Lauren McAlee, a junior at UNC from Maryland, has won the distinguished Truman Scholarship, worth $30,000 for her senior year and graduate studies.
McAlee, a public policy and philosophy major, was among 75 scholars named in late March by the Harry Truman Scholarship Foundation. The recipients were chosen from among 602 candidates nominated by 299 colleges and universities nationwide. McAlee brings Carolina’s number of Truman Scholars to 28 since the first awards in 1977.
McAlee hopes one day to open a charter school in a low-income community, where she said studies show that children lag behind their higher-income peers in reading and math and are far less likely to attend college.
“My goal is to improve education in communities that need it most,” she said. She wants to encourage experiential and service learning and challenge students to think for themselves. “I believe well educated students should find their own fulfilling life paths, develop skills to pursue those paths and identify and act in accordance with their values,” she said.
With the Truman, she plans to seek a master’s degree in public policy and education.
McAlee, whose grade point average is 3.936 on a 4.0 scale, is a Robertson Scholar at Carolina, one of a group of students awarded full, four-year merit scholarships to study at UNC and Duke University.
The scholarship funds summer service projects – the first in the Southeast; the second, abroad. McAlee’s first two projects were in Mound Bayou, Miss., and in India, where she led conversational English classes.
In Mound Bayou, a small, predominantly African-American town, she established a summer enrichment program for underserved girls. Through six weeks of activities involving art, Delta culture and self-awareness, McAlee attempted to infuse fun activities with lasting messages.
This semester, she is back in Mound Bayou, creating an after-school enrichment program for underprivileged high school students. Her efforts are funded by a Burch Fellowship, awarded through UNC to undergraduates for self-created off-campus learning experiences.
McAlee is on the UNC Honors Program Student Executive Board. She has worked with a Campus Y tutoring program for elementary and middle school students in subsidized housing. McAlee also helped organize a mentoring and college preparation program for minority students.
She co-founded a workshop series within the Durham Scholars Program, a UNC tutoring and enrichment program for grade-school children in disadvantaged Durham neighborhoods. The interactive workshops covered topics including sign language, Latin dance, philosophy and improvisational comedy.
Congress created the Truman Scholarship Foundation in 1975 as the official federal memorial to the nation’s 33rd president. Scholars must be U.S. citizens, have top leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class and be committed to careers in public service, government, education or the nonprofit sector. They receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at top graduate universities, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and internship opportunities.