A Shaker High School alumna who is currently a senior at the University of Chicago recently received a grant that few people in the world have had the privilege of accepting.
Kaylee Steck graduated from Shaker in 2010 and has taken a less traditional path to further her education by being awarded the Fulbright Scholarship to do research in Morocco.
Majoring in Arabic language and Islamic Civilization with a focus in economic history, Steck has taken every opportunity to travel to the places where she can actually be a part of the culture she is studying. On top of this accomplishment, Steck has been on the dean’s list at the University of Chicago all four years, and she’s a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the University’s Maroon Key Society. The society recognizes students based on a distinguishable record of student leadership.
Her father, David Steck, said that his daughter has always been ambitious and determined.
“She’s very intense and very driven. It doesn’t matter what she does. Whatever she’s doing, she will do to the best of her ability. She is so dedicated and never stops once she sets her mind on something.” said Steck.
With all the different projects Steck is involved with, that drive is necessary to keep her going. Steck has been an intern or assistant on numerous projects at seven organizations. She’s also an assistant for the Middle Eastern Music Ensemble, as well as singing in the ensemble.
Her father isn’t really sure where her interest in the Middle East came from, but thinks it could have had something to do with the education she received in North Colonie and her upbringing.
“This is something she developed completely on her own. Perhaps it was someone at Shaker that sparked her interest in the Middle East. My family talks a lot about politics and world affairs, so that may have been something that spurred her on,” said David.
Kaylee agreed that her education at North Colonie might have had something to do with her interest in history and different cultures.
“It’s a personal interest. I’ve always been interested in history, and I had a lot of great history teachers in high school,” said Kaylee.
David said his daughter also has a strong interest in choir and theatrics and that she originally went to school to further her education in theater.
“She had a fantastic education at Shaker. She was very active in theater and had a lead role in a high school play, and I thought she was going to take that path and that’s what she was originally doing — going to school for music and theater. Once she got into the University of Chicago, she found her way into this program. Now, she sings with the Middle East ensemble,” said David.
The application process for the Fulbright Scholarship is not an easy process. Steck received some help from the university.
“The university has an on-campus application assistant, which means you discuss your project on campus with campus advisors. So, I was getting help on campus and from professors in Morocco that were part of the intensive language program,” said Steck.
Steck said that the main inspiration for her project was from a trip she took to Morocco last summer, where she spent most of her time studying Arabic and Darija at the Arab American Language Institute in Morocco.
On top of having a strong proposal for your project, Steck said that you have to find a host in the country that will support your project, which is where her time with the American Language Institute in Morocco helped.
While in Morocco, Steck’s project will focus on food retailing in Meknes, Morocco. During her free time in Morocco last summer, she went to the markets with her host family. Her time spent in the markets sparked her interest in the history of global trade and consumption.
In June, Steck leaves for France to partner with the European Youth Parliament to design a debate to discuss youth participation in a future transatlantic world. After that, she goes to Morocco in the fall where she will spend the year working on her project.