DHS faculty member wins Fulbright Scholarship

Published 6:25 am Monday, May 22, 2017


Danville High School

Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” The Fulbright Scholar Program aims to do just that by creating mutual understandings and support between the United States and over 155 countries through exchange programs. Emily Donlon, recent DHS library sub, received a scholarship to serve as an English Teaching Assistant in Bulgaria.

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Donda Kikendall serves as both the Library Media Specialist and Building Assessment Coordinator for DHS. Because the school temporarily added more jobs for her to do (under her status as the latter), she needed a substitute to help her in the library. Donlon took the job as a short term ‘limbo’ position before (hopefully) receiving the scholarship after she applied.     

Donlon was notified as a finalist for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program on March 24, 2017. Her primary duties will “be as an English Teaching Assistant (although usually it’s less assistant and more primary teacher or co-teacher). I’ll work with high school students on their command of the English language while serving as a cultural ambassador of the United States…” She will also help coach the school’s Speech and Debate team. She will work at “the Nikola Vaptsarov Foreign Language School in the town of Shumen – about an hour west of the Black Sea.”

In preparation for founding a Speech and Debate team at her new school, she has recently been observing Danville High School’s forensics team, led by Steve Meadows.

She chose Bulgaria because as a former regional director for the YMCA, she wanted to work in a country that could use her background experience and skill set: youth development. She added, “Plus, Bulgaria doesn’t have a language proficiency requirement but offers a language learning stipend once the grant begins.”

Along with the beauty of the country and wanting to put her skills to work, Donlon wanted to explore living and working abroad: “I felt I was in a good place personally and professionally to make living abroad a priority. And the idea of making a home in another country has always been appealing to me…  I’m totally going to do the touristy things, but going a mile deep and getting to know a place sounds right up my alley.”

The trip will be very rewarding, but she has a lot to prepare for: “The language will be tough at first (Bulgarian is similar to Russian), which is why I’m doing what I can now to learn some essential vocabulary.” In late August she will leave for an orientation in Bulgaria’s capital to learn the basics of the country, language and other tips before taking off to her school in September. 

Although she will be homesick for ‘Bluegrass,’ she knows her family and friends are just a Skype call away. Kikendall, former DHS librarian (who Donlon is subbing for the second half of the 2016-2017 school year) states, “[Donlon] has been a wonderful asset to our school. DHS celebrates with Ms. Donlon on Fulbright scholarship.  It is a fantastic opportunity and we are very excited and happy for her.” 

In the end, she hopes to gain “abroad experience, the knowledge we’re not all so different from each other, professional experience as an educator and youth development professional, some fantastic souvenirs.” Later, she hopes to continue her travel in Europe with a “wish list of countries to see while I’m there.”