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WTAMU's Espinoza named 2017 Truman Scholar

Reprinted with permission from the WTAMU News

West Texas A&M University student Jonathan Espinoza made history on Wednesday (April 12) when he officially became the first WTAMU student ever to receive a prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

With this accomplishment, which comes with a $30,000 scholarship for graduate school, Espinoza joins an elite group. Previous Truman Scholars include U. S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, University of California President Janet Napolitano, This Week host George Stephanopoulos, and numerous other notable individuals.Jonathan Espinoza

Espinoza, a junior broadcast journalism and advertising/public relations major from Friona, is one of 60 students from across the United States to be selected as a 2017 Truman Scholar out of a field of 768 candidates from 315 colleges and universities. He is one of two students named a 2017 Truman Scholar from the state of Texas.

Not only is Espinoza the University’s first Truman Scholar, he is the first student from a regional university in The Texas A&M University System to ever receive the honor. In the program’s more than 40-year history, there have been four recipients from Texas A&M University, only three of which were Texans.

“Jonathan’s success demonstrates that there are no limits to what can be accomplished with an education from a Texas A&M System institution like West Texas A&M University,” said Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp. “We are extremely proud of both him and the school.”

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The Foundation has a mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders. The Truman award has become one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States. Truman Scholars are selected on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability and likelihood of “making a difference.”

Espinoza definitely fits the criteria. He is co-editor of the student newspaper, The Prairie, and a member of the Attebury Honors Program. He serves as president of the WTAMU Veterans Network, vice president of Buff S.T.A.T. (Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow) and is active in Ad/PR Society, Rogers LEAD WT and Buff Allies/Spectrum. He’s also a Peer Advisor for Veterans Education.

“This is a history-making moment for WT—our first Truman Scholar ever—and I am so proud of Jonathan for this very impressive distinction,” Dr. Walter Wendler, WTAMU president, said. “His accomplishment is a testament to the students we have at WT and what they can accomplish. I’m sure his hometown of Friona joins us in congratulating Jonathan on this significant honor.”

There are other ways in which Espinoza is not a typical university student. He graduated from Friona High School in 2000 and a family history of military service prompted him to join the United States Army in 2004. He served four years of active duty as a medic and paratrooper and after 15 months in Iraq, Espinoza was honorably discharged in 2008. He immediately joined the Texas National Guard for another four years of active duty. He’s a proud veteran, but battled post-traumatic stress and wanted to help others fighting the same battles.

“The healing process began with a life philosophy I developed of ‘Do good. Be fair. Act with integrity. And always remember, every life matters,” Espinoza said. “I chose to begin living a life with an outlook focused on service and advocacy.”

He enrolled at WTAMU in 2015 as a non-traditional student and found his niche as a student worker in the Office of Veterans Affairs. He was welcomed with open arms in communication classes and found success as a Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Scholar, numerous honor societies and more. His McNair research on compassion provided the basis for Truman application’s required policy proposal. His research looked at compassion in relation to the LGBT community at WTAMU and put him in the position as a student advocate for change.

“My research called me to lead by motivating other students to question their compassion and to open their eyes to those around them who are different,” Espinoza said.

With the $30,000 scholarship provided by the Harry S. Truman Foundation, Espinoza hopes to study at the University of California, Berkeley. He is interested in the field of LGBT advocacy and plans to work toward a master’s degree in journalism as well as a law degree. After earning his degrees, Espinoza plans to return home to Texas, where he can work in social advocacy to help promote equality and end discrimination.

“I’m so excited about being named a Truman Scholar,” Espinoza said, “but it’s more important that the University gets recognized. I don’t want to be the only one—I want to open the door for other Truman Scholars at WT.”

Espinoza and his fellow 2017 Truman Scholars will be recognized May 28 at a special ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum. In addition to the scholarship, recipients also get the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.