Honors don’t get much loftier than the two recently awarded to a pair of South Pasadenans.
Dr. Suyapa Portillo Villeda and Laura Reilly were recognized recently for earning prestigious Fulbright Awards – established by Congress in 1946 and funded through an annual appropriation to the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
For more than 70 years, the program has forged connections between emerging leaders in the United States and around the globe and remains as one of the most sought-after exchange programs in the world.
South Pasadena Mayor Dr. Marina Khubesrian presented the two women certificates of recognition at a recent City Council meeting.
Dr. Suyapa Portillo Villeda is an assistant professor at Pitzer College in Claremont, working in the Department of Chicano and Latino Transnational Studies and used her Fulbright grant to explore the “Hidden Narratives of Mitigation in the Sending Country: Gender, Sexuality and Youth” in Honduras.
According to Khubesrian, Villeda teamed with the organization Radio Progresso, which focuses on the advancement of human rights in Honduras and the surrounding area. “Dr. Portillo’s research has led to serve as a region expert in the media on conditions in Honduras and Central America,” said the mayor.
Reilly lived in Brazil for nine months while teaching English at a university. Along with another Fulbright scholar, she created and led a course plan for teaching English entitled “Road trip Across America.”
Serving as cultural ambassadors for the United States government, Reilly also delivered hands-on presentations in front of international conferences and local audiences.
In addition, she worked with U.S. Department of State’s Education USA Program, mentoring a Brazilian student who dreams of going to college in the United States. Outside the classroom, Reilly had the opportunity to volunteer with Reach the World, where she engaged in a global digital exchange by creating weekly blog posts for a class of 5th graders in the Bronx.
“One of the meaningful parts of her Fulbright experience was founding a mentorship program called ImaginaMundo, providing 25 middle schoolers the opportunity to create, build and innovate,” said Khubesrian.
William Fulbright was a prominent and gifted American statesman of the 20th century. He had profound influence on America’s foreign policy, and his vision for mutual understanding shaped the exchange program bearing his name.
His political career of more than 30 years in the U.S. Congress was distinguished by his unequaled contribution to international affairs and marked by his tenure as the longest-serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Fulbright alumni have achieved distinction in science, the arts, business, philanthropy, education and public service, including by serving the U.S. Congress,” explained Khubesrian. “Selected through open, merit-based competition, Fulbrighters represent the excellence and diversity of the United States and other countries.”