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Mitchell Scholar to trade Brooklyn for Belfast

Ryan Merola, a 24-year-old Brooklyn College graduate, will begin a year's study at Queen's University in Belfast at the end of next September.

"I'll be studying the Troubles," he said.

He is particularly interested in exploring how the policies of successive British governments affected those who did not join paramilitary groups.

"I wanted to apply what I'm doing to my academic work," said Merola, who studied urban government while an undergraduate.

"I'm overjoyed by the honor," he added about the scholarship that is named for George Mitchell, the former U.S. senator who helped broker the Good Friday agreement. "I've never studied abroad before and I'm really awed by the opportunity to do so."

For the next nine months, however, his work with the NYPD will keep him occupied.

"I enjoy it tremendously. It's incredible," said the Marine Park, Brooklyn, resident. "Now, coming up to New Year's Eve, is a really busy time."

Merola is the only child of Augustus Merola, an Italian American, and Eleanor Owens-Merola. His mother's parents, John Owens and Christine McCarthy, both deceased, emigrated from County Cork in the 1950s.

Ryan Merola marched up Fifth Avenue on March 17 with the Xavierian High School pipe and drum corps several times during his youth. "We led the members of New York City Council," he recalled. "I had no idea who any of them were."

Nonetheless, while a student at Brooklyn College, he was to volunteer for a number of political clubs and to intern for prominent New York politicians, including Senator Charles Schumer and Council Member Gale Brewer.

Prior to joining the NYPD, Merola served as an aide to Schumer's successor in New York's 10th District, Rep. Edolphus Towns. He worked for the congressman on immigration and housing cases and acted as his representative in several neighborhoods.

Merola has been the recipient of a $30,000 Truman Scholarship and a New York City Urban Fellowship. He was also selected to Phi Beta Kappa.

College president Karen Gould said: "Ryan's exceptional efforts and rigorous coursework at Brooklyn College have put him on the pathway to a very promising future."

Looking beyond his scholarship year at Queen's University, Merola said: "My short- and medium-term goal is to study law and become a prosecutor."

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