UI freshman from Henning to attend Fulbright U.K. Summer Institute

UI freshman from Henning to attend Fulbright U.K. Summer Institute

One of the approximately 240 residents of Henning is now also one of 60 students selected from thousands of applicants to participate in a Fulbright U.K. Summer Institute.

University of Illinois freshman Madeline Ford, born and raised in the tiny Vermilion County village, was selected to participate in the prestigious four-week program at the University of Sussex, where she will focus on British children's literature.

Ford is majoring in painting and simultaneously working toward a minor in creative writing, all to fulfill her dream of becoming a children's book author.

She's been a passionate reader since elementary school. That's also when she first made a connection with children's literature — ever since, authors and illustrators have been like role models.

"When I was young, I had to write about my hero and I said my hero is Mary Pope Osborne, writer of the Magic Treehouse books," Ford said. "Through her, I also learned about the impact that authors and illustrators have on lives and on communities."

Ford aspires to reach both parents and kids and to enrich their relationship through her stories. Her mother, Penny, started reading to her when she was a baby, an experience she wishes more families shared.

She learned about the Fulbright summer scholarship through a newsletter and was optimistic about it at first. However, upon attending the information meeting and meeting some very qualified people, her enthusiasm dwindled.

Then, she also came across something she couldn't pass up.

"I noticed one of the opportunities was about British children's literature in particular," Ford said. "It opened my eyes. It wasn't even a question. I thought, 'This is what I have to do.'"

The Fulbright program was founded by Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1948 as a way of promoting the relationship between America and the U.K. Since then, there have been upwards of 27,000 Fulbright exchanges between the two countries.

The Fulbright Summer Institute, however, has only been around for a decade, according to David Schug, director of the UI's International and National Scholarship Office. Today, Schug added, the program is available to students of all disciplines. Another UI freshman, business major Michael Mitchell of DeKalb, was also chosen — he'll spend three weeks studying at London's University of Westminster.

Schug assisted Ford with the application process, which he described as quite tedious. The application is mostly essay-based, and candidates must analyze their goals and purpose in life and how those relate to their program of interest.

Ford worked on her application from November to February. The revision process for her essays was endless, she said, but she's grateful to those who helped, including her mother and Schug.

After two months of anticipation, she was woken up by an email just before dawn on a Friday in April.

"It was from" Fulbright, Ford said. "I was scrolling slowly and then I saw it. I gasped. I was jumping up and down and said 'Thank you, Jesus!'"

During her time overseas, Ford is most excited to study popular British children's books and learn how they intersect with today's culture.

But for the 18-year-old, the opportunity is much more than just an academic program. She has never been out of the U.S. and is looking forward to engaging in an exchange of cultures, meeting new people and exploring a new country.

On this trip, she also plans to do some thinking about what lies ahead.

"At the university, I'm either studying art or studying English. I really haven't been able to tie them together," said Ford, who leaves for Brighton in the U.K. on June 24. "So, this will also be my own personal, little journey in the direction that I want to take my education in."

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