Written by: 
Trista Moxley

A University of North Texas student earned a $40,000 Rotary Global Grant to study at Queen's University, Belfast, and work toward her goal of creating a global foundation to help low-income children have access to better education.

Growing up with seven siblings and "two devoted parents" in Bryan, Texas, Odalis Alvarado saw the importance of education.

"As the daughter of immigrants, I am the American dream my parents wished for themselves and their children," Alvarado said. "This grant will allow me to study in a program that relates intimately to my belief that education should be a right, not privilege. In my personal experience, obtaining an education beyond high school was difficult. I had no role models to make that transition smoother. Despite these obstacles, I attained an education and am resolved to advance student literacy for others -- locally and globally."

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice/political science at Sam Houston State University, studying Mandarin and teaching English in Taiwan, Alvarado started working on her Master of Public Administration in the College of Health and Public Service at UNT, where she'll graduate in August 2022. She'll start work on her second master's degree, this one in education, in Belfast in September 2022.

"The Rotary Grant also will support my long-term goal of starting a global education organization that promotes equality in education for low-income children," Alvarado said. "As a first-generation college student and advocate for education equality, I long to be a valuable educator and mentor for my Taiwanese students and eventually those from other nations."

She uses a holistic method while teaching English, combining lessons with science, music and art to enhance the overall understanding. She also emphasizes American history and current events to better help her students understand the U.S. within current cultural and social contexts.

"As an educator, I will convert my classroom into a time machine to help students learn English by examining past and present events and exploring discoveries involving technology," she said. "I will incorporate techniques from my previous experience teaching English to Taiwanese students to utilize tactile activities such as scavenger hunts to explore American holidays, traditional American music and physically active games and sports. I want to be a role model to my students and to encourage them to break barriers to achieve their dreams."

Earning her Master of Public Administration is helping her develop valuable leadership skills and professional training that will benefit her work in local and global organizations.

"It was difficult for me to narrow down a long-term career," Alvarado said. "I felt inspired to spread awareness of the importance of education and human rights. After accepting a position as an ESL educator in Taiwan, I discovered my vision for a better society: better literacy means better education. Growing up in a low-income household where English was my second language, I directly relate to many who struggle to find access to quality education."

Alvarado said she shares the Rotarian outlook on the world -- working to help improve the lives of others -- and the grant will help her do that. She hopes to reduce gender disparities and promote educational programs for children globally, starting with gaining more experience teaching in Taiwan and developing a better insight into their educational system and culture.

"As an advocate for education, I will challenge injustices and disparities millions are fighting, because education is a fundamental human right," Alvarado said.