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College juniors Louis Lin (left) and Angel Ortiz-Siberon (right) were named 2019 Truman Scholars. (Photos from Louis Lin and Angel Ortiz-Siberon)

Two Penn juniors were named 2019 Truman Scholars on April 11, out of only 62 students awarded nationwide.

The scholars, College juniors Louis Lin and Angel Ortiz-Siberon, were chosen from 840 nominees from 346 institutions. The Truman Scholarship is a merit-based award of $30,000 that supports students who plan to pursue careers in government or public service. The students must aim to attend graduate or professional school with the intent to pursue a career in public service. 

When Lin found out he was named as a Truman Scholar April 5, he jumped and screamed in a Spanish market in New York. Lin, who was in New York as part of his work for Penn First, received the call from a staff member at the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships. 

"I was in shock," Lin said. "I did not expect this to happen." 

Lin, who is a first-generation, low-income student, studies Health and Societies and political science. Lin thought it was particularly fitting that he received the news on a trip to take FGLI students to a professional development program, as the bulk of his leadership efforts at Penn have been focused on FGLI student issues.

"Three buckets I put my time into are first-gen, low-income advocacy, theater, and Asian American studies," he said.

Lin was recently admitted to Penn's sub-matriculation program for a Master of Public Health and is interested in health and education policy for low-income, immigrant communities.

When Ortiz-Siberon heard that he was named for the award, he immediately thought of the help from his family, friends, teachers, and professors he received along the way.

"I could only really think of all the wonderful help and support I've gotten," Ortiz-Siberon said. "Even though my name is out there, it was really a collaborative effort." 

Ortiz-Siberon, who grew up with a single mother in a low-income household, said he is most inspired by his mother's story and is thankful for her sacrifice, which ultimately got him into Penn. Ortiz-Siberon is studying sociology in the College and hopes to pursue a sociology Ph.D. studying poverty and social mobility after graduation.

"Especially because my focus is in sociology and social policy, I think I see the value in having good support systems and how much that helps you," Ortiz-Siberon said.

A native of Puerto Rico, Ortiz-Siberon transferred to Penn his sophomore year from Bentley University in Massachusetts, where he studied business. There, he was inspired by his research on mass incarceration, and decided to transfer to Penn to study and promote social justice.

As a Vice Provost for University Life Mellon Mays fellow, Ortiz-Siberon also conducts research on the socioeconomic position of Puerto Ricans in the U.S. 

Outside of Penn, Lin serves as judge of election on his precinct’s election board in Philadelphia and is the committeeperson on the 27th Ward Democratic Executive Committee. He said his interest in politics was inspired by a Democratic campaign he worked on shortly before 2017. Lin is also the professional development chair for Penn First and is part of the admissions dean's advisory board. 

In his essay for the Truman Scholarship application, Lin wrote about designing a school bus system that serves meals during the summer to students in Pennsylvania public school districts. 

"I came in as somebody who wanted to go into pediatrics to help kids through medical means — that's what I wanted to do for the most of life," Lin said. "But HSOC and a lot of policy classes made me realize that larger systems are what need to change and working at the policy level to effect that change so that people are not getting sick in the first place or having the insurance to pay for [medical treatment] if they get sick." 

Lin said he hopes to pursue a J.D. in health law and a Master of Science in Education in education policy in the future, and plans to use the scholarship towards his law degree. 

Ortiz-Siberon said he is interested in increasing access to education and empowering low-income Puerto Rican communities. Aside from his work in La Casa Latina, Ortiz-Siberon has worked to help immigrant communities in Philadelphia. He participates in the Puerto Rican Institute of Music, where he plays percussion. After graduation, Ortiz-Siberon intends to pursue a Ph.D. in sociology and social policy.

In 2018, then-College juniors Anea Moore and Stephen Damianos were the two Truman Scholars from Penn.

The 2019 Truman Scholars will attend a leadership development program at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo. on May 21. They will receive their awards at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Mo., on May 26.

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