Costella a regional finalist for White House Fellow
NCAA Postgraduate Scholar. Fulbright Scholar. Rhodes Scholar finalist. University of Cambridge and University of Beijing student. Magna Cum Laude graduate. And potentially a White House Fellow.
Carson City’s Ryan Costella has done more in his 24 years than most people do in a lifetime. The 2000 Carson High graduate has been selected as 106 regional finalists to become a White House Fellow, the nation’s most prestigious program for leadership and public service.
Costella was a standout swimmer for Carson High and for Villanova before going on to do his postgraduate work at Cambridge in England.
The regional finalist will go through rigorous interviews this month and in April and then the field will be narrowed down to 30 finalists, who will go through another interview in June. Eleven to 19 White House Fellows will then be chosen to serve for a year under President Bush.
“It’s a huge honor,” Costella said. “it’s the higest level of fellowship you can get in the United States.”
Costella is the only regional finalist from Nevada, “which is also pretty neat,” he said. Most of the finalists are already young professionals, so at 24 Costella is one of the yougest finalists.
“I’m definitely one of the yougest if not the yougest,” he said. “It’s a huge honor to be associated with people of that caliber.”
Former White House Fellows include former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Pulitzer prize winner Doris Kearns Goodwin and Wesley Clark.
“It’s kind of intimidating,” Costella said. “I don’t know how my qualifications fit up against theirs.”
But after talking to people who have been involved with the White House Fellow program, Costella was convinced he should apply. “It basically fit me to the tee,” he said.
One former White House Fellow told him, “I’ve got a decent shot and I should just go for it,” Costella said.
Costella needed five letters of recommendation and among those he chose was former Carson Tigershark coach Jack Simon. Costella gradauted Magna Cum Laude from Villanova with a 3.81 grade point average in 2004.
He was also awarded an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship, the NCAA’s most prestigous award given to student-athletes who go on to graduate school. He was also in line to be a Fulbright Scholar, a State Department program for students who study overseas.
But Costella had decided to attend Cambridge before receiving the Fulbright. “I’d had to say I turned down a Fulbright because anybody would be crazy to do that,” he said.
Costella is on schedule to receive a masters of philosophy in Chinese Studies at Cambridge in June.
His final tests include an exam in Chinese economics, three Chinese language tests, an oral Chinese language test and a 12,000 word dissertation.
As part of the Cambridge program, Costella spent part of this past year in China, which included studying at the University of Beijing. Costella now speaks fluent Mandarin.
As part of his research, Costella spent time living in a village without running water in the poorest area of China, which was representative of how 70-80 percent of the people in China live.
He also conducted a survey of 1,000 people on their feelings about the Chinese Government. His results were different from his hypothesis. He thought that the poorest people would be more dissatisfied, but as it turned out those who were more well off were more dissatisfied, which made sense, Costella said, since they’ve been exposed more to what a more open society can provide. “It was successful and I got some really good information from that,” he said.
Costella has also served as a liasion for USA Swimming in it preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And what started out as a way just to practice Chinese turned into another situation where he served as a liasion in a business deal.
Through his contacts with people who owned a sports management company in China and TYR, a former sponsor of the Tigersharks, Costella served as a liasion in which a partnership was struck between the two. TYR debuted its products in a fashion show during the Chinese National Games in October. TYR is also looking at become the outfitter for the Chinese diving team and for other Chinese teams as well.
“TYR’s going to do very well in China,” Costella said. “It’s just a really good opportunity. It happened pretty quickly. I’m going to be very involved with that. My vocabulary increased very quickly.”
Costella completed the Beijing Marathon in October and still has a goal to complete an Ironman Triathlon, but still as a college student whose finances are tight, there’s still a major obstacle.
“I don’t have a bike nor can I afford a bike,” he said. “I definitely have not given up that plan.”
One of the charges of being a White House Fellow is to come back to your community and be involved in public service. Even if Costella doesn’t become a White House Fellow, he’s already doing that.
He’s in the process of forming Youth Voice, a Nevada-based non-partisan program designed to encourage youth to become more involved in public service. The program will have 12 Board of Directors, including Costella, all of whom are CHS gradautes from around the world. Costella described the leadership as a “very, very dynamic, strong board of directors.”