AHS graduate earns Fulbright scholarship
Award will help with study in Latin America
Solamon Cruz Estin rattles off obscure dates in history and the wording of impossibly long acronyms with a precise and articulate tongue.
The 22-year-old debate virtuoso graduated from Ashland High School in 2006, and was awarded the Fulbright Scholarship during his senior year at Pitzer College, a Los Angeles-area liberal arts school, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political studies, with concentrations in economics and Latin American studies, during May of this year.
Historically, Pitzer is known for its high number of Fulbright recipients, and Estin’s graduating class was no exception. Out of 90 senior applicants, for last academic year’s award, his class garnered a record-setting 23 Fulbrights; more than any other school has earned in a single year.
“We would spend countless hours constantly drafting and re-drafting our essays together,” Estin said. “Preparing for weeks, and even months before submitting them.”
The Fulbright Program, which was established in 1946, provides fellowships that allow students, scholars, and teachers to engage in study abroad trips, which are aimed at promoting peaceful diplomacy in the global community. Annually, the program awards about 7,500 fellowships, and has awarded nearly 300,000 in countries around the world since its inception.
Estin recently returned from his 10-month-long Fulbright trip, during which he taught English, tutored, provided academic advising, and coached the debate team at Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, in Medellin, Columbia. He is fluent in Portuguese, Spanish, and English.
“I knew that studying aboard was going to be important to me when I was deciding on a school “… it was one of the primary reasons I chose Pitzer,” Estin said. “It has one of the highest study abroad participation rates in the country “… and it was far enough away that I could see and experience something new, but close enough that I could come home and visit.”
After returning from Columbia last May, Estin received word that he was being awarded the Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholarship, worth $26,000, which will provide funding for one academic year’s worth of social research and study outside of the United States. Scheduled to leave for the trip in February 2012, it hasn’t been determined yet where he will land, but it’s going to be between Nicaragua, Panama or Brazil, which is his home country, and where Estin requested to go, he said.
“I’ve been there several times,” said Estin, who moved from Brazil to the United States before his second birthday. “It’s a county with vast wealth and extreme poverty, making it one of the most economically unequal countries on earth “… Seeing that wealth divide has aggravated me since a young age.”
After his parents divorced when he was five, his father, William Estin, although originally from the U.S., moved back to Brazil. Estin stayed in Ashland with his mother, Luciene Cruz, who is a native of Brazil.
“She has been profoundly influential in my life,” said Estin, who, following Brazilian tradition, uses his mother’s last name as his middle. “She is somebody who values social and academic achievement “… with her, education was always number one.”
Estin said he can remember politics always being a topic of discussion at the dinner table when he was growing up, hardly ever watching TV or playing video games, and always being pushed to go above and beyond.
“If you work hard and you study hard then you will be rewarded. That was kind of her mantra,” he said. “That has been the foundation for by entire life.”
Although Estin said he wouldn’t trade the experience of growing up in Ashland for anything, he doesn’t see himself returning to live in Southern Oregon; at least not for a long time.
“I really don’t picture my self coming back,” he said. “I think I’m too professionally driven to feel comfortable with a town as small as Ashland.”
After next year’s South America trip is up, Estin plans to earn a master’s degree in international affairs and Latin American studies. The top three schools on his list are Georgetown University, Johns Hopkins School of Advance International Studies, and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, he said.
Eventually, Estin hopes to find himself somewhere which will allow him to immerse himself in the diplomacy of foreign relations between the U.S. and Latin America. He may even return to Brazil, he said.
“I’d love to have a career in the international arena,” he said. “Too me, it’s better than Disney Land; better than being in any theme park “… It’s just really exhilarating.”