Former Kings Park High School student Yaseen Eldik has recently been named Stony Brook University’s first ever Truman Scholar. Eldik is one of 60 students in the United States to be awarded the Truman Scholarship, chosen out of 660 applicants and was one of 11 finalists in New York.
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation gives the award each year to college juniors who are committed to careers in public service and nonprofit.
Each year hundreds of college juniors compete for roughly 60 awards. The rigorous selection process requires that candidates have a strong record of public service as well as a policy proposal that addresses a particular issue in society.
After a summer of study and research at Harvard University in 2010, Eldik wrote an article entitled “Islamophobia: Is She a Terrorist?” which focused on attitudes toward Islam and media images of Muslim Americans. Eldik has been recognized by the University with the Humanities Institute Undergraduate Research Award and the Tepper Award for of Outstanding Undergraduate in Public Sociology. He has also worked with Jewish and Palestinian youth in Jerusalem to help them move beyond the long-simmering hostilities between the groups.
Immediately after graduation, scholars have the opportunity to participate in a ten week Summer Institute in Washington, D.C. Internships are arranged through the foundation with government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Afterwards, Scholars may elect to stay on in Washington, D.C. or for a full year in the Truman Fellows Program.
Eldik, who graduated from Kings Park High School in 2008, was called into the office of University president Samuel Stanley who not only presented him with the award but also surprised him with a room full of Eldik’s family and friends.
“It’s obviously great for Stony Brook that Yaseen is a Truman Scholar finalist and that’s fantastic, but actually something even better than being a finalist is being one of the winners,” said Stanley.
Eldik, who was in disbelief, went on to hug his mother and thank those present.
“I can’t believe I am a Truman Scholar winner. I didn’t think I got it,” said Eldik.
The scholarship will provide Eldik up to $30,000 for graduate study towards a public-service related degree, which Eldik plans to use to pursue a joint degree in law and public policy.
Ultimately, Eldik hopes to become an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, focusing on tolerance and promoting civil rights. Eldik says he would look past enacting laws that forbid discrimination but use education as a force for change.
“My ultimate goal is to be someone who not only practices law, but shapes it,” said Eldik.