BUFFALO, NY—Only 20 years old, Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez, a
junior geography major at the University at Buffalo, has completed
most of her bucket list: she has visited her grandmother in
Indonesia, won an oversized check and donated a large sum of money
to a charity.
And despite her age, Tjahjadi-Lopez can already add
entrepreneur, human rights activist, philanthropist and model to
her resume. These accomplishments are what led to her being chosen
from among more than 600 applicants from 293 colleges and
universities as a finalist for the prestigious and very competitive
Harry. S. Truman Scholarship.
Each year, 60 to 65 students receive the $30,000 national
scholarship, awarded to college juniors pursuing graduate education
in public service. Tjahjadi-Lopez travelled to New York City last
month for an interview with the Truman scholarship committee which
included U.S District Court judges, university presidents and past
Truman scholarship winners will be announced in April.
This is not the first time Tjahjadi-Lopez has competed for a
national award. In 2011, she was one of 12 winners for
Maurice’s Main Street Model Search, a modeling competition
for “real girls in all sizes” who desire to make a
difference and have interests in fashion.
Tjahjadi-Lopez’s love for clothing began at a young age:
she can recall fond memories of receiving her first Bedazzler in
middle school. She even runs a fashion and faith blog,
“Beyoutiful Hope,” in her spare time.
However, her love of fashion has always taken a backseat to her
passion for helping others. In addition to her blog, she helped
create “Bloggers Against Social Injustice,” a blog that
raises awareness of human rights issues. The blog now has 35
bloggers from 9 countries, including India, Malaysia, Spain,
Portugal and Croatia.
“I know that my purpose on this Earth is to serve others,
and I have always found different ways to do it,” says
Tjahjadi-Lopez. “I want to be a mother to the
After winning the modeling contest, she donated her $7,500 award
to St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, a place she calls her third
home. Tjahjadi-Lopez also received a $1,500 gift card from the
contest, which she used to found “Girl’s Day,” a
one-day program for inner city pre-teens, emphasizing the
importance of faith, inner and outer beauty and striving toward
“Girl’s Day” includes group activities
centering on the Bible and fitness. The girls also spend time
individually bonding with volunteers. The event has been held
twice, first with St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy, and this past
year with refugees from Our Lady of Hope.
“We want to motivate pre-teen girls because girls this age
often have rocky self-esteem,” says Tjahjadi- Lopez.
“And I know, because I was there.”
Tjahjadi-Lopez credits much of motivation to her “Acker
and McNair moms” in the Daniel Acker Scholars Program, an
individualized program for minority students that provides
financial and academic support at UB, and the Ronald E. McNair
Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, which aides minority
students pursing doctoral study.
“Since my freshman year, they’ve always supported
me. They are my psychologists, academic advisors, everything rolled
into one,” says Tjahjadi-Lopez.
“It has been such a pleasure working with Christine.
She is an amazing young woman with a lot of passion and
heart,” says Elizabeth Colucci, assistant director of the
Honors College who guided Tjahjadi-Lopez through her Truman
“It’s important for UB to support students as they
compete nationally and internationally for these prestigious
fellowships. When we support outstanding students, who are
passionate, high achieving and true leaders they can achieve
With the backing of several UB programs, Tjahjadi-Lopez is
putting together UB’s first human trafficking awareness walk,
“Freedom Walk Buffalo,” which will take place the week
following her Truman scholarship interview.
The next few weeks will be busy for Tjahjadi-Lopez. But if all
goes well, she can finally cross winning the Harry S. Truman
Scholarship off of her bucket list.