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3 Native American Students Chosen as Truman Scholars

When the list of 58 Truman Scholars was released for 2015, it included three Native American students, each of whom will get up to $30,000 for school.

When the list of 58 Truman Scholars was released for 2015, it included three Native American students.

Those students are Villanova University junior Keith Martinez, Oglala Lakota Sioux; Stanford senior Alfred Delena, who grew up on the Pueblo of Zuni Reservation; and Vanderbilt University junior Ariel Helms, Cherokee.

Martinez, a Gates Millennium and Presidential Scholar, grew up on and off the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. He is the chair of the Youth Advisory Board for Lakota Children’s Enrichment, a nonprofit that empowers youth of Pine Ridge.

Lakota Children's Enrichment

Keith Martinez, Oglala Lakota Sioux, is one of 58 students named as a Truman Scholar.

“I am officially a 2015 Truman Scholar representing Villanova, my family, and the Native American youth out there who have a dream. Everyday I remind myself why I do what I do. That is, to make the future brighter for the youth that I know can reach their potential,” Martinez said in a release. “I want to take this time to say that I am extremely grateful for this opportunity, it has been quite the journey to get to where I am today—but my journey is not over, I look forward to the next chapter. I am glad to be in such amazing company at the Truman Foundation.”

Delena is majoring in human biology and minoring in education at Stanford. He is also writing an honors thesis that takes a “qualitative, narrative approach to understanding undergraduate happiness and success,” according to a Stanford press release.

Alfred Delena

Stanford senior Alfred Delena has been named a 2015 Truman Scholar.

He dedicated his award to his parents, Vanessa and Larry Delena. “Despite the constant struggle of growing up in poverty, I learned to appreciate how small things can make a big difference,” he said in the release. “I am humbled by and grateful to my parents, who continually support and value the importance of my education, despite not having had such opportunities themselves. I am here because my parents never gave up on me. Through their love and sacrifice, I have gone to places I never dreamed possible.”

Helms, a molecular and cellular biology major at Vanderbilt, is preparing for a career researching and treating diabetes within her Cherokee community. She wants to establish a research lab that will inspire Cherokee youth to consider STEM—science, technology, engineering, mathematics—careers.


Ariel Helms was named a 2015 Truman Scholar.

Truman Scholars, who are mostly college juniors, are each awarded up to $30,000 toward graduate study. They were selected from among 688 candidates nominated by 297 colleges and universities.