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| Photo from Sarah Cornelius

Cornelius grew interested in education equality after experiencing firsthand the differences between different types of schools. 

College junior Sarah Cornelius was recently awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship to support her passion for education policy.

The Truman Scholarship, which provides up to $30,000, is a merit-based award that supports graduate studies of students who want to pursue careers in government or public service.

Previous recipients of the Truman Scholarship include New York City major Bill de Blasio and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice.

Cornelius is one of 62 college juniors from 54 institutions awarded the scholarship this year. The 23rd Truman Scholar from Penn since 1981, Cornelius is a political science major with minors in urban education and Spanish.

Cornelius said she is interested in using the scholarship to pursue education policy at the graduate level. She said she believes that education needs to be “made more equal.”

“A lot of the policies created are just temporary fixes to problems, and those fixes can often exacerbate the underlying issues,” she said. “I think we need to prioritize education a lot more than we do. Make sure our schools have the resources to educate every student, especially those who are underserved. We need to value and respect teachers a lot more than we currently do.”

Cornelius said she developed an interest in education after experiencing a range of schooling systems. She attended a public magnet school in Philadelphia before transferring to a private boarding school in Massachusetts, and then attending Reed College before transferring to Penn.

She said she noticed the differences between her high schools in terms of resources, support and opportunities to learn, which motivated her to work for education equality.

Cornelius was advised by Center of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships Program Coordinator Lauren Orr during the application process for the scholarship. Orr said she was impressed with Cornelius’ accomplishments and her dedication to education policy.

Last semester, Cornelius was co-president of Penn Education Society alongside College senior and fellow co-president Golda Kaplan. PES brings in guest speakers and hosts panel events centered around education policies in different kinds of schools in Philadelphia. Kaplan said the organization benefited from Cornelius’ extensive knowledge of education in her hometown of Philadelphia as well as her familiarity with the history of education policies.

Cornelius is currently studying abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and will be back in the United States to accept the award in late May.