Graduate students host panel to celebrate Peace Corps Week

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In honor of Peace Corps Week, a panel was hosted by graduate students who served in the Peace Corps.

Peace Corps Week is dedicated to educating people about the Peace Corps and encouraging returning volunteers to get involved in the community.

The panel was opened by Margaret Booth, associate dean of the graduate college.

Booth served in the Peace Corps during 1982 through 1984 in Kenya. She worked as a high school English teacher and coached track and field.

Booth said she felt she made a big impact on the people she worked with, but it wasn’t always purposefully.

“What I’ve discovered is those influences aren’t targeted at all, but often accidental,” she said.

Graduate students who served in the Peace Corps also spoke about their experiences abroad.

Whitney Popp served in Jordan working in special education for two years.

While in Jordan, Popp experienced a very different culture than in America. The village she was in was very conservative and did not allow women to go out alone. She said the fact that she was in a foreign country “was huge” for the other women.

Liz Adamo also dealt with the same issues while working in education in Cameroon.

She worked with high school girls and tried to empower the women there.

“We worked with women in the community to serve as role models,” she said.

Adamo said she worked in rough conditions while teaching; there were little resources and a lot of students. Because of this, Adamo said the people in the community respected her and her work.

Tiffany Nelson worked in China from 2008 through 2009 as a university English instructor. She said she impacted many of the women there by helping them through their issues.

“It was a way that they could use English to tell about different issues in their lives,” she said.

Kristen Bunner went to Namibia through 2010 and 2012. She said she helped women by teaching them about safe sex and raising money to buy feminine products.

“There’s a pretty big problem with girls skipping school if they don’t have a way to take care of their periods,” she said.

Booth said her presence empowered the women in Kenya because she was the only female educator there.

“It was a novelty to have a high school teacher be a woman,” she said.

Booth also helped build a library, which the girls found hard to understand, thinking people would steal the books.

“The concept of a library where you would go and borrow a book and bring it back was such a novelty that I had to teach them about it,” she said.

Popp said while rewarding, working in the Peace Corps is hard work.

“You don’t get through Peace Corps without being driven,” she said. “If you’re not driven, you quit.”