As a first-generation college student, receiving a prestigious Fulbright grant to teach English to high school students in Indonesia has meant so much to me. I’m the only one of Latino descent in my Fulbright cohort, which consisted of only 14 students from the University of Illinois. It demonstrates that with hard work and perseverance, it doesn’t matter where you come from, or if you attended a community college or a prestigious university, that it’s possible to receive this award.
At the Indonesian school where I’m currently teaching, I’m motivated by seeing students excited to come to school despite limited or damaged resources. I initiated a project to replace all the damaged whiteboards at the school with the help of community volunteers. The Fulbright has shown me that regardless where I am, I have the power to make positive changes to help others.
At CLC, one really valuable experience was a three-week, study abroad program in 2013, in which I explored England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland with other CLC students. Besides earning credit for two classes (art and literature), I cultivated a more critical view of Western society and how its history is often the dominant narrative, to the exclusion of other histories. That’s why I chose to live in Indonesia for the Fulbright program – to experience a different culture, hear alternative viewpoints and become a more well-rounded person.
At CLC, I had high-quality professors. I particularly enjoyed an Honors course on social problems, taught by John Tenuto. It exposed me to world issues and topics that I never knew existed, such as the public controversy behind certain whaling methods used in Nordic countries. The class was very discussion-based, and I appreciated Professor Tenuto’s unbiased view and the way he allowed students to formulate their own opinions.
Besides the courses, I really grew as a reporter and editor at the Chronicle student newspaper. The experience taught me to work hard and use my time wisely to meet deadlines. When I was an editor, it was exciting to be a part of a team that took home an Illinois college newspaper first-place award in general excellence.
I also joined the Sister2Sister student group and worked as a peer mentor for TRiO, a federally funded program that helps CLC students set academic goals and build study skills. In these two experiences, I worked with first-generation college students or those from limited-income households, and the experience taught me to build empathetic listening skills.
CLC prepared me well for transfer to the University of Illinois. I learned critical thinking skills and the importance of building professional relationships with professors. And the reading-intensive courses in the Honors program helped bring me up to speed for the workload at the U of I. CLC is a great option for people who want to build a strong foundation and save money while trying to decide career goals.
After graduating from the University of Illinois, I returned to CLC for the first half of 2017 to work as a student support specialist in the Educational Talent Search program. The federally funded college readiness program designed for high school students in Round Lake and in northeastern Lake County. I helped students build study skills, resumes and plan for college. It was fulfilling to facilitate the growth of reclusive young men, women and to see them blossom and develop self-confidence.
When I complete the Fulbright fellowship in Indonesia in May 2018, I plan to pursue a master’s degree in public policy. I also want to research educational disparities and achievement gaps, focusing on communities of color.