Two Harvard undergraduates were awarded the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a public service award that recognizes the work of approximately one college junior from each of the fifty states who has demonstrated a strong commitment to leadership and public service.
Anthony C. Hernandez ’12 and Niharika S. Jain ’12 were among the 60 winners announced last week by the Truman Foundation out of an original 602 applicants. They will each receive $30,000 to be used towards tuition at a graduate school of their choosing.
The scholarship was awarded based on “leadership potential” and “likelihood of ‘making a difference’ in public service” after an intensive application process that included an in-house competition for Harvard’s four coveted nominations, three letters of recommendation, personal essays, and multiple rounds of interviews.
“I felt like I was taking a sixth class in the fall. It’s a big time commitment,” Jain said.
“It made me think a lot about my future goals and plans,” she added.
Both Jain and Hernandez have strong interests in education policy. Hernandez said education has always been a big part of his life.
“My mom was a teacher. My biggest role models growing up were teachers,” Hernandez said. “I really do believe in the power of education, and I always knew I wanted to go into public policy.”
Hernandez said a course he took at Harvard—Government 1368: The Politics of American Education—inspired him to pursue American education policy.
“My interests snowballed from there,” he said. “I worked at a Minneapolis charter school last summer and I will be student-teaching at a Cambridge public school in the fall.”
Jain said she has always known that she was going to go into public policy.
“My parents instilled in me a value for public service at a very young age,” she said. “I’m really interested in addressing inequalities in education in America. I’m also interested in social entrepreneurship. My plans for the future involve both of these ideas.”
Both students submitted policy proposals highlighting improvements that could be made in their areas of their interest.
“My policy proposal advocated for mayor control for the Minneapolis public school system,” Hernandez said.
Jain proposed that the Department of Education do more work on combatting the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
Upon completion of graduate school, both Truman Scholars will be required to work for at least three years in public service.
Jain reflected on the experience as both humbling and enjoyable.
“I met so many amazing people,” she said. “It was really a great experience and I’m lucky to have been a part of it.”
“I’m ecstatic about this award,” Hernandez added. “I’m just super-excited to have been chosen.”