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Charlotte Students Shine In National Spotlight As Truman Scholarship Finalists

In a remarkable showcase of talent and dedication, two University of North Carolina at Charlotte students have vaulted into the national arena as finalists for the prestigious 2024 Truman Scholarship. Sonia Birla and Grace Cooper, both juniors hailing from Cary and esteemed members of the Honors College, are gearing up for the next phase of the competition with regional interviews set in Washington, D.C. Their selection places them among an elite group of 191 finalists chosen from a pool of 709 hopefuls across the country, marking UNC Charlotte as the sole representative from the UNC System to achieve this distinction this year. Winners of this coveted award will be unveiled in April.

Andrew Keener, the scholars advisor in the Honors College, couldn’t hide his enthusiasm, stating, “We are thrilled to have two Charlotte students selected as finalists for the Truman Scholarship.” He praised both students for maximizing the opportunities at Charlotte, from research and internships to study abroad and service learning, highlighting their strong leadership skills and deep-rooted commitment to public service careers.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, established in 1975, rewards U.S. juniors demonstrating exceptional academic prowess and leadership, offering up to $30,000 for graduate studies to those aspiring to make their mark in public service.

Sonia Birla shared her excitement and the validation this recognition brings to her chosen path of service and leadership. “Being selected as a Truman Scholarship finalist is an incredible honor, affirming that I am on the right track to being a leader and change agent in the public realm,” Birla expressed. She credits her success to the opportunities provided by UNC Charlotte, aiming to leverage the scholarship to amplify her impact in urban development.

Grace Cooper mirrored this sentiment, seeing her finalist status as a significant accolade. “I am truly grateful to be nominated by UNC Charlotte, as well as being selected as a finalist,” she said. Cooper eyes the Truman Scholarship as a means to further her education in law, aiming to bridge the legal and mental health fields.

Both students have articulated clear visions for their futures. Birla envisions herself at the forefront of creating sustainable urban spaces, while Cooper is determined to reform legal policies to better support mental health within the criminal justice system. Their aspirations underscore the transformative potential of the Truman Scholarship in empowering the next generation of public service leaders.

UNC Charlotte’s track record of fostering national scholarship and fellowship awardees, including Fulbright, Gilman, and Goldwater scholars in the 2022-23 academic year, speaks volumes of its commitment to academic excellence and leadership development. The Honors College continues to be a pivotal support system for undergraduates navigating the competitive landscape of nationally recognized scholarships.

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