Yesenia Ayala ’18 has been awarded The Harry S. Truman Scholarship, which is among the most prestigious and rigorous scholarships in the nation. This year, 62 students were chosen to receive $30,000 for their graduate education.
According to Ayala, receiving this scholarship is an honor, partially due to the rigor involved with the application process. The application has multiple stages. First, administration has to nominate a student. “Just being a nominee was an honor,” Ayala wrote in an email to The S&B.
After being nominated as one of four students from Grinnell, Ayala worked to complete a 14-question application and a policy proposal. Additionally, Ayala needed three letters of recommendation attesting to her academics, public service and leadership.
Throughout the application process, Ayala worked closely with Dr. Steven Gump, Assistant Dean and Director of Global Fellowships and Awards in the CLS.
“Dr. Gump provided individual and group advising to our Truman nominees, helping them to sharpen their essays, draft and develop their policy proposals,” Mark Peltz, Dean of the CLS, said.
The CLS played a large role in helping Ayala work to achieve this prestigious scholarship. Gump and other mentors guided and advised Ayala. They also worked on logistical components of the application process, such as “[organizing] the selection and nomination processes and committees, work[ing] closely with our faculty, and ultimately [submitting] nominations,” Peltz wrote in an email to The S&B.
Ayala is not the only Grinnell student to receive the Truman Scholarship. As of 2005, Grinnell has had five students named as recipients of this award and 17 others recognized as Truman Finalists.
After her time at Grinnell, Ayala plans to continue her education and work to obtain a Masters degree in public policy and public affairs. She is still unsure of where she wants to attend, but she knows this is the path she will follow.
Ayala wants to be involved in the education sector. She wants to be employed by an organization that “values progress and seeks positive impact in our nation.”
“I am passionate and determined to see change in our society, and I know that we will progress as a nation. I also believe that change begins at a local level,” Ayala wrote.
Ayala is confident that the Truman scholarship will help her to achieve her goals.
“[The Truman Scholarship] opened a door to something I did not even consider two years ago: post graduate education as well as a network of incredible Truman scholars and alumni across our nation,” Ayala wrote.
After receiving this scholarship, Ayala has a few more requirements she must complete. She will be attending the Truman Scholars Leadership, a leadership development program May 23-28 in Missouri. During this time, Ayala will have the opportunity to connect with alumni, create community service projects, attend a graduate school fair and work to create policy projects.
Ayala is not a stranger to community service. Throughout her time at Grinnell as a Posse Scholar, she was involved in the service learning work-study and was the SGA Services coordinator. She has also worked with Al Éxito, ASPIRA New York, Breakthrough New York, and is currently abroad in Chile continuing her public service work with Belen Educa. All of these experiences address education inequity.
And Ayala doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“When I began the process, Truman was a dream. Now, it’s a reality and symbolizes that a first generation student of color can break the barriers and reach their full potential even in predominantly white institutions,” Ayala wrote.
“Yesenia earned every bit of this honor. Her passion, commitment, work ethic, and drive is inspiring,” Peltz said. “The entire Grinnell community should celebrate with her.”