Natalie Walton, a rising senior at the University of Delaware, said it was an “indescribable feeling” when she was named a 2019 Truman Scholar.
“It was all the sudden feeling like it all fell into place,” she said. “I was doing all these things because I wanted to, and then having it lead up to the Truman was really exciting.”
Walton, a sociology and criminal justice double major, is among 62 recipients of the scholarship nationwide this year.
Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate study, as well as priority admission and supplemental financial aid to select graduate schools, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling and internship opportunities within the federal government.
After the scholarship was announced in April, Walton said, she had the opportunity to meet the other scholars. The conversations often immediately turned from small talk toward their work, she said.
“My brain was constantly working,” she said, laughing. “I learned so much from everyone who was around me.”
Walton grew up in Newark and matriculated through the Christina School District.
“I had a wonderful time in the public school system,” she said.
Walton, who has had an interest in creative writing since her childhood, recalled a Downes Elementary School teacher pulling her aside to talk with a visiting author.
“I had this really cool opportunity when I was 9 or 10 years old and barely had any formal writing experience, and still talked to a published writer,” she said. “The experience like that, people constantly supporting and giving me opportunities. Having such a good foundational experience has been really helpful.”
In college, she has volunteered with Planned Parenthood and with the university’s hotline for survivors of sexual offenses.
She also founded the It’s On Us chapter at the university, a nationwide organization that targets sexual misconduct.
“It was really exciting,” she said of forming the chapter. “It was a new process for me. I’d never really been in a situation before where I had to bring something to campus.”
Walton said that she has always felt passionately about studying sex crimes within criminal justice. Bringing in It’s On Us was her way of doing more “mobilization, more on the ground effort,” she said.
As she completes her senior year and heads to graduate school, Walton said she has an interest in research, publishing and eventually teaching, and she hopes she can use her background in academia to find real-world application.
“I want to find ways I can help people on the ground,” she said.
She noted that as an intern for the Office of the Child Advocate, she became interested in public health through the lens of sex and sex education.
Her studies have informed her creative writing. While interning at the Office of the Child Advocate, she began drafting a novel, which is set in a high school and deals with the concept of revenge porn.
“The whole basis came from what I’ve been studying,” she said. “It’s been challenging trying to keep up with the times and the way that technology has grown, and all types of different crimes and impacts. We’re not being educated on them.”
She noted that she has always liked writing and wanted to turn her novel into a resource for teens.
“How do you take all this information about the law and different statutes and the construct of child porn and court and turn that into something kids are going to talk about and be interested in?” she said.
Even with all this, heading into her senior year is a little nerve-wracking, she said.
“There’s going to be an end point for my undergraduate career,” she said, noting that having the scholarship and a full year left is a weird dynamic. “It almost feels like a finale. But I still have time as an undergrad, and knowing that I have this organization backing me, and money going into graduate school so that when I do apply and take steps forward, I have it for me, that takes away some of the stress and strain. Just a little.”