When I learned I had received a Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching, I was excited. I thought about poems, about traveling to India, about visiting schools. I thought that once the travel was over, the opportunity ended.

Today, fifteen months after I returned from India, I’m thinking about Fulbright in the present tense. As school starts this fall, I will be implementing a U.S. Alumni TIES Small Grant in the youth facility where I teach.

At the peacebuilding talk at Portland State.

I was eligible to apply to attend the Alumni TIES Seminar because of the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching. Anyone who has attended a U.S. government sponsored exchange program is eligible to apply for and Alumni TIES Seminar. Last May in Portland, Oregon, the topic was “Education for All: Inclusion and Access as Pathways to Peace.” I applied for the seminar because of the deep connection the topic had to my work with incarcerated youth. I wasn’t sure I had a cohesive grant idea, but I was interested in learning more.

At the seminar, I learned about the different ways nonprofits, schools, and communities come together to include people and promote peace. That learning wasn’t limited to listening to presentations. It included meeting and talking with the other seminar participants. The glimpses into the work everyone was doing in their own communities led me to reflect deeply on what our community in Fairbanks, Alaska needs.

So, yes, I wrote the grant application.

Now, just twelve weeks later, I’m coordinating a program to benefit my students and will create lasting connections between community nonprofits and our school. I didn’t think my participation in the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching would lead to a benefit so direct to my students and our school. I’m grateful.

In September, the Alumni TIES topic is “Illicit Networks: Preventing and Combatting Trafficking.” The conference will be held in D.C., and Applications are due by August 10. If you are an alumni of a U.S. government exchange program and a U.S. citizen and you do work that relates to the seminar’s theme, apply. Do, right now.

And don’t worry if you’re not an exchange alumni. Teachers, apply for the Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching during the next open application period. It will change your life and your students’ lives for the better.