Although many feel Yale students and the community may still have a strained relationship, the Harry Truman Scholarship Foundation has indicated otherwise by awarding Yale students four of its 80 scholarships for public and community service.

Melissa Felder ’02, Jennifer Nou ’02, Alan Schoenfeld ’02 and Sara Sternberg ’02 each won $30,000 scholarships for graduate school and will receive opportunities for internships in Washington, D.C. Colleges and universities can make four nominations for the Truman, a prestigious scholarship for juniors, and Yale was the only institution to have the foundation recognize all of its nominees this year.

Yale students have a history of winning Trumans, and Yale has the distinction of being the only institution to have four Truman scholars in two separate years. Harvard University did it once.

Louis Blair, who is the executive secretary of the Truman Foundation and a former White House staff member, said the University performed well this year because of the dedication of its International Education and Fellowship Program employees, especially IEFP director Catherine Hutchison and associate IEFP director Linda DeLaurentis, and because of the school’s emphasis on community service.

“Yale has the spirit and even an expectation for community service that pervades so much of the campus,” Blair said.

All of four of the winners have taken leadership roles in public service to the Yale community and plan to pursue such humanitarian interests later in life.

Felder has devoted herself to fighting for the rights of the disabled. Born hard of hearing, Felder serves on Yale’s advisory committee on disabilities and is currently working to become fluent in American Sign Language.

“Seeing the difficulties disabled people have has made me more devoted to the cause,” said Felder, who plans to attend law school and become a lawyer for the disabled.

As Outreach coordinator of Yale’s Women Center, Nou has worked to combat domestic violence and has been especially active in the New Haven community.

“I want to eventually do some domestic policy work [on domestic violence and welfare reform] for the government, and hopefully I could see that extend into the court system,” Nou said.

Schoenfeld has made education a top priority and has resurrected Project SAT/Future Bound, a Yale service organization that aims to improve the SAT scores of New Haven high school students.

“It’s a really difficult program to sustain, and I’m really proud of the tutors and students who stay committed to the program,” said Schoenfeld, who plans to teach high school.

Sternberg evaluates child welfare cases, serving as a court-appointed monitor in New Haven. She has handled around 20 to 30 cases.

“Generally, there are a lot of cases where there might be domestic abuse or deciding within family who can better care for children,” said Sternberg, who wants to specialize in child welfare law and eventually take an active role in public policy.

A faculty selection committee nominates four students to represent Yale in the scholarship competition. After being nominated by Yale, students must fill out 10 to 15 essays and write a public policy paper, Nou said.

In selecting winners, the Truman Foundation, which is an independent federal agency, looks for commitment to public service, intellect and potential to be an agent for change. In total, 593 applicants applied for the scholarship this year from 301 colleges and universities, Blair said.

Blair personally interviewed most of the candidates and said the Yale students were well prepared.

“They were involved in these things not for ego satisfaction, but because they believed there were people who need help,” Blair said.