AUSTIN, Texas — Humanities junior Zoraima Pelaez will use her Truman Scholarship to pursue a law degree upon graduating from The University of Texas at Austin.
Congress created the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation in 1975 as the nation’s living memorial to the 33rd president of the United States. It has become one of the most prestigious national scholarships, awarding students with a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programs to prepare them for careers in public service leadership.
Pelaez was one of 54 college juniors nationwide selected by the foundation based on career and graduate study interests, community service, academic records and their potential as “change agents.” The 2016 scholarship recipients will be recognized May 29 in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.
“The Truman Scholars Program seeks ‘change agents,’ young people who are going to make significant contributions to improving the lives of others through public service,” said Larry Carver, director of the Liberal Arts Honors program. “It is looking for students who are gifted in the classroom but who also have a distinguished record of civic engagement, one presaging a promising future. Zoraima has that in spades.”
Carver has worked with Pelaez since she transferred to UT Austin from Austin Community College last spring, where she balanced her schoolwork with a full-time job as a hairstylist and makeup artist.
“As someone who never expected to attend college, winning the Truman scholarship has emboldened me to continue fighting for the rights of others, so that they too may be able to overcome barriers to success, however they choose to define it,” said Pelaez, who plans to pursue a law degree from one of her top-choice law schools, which include Yale University, Harvard University and The University of Texas.
“Other than having a very substantial financial weight lifted off my shoulders, I get to be a part of a very special community of scholars who are doing amazing things in their respected fields,” Pelaez said.
This year, 775 candidates were nominated by 305 colleges and universities — a record number of applications and institutions. International Relations and Global Studies junior Bailey Anderson joined Pelaez among the 197 finalists. UT Austin has had 19 Truman scholars since Carver began advising applicants in 1993, ranking second among all public institutions.