Two ACE Graduates Awarded 2020-2021 Fulbright Scholarships
Two graduating Teaching Fellows from the Alliance for Catholic Education have been awarded Fulbright grants. Alexis Larios and Meghan Santella will be English teaching assistants abroad during the 2020-2021 academic year.
As part of ACE, Larios taught middle school English and literature at St. George Catholic School in Fort Worth, Texas, and she will be teaching in Poland. Santella taught math and theology at St. James the Greater Catholic School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and she will be teaching in South Africa. Both will receive a master’s degree in education from the University of Notre Dame in July.
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program, offers recent graduates and graduate students the opportunity to research, study, and teach in over 140 countries. Grant recipients live with and learn from the people of the host country in order to facilitate increased mutual understanding and cultural exchange.
“We were in the beginning weeks of the stay-at-home orders and distance teaching when I found out, so the decision letter provided a much-needed moment of hope and joy,” said Larios, who will be teaching at the University of Gdańsk in Poland, a country she first visited for World Youth Day in 2016 and returned to as a volunteer English teacher in 2017. “Poland is a place that’s meant a lot to my personal, spiritual, and vocational growth. I learned that I am not the typical American that people expect to meet.”
Larios is from an Hispanic household. “I challenged people’s perceptions of what it means to be American,” she said. “Receiving this grant means that I can continue to represent the racial and social diversity that is true to this country, while hopefully learning about the same sort of nuances that exist in Poland today.”
As a result of the conditions connected to the coronavirus pandemic, Santella is awaiting her university placement in South Africa.
“Receiving this grant means that I get the privilege of becoming a part of a community so far away from the homes I have already in OKC and Rochester Hills (Michigan),” Santella said.
Santella said she became passionate about the inequity in education after taking her first sociology class at Notre Dame. “I went to South Africa after my sophomore year and worked at the South African Education and Environment Program (SAEP). I had an awesome boss when I was there who taught me so much about the school system and post-apartheid education,” she said. “I trust that there is work for me to do, people for me to learn from, and experiences to grow through wherever I get placed. In a way, I think of it as kind of an international version of ACE, and I couldn't be more excited.”
Both said that ACE helped to prepare them for the Fulbright experience.
“ACE has helped me get to where I am today by giving me the opportunity to live and teach in Oklahoma City,” Santella said. “The families of the students in my very first class welcomed me into their lives almost immediately. My housemates constantly gave me hope in humanity through their hard work, selflessness, and ability to be there for one another.”
“In many ways, I feel prepared for the challenges of Fulbright because I experienced similar challenges in ACE: sent to a place I’ve never been before, to a school I’ve never taught at before, and expected to find and create community among the people I meet,” Larios said. “Without my ACE support system, I wouldn’t have been able to do this on my own.”
Learn more about ACE Teaching Fellows at ace.nd.edu/teach.