impressive record of Rhodes Scholars with 25 students having been selected over the years, including WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr., who was awarded the scholarship in 1967. Carolyn Connor from Clay County was the last WVU student to receive the award in 1995.