Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Peace Corps assigns Straus to The Gambia

Samantha Straus, 26, (pictured at right) a Master's International student with SNRAS, has been accepted into the Peace Corps.

Straus will be departing for The Gambia, Africa, in March 2012, to begin pre-service training as a forestry Peace Corps volunteer.

Straus is a graduate of Arizona State University and is currently enrolled in the Peace Corps Master’s International program at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks studying natural resources management.

Straus says she was motivated to join the Peace Corps because, “Peace Corps service provides the opportunity to go where help is needed most. The exchange of culture is also almost just as important, if not more-so, than the volunteer work you do as it helps bring people that would otherwise be worlds apart, closer together. In our ever-changing and rapidly growing world, this sense of global community is key, especially with regards towards managing our resources and ensuring sustainable development for future generations.”

As a student in the Master’s International program, Straus says she hopes “to try to better understand people’s perspectives regarding the environment to help strengthen the environmental education program in The Gambia, and to use those findings for comparing and contrasting programs in the United States and elsewhere.”

During the first three months of service she will live with a host family in The Gambia to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills necessary to assist her community, she will be sworn into service and be assigned to a community in The Gambia, where she will live and work for two years with the local people.

Over 1,540 Peace Corps volunteers have served in The Gambia since the program was established in 1967. Volunteers in this West African nation work in the areas of education, youth and community development, environmental and agricultural conservation, and health and HIV/AIDS awareness. The education project incorporates Information and Communication Technology training for teachers and students, and the Peace Corps has been instrumental in the establishment of self-sustaining computer labs. Currently, 93 volunteers are serving in The Gambia. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Jola, Mandinka, Pulaar, Sarahule, Sereer, and Wolof.

This year the Peace Corps celebrates 50 years of international service. More than 200,000 Americans have served as Peace Corps volunteers in 139 countries since President John F. Kennedy established the agency in 1961.

Through their service, volunteers increase awareness of America around the world and help the U.S. gain an understanding of other cultures beyond our borders. Currently, 9,095 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 75 countries.

Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Volunteers live and work with a community overseas to reach goals in education, health, business, agriculture, the environment, youth development and more.

Peace Corps volunteers spend their first three months of service in training, living with a host family and studying the local language and culture.

Volunteers receive transportation, a living stipend, medical care, graduate school opportunities, student loan deferment, $7,425 upon completion and much more. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens, at least 18 years old and in good health. There is no upper age limit and no cost to participate. Apply online.

Melanie Forthun, Peace Corps public affairs specialist, said, "We are in great need of folks with agriculture and Spanish or French skills. We currently have a lot of open positions in these areas we are quickly looking to fill. Any interested applicants can contact their local Peace Corps office at 800-424-8580."

For information on SNRAS's Master's International program, contact Professor Stephen Sparrow at 907-474-7188.

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