Resting in Central America probably isn’t the typical way a Rhodes Scholar celebrates his success as one of 32 in the nation to be given such an honor.
But for Scottsdale’s Brett Huneycutt, it seemed natural.
Huneycutt, 22, is spending 10 months in El Salvador on a Fulbright fellowship continuing his ongoing investigation into the effect of people living in the United States sending money to relatives in El Salvador. His college thesis on the subject is not yet published but has already caught the attention of Congress.
The Boston College graduate in economics took a break last week with a trip to Guatemala following a stop in the United States, where he interviewed for, and received, a prestigious Rhodes scholarship that is giving him a twoyear ticket to England’s Oxford University.
"It was a bit odd, having just won the Rhodes, to be so isolated," Huneycutt said Friday, after his return to El Salvador, a small but crowded nation where he lives in the capital of San Salvador.
His being named a Rhodes scholar is a first for his college as well as his Phoenix high school alma mater, Brophy College Preparatory. Huneycutt also attended Hopi Elementary and Ingleside Middle schools in the Scottsdale Unified School District.
Following Oxford, Huneycutt plans to return to the United States for a doctorate in economics, and to later either teach or work for a world development organization such as The World Bank Group, which offers loans and other assistance to developing nations.
In his work in El Salvador, Huneycutt has demonstrated the relationship between money being sent to that country from relatives in the United States and creation of small businesses in El Salvador using that money.
He said he hopes his work in El Salvador will influence the lawmakers who’ve read his college thesis to consider encouraging more competition among companies that transfer money, which now charge prices that take up to $200 million of the $2 billion he said goes to El Salvador annually.
"The Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert asked for it," Huneycutt said. "Hopefully my thesis can play some small part in changing U.S. migrant policy."
Huneycutt was first inspired to focus his life on economic development after he joined a trip to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, organized by his high school and scheduled the day after his graduation.
"We spent a couple weeks living in a shanty town there on the streets of Juarez," he said. "It was truly an eyeopening experience. It was my first contact with urban poverty."
From there, Huneycutt spent four years in college and working on a variety of projects as well as achieving several prestigious honors and awards.
Mother Beth Huneycutt, a former Scottsdale teacher who now tutors primary grade children, said she and Huneycutt’s two sisters and grandparents could not be more proud.
"He wants to be someone who makes the world a better place with his knowledge," Beth Huneycutt said. "In fact, he said to me the other day, now that he is a Rhodes winner he hopes to be a microphone for the people he is working with in El Salvador because they can say what their needs and problems are, and he can be the microphone to make sure that information gets out to the rest of the world."