Williams College Junior Awarded Harry S. Truman Scholarship

Print Story | Email Story

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College junior Jose Christopher Avila has been awarded the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, a highly competitive award given to college juniors demonstrating exceptional leadership potential who are committed to careers in public service.

Avila grew up in Wilmington, Del., where he developed an interest in leadership and public service, which included raising money for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation for pediatric cancer research and Norman Oliver's annual holiday turkey drive to assist families and seniors. With support from the Truman Scholarship, he plans to pursue a dual J.D. and M.S. in forestry and environmental science at the University of Michigan in preparation for a career in environmental law. 

"Climate change is the defining social justice issue of my generation, and all levers of the American government must be deployed in the face of this challenge," said Avila, a 2017 recipient of the Jefferson Awards Foundation Award for Excellence in Public Service.

Last summer Avila interned with the Special Narcotics Prosecutor for the City of New York, where he learned about American criminal law in theory and practice. He also developed an interest in researching criminality as a new direction to expand environmental regulation. 

"There is an undeniable moral component to climate change that cannot be answered with a carbon tax or administrative penalty," Avila said. "Criminal law could fill the need for serious deterrence and retribution against those who cause such drastic and inequitable harm."

While pursuing his studies at the University of Michigan, he intends to participate in the school's Environmental Crimes Project and hopes to organize a pro bono effort to bring justice to the people of Flint, Mich., who have experienced a public health crisis as a result of the city’s contaminated drinking water. 

"I believe that the J.D./M.S. degree will bolster my technical skills for dealing with expert testimony in litigation," he said. "Like Williams, Michigan has a reputation for professors who love to teach and students who love to learn."

At Williams, Avila is a member of the Environmental Council, the Law Society, and the Society for Conservative Thought. He also serves on the board for Storytime, a weekly community storytelling event, and is a founding member of EphVotes, a student group that promotes voter registration. In addition, he competes and serves as captain for the college's varsity cross country and track and field team.

After Williams, Avila hopes to work for the Senate bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus and ultimately aspires to become a prosecutor in the Department of Justice's Environmental Crimes Section. 

"Currently, this group has neither the capacity nor the statutory authority to prosecute cases against climate-damaging entities and actors," Avila said. "I hope that my work in the Senate and perhaps after law school will enable them to do so."

Avila is one of 62 recipients chosen from an applicant pool of 773 from 316 colleges and universities. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. The Foundation has a mission to select and support the next generation of public service leaders. The Truman award has become one of the most prestigious national scholarships in the United States.


Tags: Williams College,   

0 Comments
iBerkshires.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue; please keep comments focused on the issues and not on personalities. Profanity, obscenity, racist language and harassment are not allowed. iBerkshires reserves the right to ban commenters or remove commenting on any article at any time. Concerns may be sent to info@iberkshires.com.

Mount Greylock Interim Superintendent: Health Plays 'Highest Role' in Reopening Plan

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff

Amie Hane, chair of the school district's special Parent Advisory Council, addresses the School Committee on Thursday evening.
 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Mount Greylock Regional School District officials Thursday sought to allay fears that the district's schools will reopen under any scenario where safety is not the first priority.
 
Interim Superintendent Robert Putnam walked the School Committee through the administration's planning process for the start of school in September during the body's Zoom-based meeting.
 
"First off, we want to make sure that medical and health play the highest role in our decisions," Putnam said. "We are committed to protecting anyone with comorbidities. We are committed to, basically, creating the conditions for and ensuring that there is social distancing that protects staff and students alike. We are committed to creating a norm of mask-wearing and hand-washing.
 
View Full Story

More Williamstown Stories