Rotary Global Scholar - Kaitlin Thomas
 
Our Speaker on 4 August was former Global Scholar Kaitlin Thomas.  
 
Rarely is one able to point to one definitive moment as being profoundly influential over one’s life path. For Kaitlin Thomas, this instant was in 2010 when she was notified that she had been selected by District 7630 to receive a Global Grant Ambassadorial Scholarship -- funding that would facilitate her long held aspiration to pursue a M.A. degree in Latin American & Spanish Language & Literature from New York University while living and studying in Madrid, Spain.
 
Kaitlin’s lifelong commitment to Spanish language and culture began when she enrolled at a young age in an elementary school with a vibrant and immersive second language program. While attending high school in Baltimore, MD, she participated in numerous outreach initiatives that targeted the inner city Latino community, and in her junior year Kaitlin was selected to join an elite delegation of young women to serve as a liaison between her high school and the civil war ridden rural town of Ignacio Ellacuría. At sixteen, this trip solidified what she had long known: her passion lied with working among Latinos, being immersed in the Spanish language, and assisting in the development of educational and social programs that would make a measurable contribution to real lives and real communities.
 
Kaitlin later attended Washington College on the Eastern Shore of MD where she earned a B.A. in Hispanic Studies. As an undergraduate, she volunteered with local schools to work side-by-side with limited English speaking Latino students and their families, providing linguistic and social support that their monolingual instructors were unable to provide. Since bilingual individuals were few and far between in this area, volunteering took on a much different role upon graduation when she became a full-time employee for the local Board of Education. Kaitlin was tasked with designing a bilingual home visiting program that she would implement with a caseload of dozens of undocumented and/or migrant families living on the Shore, desperately in need of assistance and connection. It was a remarkably formative experience, and many of the issues she confronted, managed, and liaised between on a hands-on, daily basis inspired the desire to pursue a graduate degree so that she would be in a better position to make positive contributions to both the growing local Latino community and to those agencies and individuals who were at a loss as to how to serve them.
 
It was during this process that Kaitlin became aware of The Rotary Foundation and their intensely international and service based mission. Rotary District 7630 was the perfect partner for Kaitlin as the organization’s objectives and ideologies complimented her professional and personal aspirations, particularly in the field of basic education and literacy. Working closely with her district sponsors, she spent several months honing a dossier that would be competitive for the much sought after Global Grant Ambassadorial Scholarship, and with the support and remarkable commitment of her local Rotary mentors, Kaitlin became a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in 2010. Dedicated to the expectations of an Ambassadorial Scholar, she visited upwards of ten local Rotary clubs, participated in an annual Rotary conference, and assisted in the development of several fundraising initiatives sponsored by local Rotaract groups during her time in Spain.
 
Completing her M.A. and returning to the U.S. in 2011, Kaitlin has since worked in several bilingual and leadership capacities for the Maryland Migrant Education Program, the Kent and Queen Anne’s Counties Boards of Education, and worked as an interpreter for the Maryland Judiciary System. Kaitlin joined the faculty at Washington College (WC) and the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and has since taught Spanish language at all proficiency levels. At WC, she was a Co-Founder for the Día de Fútbol, Creator of a campus and community wide externship, the WC-Latino Community Volunteer Program, and served as Academic Advisor for first year international students coming to study in the U.S. She has sat on multiple panels and been invited to speak at numerous organizations, including as a guest speaker for TEDxChesterRiver event in 2014 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uua9Okar0mo). She has also contributed articles to the Baltimore Sun, Chestertown Spy, Global Learning Education Week Blog, among others.
 
Kaitlin has since left her positions at WC and the Maryland Migrant Education Program, and recently joined her fiancée in Hanover, NH as he pursues an M.D. at Dartmouth College. She is currently a Lecturer of Spanish at Norwich University, and a doctoral candidate at the University of Birmingham (U.K.) where she is working on a Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies with a concentration in Contemporary Latin America. She hopes to become involved with Latino and Spanish oriented programs, organizations, and initiatives in Vermont and New Hampshire, and looks forward to connecting more with her new community!