Scranton Student Represents Pennsylvania as National Truman Scholar
A triple major who maintains a 3.98 grade point average while participating in The University of Scranton’s rigorous Special Jesuit Liberal Arts Honors Program, is one of just 60 students from 54 colleges in the nation selected as a 2011 Truman Scholar. Junior Sarah Marie Neitz of Gettysburg is the only scholar selected to represent Pennsylvania among the elite group chosen from a highly competitive pool of 602 candidates nominated by 264 universities in the United States.
The University of Scranton is one of only three Jesuit universities to have a student named as a 2011 Truman Scholar.
Neitz is the eighth University of Scranton student to be named a Truman Scholar in the Jesuit school’s history and the fifth student to receive this honor since 2000.
“Sarah is blessed with many talents: great intelligence, deep compassion, excellent communication skills and an abiding belief that she can contribute to society,” said Mary Engel, Ph.D., director of health professional school placement and fellowship programs at The University of Scranton. “Her determination to improve the lot of those who are voiceless, her gracious and constant care for others, her continuing fieldwork in San Salvador and her superb academic record make her well deserving of this honor.”
According to Dr. Engel, the Truman scholarship seeks out individuals committed to public service who possess the leadership skills to foster significant change.
A dean’s list student and recipient of a full-tuition Presidential Scholarship at Scranton, Neitz is pursuing a triple major of international studies, Hispanic studies and philosophy, with a concentration in Latin American studies. She is a member of the National Jesuit Honor Society (Alpha Sigma Nu). As the University’s Scully Scholar for Internships in Public Policy, she served as an intern for U.S. Rep. Todd Platts of the 19
th congressional district in Pennsylvania. She worked in both his Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.,offices during the summer of 2010.
At the University, Neitz is a founding member and current vice president of Men and Women for Octaves, a student-run a cappella club now in its second year. She serves as treasurer of United Students for Fair Trade and is a member of Leaders for a Brighter Scranton, the Student Environmental Awareness Club, the Justice Action Network, University Singers and University Ministries. She also participated as an actor and house manager for several University Players theatre productions and is a peer tutor at Scranton’s Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence.
Neitz has studied abroad at Universidad del Valle de Atemajac in Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico, in January 2010. She is presently studying at the Universidad Centroamericana in San Salvador, El Salvador, as part of Santa Clara University’s Casa de la Solidaridad program that provides a living-learning environment by combining academic coursework with the experience of staying and actively serving within a community outside San Salvador.
“My study in El Salvador includes accompanying a Salvadoran community throughout the semester: meeting families, learning about their situations, participating in their work,” said Neitz, who is also running an after-school program in the community that includes English classes, as well as time to “dance, sing and play.” According to Neitz, the Salvadorans she works with are convinced that “creativity can help their community” and that difficult times require “laughter, song and a kind touch, as well as policy change and monetary assistance.”
Neitz’s experience abroad and her volunteer service in Scranton at Lackawanna Pro Bono, a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to low income Lackawanna County residents, have inspired her plans for the future.
“I plan to work as a lawyer in a farm workers’ division of legal aid,” said Neitz, who plans to pursue a law degree with a concentration in public interest and immigration law. Eventually she hopes to join a public-interest nonprofit organization in order to provide “legal aid for farm workers while working toward law reform in their interest.”
“Protecting the human rights of farm workers will help our society develop more ethical modes of growing our food and will affirm the rights of laborers in the United States, regardless of immigration status,” said Neitz.
An active volunteer both on and off campus, Neitz has also volunteered at Parent Child Home Program, the Everhart Museum, the Lackawanna Historical Society and the Leahy Health and Family Center’s food bank. During the summer, she has volunteered at the Gettysburg Community Soup Kitchen and the St. Francis Xavier Parish Vacation Bible School.
Congress established the Truman Scholarship Foundation in 1975 as a memorial to the 33rd President of the United States. The foundation awards merit-based scholarships to college students who plan to attend graduate school in preparation for careers in government or elsewhere in public service.
A graduate of Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, Neitz resides in Gettysburg with her parents Noreen and Steve and her younger siblings Laura, a freshman at Le Moyne College, Syracuse, N.Y., and Jack, a sophomore at Delone Catholic High School.