Kyle may be five years removed from ACU, but he learned those purple-and-white ties are never broken when he was devising a plan to return to the Central Asian country he had previously visited on a seven-month journey through South and Central Asia with three other ACU graduates.
“The Fulbright was something people had suggested I try to apply for,” Kyle said.
He reached out to Jason Morris, director of ACU’s Office of Major Scholarships. He also got help from former professors, friends and family members “who are good at grammar.” The assistance paid off, and Kyle learned in April that he had been awarded the grant.
His acceptance was beneficial to ACU, Morris said, because the university is credited with another Fulbright award winner, even though Kyle had already graduated.
Kyle joins a long list of ACU faculty and students who are Fulbright recipients. This year, two seniors, Lindsie Lawson and Mackenzie Sanderson, were awarded Fulbright Scholar Awards, the first time in school history that ACU has had more than one Fulbright honoree in a year. Mackenzie will teach in Germany from September 2018 through the end of June 2019. Lindsie will teach in Malaysia for 10 months beginning in January 2019.
Kyle grew up in San Angelo but his parents now live in Abilene and his mother, Ann Yarbrough, is administrative coordinator in ACU’s Department of Psychology. Kyle lives in the East Texas community of Canton, where he puts his bachelor’s degree in accounting and financial management to use as a part-time employee of an accounting firm. He also is a substitute teacher at Canton High School.
Before leaving for Kyrgyzstan, Kyle will spend the summer in Itu, Brazil, where he has experience with three nonprofits, Crescimento Limpo halfway house, CURA Brazil medical mission, and First Idiomas, a private language school.
During his stays in Brazil, Kyle has learned Portuguese, which he says he speaks pretty well. He also is an intermediate-level Russian speaker, which he will improve on once he is in Kyrgyzstan, and is fair at Spanish.
“It comes out sounding like Portuguese,” he joked of his Spanish proficiency.
Kyle’s interest in helping people dates to his youth in San Angelo, where his father worked with at-risk kids. Kyle grew up interacting with them and seeing the difference in their lives and his.
At ACU, Kyle frequently was involved in discussions that led him to a path of service. That was strengthened when he and three ACU friends toured Asia for seven months. Before going, they found places to stay and farms to work on through a website, workaway.com. The experience was eye-opening.
“We’d never felt like an outsider before,” he said.
But they soon blended in, sharing stories with the families they stayed with and people they encountered. During that trip, they attended a peace studies conference in Nepal, which fit with their mission.
“Part of our purpose,” Kyle said, “was to go and be good ambassadors.”
The trip also strengthened an interest Kyle had in the literature, history and culture of Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan, especially, caught his eye because of its culture and being “historically overlooked,” Kyle said.
“I just thought it was a fascinating place,” he said.
Once the Fulbright Grant ends in June 2019, Kyle will begin working on his ultimate dream – to return to Central Asia and use his entrepreneurial skills to start a hospitality and tourism business.