Loni O'Grady to teach in Brazil on Fulbright

Loni O'Grady
Loni O'Grady

Loni O’Grady, a secondary Spanish education and English as a Second Language education major, has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship. She will travel to Brazil in 2013 to gain experience teaching English in a foreign country. O’Grady, of Omaha, is completing her student teaching at Omaha South High School. She teaches Advanced-Placement Spanish, ESL 1 and 2 and a dual-language computer course.

O’Grady spent almost three years studying abroad in Queretaro, Mexico, where she realized she wanted to become a Spanish teacher. She also completed a summer internship in Queretaro working for the Tec de Monterrey’s international programs office. O’Grady became fluent in Spanish during her time in Mexico.

During her time in Brazil, O’Grady hopes to start a family literacy project. By getting families reading together and ensuring that every child has Portuguese reading materials in their home, O’Grady sees this as crucial to ensuring the Brazilian education system stays strong.

“If I want to have future English students in Brazil, I need them to be educated in their native language first,” she said. “Brazil is a quickly growing democracy and I hope to make an impact on their educational system, however small (the impact) may be.”

Assistant professor of Spanish Lola Lorenzo said O’Grady has already had a tremendous impact on her and the two classes in which she has taught her. Her enthusiasm to learn Spanish carried over to her fellow students, Lorenzo said. O’Grady impressed her both through her attention in class and her excellent presentations and exams.

“I am sure she will be the perfect language and culture teacher,” Lorenzo said. “She is already an educator.”

During her free time, O’Grady participated in several organizations and clubs both on and off campus. At UNL, she joined Freshman Action Team, Diversity Enhancement Team, the Mexican American Student Association, and was a Melvin Jones Scholar. Off campus, she danced and instructed for Spanish folk dancing group Sangre Azteca, and volunteered as a translator for Clinic with a Heart and a teacher for the Lincoln Literacy Council.

Studying abroad is a crucial step in learning, O’Grady said. The more often a student has the opportunity to go abroad, the better. She advised students thinking about applying for scholarships to apply soon and for everything they can.

“It is better to apply and get turned down instead of always wondering if you would have gotten it,” she said.
O’Grady has presented on study abroad experiences and scholarships to high school students, particularly at Omaha South, with emphasizing the Gilman and Fulbright programs. She hopes to show students that it is possible to study abroad even at the high school level.

The Fulbright Program, established in 1946 and funded by the U.S. Department of State, is designed to foster understanding between the United States and other countries. The U.S. Student Fulbright program gives recent graduates, graduate students and young professionals the opportunity to conduct research, study or teach in one of the 155 countries that the program operates. The Fulbright program is the flagship international education program sponsored by the U.S. government. About 8,000 grants are awarded annually, and about 1,600 of those grants are awarded to U.S. students. O’Grady is the sixth Fulbright student announced at UNL this spring.

- Haley Whisennand, Honors Program