Dual Honors for Rafael Montero '24
The anthropology major has been named both a Newman Fellow and a Truman Scholar.
To say Haverford College changed the course of Rafael Montero’s life would be an understatement.
First there was the College’s Jose Padin scholarship that facilitated his arrival here from a small high school in his native Puerto Rico. Next came the early shift from a pre-med major to anthropology, initiated after Montero took a medical anthropology course and decided his future lay in shaping public policy back home.
With the help and support of Haverford’s Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, that pursuit took him to the chambers of Puerto Rico’s Senate last summer, a key factor in being named both a Newman Fellow and Truman Scholar this spring.
It is the first time in 21 years that a Haverford student has received one of the prized Truman awards. Montero is one of 62 new Truman Scholars selected from 705 candidates nominated by 275 colleges and universities. The students are selected for their outstanding leadership potential, a commitment to a career in government or the nonprofit sector, and academic excellence.
A native of Mayaguez, the rising junior is also just one of 154 student civic leaders from 38 states, Washington, D.C., and Mexico, to join the 2023 Newman Civic Fellowship, a year-long program that recognizes and supports student problem solvers at Campus Compact member institutions.
“Coming to Haverford was key,”’ says Montero. “It’s small, like where I’m from, but it encourages you to take different classes. That led to a big shift in majors for me. Anthropology is about seeing structural issues that affect people, and [that] helped a lot, moving me toward public service.’’
Haverford President Wendy Raymond describes Montero as “an impactful campus and civic leader motivated by a deep commitment to social justice, [who is] passionate about educating people about the challenges of health-care access and political representation faced by Puerto Ricans.”
As a Truman Scholar, Montero will receive funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government. He joins a community of 3,504 Truman Scholars named since the awards were first created in 1977. Some prominent past recipients include United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch (1987), Senator Chris Coons (1983), Representative Dusty Johnson (1998), Representative Andy Kim (2003), former Arizona Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (1977), and Fair Fight founder Stacey Abrams (1994).
Since the switch in majors, Montero says he has used every opportunity and tool that Haverford has provided to explore strategies to affect social change, particularly back home. Working for Senator María de Lourdes Santiago during his internship last summer, he wrote a legislative policy measure focusing on the lack of affordable, accessible housing in Puerto Rico due to gentrification driven by foreign investors. It also urged the Senate of Puerto Rico to study how that gentrification impacts survivors of gender-based violence in Puerto Rico.
It was, he says, “an amazing experience.”
Montero, who is co-chair of Haverford’s Honor Council, plans to pursue a law degree after graduation and, ultimately, use the knowledge and contacts acquired through the Truman and Newman awards to improve conditions back home.
“My biggest professional aspiration is to work toward systemic change as a public service leader in Puerto Rico,” says Montero. “For me, achieving structural change is the highest level of public service because systems are the root of both the problems that people face and the solutions they have available to them.’’