Published April 5, 2013
Only 20 years old, Christine Tjahjadi-Lopez, a junior geography major at UB, 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 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 Scholars.
Truman scholarship winners will be announced this month.
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 always has 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 world.”
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 future ambitions.
“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.
Elizabeth Colucci, assistant director of the Honors College who guided Tjahjadi-Lopez through her Truman application process, call her “an amazing young woman with a lot of passion and heart.”
“It’s important for UB to support students as they compete nationally and internationally for these prestigious fellowships,” Colucci says. “When we support outstanding students, who are passionate, high-achieving and true leaders, they can achieve success.”
With the backing of several UB programs, Tjahjadi-Lopez also put together the university’s first human trafficking awareness walk, “Freedom Walk Buffalo.”
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.