Leslie Medema named Truman Award winner Leslie Medema of Sioux Falls has become the seventh University of South Dakota student to win the prestigious Truman Scholarship, a $30,000 public service scholarship, according to an announcement March 25 by the Harry S. Truman Foundation of Washington, DC.
Medema, a double major in history and political science, was among the 75 students across the nation to receive the honor. She is the daughter of Bruce and Mary Medema and a graduate of Washington High School in Sioux Falls.
"We are proud of Leslie and the contributions she makes on a daily basis to The University of South Dakota," said USD President James W. Abbott. "Winning this honor is just one example of the excellence and the continuing high quality performance of students on this campus."
Previous winners of the coveted public service award include: Michael Jansen, Sioux Falls (1986); Jamison Rounds, Pierre (1993); Mindy Glover, Yankton (1995); Jeff Navin, Sioux Falls (1996); Brendan Johnson, Vermillion (1997); and Dusty Johnson, Pierre (1998).
Two USD students were named finalists this year. Besides Medema, Bryan Anderson of Maple Grove, MN, also was named a finalist. He is the son of Ray and Kathy Arndt.
Medema was among the 230 students from 657 candidates selected as a finalist for the 1999 Truman Scholarships. Students were nominated from 332 colleges and universities. Generally, one scholar from each state and one or two at-large scholars from each region are selected.
Judges include senior officials from academe and public service and former Truman Scholars. Recipients were judged on the basis of leadership potential, academic performance and potential, community service records, and demonstrated commitment to public services.
In total, Medema will receive $30,000, including $3,000 during her senior year and $27,000 for two or three years of graduate study. Recipients also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions along with leadership training, as well as career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities with the federal government.
USD's newest Truman Scholar hopes to pursue a master's degree in public affairs at Princeton University next fall.
"That's my dream school and where I want to go," said Medema, who is very appreciative of the faculty and their commitment to excellence at USD.
"Faculty do an extraordinary job of preparing students. We have an outstanding track record with student success," said Medema. "The students at USD have enjoyed a lot of success in a very prestigious program, and in general, has helped to develop high quality students dedicated to making a difference. USD students have been successful due to outstanding advising and countless opportunities to advance themselves through education and extracurricular activities."
Upon graduation from high school, Medema worked as a counselor for six years at the Leaf Erickson Day Camp. The last two years at the camp, she also drove the bus for the camp. As a USD student, she has continued working as a bus driver for Cept Inc. of Canton, which provides driving services for the Vermillion School District.
Public service is part of Medema's makeup. She has taught Spanish to gifted third- and fourth-grade students at Jolley School in Vermillion.
"It is such a good program and we want to expand to German and French. It is a good example of what students can do in their own community," said Medema, a member of the Golden Key Honor Society as well as a member of the USD Honors Program.
"Young people are of paramount importance to communities in areas of public service," she added. "After all, they are the next generation who will have to work with and help solve the existing or newly-created problems in our fast-changing and diverse society.
"Being able to help and positively affect individuals and communities are the best aspects of public service. I know that public service is where I can best use my talents which is why it is important that I develop and use those skills," said Medema.