Majors: Political Science and Latino & Latin American Studies
Year of Graduation: 2016
Current Position/Location: Volunteer Trainer, U.S. Peace Corps, Dominican Republic
Please give a brief description of your current position.
I currently serve as a Volunteer Trainer for the U.S. Peace Corps Dominican Republic’s education sector. The Dominican Republic consistently ranks as one of the lowest quality education systems in the world. Peace Corps volunteers work as Spanish literacy trainers, supporting students, teachers, and families on implementing effective learning to read and reading to learn strategies. I work with the Technical Trainer to create and facilitate training for incoming education volunteers, identifying communities where volunteers will live and work, organize professional development conferences, and provide feedback on monthly reports and project grants.
What path did you follow to get to your current position?
After graduating in May 2016, I worked as a YCorps Fellow at Youth Frontiers, a Spanish instructor for Futura Language Professionals, and did miscellaneous jobs in addition to pouring beer for Wayzata Brew Works and Excelsior Brewing Co. I served as a Spanish Literacy volunteer in a small rural community along the Haitian-Dominican border for two years before working as a Volunteer Trainer.
What advice/suggestions would you have for students who might be interested in your career?
Apply! Applying does not bind you to a two-year commitment. The medical and security clearance processes can take up to a year from the time you apply until you depart for your service, so it doesn’t hurt to begin, even if you’re not certain the Peace Corps is right for you. Embarking on a two-year journey with the Peace Corps will inevitably change your life. It will enable you to better understand yourself and the world around you at a deeper level.
What skills are important in your field?
Flexibility. Adaptability. Perseverance. Spanish proficiency. Patience. Open communication skills.
Strong Spanish skills and previous experience working with elementary student students, teachers, and community-based organizations are important. To be a Volunteer Trainer, you must have completed your two years of Peace Corps service.
What is the most satisfying/rewarding part of your position?
I’ve found fulfillment encouraging high-school dropouts, mainly young moms, to re-enroll and finish their schooling, helping women make signs to start juice and tostada stands to financially support themselves, visiting students’ homes to practice multiplication and reading comprehension during vacations, and talking to parents about the importance of reading to their infants and toddlers to develop young childhood literacy. Bringing people together to work towards a common goal— whether it is parents and teachers during a Read Aloud event, pairing a fluid reader with a struggling student, or introducing new volunteers to prominent stakeholders in their regions—has been the most rewarding part of my position.
The most challenging aspect of living and working abroad is suffering from FOMO- the fear of missing out. Peace Corps service is 27 months and during that time, it is likely you will miss your family and friends back home, and big life events such as weddings, birthdays, and baby announcements. However, you will gain new friendships, crazy adventures, language skills, cultural competency, and discover new hobbies. Additionally, it can be difficult working in a different culture than your own and trying to motivate the underserved to believe change can happen after they have repeatedly been disappointed or let down by those in power. You can be a part of that glimmer of hope and window into opportunity that they never knew existed.
What activities/experiences were helpful at CSB/SJU (and elsewhere) in preparation for this career?
While at CSB, I participated in Extending the Link (ETL). ETL had a profound impact on my world respective, exposed me to the reality of non-profit restrictions and expectations, and allowed me to meet lifetime friends while learning about interconnectedness in the global community. I was also a student coordinator for the Eugene J. McCarthy Center, served as a delegate at the UNFCCC in Paris, participated in the Washington, D.C. Summer Study Program, interned at a CSO in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and skated for the CSB Figure Skating team. HISP classes, studying abroad in Guatemala, and interning with the OAS helped improve my Spanish proficiency while exposing me to new cultures. The McCarthy Center and political science department equipped me with critical thinking skills, writing skills, and internship opportunities that prepared me to take on development challenges in the real world.