Fulbright Award Winner Will Teach in Honduras

Torianna Robleto '24

Torianna Robleto '24 (SUNY Geneseo photo/Matt Burkhartt)

Torianna Robleto ’24, a childhood with special education major and a concentration in Spanish, has won a 2024–25 Fulbright US Student award to Honduras. Robleto, who uses they/them pronouns, will spend the year as an English Teaching Assistant (ETA) in either San Pedro Sula or the capital city of Tegucigalpa. They become Geneseo’s 53rd Fulbright awardee and the second to Honduras (in addition to Elizabeth Fraser ’95).

Robleto describes themselves as “Latine,” the gender-neutral term for Latino, but more specifically, Dominican and Nicaraguan: “When I describe my ethnicity, Dominican always comes first, regardless of the fact that I have a Nicaraguan face, Central American hair, and zero defining Dominican traits past my attitude.”

As a teacher, Robleto works in classrooms that include immigrant students of various ages and abilities who use English, Spanish, and Portuguese, so they feel prepared to adapt to the Honduran classroom environment quickly. They specialize in working with special education students with autism and behavioral disorders.

“Many of my immigrant students do not receive the bilingual services they need because the school focuses more on serving special education students,” Robleto says. “Often immigrant parents fear children being stigmatized by that label, so improving cultural knowledge and promoting exchange will help educate them on special education’s importance.”

As a dancer, Robleto has always been drawn to Central American styles such as cumbia, folcloríco, and punta. They have learned the technical steps and kinesthetics but want to “experience the cumbia Kolombiano that every Central American teenager knows and to experience what the Hondurans feel when they gather and parade their signs and symbols while dancing.”

“Torianna has an outstanding capacity to express herself with objectivity and cultural awareness,” said Wesley Costa de Moraes, former assistant professor of Spanish, in Robleto’s Fulbright application. “She has strong teaching skills and will adjust very well in Honduras to new environments or situations to engage productively with a non-English speaking community.”

Before Costa de Moraes unexpectedly passed away in March, he was one of a group of dedicated faculty members whose teaching, mentorship, and support of applicants has been instrumental in Geneseo’s Fulbright success over the years. Costa de Moraes was especially involved in writing scores of recommendations for Fulbright applicants and had a profound effect on Robleto.

“Professor Costa was my mentor for four years and supported me with every project and endeavor I brought to him,” they say. “When I received the ETA, all I wanted to do was to tell him about our accomplishment. I hope to continue to make him proud during my time with Fulbright.”

After their Fulbright year, Robleto plans to continue teaching in public city schools, focusing on bridging the gap between special education and bilingual services. Doing so will allow them to develop their pedagogy and eventually share with other teachers the lessons from their teaching experiences in the US and Honduras.

Fulbrights at Geneseo

In six of the past seven years, Geneseo has been named a Fulbright Top Producing Institution by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in its annual article in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Geneseo was the first dedicated SUNY institution to be named a Top Producer of US Student awards in any category—bachelor’s, master’s, research, or special-focus four-year institutions.

The Fulbright US Student Program provides grants for individually designed graduate study, research programs, or English teaching assistant programs in many foreign countries. Robleto is the third awardee of the eight semifinalists in this year’s competition, joining Lily Shields ’23 (Uganda) and Andew Biittig ’23 (Germany). Reporting for the 2024–25 cycle will continue through May.

The Fulbright US Student competition is open to students and alumni. It is administered at Geneseo by director of national fellowships and scholarships Michael Mills, who can be reached at millsm@geneseo.edu and 585-245-6002. For more information about the Fulbright and other nationally and internationally competitive scholarship and fellowship programs, visit Fellowships and Scholarships.

—Michael Mills