After both founding organizations dedicated to helping children in distress, Michael Bernstein ’04 and Andrew Klaber ’04 each won Truman Scholarships last week in recognition of their philanthropic efforts.

Bernstein, of Connecticut, and Klaber, of Illinois, won two of this year’s 76 Truman Scholarships, which are awarded to students interested in careers in public service. Created by Congress in 1975 to honor former President Harry Truman, the scholarship provides recipients with $3,000 for senior year study and $27,000 for graduate study.

Associate Director of the Office of International Education and Fellowship Programs Linda De Laurentis described the scholarship as an admission into “a community of scholars,” with benefits including a leadership week, meetings with representatives from top graduate schools, government internships and lasting relationships with past and present scholars.

“The community is a great opportunity to allow me to network and speak to people who have been in this type of field — who work in the State Department or Congress,” Bernstein said.

De Laurentis said Bernstein and Klaber are impressive students with excellent organizational and communication skills.

“Both [Klaber] and [Bernstein] are outstanding in so many ways,” DeLaurentis said. “Both communicated very well their passion for public service. They both have a clear sense of who they are and where they want to go.”

Klaber, a double major in ethics, politics and economics and international studies, said in an e-mail that he plans to pursue business and law degrees in order to continue his philanthropic efforts. Last summer, Klaber founded Orphans Against AIDS, a nonprofit organization that awards academic scholarships to Thai children whose parents have died of AIDS. He also started the Little Economists Program, which advocates the value of an entrepreneurial education to underprivileged, inner-city youths. In addition, he is a member of the varsity lightweight crew team and the Phi Beta Kappa society.

Bernstein, a political science major, hopes to attend the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University with the goal of one day becoming U.S. Secretary of State. He said he wants to become a policy-maker to facilitate changes in international development and also plans to continue grassroots organizing. He is the co-founder and coordinator of the Student Campaign for Child Survival, a national student network devoted to promoting increased attention to global children’s health issues. He also sits on the steering committee of the U.S. Coalition for Child Survival. In addition, he has worked with homelessness issues in New Haven and Toronto.

For Bernstein, the application process was intense.

While Bernstein said the overreaching, broad questions of the written application were the most difficult part, he thought the interviews in which “anything under the sun is fair game” were “nerve-racking.”

Klaber credited De Laurentis, writing tutors, professors, family and two previous Truman winners — Chiraag Bains ’03 and Sara Sternberg ’02 — for aiding him. He said his supportive friends helped him remain sane during the “introspective” process in which he learned a lot about himself.

“No student wins a fellowship by his or her self,” Klaber said.