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Educator Receives Fulbright Scholarship

Will Spend Year in South America Teaching and Tutoring

May 12, 2014

two men in dress shirts

Douglas Jeffcoat, right, receives congratulations from Volker Janssen, Cal State Fullerton Fulbright Program adviser and associate professor of history, on receiving a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Colombia. Jeffcoat will be taking part in the May 18 commencement, graduating with a master's degree in education.

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At one time, Douglas Jeffcoat wanted to be a doctor or an engineer.

Then he worked with underrepresented children and spent a year in Spain. Those experiences helped Jeffcoat find his calling: to teach underrepresented children and share his international travel experiences.

A member of the Cal State Fullerton Class of 2014, he will take part in commencement ceremonies this weekend before broadening his international experiences with hopes of sharing them with students at the high school where he teaches. Jeffcoat has been named a 2014-15 Fulbright U.S. Student Award recipient.

The Huntington Beach resident will spend a year in Colombia, teaching English at La Universidad Católica del Oriente, as well as organizing English clubs, tutoring and conducting service work with underprivileged Colombian children and adolescents. His bonus: getting to know a country radically different from what he has experienced before.

"I grew up in an all-Hispanic neighborhood, grew up in that culture," Jeffcoat explained. Growing up, he also spent his summers in Cozumel with his aunt who was a significant role model. When he came to Cal State Fullerton, he considered various fields of study.

"I must have changed my major about four times," he said. While earning his undergraduate degrees, he worked in an afternoon program, helping underrepresented students with their studies. "I was good in math and science, but I was truly passionate about working with these kids."

His senior year, Jeffcoat decided to study abroad in Madrid, in order to expand his knowledge of Spanish-speaking cultures and "become a more well-rounded educator. My study abroad director, Francisco Martin from Cal State San Marcos, saw my potential and was the first person to recommend I pursue a Fulbright Scholarship because it was an excellent match for my ambitions and experiences."

He completed bachelor's degrees in Spanish and child and adolescent development in 2012 and went on to earn a multiple-subject teaching credential, as well as a single-subject teaching credential in Spanish for secondary education. He has been serving as a substitute teacher while pursuing his master's degree in education with an emphasis in curriculum and instruction.

As he approached his last semester, elementary and bilingual education faculty members Andrea Guillaume and Lisa Winstead encouraged and advised Jeffocoat to pursue a Fulbright Scholarship.

"After studying in Spain, I knew I was passionate to live abroad," Jeffcoat said, "but I didn't want to go to an area where I had been before, so I started looking into new opportunities."

In Spain, he discovered a huge South American population. Knowing little about that area, he wanted to learn more, so applied for a Fulbright Scholarship in Colombia. The program "offered me the opportunity to expand my knowledge about South America, particularly Colombia, while also allowing me to continue to teach and volunteer.

"Of all the South American countries, I saw Colombia as one of the countries most heavily in need," he explained, citing the nation's poverty and the displacement of many of its citizens, particularly children, due to drug violence and political injustice. "I want to work in a community in need!"

"One of my main goals is to use this experience to bring my future Spanish classes to life by incorporating authentic Colombian cultural activities. I want to share what I learn with the students I will be teaching here, as well as share my culture and knowledge with the students I will be working with in Colombia," Jeffcoat said.

Jeffcoat will be recognized at the Honors Convocation, set for 7 p.m. May 16 in the Meng Concert Hall of the Clayes Performing Arts Center on campus, 800 State College Blvd., Fullerton, 92831.

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