Little more than a decade ago, Shanieya Harris celebrated her 10th birthday by spending all the money she had been gifted on a Spanish dictionary. “There are many things that a child dreams of when they are younger,” she says. “For me it was to learn languages, to travel, and to make a change in the world.”
It would take more than a Spanish dictionary to fulfill those dreams—intensive Spanish courses in high school, to start—but that first purchase proved Harris’s early focus and determination. “I was only a child trying to reach for the stars above,” she says.
Now, after years of study, all three of Harris’s childhood ambitions are coming to fruition. The graduating Barry University senior and standout Spanish major was recently awarded the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship, an honor that will carry her to Spain, where she will serve as a Fulbright Teaching Assistant.
Administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright program will enable Harris to deepen her study of the Spanish language while also fostering English language skills with students in rural communities. For Harris, the opportunity to teach abroad feels like the result of both destiny and a lot of hard work. “I always knew that I would become a teacher,” she says. “I’ve been teaching for as long as I can remember—scribbling the new words I learned in school over the white walls of my congested home, then lecturing my siblings about its importance. They were my first set of students.”
Growing up as one of seven siblings in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Harris cultivated an appreciation for education, recognizing early on the injustices of poverty and oppression that prevented prior generations of her family members from accessing quality schooling. She found her strongest passions in language and literature. “Instead of picking up a ball, I resulted to ballpoint pens,” she says. While she was still in elementary school, she completed her first book of poetry, for which she won her school’s Young Authors’ Award. Her middle and high school years were equally productive, as she developed her writing talents and, later, supplemented her Spanish courses with advanced-level offerings through the University of Cambridge.
Harris’s excellence in high school earned her acceptances from multiple colleges, but it was at Barry that she found her perfect fit. “I always tell those who ask that Barry University chose me,” she says. “I wanted somewhere filled with culture, opportunities, and space for enrichment in my field of study. Then I toured Barry University. It instantly felt like home!” Her easy connection to Barry’s vibrant campus culture was matched when she began to explore the city beyond. “Miami is a true melting pot for languages, culture, and the arts,” Harris says. “I was quickly met by those in the Spanish speaking community who wanted to see me succeed.”
By majoring in Spanish at Barry, Harris has continued to expand her appreciation for language and literature as well as her passion for writing. “Every chance I got to write, I took it!” she says. “I did not care if it was not a familiar genre or form.” With that sense of eagerness, Harris wrote everything from plays for the Theatre Department to Spanish- and English-language news articles for the Barry Buccaneer Newspaper. “Most recently I started writing for the arts with Artburst Miami,” she says. “My words are both a reflection of tragedy and newfound success.”
As she prepares to graduate and follow her 10-year-old heart to Spain as a 2023 Fulbright Scholar, Harris reflects, with gratitude, on her time at Barry. “There has never been a dull moment!” she says. She credits the wealth of opportunities to explore, grow, and work toward her goals with helping her achieve success. “When a school delivers its promise, it births outstanding individuals.”