Blackwell, Solomon Make A&T History as Alumnae Fulbright Program Grant Recipients

By Jackie Torok / 05/24/2024 Alumni, Honors College

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (May 24, 2024) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University alumnae Nasya Blackwell ’20 and YoVanna Solomon ’18 are 2023-24 Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant recipients.

This is the first documented time North Carolina A&T has had more than one candidate from the alumni community selected in the same application cycle.

The total of known Aggies selected for the Fulbright Program grant is 11, with four applying after earning at least one A&T degree: Jaylynn Ellington ’18, Malique Brunner ’18 ’19, Blackwell and Solomon. A&T’s first Fulbright Program grantee was Emmanuel Johnson Dorley ‘13 in 2013.

Blackwell and Solomon’s selection also marks the first time both of A&T’s recipients had applied at least once before for the Fulbright Program grant, as well as the first time both Aggie Fulbright Program grant recipients are Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program alumnae.

Blackwell, of Washington, D.C., and daughter of Danielle Blackwell, graduated cum laude in May 2020 with a B.A. in political science and B.A. in English with a minor in Spanish and was a member of the Blue and Gold Marching Machine. She applied for and received A&T endorsement and was selected for an English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) grant in Taiwan, where she will continue working before embarking on a fall 2024 postgraduate degree program.

A semifinalist for an ETA in Colombia for the 2021-22 Fulbright Program grant cycle, Blackwell completed the intensive Spanish language and culture program at Veritas Universidad in San Jose, Costa Rica during summer 2019 as a Gilman Scholar before studying abroad that fall in the ISEP Global Engagement program at the University of Ghana in Accra. She became A&T’s first Princeton in Africa Fellow in 2022 and was placed with Emerging Public Leaders in Accra, Ghana for the 2022-23 program year.

“Taiwan’s growing presence in political and foreign discourses around diplomacy piqued my interest as a graduate in both political science and English,” said Blackwell. “Taiwan‘s trend of electing women into top leadership in many areas of politics, from the first female president elected in 2016 to the current highest number of women represented in parliament, furthered my desire to serve as an ETA in Taiwan.”

Solomon, of Wilmington, North Carolina, and daughter of Yolanda Hernandez and Ivan Kimball Solomon Sr., graduated summa cum laude in May 2018 with a B.A. in liberal studies from A&T, where she was a member of A&T’s chapter of the Scholars Latino Initiative and the Spanish club, each for three years. She was selected for an ETA grant in Brazil, which began in late February 2024.

A semifinalist for an ETA in Brazil for the 2020-21 Fulbright Program grant cycle, Solomon completed a study abroad exchange program in Uruguay for fall 2016 as a Gilman Scholar. She then took a gap semester and traveled solo to explore African diaspora communities throughout Latin America until September 2017. After graduating, Solomon taught English in Panama with the Peace Corps as a volunteer and in Spain as a teaching assistant. She also supported youth development as a Future Leaders in Action fellow in New York City, worked in digital field organizing with Carolina Federation, and focused on reproductive rights advocacy as a Grassroots Advocacy and Outreach fellow with the Population Connection Action Fund

Solomon has consistently built her knowledge of Brazilian Portuguese by receiving three Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowships from the U.S. Department of Education as she earned an M.A. in Latin American studies from the University of Florida in May 2023. Her study included summer 2022 participation in the University of Florida in Rio de Janeiro’s Intensive Portuguese Language Study Abroad Program.

“I was specifically drawn to Brazil because of the nuanced parallels in racial, gender, and social politics and equity in Brazil and the U.S.,” said Solomon. “My continued learning of Spanish and Portuguese has opened many doors for me that are generally closed to students from my hometown, so I am highly motivated to represent the United States as a Fulbrighter and promote peace through international education as I continue building towards a career in diplomacy in Latin America.”

”Nasya and YoVanna are the epitome of purposeful perseverance, and their stories continue to inspire fellow Aggies to study and work abroad,” said Alsace-Lorraine Gallop, A&T’s national scholarships and fellowships coordinator and Fulbright Program Adviser. “Their cultural curiosity, servant-leadership, and obvious intellect are clear assets to the Fulbright Program and beyond.”

Members of the A&T Fulbright Program campus selection committee were Jason DePolo, Ph.D. English Department associate professor; Darrell Hairston, assistant director of corporate and foundation engagement and formerly of the Honors College; and Amy Schwartzott, Ph.D., visual and performing arts professor.

The rigorous endorsement process for 2023-24 was conducted through NCAT Extraordinary Opportunities. Alumni and eligible students interested in the next cycle are encouraged to contact Gallop before the June 14, 2024, priority coaching deadline. Faculty and staff interested in serving on the campus committee may sign up through June 27, 2024. The required campus deadline for the 2025-26 grant year is Aug. 13, 2024, by 5 p.m. ET.

Established by Congress in 1946, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. cultural exchange program for passionate and accomplished students, artists, teachers and professionals of all backgrounds and from all disciplines to study, teach or pursue important research and professional projects. The Fulbright Program grant’s mission is to increase mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries through cultural engagement between Americans and citizens of other countries.

The program, led by the U.S. government in partnership with more than 140 countries, annually awards grants that cover basic travel and living expenses and provide stipends and other benefits. For the 2023-2024 competition, the program received 8,558 applications.

Media Contact Information: jtorok@ncat.edu

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