Aaron Tang ’05 said he has always been concerned with education, but somehow helping politicians didn’t seem like enough — so he created a non-profit organization for educational reform. Last week, Tang was rewarded for his volunteerism with a Truman Scholarship.
The Truman Scholarship Foundation, which is directed by Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, was founded in honor of former president Harry S. Truman in 1975 as an award to recognize and encourage public service. The award, which is given to 75-80 students each year, includes a $26,000 prize — $2,000 for tuition during senior year and $24,000 for graduate study. This year, the foundation named 77 winners.
“It is quite an honor,” Tang said.
College seminar professor Georgia Levenson Keohane said Tang, who is enrolled in one of her seminars, has “the ideal profile for a Truman scholar.”
“He’s very genuine, and he really translates his passion into action,” Keohane said.
Interested in education reform, Tang decided to take action and founded a non-profit organization called Our Education. Calhoun College friends Tang, Adam Brenner ’05, Paul Levin ’05, and Ethan Hutt ’05 came up with the idea for Our Education during their freshman year. After submitting a business plan to the Yale Entrepreneurial Society’s Y50K competition, they won enough funding to publish the first issue of Our Education magazine.
“The idea is that if we’re every going to have the quality of education we need in this country, students are going to have to play a critical role,” Tang said.
Our Education released its first issue in February 2003. Since then, the magazine has continued to grow — Tang said the group sold more than 6,000 issues to 9 college campuses this winter. The magazine’s fourth issue will be released later this April.
“Aaron’s been the driving force all the way through,” said Levin, who serves as editor-in-chief of the magazine. “He provides a lot of energy and enthusiasm to continue working on the project.”
Outside of Yale, Tang has spent the past few summers teaching in inner city schools in Cleveland, Ohio. The program, which is called “Aspire,” provides tuition-free summer programs for middle school students.
“To watch them just learn as fast or more quickly than I learned at that age is great,” Tang said.
Hutt, who is a senior editor for the magazine, said he was glad to hear about Tang’s success.
“Working with Aaron has been awesome because he’s just tireless,” Hutt said, “It’s been a lot of fun to work with someone who’s that passionate about a subject and that hopeful of making a difference.”
Tang will get a chance to meet the other Truman Scholars during a week-long leadership program in May at William Jewell College in Liberty, Miss. Tang said he is looking forward to the opportunity to meet with “similarly minded students” who are dedicated to public service.
Though Tang said he is glad to be a Truman scholar, he also said that everyone who has helped him deserves recognition.
“All my friends and family put in a lot of hard work, and this is as much for them and for Our Education [as it is for me],” he said.
Though Tang said he does not know exactly what his plans will be for graduate school, he and Hutt hope to continue working with Our Education for a few years after graduation. In the future, Tang said he wants to do something involving both law and education.