Yesenia Ayala ’18 of Los Angeles has been awarded the Truman Scholarship, a $30,000 nationally competitive graduate study scholarship sponsored by the Harry S. Truman Foundation. She is one of 62 students selected nationally, based on academic success and leadership accomplishments as well as their likelihood of becoming public service leaders.

“Yesenia exhibits the very best of what we as professors hope to promote in our students — not only someone who is smart and capable, but also someone who is compassionate and caring and who applies what she learns in service of positive change in society,” says Patrick Inglis, assistant professor of sociology.

A sociology and Spanish double major with a Latin American Studies concentration, Ayala plans to pursue a master of public administration degree with concentrations in local government management and policy analysis. 

Her career goal is to influence education policy, ensuring underrepresented voices are heard and that public policy benefits all students. The Posse scholar hopes to work in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s data analysis department, advocating for underrepresented students.

“I will ensure that policies are made to best help students, teachers, staff, and communities work together to provide the most successful learning environments,” Ayala says. 

She has worked with Al Éxito (“to success”) in Iowa, an organization that helps prepare middle school Latinas/os for education beyond high school. Ayala has designed and led workshops to inform Iowa’s Latina/o youths and their parents about the U.S. education system, financial aid, essay writing, and the college applications process. 

In September 2015, the White House honored her as one of 11 Champions of Change selected from more than 1,000 nominees for empowering and inspiring members of their communities. 

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