Louis Lainé ’16 was studying in McCabe Library last week when he received an email from Interim President Constance Hungerford. The subject heading: Congratulations.
“I didn’t even wait to read the rest of that email, I just started jumping up and down,” says Lainé, who immediately deduced that his dream for a Truman Scholarship had come true. “It was really thoughtful of her to be the one to let me know.”
A political science major and Philip Evans Scholar from Vauxhall, N.J., Lainé is one of just 58 students from around the U.S. to receive the honor this year. The Truman Foundation provides students with a $30,000 scholarship for graduate school, supporting its mission to develop the next generation of public service leaders.
Lainé serves on the executive board of Swarthmore's African-American Student Society (SASS) and leads Race to Action, a student group that fosters inclusiveness and dialogue among the various constituencies on campus. He also participates in the Writing Associates program, the College's Campus Climate Committee, and the Tri-College Chapter of the NAACP in Pennsylvania.
The Truman Scholarship first came on Lainé’s radar last October, when Fellowships and Prizes Advisor Melissa Mandos discussed a broad range of opportunities with a group of juniors.
“I visited her office to talk about the Truman, in particular,” he says. "Everything that the Truman Foundation stands for are things that matter to me: leadership, public service, and a commitment to making a positive difference in the world.”
Lainé engaged the rigorous, multi-stage selection process that whittled the 688 candidates down to 200 finalists. In the final stage, he was interviewed by a nine-member panel chaired by former Philadelphia mayor W. Wilson Goode.
“I was only nervous until I opened the door,” he says. “At that point, I realized that there were so many uncontrolled variables that I just had to be in the moment. The interview itself went well. I felt ready for everything they asked.”
Lainé discussed his plans to earn a law degree to help ease the transition of immigrants to the U.S. It’s a personal cause for Lainé, who came to the states 11 years ago from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
“I can’t stress enough how humbling it is for them to have believed in my story enough to give me a chance at this great opportunity to be of service to others,” he says. “I feel the responsibility that comes with that.”
The Truman Scholars will receive their awards in a special ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Mo., on May 24th. They will then have access to a range of professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.
With all of the congratulatory messages he’s received from past Truman Scholars and Swarthmore alums, Lainé says he feels like he’s entering “a new community.”
“I felt so lucky to be going to Swarthmore, where so many things opened up to me,” he says, “and I feel twice as lucky now.”