This article was written by Amizade.

Amizade has partnered with the Fulbright Program since 2016 to offer in-person service-learning and ethical storytelling programs in the rural Appalachian region of the United States. Since we are currently unable to travel and serve in person, Amizade was delighted to partner with the Fulbright Program once again as part of their 2021 Fulbright Service Week.

Amizade hosted a series of virtual conversations about what service looks like in diverse communities across the United States. Fulbrighters from dozens of countries, universities, and academic disciplines joined these engaging sessions with local community leaders, and the conversations were inspiring. Leaders from three distinct U.S. communities shared local perspectives that are often difficult to encounter without traveling. In addition to these discussions, Amizade facilitators — Executive Director Brandon Blache-Cohen and Communications Coordinator Melissa Nix — led participants in guided reflections on what service means to them and how they might be able to take action in their own communities.

The Service Week events started on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with members of the Pine Ridge Agricultural Initiative on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Keller Allen, Leah Mutz, and Milton Bianas talked about their definitions of service and acknowledged the often complex history of service on the reservation. A highlight of the session came when one participant asked to hear a Lakota song. Many expected a recommendation from Spotify or Youtube, but Milton surprised the group and decided to sing instead. Perhaps due to a burst of inspiration provided by Milton’s song, many participants shared brilliant personal definitions of what service means to them.

Pine Ridge Agricultural Initiative members Keller Allen and Leah Mutz.
Pine Ridge Agricultural Initiative members Keller Allen and Leah Mutz.

On Wednesday participants were transported to Williamson, West Virginia, a rural coal-mining town in Appalachia that has suffered economically since the collapse of the coal industry but continues to inspire with its award-winning community revitalization efforts. Wednesday’s speaker, Darrin McCormick, is a longtime leader and champion of community-driven development, the former mayor of Williamson, and an excellent storyteller. He offered Williamson as an example of the significant progress that can come from many years of community dedication and planning. Darrin also walked participants through the creation of Sustainable Williamson and the Williamson Health and Wellness Center, two community-led organizations dedicated to improving the quality of life for the region’s residents by building a culture of health.

Darrin McCormick explains social determinants of health.
Darrin McCormick explains social determinants of health.

The final conversation in the series featured Michael Fernandez, Director of Caras con Causa, a grassroots nonprofit organization that promotes community development to eradicate poverty through education, maintaining the environment, and economic development together with the communities of Cataño and Guaynabo in Puerto Rico. Michael spoke about the power of global service-learning as a tool for social good, and how the role of visiting volunteers has changed as Caras has grown. He shared that he finds hope for the future through collaboration in service. Michael and the participants from the Fulbright Program agreed that, quite often, service really does begin with friendship.

Michael Fernandez points to where Puerto Rico is located on a map.

Though the conversation series itself has now concluded, the service it inspired is just beginning. At the end of each conversation, Amizade invited the Fulbrighters who attended to participate in a virtual service project. A small group of Fulbrighters will spend the next two weeks researching questions around water decontamination from uranium and radium that is impacting the Pine Ridge Reservation. Monday, January 25th marked the kickoff of this service project, and the group is now hard at work on their research into several topics including water testing, successful decontamination in other communities, and ways to combat the effects of exposure to contaminants.

It was such a pleasure to collaborate on this series and examine what it means to serve in a community. We hope these conversations served as windows into communities that many people do not usually have a chance to visit and motivated all who participated to take action through a service project of their own.


Learn more about how you can give back to your community as a Fulbright alumna/us by visiting the Get Involved section.

Amizade is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting volunteerism, providing community service, encouraging collaboration, and improving cultural awareness in locations throughout the world. Since 2016, they have partnered with the Fulbright Program to bring Fulbright Foreign Students and some Fulbright U.S. Students to Williamson, West Virginia to participate in community service activities, engage with local organizations, and learn about the town and its people through hands-on activities and ethical storytelling practices. Read more about the 2019 Fulbright-Amizade trip to Williamson.

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Rishi Sunak

Fulbrighter Leads the UK’s COVID-19 Response

Fulbright produces leaders who strive to make a positive impact on their communities. In some cases, Fulbright alumni like Rishi Sunak lead through public service with the goal of finding solutions to complex challenges at the local, national, and international level. As a teenager, Rishi Sunak waited tables at an Indian restaurant before he was accepted into the University of Oxford, from which he received a Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE) degree from Lincoln College. After working in finance for a few years after graduation, Sunak received a Fulbright Foreign Student award in 2005 to support his MBA at Stanford University. He noted that this “experience changed my life.”

After his Fulbright, Sunak returned to the UK and worked in finance and . was later elected as a Member of Parliament in 2015. He served from July 2019 to February 2020 as Chief Secretary to the Treasury of the United Kingdom. And, in February 2020, his rapid rise in government continued as he was named Chancellor of the Exchequer. In his first month on this role, he was tasked with responsibility of developing a Coronavirus relief package for the country. Sunak continues to work to support people and businesses deeply affected by the pandemic.

Sunak prepared several economic and financial packages to support the unemployed, self-employed, and struggling businesses across the United Kingdom. To minimize layoffs, the grant program he led provided employers an opportunity to fund 80 percent of furloughed employees’ wages.

When presenting his first package to the Parliament of the United Kingdom he stated, “We are doing everything we can to keep this country and our people healthy and financially secure. We will do right by you and your family.” In this spirit, Sunak has worked to develop more measures to support small businesses with the introduction of Bounce Back Loans which have the goal of protecting existing jobs, supporting viable businesses, and protecting the incomes of the most vulnerable. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has noted that the United Kingdom’s approach to the pandemic is one of the most comprehensive of any country in the world.

Published: January 2021

Fulbright-National Geographic 
Storytelling Fellows, 2018-19
Fulbright-National Geographic
Storytelling Fellows, 2018-19

Classroom teachers interested in bringing dynamic Fulbright alumni into their classroom to share stories about science and society may do so virtually through the National Geographic Society’s Explorer Classroom Program.

The Fulbright Program has collaborated with the National Geographic Society since 2014. Fulbrighters have been featured as speakers, contributors, and storytellers in various National Geographic publications and activities, including the National Geographic Society’s Explorer Classroom. Explorer Classroom is a live YouTube show that connects young people with National Geographic Explorers around the world. These Explorers are cutting-edge scientists, researchers, and storytellers — including many Fulbright alumni — who share behind-the-scenes stories and interact with students and educators in real time.

Explorer Classroom events are free, open to the public, and are recommended for students from ages 4-14, as well as afterschool and out-of-school learners. Spanish-language and ASL editions of some events are also available on a limited basis.

See below for a list of the Fulbrighters who have been featured in the past, as well as links to the recordings. Fulbright alumni can learn more about the National Geographic Explorers Program and other funding opportunities at National Geographic.

Abby McBride

Sketch Biologist

Watch Abby’s Explorer Classroom event

Emily Toner

Soil Geographer

Watch Emily’s Explorer Classroom event

Alyea Pierce

Educator and Poet

Watch Alyea’s Explorer Classroom event

Madison Wrobley

Cultural Anthropologist

Watch Madison’s Explorer Classroom event

Emi Koch

Social-Ecologist

Watch Emi’s Explorer Classroom event

Melanie Kirby

Environmentalist and Apiculturist

Watch Melanie’s Explorer Classroom event

Fulbright alumni, current participants, and K-12 teachers can bring the world into classrooms by sharing international experiences with students. See below for opportunities for Fulbrighters to get involved and volunteer in local schools and/or learn about how teachers can invite Fulbrighters into their classrooms and use the resources provided by these programs to expand their students’ horizons.

Angela Mikula,
U.S. to U.K., 2018

Fulbright 75th Anniversary Classroom Visits

In celebration of the Fulbright Program’s 75th anniversary, the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State is facilitating classroom visits by Fulbright alumni. U.S. educators working in K-12 schools can sign up to host a Fulbrighter for a virtual classroom visit between April 2021 – June 2022. Fulbright alumni can sign up to visit a U.S. classroom and share their Fulbright experience.

To participate in this program as a classroom host (U.S. educators working in K-12 schools) or as a classroom guest (Fulbright alumni), please fill out the interest survey here.

“Dr. Griffin was amazing! We really loved interacting with and learning from her. Her energy is wonderful, and she’s so inspiring – she really encouraged me to continue learning and being curious about the world as much as she did the students. I’m now even more excited about the possibility of applying for a Fulbright myself.” – Tonya Smith, high school teacher who hosted a Fulbright alumnus

“As a World History teacher, it was great to be able to connect with students in another discipline to provide some context to what they had been learning about.  The students asked some great questions and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to share my Fulbright project and experience with students in this format.” – Craig Divis, Fulbright alumnus who participated in a classroom visit

The Fulbright Association’s Fulbright in the Classroom Program

The Fulbright Association’s Fulbright in the Classroom program aims to teach K-12 students about other countries, help them appreciate cultural differences, understand our common humanity, and see the value of travel and international education.

Fulbright in the Classroom is managed by the Fulbright Association, which is the Fulbright Program’s largest alumni association in the United States. All Fulbrighters, especially those who have recently returned to the United States and visiting Students and Scholars, are welcome to participate in the Fulbright in the Classroom program to promote cultural understanding in K-12 schools.

For more information on the program, please visit the Fulbright Association website here.

Reach the World

Reach the World connects travelers—including international exchange participants—with classrooms to facilitate global digital exchanges and inspire youth to become global citizens. Since 2009, Reach the World has served more than 30,000 students with their vast network of travelers and volunteers, and has opportunities available for Fulbrighters and U.S. educators alike. Find out more about how to get involved with the organization here.

The Fulbright Program has partnered with Reach the World on multiple occasions to bring the stories of Fulbrighters to life. You can view the recordings from the latest Fulbright Week on Reach the World’s website here, and find previous Reach the World virtual visits here.

National Geographic’s Explorer Classroom Program

Classroom teachers interested in bringing dynamic Fulbright alumni into their classroom to share stories about science and society may do so virtually through the National Geographic Society’s Explorer Classroom Program.

The Fulbright Program has collaborated with the National Geographic Society since 2014. Fulbrighters have been featured as speakers, contributors, and storytellers in various National Geographic publications and activities, including the National Geographic Society’s Explorer Classroom. Explorer Classroom is a live YouTube show that connects young people with National Geographic Explorers around the world. These Explorers are cutting-edge scientists, researchers, and storytellers — including many Fulbright alumni — who share behind-the-scenes stories and interact with students and educators in real time.

Explorer Classroom events are free, open to the public, and are recommended for students from ages 4-14, as well as afterschool and out-of-school learners. Spanish-language and ASL editions of some events are also available on a limited basis.

Click here for a list of past Explorer Classroom events featuring Fulbrighters, which can be viewed on demand. Fulbright alumni can learn more about the National Geographic Explorers Program and other funding opportunities at National Geographic.