Castleton College graduate student, Kevin Kareckas has been recognized as this years’ Fulbright English Assistantship Grant recipient. Following his Castleton graduation this spring with a Master’s degree in education he will travel to Poland in October to utilize his teaching and leadership skills as an English learning assistant to university students.
Kareckas, from Maine, graduated from Wheelock College(,)in Boston in 2012 where he majored in elementary education and minored in math and science. He says the two areas suited him well and he explained his belief of people’s natural ability to understand science.
“We’re all citizen scientists in our own little way,” he said.
Aside from his intensive academic studies, he was also involved in the lacrosse program, student government, and Residence Life.
“That’s pretty significant, because it led me to where I am now,” Kareckas said reflecting on his journey.
The Fulbright program was introduced in 1945 and is regarded as one of the most prestigious scholarship foundations servicing 202,600 countries. It is also the largest U.S. student exchange program.
Monica McEnerny, Castleton Fulbright Scholarship Committee chair, explained the application process saying applicants begin with the Castleton Fulbright committee. If their applications make the first cut, they are sent to Washington D.C. for further review. Lastly, each representative country will select their best choice.
Sandy Duling, Castleton library director and Fulbright “go-to” for Castleton applicants, spoke of the intense competition within this prestigious program.
“He was competing with people from Harvard and Yale,” she said.
Anne Slonaker, former professor of Kareckas and education department chair, agreed with Duling.
“It’s a big deal, and you’ll never get that from Kevin; he’s so relaxed and so nonchalant, but it is a big deal and he is a bright young man,” Slonaker said.
Last year Brian Garvey, a 2014 Castleton Graduate, won the Teaching Assistantship Program scholarship as well, and is now expanding his studies in Columbia.
McEnerny, reflected on the success of two Castleton students in a row presented with this priceless opportunity.
“We’re letting students know this is a possibility for them, just as much as anybody else,” McEnerny said.
Duling said the first step is simply applying.
“They shouldn’t be intimidated,” she said. “We think that people from Castleton are uniquely well-suited for doing this kind of thing.”
“I think that our college is unique for that reason; we weren’t hurt by being small, we were helped by being small … Our students have unique experiences that they’ve learned to celebrate through these kinds of opportunities,” she said.
Richard Reardon, director of education, echoed their comments.
“Anytime you get two students back to back that are capable of earning a very competitive award…you have to acknowledge the work that the faculty does … it adds a lot to the aura of the college,” he said.
Reardon wasn’t surprised that Kareckas was chosen
“He tends to take a leadership role, even as a student… That’s one of the things they [Fulbright] like students to be able to do; be solutions oriented…he has the opportunity to not only be a learner, but a teacher,” Reardon said.
Duling also stressed that the Fulbright Scholarship winners play a bigger role than just foreign educator.
“Implicitly, what they are looking for is; ‘is this person going to be a good ambassador?’ He’ll be the ‘Face of America’ to the students with whom he’ll be working with in Poland and the community,” she said.
Kareckas is already known by many as “the face of Castleton” among the Residence Life and professional community and he said he embraces that ambassador role Duling spoke of.
Kareckas found Castleton College in 2012 at a job fair where he applied for an area coordinator position. He was ultimately hired and has been a large part of the Castleton community since.
“Education is ultimately my window to the world,” he said adding that he believes the key to success is getting to now the people you work with on an individual level. “That’s something that across the board is going to follow me in whatever pursuit I’m in.”
While Kareckas certainly has exceptional knowledge and experience in his field, the learning will continue across personal and professional borders, surpassing cultural horizons.
“Things I lean on all the time, like my sense of humor, is going to take extra time to develop, whereas that’s something I have taken for granted throughout my life,” he said.
While many Castleton professionals admire Kareckas, he is equally grateful for the role they have played in his success.
“A huge element of my success has to have been the support that I’ve received…They have worked as referral agents…That’s the Castleton experience right there,” he said.
“This is an easy place to be proud to be a part of.
And he’s sure to be channeling Castleton as he embarks on his next learning adventure.
“I’m about to embark on a journey filled with challenges that I can’t anticipate yet and I really look forward to that because it’ll ultimately allow me to build a stronger character, higher integrity, and be able to support leaders significantly,” Kareckas said.