Danny Kotula, a 2019 graduate of Cornerstone, has recently been selected as a Fulbright Grant recipient. Read below as he shares about this prestigious honor and his excitement for what the future holds!
Before I came to Cornerstone, I had never been at a school for more than a year. I moved around a lot as a kid and never really found roots anywhere, but when we moved more permanently to Georgia, Cornerstone was a welcome constant.
I made some great friends with my classmates and felt so much love and appreciation from my teachers. Some people I’m especially thankful for are Mrs. Nguyen, Sra. Vehrs, Mrs. Wynn, and Mrs. Manning for being great teachers, Coach Cowart and my dad, Kevin Kotula for being excellent coaches, and Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Souza, and Mrs. Sparks for encouraging me every day and making my time at Cornerstone so much brighter.
Being at Cornerstone challenged me as a student and helped me become an elite writer and a well-rounded college student. A lot of what makes Cornerstone academically unique and high-level is the trust that the University-Model® system places in us as students. The expectation was always high for me to put in lots of work at a high level of quality, and I had a lot of opportunities to prove that when two whole days a week were devoted to my own work at home. I also was able to use the schedule flexibility to dual enroll at Kennesaw State University and earn a total of 43 credits towards my degree before ever stepping on campus at Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN.
It’s a First!
I’m the first Cornerstone graduate to attend Lipscomb University. I was drawn to Lipscomb by the community that I experienced from the first moment I stepped foot on campus. Everyone from professors to fellow students were welcoming and made me feel like I was part of a genuine family! Now that I’m awfully close to graduating, that’s still why I’m proud to say I went to Lipscomb. I know I’ve made friendships that will last me a lifetime and the connections I’m bringing to the professional world are extensive. Rachel Shannon, a 2020 Cornerstone graduate, also chose Lipscomb University and is currently a freshman here!
The Future is (Ful)Bright
The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is a highly competitive and prestigious postgraduate opportunity for students to utilize their degrees and engage across cultures. Fulbright is funded by the U.S. Government and is a partnership between nearly every recognized nation in the world. Every year, about 2,000 graduates from the United States receive grants to complete a project in a foreign country. Fulbrighters can either be awarded an English Teaching grant or an Open Study grant. The Open Study grant requires applicants to build partnerships with organizations or institutions in the country to which they are applying and create proposals, the best of which are selected to receive grants.
Called with a Purpose
My Fulbright grant falls in the Open Study category. I plan to spend ten months abroad. I will be in Cochabamba, Bolivia from February to April of 2023 and then spend April through November 2023 in Cusco, Peru using my degree in public relations to help catalyze economic growth and opportunity for indigenous people in those countries. Indigenous people make up a majority of the populations of Bolivia and Peru, but they are mostly unable to break the poverty cycle they live in for a variety of reasons. Legislation does not favor them, the rural areas they live in are not conducive to economic growth, and they are highly underrepresented in government. I believe that if people are equipped to utilize the skills they already have and promote them, they can sustain themselves without having to rely on those who hold power over them.
I discovered the field of public relations when Mrs. Cosgrove gave us the assignment to complete a YouScience evaluation. Most people don’t know much about public relations, but it’s essentially the intersection of journalism and advertising. YouScience took my skills and interests and calculated potential careers that might be a good fit; public relations came up and I was interested enough to go for it. I started at Lipscomb in PR expecting to change my major five times, but I actually found I really enjoyed the communications department and PR as a whole. While I don’t think I want to work in public relations, it’s a great major to have because it’s flexible and I feel very well set up for a variety of roles in the world of communications. I’m hoping to work in sports media when I get back from South America!
I can’t really put into words how blessed I feel to have so special of an opportunity. When I was a senior at Cornerstone, I remember spending a week in Ecuador with the Vehrs’ IMPACT trip in 2019, my first time in South America. I distinctly remember leaving and feeling like I’d left a piece of my heart back there, and ever since then, I’ve been longing to go back and spend more time in Latin America. I’ve been on another mission trip and a study abroad semester since then, but it’s been a desire of mine to live there permanently from the moment I arrived in Ecuador. I’m almost tearing up as I write this and think back to that Ecuador trip. It makes me think of how proud and excited I’d be to know that future me would get to spend an entire year helping people in the culture I love so dearly.
Class of 2022, the best years are ahead!
I would tell graduating seniors to get excited about all the changes that are about to come their way. Everything they know about life is about to be flipped upside-down if they’re willing to jump off the deep end and take some chances as college students and young professionals. I thought I was dreaming big with my future goals when I turned my tassel at Cornerstone, but God has given me some incredible chances to follow my dreams that I never would have imagined.
I also see myself in such a different light than I did when I was a student at Cornerstone. There’s so much about the world to learn in the short time we get to live on it, and I’d encourage seniors with the fact that they’re about to redefine how they see the world once they graduate. Even if they don’t leave home and travel outside the state for school like I did, the people they’ll interact with will give them new perspectives about who God is and why He’s given us the platforms we have. Seniors, your best few years of life are more than likely just ahead of you!
Cornerstone Alumni, we’d love to hear from you! Please send us an email letting us know what you’ve been up to since graduation. We will respond promptly.