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Two graduates and two seniors selected as Fulbright finalists

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Marcel Cantu, Petrus Schoeman, Melissa Silva, and Caitlyn Webb were selected as finalists for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. Jenna Labbie and Emily Symmes were selected as alternates.

University of North Georgia (UNG) seniors Marcel Cantu and Melissa Silva and alumni Petrus Schoeman and Caitlyn Webb will head overseas in fall 2019 as English Teaching Assistants for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

All four were selected as finalists in March and April for the highly prestigious and competitive program.

  • Cantu, who will graduate in May with a degree in English for secondary education, will teach in Thailand.
  • Silva, who will graduate in August with degree in Spanish language and literature, will teach in Kyrgyz Republic.
  • Schoeman, who graduated with a degree in computer science, will teach in Russia.
  • Webb, who graduated with a degree in history education, will teach in Indonesia.

Two UNG seniors were also selected as alternates:

  • Jenna Labbie, a senior pursuing a degree in history and secondary education, hopes to teach in Taiwan.
  • Emily Symmes, a senior pursuing a degree in Russian with a minor in Spanish, hopes to teach in Republic of Kazakhstan.

With four students selected as finalists, UNG is eligible for consideration as a top-producing university for the Fulbright next year. Earlier this year, UNG was named a top producer for the program for the second consecutive year.

"This is a tremendous achievement for UNG to receive for the second year in a row," UNG President Bonita Jacobs said. "This recognition indicates the excellent academic and leadership development opportunities that we provide for our students."

Cantu, a 20-year-old from Newnan, Georgia, said she is excited to learn about another culture during her 10 months in Thailand. On her return, she plans to be a high school English teacher.

"The Fulbright will allow me to be globally aware and become a better teacher for my future students," Cantu said.

The Fulbright program is a national fellowship that enables graduates to pursue academic endeavors overseas. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between U.S. citizens and residents of more than 160 foreign countries.

Webb, who is from Suwanee, Georgia, believes the experience will help her in her future profession.

"I want to be a high school history teacher, and the Fulbright will give me excellent classroom experience," she said. "I think that the best teachers are those who know a lot about the world at present and know how to connect their lessons to real life, which is especially important for a history teacher."

Schoeman plans to use the experience to help him craft a language learning app.

"I can get teaching experience, which is important in order to make language learning apps," the 27-year-old from Dahlonega, Georgia, said. "And I want to find out from Russian students the kind of software and apps they want to use to learn another language."

Silva hopes to learn a third language during her time in Kyrgyz Republic, where the official languages are Kyrgyz and Russian. The 21-year-old from Gainesville, Georgia, is fluent in English and Spanish. She said her Russian teacher inspired her to select the Asian country.

"She talked about culture and made me want to apply to her country," Silva said, admitting she is a novice at speaking the language. "I can say basic words."

These students were among the 20 from UNG who applied for the Fulbright; 13 were selected as semifinalists, which was a new record for the school.

"We were thrilled to have 13 UNG students selected as semifinalists for the Fulbright. This record number of semifinalists represent multiple departments, demonstrating the depth of our academic programs," said Dr. Anastasia Lin, assistant vice president of research and engagement.

Students interested in learning more about nationally competitive scholarships should contact ncs@ung.edu for more information.

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