Marcelo Ostria of Flower Mound, a junior at UNT, is one of 176 college and university students in the nation selected as finalists for 2009 Harry S. Truman Scholarships. He is the son of Adenie C. Ostria of Flower Mound and Marcelo Ostria Trigo of Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and a 2005 graduate of Flower Mound High School.
The Harry S. Truman Foundation was established by Congress as the official federal memorial to honor the 33rd president. The foundation awards scholarships to outstanding students who have demonstrated interest in federal, state or local government careers. Truman Scholarship recipients receive up to $3,000 for their senior year of undergraduate education and up to $27,000 for graduate studies.
Ostria, an international studies and political science major, is one of nine UNT students named finalists for Truman Scholarships since 1996. Three of those finalists won the scholarships. He is one of eight finalists from Texas in this year's competition. The other Texas finalists attend Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Texas at Dallas and Yale University. All of the Texas students had their final interviews for the scholarships March 18.
Students are nominated for the scholarships by their universities or colleges, after they apply during their junior or senior years. Ostria was nominated by a UNT committee that met with him regularly for practice interviews. Committee members include John Books, associate professor of political science; Lisa Dicke, associate professor of public administration; Alfred F. Hurley, chancellor/president emeritus; David Molina, associate professor of economics; and Peggy Tobolowsky, professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice. James Duban, director of the UNT Office for Nationally Competitive Scholarships, heads the committee.
Duban says the committee is very proud of Ostria's finalist status "and even prouder of the many academic and humanitarian accomplishments that positioned him to advance in that highly rigorous competition."
"Marcelo is an extraordinary student bringing added public recognition to the outstanding quality of our UNT undergraduates and academic programs," he says.
To be eligible for a Truman Scholarship, a student must have an extensive record of public and community service. Ostria was recognized for his work with the UNT UNICEF chapter, which he founded after seeing firsthand the positive impact of UNICEF work in Bolivia. Ostria lived in the South American nation as a child when his father was working for the Bolivian government as a foreign affairs advisor.
"I observed the poverty of that country while enjoying a secure life myself," he says. "As I entered college, I began investing my efforts in the betterment of persons suffering from global poverty, and in ways that would leave me positioned, in the future, to have a major policy impact on foreign affairs."
Under Ostria's direction, the UNICEF chapter at UNT participated in the U.S. Fund for UNICEF's nationwide Tap Project, raising money to enhance the availability of potable water in developing nations. The UNT chapter worked with UNT's Advertising Club to recruit local restaurant owners to be involved in the project. The restaurants requested dollar donations to the project in return for glasses of water that they usually served for free.
This month, the UNT UNICEF chapter is holding a university raffle, a benefit concert and other fundraisers to raise $20,000 as part of UNICEF's challenge to raise money for children being affected by the genocide in Darfur, Sudan. The challenge, set by UNICEF, the Association of College Unions International and the George Harrison Fund for UNICEF, calls on students at campuses across the nation to raise $150,000 by Feb. 28.
Ostria was previously recognized for his work with UNT's UNICEF chapter last June, when he received the President's Volunteer Service Award from the White House. Established in 2003, the award is given annually to individuals, groups and families who have demonstrated exemplary citizenship through volunteering. Ostria was selected for the award by the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. In October, he was also named to the UNICEF Campus Initiative National Council. In addition to leading UNICEF at UNT, Ostria has volunteered with North Texas Food Bank, Dallas Life Foundation Soup Kitchen and Scottish Rite Children's Hospital in Dallas. An Honors College student at UNT, he is an academic tutor with UNT's Volunteer Center.
Ostria spent the fall 2008 semester in Washington, D.C., after being selected for UNT's NTDC program. He interned in U.S. Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez' office. In March 2008, he traveled to Chinandega, Nicaragua, to help in the construction of a medical clinic with the Denton Rotary Club. Ostria received a scholarship from the Rotaract Club at UNT to go on the trip.
After receiving his bachelor's degree in May 2010, Ostria plans to earn a master's degree in foreign service and a degree in public interest law, preferably from Georgetown University. Once he completes his graduate studies, Ostria hopes to serve as a staff associate for the U.S. House of Representatives' Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights and Oversight, eventually working for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.
Nancy Kolsti with UNT News Service can be reached at NKolsti@unt.edu.