Fourth-year students Nanor Balabanian and Allyson Miller won the 2012 Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowship for Aspiring Teachers of Color.

The Rockefeller Brothers Fund established the $30,000 scholarship — which requires students to teach in underrepresented areas for three years upon completion of their graduate degrees — in 1992 to help recruit, support and retain individuals of color as public education teachers and administrators. The program has awarded nearly $8 million in grants and financial assistance to 375 fellows since its inception.

Both honorees will attend UCSB’s Gevirtz Graduate School of Education next year, which was one of only four education programs in the country to have both of their nominees receive the fellowships.

Miller, a black studies major who aspires to teach English, said she looks forward to the prospect of inspiring students in an underserved community.

“I was planning to go to a high-needs public school anyway, because I feel like that’s just where my heart wants me to teach,” Miller said.

Miller said her personal experiences as a pupil set the foundation for her future as an educator.

“I was fortunate to have really great teachers growing up,” Miller said. “They really motivated me and I got excited about learning, so that’s what made me want to go back into the classroom and motivate my own students one day.”

Balabanian, a political science major who hopes to teach social studies and history to secondary school students, said her educators also heavily impacted the direction of her life.

“I want to pass on the same drive and motivation that teachers instilled within me,” Balabanian said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without all the teachers and education I’ve gotten at UCSB. I feel like I’m representing a bunch of people who won this award, not just myself.”

Balabanian said she aims to encourage students to cultivate a passion for cross-cultural understanding.

“That’s one of the reasons I want to become a teacher — to relate to all sorts of people, whether it is through speaking a different language or just relating to a different culture,” Balabanian said. “I think being culturally sensitive in the classroom is one of the key components to being a successful teacher.”