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Duke Junior Wins Truman Scholarship

Yadira Paz-Martinez is a campus leader in immigration scholarship

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Duke junior Yadira Paz-Martinez is among the 60 students that were selected as 2024 Truman Scholars from more than 700 candidates nominated by 285 colleges and universities.

Paz-Martinez, a B.N. Duke Scholar from Clinton, N.C., is pursuing a major in public policy with a minor in history and a certificate in human rights. Paz-Martinez serves as the co-president for Define America, an undergraduate immigration advocacy group at Duke. She is the vice president of equity and outreach for Duke Student Government, where she is working to provide Duke students with equitable resources.

As a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, Yadira’s qualitative research uncovered deficiencies in H-2A visas and immigration policies, limiting farmworker socialization and integration in the US.

“I am delighted that Yadira Paz-Martinez has been named a 2024 Truman Scholar,” said Duke University President Vincent E. Price. “Through her academic achievements and her leadership on campus, in North Carolina, and beyond, Yadira has demonstrated an impressive commitment to strengthening communities and advocating for others. I am confident she will be an agent of positive change throughout her studies and career.” 

It was through Paz-Martinez’s lived experiences that she became aware of the need to make regulatory changes to the process of farm inspections and agricultural labor. In addition, her past experiences working for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the North Carolina Justice Center exposed her to avenues and resources to implement policy changes for the labor experiences of (im)migrant farmworkers. She plans to pursue a career in advocating for farmworkers and low-wage workers by serving as a litigation attorney to develop policies to support regulation compliance and a Ph.D. to expand the teachings and experiences of farmworkers. Paz-Martinez hopes to attend law school with a special focus on labor advocacy for farmworker communities.

“Words cannot explain how grateful I am for this opportunity. From working in the blackberry fields of North Carolina to having the privilege of applying to such a prestigious scholarship, I am beyond thankful for this new milestone in my life,” Paz-Martinez said. “But this award is not for me, it is for the younger generation in my rural community so that younger farm worker children can imagine a different future for themselves and our community. Although Truman titles me as a scholar, in my eyes, it is my farmworker community that has received this scholarship, without their hard work and wisdom, I would not be the person I am today.

“I aspire one day to change the future of my community, to create a world where injustices are eliminated so that one day, more farmworkers receive the title, Truman Scholar.”

She also honored her parents, speaking in Spanish.

“Sobre todo, tengo el orgullo de agradecer a mis padres. Ellos me ensenaron el valor de mi educación y los rezones de seguir adelante. Anqué mis padres no me dieron lujos, me dieron lo más importante, amor y constante perseverancia para representar mi comunidad. Las palabras ‘échale ganas mi hija, tu si puedes’ fueron mis ánimos en un viaje lleno de obstáculos. – Anqué el mundo no lo vea, sus manos de mis padres dicen la historia de gente trabajadores y resiliente. En mis ojos, ellos también son Truman Scholars.”

Created by Congress in 1975, the Truman Scholarship is a memorial to President Harry S. Truman and supports college juniors who plan to pursue careers in public service. Truman Scholars receive funding for graduate studies, leadership training, and special internship and employment opportunities within the federal government. Duke students have received 53 Truman scholarships since the first awards were presented in 1977.

Duke students and alumni can receive support for opportunities like the Truman Scholarship from the Nationally Competitive Scholarships team at the Office of University Scholars and Fellows.

For more information, visit the Truman Scholarship website.