University of Vermont Graduate Realizes Peace Corps Dream & Her Potential in Panama

Taylor Dorn - Skirt Photo

UVM alumna Taylor Dorn, of Essex Junction, is currently teaching English to secondary school students as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Panama.

Since her early teenage years, Taylor Dorn of Essex Junction, Vermont, has imagined herself serving in the Peace Corps – she even compiled a “bucket list” in middle school that marked the prospect. Now, roughly one decade later, Taylor has checked that dream off her list as she forges ahead to live and work as an Education Volunteer in Panama.

“I was picturing myself in a small town, living in a hut, and drinking coconut milk every day while reading in a hammock,” she joked. “While part of that is true, I would say that my reality now is nothing like what I had envisioned before arriving in Panama.”

More than halfway into her two-year service, Taylor currently teaches English to students and teachers at a local secondary school in her Panamanian community.

While completing her primary assignment, Taylor has spearheaded several other projects to educate students at her school, including the development of a reading corner stocked with multilingual children’s books, a sustainable recycling program and a life skills workshop for seventh to tenth graders. She also facilitates an English language club in association with the Peace Corps’ World Wise Schools program, in which international schools partner with schools in the United States to foster social and cultural exchange.

Additionally, in her community, Taylor has launched a seminar series offering lessons on English language proficiency and professional development for university students who are studying to become English teachers. She also serves as president of a gender and development committee, which is administered by a board of Peace Corps Volunteers to promote youth development, male and female empowerment, men and women’s health and HIV/AIDS awareness.

“My biggest accomplishments have been the seminar workshops and seeing the newfound confidence from my participants,” she noted. “Working with children has also been very rewarding, and the relationships I have made with some people in my town will be the most valuable asset that takes away from my service.”

Taylor Dorn - Teaching Kids

Outside of her primary assignment, Taylor has found other ways to educate her students by developing a reading corner stocked with multilingual children’s books, a sustainable recycling program and a life skills workshop for seventh to tenth graders.

As a 2013 graduate of the University of Vermont – which ranked as one of the Peace Corps’ top Volunteer-producing universities in the nation this year – Taylor credited her undergraduate work in global studies with a double minor in Spanish and anthropology for cultivating a solid foundation that prepared her for Peace Corps service.

“The issues that I was exposed to in college also motivated me to see firsthand what the situation is like in developing countries,” she added. “I want to do work in international development, and in order to do this you need to understand the situation, which is something you can’t fully appreciate from behind a desk.”

Acting upon Taylor’s example, UVM recently launched its own Peace Corps Prep Program – in which current students may enroll in coursework geared towards international development with the expectation of pursuing that field after graduation – as a way to encourage more students to explore their potential overseas.

“I wish I had this opportunity when I was at UVM!” Taylor said about the program. “It sounds like an incredible experience, and one that I would encourage anyone who is considering joining the Peace Corps to take advantage of.”

Looking back on the past year, Taylor has found many pleasant surprises in her daily life overseas, from making the most of her time to work on multiple projects to forming many close friendships in her large colonial town. When it comes time to leave Panama at the end of her service, Taylor hopes that she will inspire her neighbors and students to make positive changes in their own lives while adopting a more enlightened view of the American people.

“In some ways, my service has exceeded my expectations,” she continued. “All in all, I would say that I am happy my Peace Corps reality is nothing like I thought it would be.”

To follow Taylor’s Peace Corps service in Panama, visit her blog at whereintheworldistaylordorn.blogspot.com.

Taylor will share more of her experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer with Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Senator Patrick Leahy at UVM on September 2nd. If interested, please click here to RSVP.   

Peace Corps and UMass Boston Announce New Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program at the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development

The Peace Corps and University of Massachusetts Boston today announced the launch of a new Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program that will provide graduate school scholarships to returned Peace Corps volunteers. All program Fellows will complete internships in underserved Massachusetts communities while they complete their studies, allowing them to bring home and expand upon the skills they learned as volunteers.

“We are delighted to partner with UMass Boston to support our returned volunteers as they pursue higher education and continue their commitment to service,” Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. “Communities are moved forward by the selflessness of volunteers, and returned Peace Corps volunteers have unique skills and experiences to offer their local communities.”

UMass Boston’s Fellows Program will be housed at the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, offering graduate degrees in rehabilitation counseling (M.S.) and global inclusion and social development (M.A. and PhD).

Fellows selected for the program will receive in-state tuition – even if they are residents of other states – as well as academic credits for their Peace Corps service. Depending on the program, they may also be eligible for tuition remission via graduate assistantships, or for additional federally funded scholarships through the Rehabilitation Services Administration.

“The mission of these graduate programs is to empower excluded populations, both here in the United States and internationally,” UMass Boston Provost Winston E. Langley said. “This mission fits perfectly into the work Peace Corps volunteers do around the world. Bringing returned Peace Corps volunteers to UMass Boston as graduate students will elevate the stature of our programs in global inclusion and social development to an even higher level.”

Through their internships, Coverdell Fellows apply what they learn in the classroom to a professional setting. They not only gain valuable, hands-on experience that makes them more competitive in today’s job market, but they also further the Peace Corps mission. By sharing their global perspective with the communities they serve, Fellows help fulfill Peace Corps’ Third Goal commitment to strengthen Americans’ understanding of the world and its people.

“Our programs prepare students for leadership roles in the non-profit and government sectors,” said William Kiernan, dean of the School for Global Inclusion and Social Development. “As interns, the Coverdell Fellows will translate the knowledge they’re gaining in their graduate studies to the real-world challenges facing people who are excluded here in Massachusetts. They’ll also learn how issues of exclusion play out in other states, across the country, and internationally.”

The Greater Boston metropolitan area was recently recognized as a top producer of Peace Corps volunteers. It ranked No. 6 among regions with the highest number of Peace Corps volunteers currently serving overseas. To see the complete 2014 rankings of Peace Corps’ top states and metro areas, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/media/forpress/press/2479/.

The Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program began in 1985 at Teachers College, Columbia University and now includes more than 90 university partners across the country, from the District of Columbia to Hawaii to Alaska. The program is specifically reserved for students who have already completed their Peace Corps service abroad. Since the inception of the program, more than 4,500 returned volunteers have participated and made a difference across the country. For more information, visit www.peacecorps.gov/fellows.

To learn more about the Coverdell Fellows Program at UMass Boston, contact: Anya Weber, Copywriter and Editor, School for Global Inclusion and Social Development, at anya.weber@umb.edu or 617-287-4405.

Peace Corps in Myanmar (Burma) Now Accepting Applications for Early 2016

Have you ever wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people? How about while living in the tropical mountains of Southeast Asia? Now is your chance to discover all of the above!

We’re currently accepting applications for Peace Corps Volunteers that will serve in Myanmar (Burma) next year. Volunteers will teach English to middle and high school students for two years. If you apply by September 1st, you will depart as early as February 2016!

Burma2

Click here to learn more about Peace Corps’ newest service opportunities in Myanmar (Burma), or visit Peace Corps Myanmar (Burma)’s official Facebook page. Submit your application by September 1st — the world is literally at your fingertips!

Swarthmorean Packs Up for Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic

Swarthmore resident Michaela Whitelaw will depart for service in the Dominican Republic as a Health Volunteer on August 19th.

Swarthmore resident Michaela Whitelaw will depart for service in the Dominican Republic as a Health Volunteer on August 19th.

Michaela Whitelaw, 22, of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for the Dominican Republic on August 19th to begin training as a Health volunteer. Whitelaw will live and work in a community to improve its local healthcare system and participate in a secondary project to help meet community development needs.

“I will be partnering with local leaders, youth and health promoters to conduct training and bring health services directly to mothers, children and youth,” she added. “We want to promote preventative healthcare practices and the training will focus primarily on HIV/AIDS and pregnancy prevention as well as malnutrition.”

Whitelaw is the daughter of John Whitelaw and Mary Pipan and a graduate of Strath Haven High School in Wallingford, Pennsylvania. She then attended University of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 2014.

Whitelaw previously volunteered with AmeriCorps VISTA with SERVE Philadelphia, which is an initiative launched out of the Mayor’s Office of Civic Engagement Volunteer Service. Through SERVE Philadelphia, she worked as a coordinator for PhillyBOOST, a project that brings together the Department of Human Services, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and the Free Library of Philadelphia to develop accessible, high quality after-school programming for local children and youth.

She also worked as a lab assistant in an Evolutionary Developmental Biology lab, foundation assistant at the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation and nutrition and physical activity health educator with Peer Health Exchange.

During the first three months of her service, Whitelaw will live with a host family in the Dominican Republic to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills necessary to assist her community, Whitelaw will be sworn into service and be assigned to a community in the Dominican Republic, where she will live and work for two years with the local people. While she has lived abroad in the past, particularly in Spain for three months, Whitelaw expects her two years of service in the Dominican Republic to be an even greater journey.

“I most look forward to getting to know and becoming part of an entirely different community and culture from my own,” she said. “I am excited to learn the customs and traditions of my host family and community, and I also can’t wait to dance bachata, merengue and salsa!”

Whitelaw joins the 270 Pennsylvania residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 7,900 Pennsylvania residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

Click here to learn more about Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic.

New York Native, Connecticut Businessman Gears Up For Peace Corps Service at 50

East Hartford resident Chris Kalish will depart for service in Botswana as a Community and Economic Development Volunteer on July 23rd.

East Hartford resident Chris Kalish will depart for service in Botswana as a Community and Economic Development Volunteer on August 2nd.

Chris Kalish, 50, of Pleasantville, New York, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Botswana August 2nd to begin training as a Community and Economic Development Volunteer. Chris will live and work in a community to improve its local government and participate in a secondary project to help meet community development needs. As an older volunteer, Kalish believes the insight he has gained from years of experience will prove beneficial during service, though knows he will miss his family in those two years overseas.

“I have two children in college and they are looking forward to learning more about Africa and my assignment,” he said. “They are a big part of who I am and I look forward to communicating with them while I’m abroad.”

Chris, who currently lives in East Hartford, Connecticut, is a graduate of Ardsley High School in Westchester County, New York. He then attended Columbia University School of Engineering, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering in 1987.

As an innovation and technology consultant, Chris has more than 25 years of experience in Information Technology and systems architecture. He served as president and CEO of The IP Factory – a non-profit corporation based in Connecticut that combines technology and business processes to develop companies – and former director and chief technology officer of the General Electric edgelab research facility, for which he managed strategic corporate initiatives from New Product Introductions (NPIs) and Market Entrance Strategies to stochastic risk modeling and econometrics. Prior to his tenure at GE, Chris also worked as a Technical Fellow at PepsiCo to develop global systems architecture and technology strategies. Chris is the immediate past chairman of the Connecticut Technology Council, a statewide association that represents more than 2,000 technology companies in the realm of innovation. His research background includes parallel systems and hardware, compiler design and applied studies in emerging technologies, such as biometrics, sales force automation, and broadband wireless technologies.

Additionally, Chris has served as director of the Tarrytown Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the Westchester County Regional EMS Council, advisor to the county executive of the Westchester County EMS Advisory Board and member of the president of the University of Connecticut’s Advisory Board for Technology Commercialization. He has also volunteered with the American Red Cross, American Heart Association and Alzheimer’s Association.

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

“As an engineer, researcher, and volunteer, I approach all challenges with an analytical lens and try to treat all colleagues with respect and empathy,” he said. “I hope that I leave Botswana with a measurable impact on their quality of life, economic condition, or standard of care.”

Chris joins the 107 Connecticut residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 3,393 Connecticut residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

Click here to learn more about Peace Corps Volunteers who are making a difference in their golden years.