Two Penn students win Truman scholarships

· March 31, 2010, 12:42 am   ·  Updated March 31, 2010, 12:00 am

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For 32 years, the Harry S. Truman Scholarship has been awarded to college juniors across the nation who have leadership potential and interest in public service.

This year, two of the prestigious awards went to Penn students — Wharton Entrepreneurship and Innovation major Sarah Brown and Wharton and Nursing student Gerardo Melendez-Torres.

Since the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships was launched in 2001, six Penn students, including this year’s recipients, have received Truman Scholarships. Winners receive $30,000 to attend a graduate or professional school of their choice to study public service.

An Alaska native, Brown is interested in eventually reforming education in the state’s rural areas. She hopes to reinstate a boarding program that will give children the opportunity to take more honors and Advanced Placement courses.

She will use the grant to obtain a dual J.D. and Master of Public Policy degree, with a focus on education. Brown is active with Penn’s College Republicans and interned with U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.

“I got excellent preparation for the work at Penn,” Brown said. “Other Alaskan students should get these opportunities no matter where they live.”

Brown’s Management 100 professor Anne Greenhalgh said she is “an excellent student, with a lot of integrity, who is very poised and confident.”

Melendez-Torres — the second recipient — is the first student from Penn’s School of Nursing to receive the scholarship. He is the chairman of the United Minorities Council, a member of both the Undergraduate Assembly and Sphinx Senior Society and a residential advisor.

He plans to stay at Penn to pursue a Master of Science and Nursing degree. Eventually, Melendez-Torres wants to make an impact on research policy and practice surrounding mental health issues in disadvantaged older adults.

“Much of the policy surrounding mental health tends to be really foreign, scary territory,” he said. “Since the topics are so controversial, few policies have been made.”

Melendez-Torres is grateful not only for the Truman Scholarship’s funding, but also the connections the foundation will create.

“The best part of the scholarship is that I get to meet and work with other people who are interested in policy,” he said.

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