Junior Yadira Paz-Martinez named 2024 Truman Scholar

Junior Yadira Paz-Martinez was named a Truman Scholar on Friday.

Paz-Martinez was selected as part of a cohort of 60 college students from 54 institutions around the country. The Truman Scholarship, founded in honor of President Harry Truman, is a prestigious graduate scholarship for students aspiring to pursue careers as public service leaders. 

As part of the federally funded scholarship, Paz-Martinez will receive $30,000 toward a graduate degree. She was chosen from over 700 candidates for the honor. 

“I am delighted that Yadira Paz-Martinez has been named a 2024 Truman Scholar,” President Vincent Price said in a news release. “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.” 

53 Duke students have received Truman scholarships since they were first presented in 1977.

Paz-Martinez is a Benjamin N. Duke Scholar and a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow from Clinton, N.C. She is pursuing a public policy major with a minor in history and a human rights certificate and plans on pursuing a J.D. and Ph.D. after graduating.

She currently serves as the co-president for Duke Define America, an immigration advocacy group, and as vice president of equity and outreach for Duke Student Government. 

“It means so much — I think it’s an opportunity to explore the world beyond just myself and my own ability to grow intellectually,” Paz-Martinez said. “It’s also about being able to take these resources that were offered to me and the money, and being able to use it on behalf of my community.”

Having grown up in a rural part of North Carolina “working in the field,” Paz-Martinez hopes to use this opportunity to pursue her goals of representing and defending farmworkers as a litigation attorney.

While working at the North Carolina Justice Center, Paz-Martinez was surrounded by attorneys working on labor rights, wage theft and human trafficking issues for farmworkers in the Tar Heel state. She cited this experience, alongside the fact that her dad is a former farmworker and her mom a current one, as why this career path is her “calling.”

“You do this occupation and you’re surrounded by these people who are also defending farmworkers, and really finding a way to remove them from these exploitative industries,” Paz-Martinez said. “I would stay with these attorneys in these meetings and I was like — wow, this is really what I want to do.”

Paz-Martinez also had the opportunity to work on farmworker policy for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute last summer, but realized she wanted to be on the representation side as opposed to the policy side.

Paz-Martinez grew up “surrounded by fields all of [her] life” with some of her earlier memories being running around blueberry fields with her family. As she grew older, she began working in the field, an experience she called a “privilege.”

“I learned so much about life that no book, no class, no one was able to teach me besides me being able to experience it,” she said. 

Arriving at Duke, Paz-Martinez said she learned through her work as a Mellon Mays fellow and being part of the Service Opportunities in Leadership program how to take her experiences and community further.

“I’m working to build a house I may never live in, and I’m okay with that,” she said. “... Hopefully one day, essentially farmworkers live a different life.”

Jazper Lu profile
Jazper Lu | Managing Editor

Jazper Lu is a Trinity junior and managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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