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Notable Graduate: Sonya Temko

Sonya Temko is the Mills College 2013-14 Fulbright award winner. After graduating this year with a double major in French and Francophone studies and English Literature, Temko will work in France as an English teaching assistant.

(Courtesy of Sonya Temko)
(Courtesy of Sonya Temko)

The Fulbright Program is highly selective; this year only six recipients were chosen from 200 applicants across the nation. Those who are awarded will teach in priority education zones.

Priority education zones, also known as ZEPs (Zones d’Education Prioritaire), are immigrant communities segregated into ethnic minority populations, where students face lower graduation rates and impaired academic success than the rest of the population.

According to Jacqueline Costa-Lascoux, research director for the National Center for Scientific Research, the objective of ZEP is “to contribute to correcting social inequality by selective reinforcement of educational activity in the zones and social environments in which the level of failure at school is the highest.”

The ZEPs was one of the draws for Temko who has long been interested in this aspect of French society.

“One of the things that really interested me in France, and what I’m writing my thesis on, is the French system of integration and how that relates to their colonial past,” Temko said.

Temko came to Mills in 2009 as a freshwoman and studied in Paris during her junior year. While studying in France, she also volunteered by teaching English to local high schools students.

“I got really comfortable classroom managing… I really like it,” Temko said.

Another thing Temko was involved with during her time at Mills was her participation in Peer Health Exchange (PHE), a nationwide program that has had a chapter at Mills. (see PHE article on page 5).

“[PHE] was really good for me,” Temko said. “It made me realize I liked teaching and could do it.”

In fact, Temko hopes to start a health education program in the high school where she will be teaching — Lycee Alexandre Ribot Hight School in Northern France.

“I am hoping to start a program similar to Peer Health Exchange to empower teens to make healthy decisions,” Temko said.

With her passion for teaching, her experience with French culture, and her Liberal Arts education, Temko is a scholar to be watched.