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Cristina Sisson is the recipient of the 2016 Dee Sarelas Fulbright Service Award

By Teuta PejaSOME 100 GUESTS  gathered on Friday, January 27, 2017 at the elegant auditorium and reception space of the Alliance Française de Chicago, for the  the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association Winter Holiday reception and Dee Sarelas Award ceremony.

Among the attendees were  Fulbright alumni, current visiting Fulbright  scholars, Fulbright students, eight members of the Chapter’s Board of Directors, friends, and family. The event was co-sponsored by the  Institute of International Education (IIE).

Left to right, the organizing Holidays event and Dee Sarelas Committee: Kevin Spitta, Elio Leturia, Marilyn Sussman, 2016 Dee Sarelas awardee Cristina Sisson, Mary Mares-Awe, Teuta Peja, Meredith McNeal and Yasir Al-Ibrahem. Ron Harvey (not pictured) could not be present since he is teaching in Bulgaria.

Guests enjoyed socializing with each other, exchanging Fulbright experiences and intercultural discussions. The attendees represented some 40 countries from around the world.

Fulbright alumni and guests enjoyed a pleasant celebration with great food at the Alliance Française in Chicago.

Delicious appetizers, desserts and drinks were shared by all attendees.

The delicious buffet style food served at the Winter Reception included vegetarian options and complemented the festive atmosphere. A jazz trio of  musicians from Columbia College Chicago provided the entertainment for almost three hours.

A Columbia College Chicago jazz trio offered live music during the event.

A group of visiting Fulbright students commented on the pleasant space and  added that events like this create a wonderful opportunity to mingle, get to know other Fulbrighters and exchange advice about living and studying in Chicago.

The President of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association, Mary Mares-Awe welcomed guests with a heartwarming speech highlighting the mission of  Fulbright to promote mutual understanding between the people of the United States, and citizens of almost every nation on earth —through cultural, scientific, and educational exchange. She also thanked board members for volunteering their time and being dedicated to the Fulbright mission and its ideals.

The special part of the evening was the announcement of the winner of the prestigious biennial Dee Sarelas Fulbright Service Award. The award is given in recognition to a person who has worked diligently over the years to promote and carry out the Fulbright Mission.  This year’s recipient is Ana Cristina Sisson, a long-time, dedicated Chicago Chapter member.

Cristina Sisson delivers her acceptance speech as the 2016 Fulbright Dee Sarelas Service Award recipient.

Ana Cristina Sisson holds a bachelor’s degree as a double major in Spanish and English from Colby College in Maine, and a Master’s degree in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago. She was with Fulbright English Teaching Assistant program in Uruguay in 2006.

Cristina joined the Fulbright Association and the Chicago Chapter in 2008. Since joining the chapter, she has played a vital role in organizing many cultural and educational activities and events for thousands of Fulbrighters. She has also served in the position of Chapter treasurer until 2016.

In addition to her commitment to her young family and to the Fulbright Chapter, Cristina teaches Spanish at Hinsdale District One-Eighty-One. Prior to that, she taught Spanish at the Ogden International School of Chicago, and the Chase Elementary Magnet Cluster School in Chicago.

“In the spirit of service, Cristina has been an integral part of the board, serving in her portion in a totally volunteer status. Those who chose to do so, do it out or their dedication to the Fulbright mission.  Cristina so richly deserves this award…because she’s done a tremendous job and is truly an inspirational person.”       — Mary Mares-Awe, President, Fulbright Chicago

Fulbrighters from all over the world gathered at the Holidays event.

Traditionally, the previous award recipient presents the award to the new Dee Sarelas recipient, but this year it was different. The 2014 Dee Sarelas awardee, Ron Harvey, the Vice President of the Fulbright Chicago Chapter, was not present at the event because he is on a Fulbright research and teaching fellowship to Bulgaria.

The Holiday event and Dee Sarelas Award Ceremony was very-well attended. It has become the main Fulbright Chicago event of the year.

Current Fulbright students attending Columbia College Chicago. From left to right, Cyril Bassil (Lebanon,) Calisto Lemashon (Kenya,) Shreya Singh (India) and Melissa M. Jiménez (Trinidad and Tobago.)

But although Ron could not be present in person, he recorded a short video speech that was played at the ceremony.  In his speech, Ron emphasizing Cristina’s friendliness, her engagement with the Fulbright Chicago Chapter, and her enthusiasm to promoting the values of the intercultural exchange through educational activities.

“Cristina is great at bringing the people together; she would invite visiting Fulbright over for dinners with her family as well as other Fulbrighters and expose our way of doing things with the visiting Fulbrighters. Cristina has the belief that you do not have to be official to have an impact in people. I can’t think of a better person to receive the Dee Sarelas service award”Ron Harvey, Vice President, Fulbright Chicago

Fulbright Chicago president Mary Mares Awe talking to the Fulbright students, scholars and alumni.

Upon the acceptance of the award, Cristina remembered her Fulbright year in Uruguay working with the public-school teachers and her work with the Chicago Chapter board upon her return to the US.  In her inspirational speech, Cristina spoke of Fulbrighers sharing the will and excitement of working toward making a difference in the community.

2010 Dee Sarelas recipient and Fulbright Chicago board member Dr. Marilyn Susman and Fulbright student Teuta Peja welcomed the attendees.

She encouraged people to join the board and participate in Fulbright-focused activities.  She urged everyone to get involved in activities even though they may be out of their scope of work.  She also advised people not to let the fear of not knowing what the job entails, to get in the way of participating… “When there is a need, take a risk.” She said in referencing her own resolve to take up the position of treasurer, when there was a need for someone to step into the role.

Cristina wrapped up her speech by emphasizing the Fulbright mission and legacy.

“I wanted to leave you all with Senator Fulbright’s words, to inspire us to visit local schools, ask a professor to visit their child’s school and talk about the Fulbright program, the mission and your home country or where you traveled.  Don’t let the fear of being overwhelmed get in the way…”

Fulbrighters using social media and sharing photos.

After hearing the speeches, Manithda a visiting Fulbright student from Laos, said “The award ceremony made people get to know and appreciate people behind the scene more. I didn’t know who were the people behind the scene who did the good for people in the front until that award ceremony. This encourages me to want to help and voluntarily work with the Fulbright  organizing group.”

Baris Mesci, a Visiting Student Researcher from Turkey and his wife Tutku Mizrak Mesci.

The guests congratulated Cristina on her award and praised the organizers —the members of the board—  for putting up such an amazing event.

—Photos by Kevin Spitta and Elio Leturia

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Bring the World to the Classroom, in español

Elio Leturia talks to the second section of Spanish students at Ogen International School

Elio Leturia talks to the second section of Spanish students at Ogden International School of Chicago. One of them asked: “What is Fulbright?”

By Cristina Sisson—FIFTH GRADE SPANISH students at Ogden International School of Chicago, a Chicago Public School, enjoyed a visit from Fulbright Chicago Chapter vice president, Elio Leturia on Friday, April 25th.

Elio Leturia and Cristina Sisson outside of her classroom

Elio Leturia and Cristina Sisson outside of her classroom

This is the second time Leturia has visited my Spanish classes. In this opportunity, students from three sections prepared questions for Leturia about his profession and background in conjunction with their current Spanish unit of study about professions.

Students inquired about Elio’s career in journalism, graphic design, academia, photography, and acting. Leturia answered questions in Spanish such as, “What do you like the most about your job?” and “What is most difficult about your job?” as well as “What is your favorite place in Chicago and Peru?”  and “What is your favorite food?” He also highlighted the importance of learning new languages and the opportunities he has had to travel and interview people around the world.

This past January, Leturia took 15 Columbia College Chicago students to Peru, his country of origin, for a travel writing course.

If you are a Fulbright Alumni or current Fulbright student and would like to visit a classroom to share about your profession or travels abroad as part of the “Bring the World to the Classroom Initiative,” please contact Cristina Sisson at acsisson@hotmail.com.

2013 Winter Holidays Reception and Dee Sarelas Service Award Ceremony hosted by DePaul University

2013HolidayInvite

By Ron Harvey—THE FULBRIGHT ASSOCIATION Chicago Chapter, the Institute of International Education (IIE), and DePaul University invite you, your family, colleagues, and friends to attend our end-of-year Winter Holidays Reception and 2013 Dee Sarelas* Fulbright Service Award Ceremony.

WHEN Friday, December 6th, 2013
TIME 6:30 to 9 p.m.
WHERE DePaul University, Lincoln Park Campus
Cortelyou Commons
2324 N. Fremont St. Chicago, IL 60614

Cortelyou Commons is accessible from the sidewalk from Fullerton or Belden Aves.

A full buffet-style dinner will be served which includes salads, entrees with vegetarian options, soft drinks, coffee, tea, and desserts. Beer and wine are available at a cash bar. Entertainment will be provided.

COST This event is FREE for current visiting Fulbright Students and Scholars. $30 for Alumni, each adult family member, and/or guest(s). You may pay at the reception using cash or check. We also accept credit card at the reception or online via PayPal plus a $2 credit card fee. You may pay though PayPal payments after you RSVP using the form below.

RSVP by December 1, 2013 using the form HERE or by copying and pasting the link below into your browser:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1bCLYAzBt4OGOs2Oah8WfhPvdYVI3OnvMkm5pjaVDJVc/viewform

PARKING is available at the DePaul Sheffield parking garage just west of Cortelyou Commons. Attendees are responsible for their own transport and parking.

The CTA Fullerton Red/Brown/Purple Line stop is one block west of Cortelyou Commons. See www.transitchicago.com to plan your trip.

* The Dee Sarelas Fulbright Service Award is named after a founder of the Fulbright Association Chicago Chapter: Aphrodite (“Dee”) Edith Floros Sarelas, an early Fulbrighter to Greece.   A Chicagoan dedicated to interacting with and nurturing Fulbrighters in the Chicago area community, Dee is remembered for her wit, empathy, and vivacity in bringing people across cultures together.  The Dee Sarelas Fulbright Service Award has been established in her memory. We honor a local person for their outstanding work promoting the vision of Senator Fulbright.

Please join us in honoring Dee and the Fulbright legacy. We look forward to seeing you at our 2013 Winter Holidays Reception!

More book donations!

The goal is to collect 5,000 books to donate to  socioeconomically deprived schools in other countries.

The goal is to collect 5,000 books to donate to socioeconomically deprived schools in other countries.

THE FULBRIGHT BOOK PARTNERSHIP Program keeps going strong. Book donations have also come from Chicago Public Schools. The following schools have donated approximately 1,200 books and instructional materials: Peterson Elementary School, Ebinger Elementary School, Bateman Elementary School, and Sandoval Elementary School. Thorp Elementary is donating 90 boxes of books this week.  We will soon pick up more books and materials from Thurgood Marshall Middle School as well.  We are very appreciative of the range of materials we have received from these schools.  They have donated picture books, novels, textbooks, and a variety of educational resources for teachers.

Lindop School in Broadview donated many books and resources for schools in need.  We appreciate so many schools in the Chicago area helping our efforts to collect books for schools in Macedonia and Ethiopia.  We are also very appreciative of our board members Ana Gil-García, her son Julián Serafin, Regina Mamou and José Rodríguez for helping to pick up these books from the schools.

Chicago Chapter donates books to Ghana and Moldova

Books were collected from Skokie Public Library and Niles Township Library to be donated to Ghana and Moldova.

Books were collected from Skokie Public Library and Niles Township Library to be donated to Ghana and Moldova.

By Elio Leturia—THE BOOK PARTNERSHIP PROGRAM, an ongoing project of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association, recently donated 18 boxes of books collected over the past months from different libraries around Chicago.

So far, since the beginning of this program in 2007, books have arrived in Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt and Botswana.

Ana Gil-García

Ana Gil-García

On February 8, 2012, eight boxes of books were donated to schools in Ghana through the organization Books4cause*. Last Friday February 15, Romina Hendrzak from the organization Moldova AID*, received ten boxes to be sent to Moldova schools.

Ana Gil-García and Heidi Rockwell, board members of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association have been working together on these latest donations. “The Book Partnership is a non-stop flight of the Chicago Chapter that connects fellow Fulbrighters around the world through books. In spite of the recent obstacles of shipment and storage, we were able to ship the books through non-for-profit organizations that operate locally and have similar missions as our project,” Gil-García said.

Heidi Rockwell

Heidi Rockwell

For this donation Rockwell collected books from Skokie Public Library and Niles Township Library, and the Chicago Chapter is getting ready to start a book drive not only in CPS schools and Chicago universities, but in other suburban towns. “There was a ‘twist’ from the original project as we have incorporated non-for-profit institutions to help us deliver the books. But, the goal and purposes are preserved: helping children around the globe with books to read. The Chapter is working to refine the process so that we can still work with our fellow Fulbright international association members to keep the sense of partnership,” Gil-García added.

 *Books4cause is a non-profit located in Skokie that runs book drives on campuses across the U.S. and accepts book donations in Chicago. They accept any cd, DVD and book in good condition and ship them to Ghana in Africa. For more information about the program go to http://www.books4cause.com.
*Moldova AID is a non-profit organization that primarily supports informational and educational programs to the Republic of Moldova. For more information visit www.moldovaaid.wordpress.com. Moldova AID launched a new project called A Book Share. The objective of the project is to expand access to academic books to encourage research and development in various fields of science and technology in the Republic of Moldova, and to promote English as a universal platform for accessing information.

Farewell message from Chicago Chapter President Elio Leturia

ELIO LETURIA, AN ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR in the Journalism Department at Columbia College Chicago, and a Peruvian Fulbrighter to the U.S in 1990, ended his two-year presidency with the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association. This is his farewell message that was given at the Winter Holiday event and Dee Sarelas Service Award Ceremony on December 7, 2012.

elioholiday

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen of Fulbright.

It’s my great pleasure to welcome all of you to the Winter Holidays event and the Dee Sarelas Service Award Ceremony that takes place this evening.

As many of you know, this is the end of my second year as the President of the Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association.

Being president has been such an honor, to be in the company of such great human beings and smart minds! And even this honor has come with lots of work, it was always a delight to meet so many of you and confirm the great privilege which is to be a Fulbrighter, to be in the company of people from all over the world and to reaffirm one of the goals of Senator J. William Fulbright which is to build bridges of understanding among people from everywhere through getting to know each other and seeing how similar all of us are.

During these past two years we have been able to put together numerous events that have given us the opportunity for learning and conviviality. But all has not only been engaging get-togethers. We have also reached out to the younger generations through our initiative “Bring the World to the Classroom” where incoming Fulbrighters go to different schools from the Chicago Public Schools system to showcase our cultures. In my case, it was such a joy when I visited Ogden International School to tell students what Peru, my country of origin, is.

We have also been able to deliver approximately 2,000 books to different schools and universities thanks to the Book Donation Partnership that Dr. Ana Gil García, a dear board member and past Fulbright Association president started five years ago. During these five years countries like Panama, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Egypt have received those books.

I want to thank Megan Spillman and her team at the Institute of International Education, Lexy Gore and our partnership with World Chicago, and my Fulbright board: Thomas Ahleman, Cristina Sisson, Ron Harvey, Kari Burnett, Don Garner, Ana Gil-García, Stephen Hill, Bruni Hirsch, Heidi Rockwell, Jason Romano, Dolores Rinke and Marilyn Susman. I also want to mention Linda Gruber, a past board member who keeps helping us. Without their dedication and collaboration any of these programs and activities would be possible. I am happy to say that we are the fourth largest, out of 55, chapter in the country and one of the most active and involved in our communities. And it’s the hard work of the board that makes it possible.”

With “Bringing the World to the Classroom” Initiative Fulbrighters visit CPS schools

Fulbrighter Baqar Sayed from Pakistan talking to Westinghouse College Prep students

“Bringing the World to the Classroom” is a unique outreach program that started in August of 2010. The Chicago Chapter of the Fulbright Association, in partnership with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Institute of International Education (IIE,) matches Fulbright students with CPS teachers in order to promote the Fulbright program and provide opportunities for authentic cross-cultural exchanges. Fulbrighters foster mutual understanding and respect for world cultures and motivate students to become engaged global citizens.

This past year five high schools, one elementary school and over two hundred students from Chicago area schools took advantage of this program. Board members also presented at four CPS professional development seminars to promote Fulbright programming to teachers. Fulbright students from Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Colombia, Greece, Japan, Bulgaria, among others have participated in this program.

This ongoing program was originally developed by Fulbright Association, Chicago Chapter board members Monica Swope, Cristina Sisson and Lisa Vásquez (now in Washington D.C.) This year, Jason Romano is the new addition to the team.

Fulbrighter Farida Abdulhafizova from Kyrgyzstan sharing her experiences with Northside College Prep High School students

Colombian Fulbrighter Andrés Gómez and his wife, Ana, visited Westinghouse College Prep

Fulbrighter Orestis Omran Koukouvitakis from Greece surrounded by a group of High School students

Fulbrighter Tetsushi Imatomi talking to Ogden High School students and sharing Japanese culture