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Truman Scholar to Continue Research, Advocacy with Immigrants

Joanna Foote  Joanna Foote (SFS'13), tutors a student while volunteering for Casa Chirilagua in Alexandria, Va.

March 30, 2012 – A junior who has devoted much of her undergraduate career to helping immigrants has won a Truman Scholarship.

Joanna Foote (SFS’13) became Georgetown’s 26th Truman scholar on March 30, when she was named one of 54 students nationwide receiving this year’s prestigious scholarship.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation provides up to $30,000 in funding to students pursuing graduate degrees in public service fields.

Loving Our Neighbors

Foote, an international culture and politics major from Denver, began volunteering with Casa Chirilagua, in her freshman year. The organization supports an immigrant community in Alexandria, Va., where she tutors children.

“I think the model of the organization I work with was loving our neighbors as ourselves,” Foote says. “and this idea of ‘these are my neighbors’ and then wanting to learn more of the deeper implications.”

Transforming Herself, Others

The work with immigrants was so important to her that she took a leave of absence in the Fall 2011 semester to help out at a women’s shelter and a soup kitchen in Nogales, Mexico.

“Joanna has been able to find goodness in the midst of extreme suffering and that has changed her life,” says John Glavin, professor of English and fellowship secretary, in his recommendation letter to the foundation. “And that has changed her life, transforming her into someone who will go on transforming, on the grandest scale, the lives of others.”

Foote helped provide basic services in the Mexican border town, such as preparing food and listening to immigrants’ stories of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

“For [undocumented immigrants], the border is such an important reality,” she says. “It’s something that they’ve crossed through and something they fear being deported back to.”

A Lot of Chaos

The junior says her strong Christian faith helped her get through some difficult times in Mexico.

“Whenever I describe Nogales, it’s waking up to a lot of desperation, a lot of chaos every single morning because I was serving deported immigrants,” she says, adding that she learned about the depth of both hope and suffering.

Incredible Gifts

Foote also served as a research assistant for the Georgetown Institute for the Study of International Migration and a participant with the Kalmanovitz Initiative’s Migrant Day Laborer Exchange Program. She’s also participated in the DC Schools Project and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.

She hopes to use the Truman Scholarship to earn a master’s degree in public policy and continue to conduct research and promote advocacy for immigrants.

“I always try to look at immigration as there’s a lot that people can offer to this country,” Foote says. “I always try to focus on the incredible gifts that immigrants can bring in.”

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