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Alumna Earns Fulbright to Teach in Spain

by Web on March 28, 2017

Sara Del Castillo, a 2014 graduate of Millsaps College who has spent the last three years helping Honduran and Guatemalan immigrants in New Orleans master the English language, will spend the next year teaching in Spain as part of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

The program, funded by the State Department, provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs.

Del Castillo will work as an English teaching assistant in Galicia, Spain, beginning the middle of September until June 14, 2018.

“I know that I will be teaching English in a high school four days of the week, and for the remainder of the week, I will be partnering with a local organization such as SOS Racismo or Caritas Spain,” she said. “In collaborating with a local organization, my plan is to offer free English classes, career-building workshops, and cultural events for immigrants and Spanish citizens to build community together.”

Del Castillo graduated from Millsaps with a BA in religious studies/sociology-anthropology, earned membership to Phi Beta Kappa, and was named to the Millsaps Hall of Fame. She was a Ford Teaching Fellow, earned the Frances and L.B. Jones Award in Anthropology, was a member of Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honorary, and received the Darby Ray Souls Afire Award and the Rev. Ed King leaders of Values and Ethics (L.O.V.E.) Award. She completed an internship as part of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty. Del Castillo was also a recipient of the 2014 Rabbi Perry Nussbaum Civil Justice Award.

Dr. Robert W. Pearigen, president of Millsaps, praised Del Castillo’s selection as a Fulbright Scholar.

“Sara was such an outstanding student leader at Millsaps, and we’re proud of the manner in which she is using the skills learned here and applying them as she builds her career,” Pearigen said. “Her commitment to service and dedication to being a force for change will have a positive impact for years to come.”

After graduating from Millsaps, Del Castillo joined Teach For America and asked to be placed in the greater New Orleans area.

“Having attended high school on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, this was the area I was most culturally familiar with and the place where I knew there was a rapidly growing Latinx population,” she said. “I became a high school English and English Language Learner (also known as ESL) teacher and taught students from over 20 different countries. Currently, I am an alumna of Teach For America and am teaching an incredible group of native New Orleanians and recent Honduran and Guatemalan immigrants and refugees at Renew Accelerated High School.”

Dr. James Bowley, professor of religious studies, remembers Del Castillo, who usually was called “Sara Del,” as a model religious studies major because of her passions: passion for learning, passion for questioning, passion for living fully, and compassion for her fellow human beings in many places of the world.

“I remember well her intellectual curiosity and openness to learning and understanding other cultures and people,” he said. “I remember her wrestling with new and challenging ideas, and coming through with excellent and changed thoughts of her own.  It does not surprise me at all that she has won this award and will be bringing her keen intellect to work and serve others in this new opportunity.”

Dr. Brit Katz, vice president of Student Life and dean of students at Millsaps, called Del Castillo a consummate servant-leader.

“She committed herself to countless contemporary social justice issues: gay rights, children of undocumented persons rights, women’s rights, Hispanic citizens identity issues, and socio-economically disadvantaged persons’ issues,” he said. “Like a benevolent tornado, she whirled with devotion to purpose and to outcome, always others-centered. Her cool, genuine deportment constructed the eye of the storm. As a natural force for intercultural good, I’m certain she’ll leave a wide swath of construction.”

DeCastillo said she plans to return to New Orleans after her year in Spain, attend law school, and bridge together her “passion for immigration and education in the community I have had the joy of being a part of these past three transformative years of my life.”

Del Castillo follows in the footsteps of eight Millsaps graduates and one professor who have been recipients of a Fulbright award in recent years.

Daniel Kees, a 2016 graduate of Millsaps College, is currently studying in Mexico thanks to a Fulbright Fellowship. He is teaching at Plantel Aeronáutico, which is part of the country's public vocational training high school system known as CONALEP. Plantel Aeronáutico focuses on STEM subjects as well as aeronautics.

Victoria Gorham, a 2012 graduate who majored in political science and was the first student to minor in African studies at Millsaps College, will use a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad grant to conduct fieldwork for her dissertation in Tanzania for nine months, beginning in June.

Kenny Artigues, a 2013 graduate, had the opportunity to teach English in the Republic of Georgia. Sarah Hartzog, a 2011 graduate, studied business at the graduate level in Mexico and completed an internship with an international corporation. Joseph Muller, a 2011 graduate, taught English at the University of Silesia in Sosnowiec, Poland, and Emily Tuberville, also a 2011 graduate, taught English in Bangladesh.

Nadia Al-Hashimi, a 2010 graduate, used her Fulbright to study in Jordan, focusing on learning firsthand about the lives of women in various contexts from nomadic Bedouin to urban environments. Chelsi West, a 2008 graduate, spent a year living in Albania in the capital Tirana, taking classes at the University of New York, Tirana, in social science and Albanian, and expanding her honors thesis research on Albanian hip-hop music, cultural transfer theory, and identity formation.

Dr. Lynn Raley, associate professor of music at Millsaps College, received a Fulbright Scholar grant to teach music at National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu, Taiwan, during the 2012–2013 academic year.

The Fulbright Program, which is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government, aims to increase mutual understanding and strong ties between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The awards offer recent graduates, postgraduate candidates, and developing professionals and artists opportunities to conduct study and research abroad.

Fulbright alumni have become heads of state, judges, ambassadors, cabinet ministers, CEOs, and university presidents, as well as leading journalists, artists, scientists, and teachers. They include 54 Nobel Laureates, 82 Pulitzer Prize winners, 29 MacArthur Fellows, 16 Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients, and thousands of leaders across the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.