Penn State University Alum Discovers The Sweet Side of Peace Corps Service in Perú

Mark Goldy-Brown
Penn State alumnus Mark Goldy-Brown, of Zionsville, is currently working to spur conservation efforts in Peru as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

At an earlier age, Mark Goldy-Brown, of Zionsville, Pennsylvania, would always listen to his uncle tell stories about serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa. Since then, Mark knew he was meant to join the Peace Corps for several reasons: he wanted to travel, to put his Spanish language competency to work, to be exposed to new cultures, to challenge himself and, most importantly, to serve. Now, living and working as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Perú, life couldn’t be sweeter for Mark – mainly because his Peruvian community prides itself on having a major sweet tooth.

“My site is widely famous for its sweets and desserts,” noted The Pennsylvania State University graduate. “The ice cream here is wonderful, and anytime I need a little pick-me-up, I just go buy a scoop or two or three.”

Settled at the foot of the Andes Mountains, Mark works as an Environment Management Volunteer to enhance environmental education and natural resource management in his community. He is currently focusing his efforts to remedy Perú’s biggest conservation issue: trash management.

“In my community, many sites don’t receive a trash collection service, and even if they do, many people simply burn their trash, throw it in the water canals, or bury it in their farmland,” Mark explained. “My efforts in trash management have been largely focused on increasing awareness about separating trash, recycling, and the consequences of littering and environmental pollution.”

While completing his primary assignment, Mark has spearheaded several other projects to educate his community, such as teaching neighborhood children in a weekly English class. Mark also hopes to form a co-ed Ultimate Frisbee team at a local school next month as a way to introduce gender equality among Peruvian youth.

As he reflected on his first six months of Peace Corps service, Mark credited his education at Emmaus High School – particularly its foreign language program – for equipping him with the Spanish fluency necessary to forge meaningful relationships in his community.

“My high competency in Spanish has been an invaluable resource in working on projects and forming connections with Peruvians,” said the longtime Hornet. “Additionally, I played soccer all throughout high school and that has definitely come in handy here in Perú since fútbol is the number one sport and nearly everyone plays.”

His undergraduate career at the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State also afforded him the chance to expand his horizons by studying abroad and becoming involved in various philanthropic efforts.

“During my time at Penn State, I was fortunate enough to have several opportunities to travel internationally for classes and coursework,” he added. “Such international exposure sparked my interest in culture and travel, eventually becoming one of the main reasons I began to look into the Peace Corps.”

Looking ahead to the rest of his two-year service, Mark hopes to leave a significant impact in his Peruvian community with respect to its environment and his neighbors.

“Considering my environmental work, I really hope to just leave my community a little cleaner and greener,” Mark concluded. “However, in general, I just hope that my host community will miss me as much as I will miss them, and at the end of two years, they will have a better understanding of Americans – apart from whatever they see in the latest Hollywood blockbuster or news reel.”

To follow Mark’s Peace Corps service in Perú, visit his blog at psu2peru.wordpress.com.

Mark will share more of his experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer with Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet and Congressman Charlie Dent at Penn State University on February 17th. If interested, please click here to RSVP.   

Smithtown Resident Begins Peace Corps Service in Colombia

Ben Weinberg
Smithtown resident Benjamin Weinberg will depart for service in Colombia as an Education Volunteer on January 13th.

Benjamin Weinberg, 24, of Smithtown, New York, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and will depart for Colombia on January 13th to begin training as an Education Volunteer. Weinberg will live and work in a community teaching English to local students and participate in a secondary project to help meet community development needs.

“I will be very happy to work with my Colombian colleagues at the school and hope that I can make a real difference in improving the English level of our students during my service,” Weinberg said. “I want to immerse myself in becoming fluent in Spanish, learning the local dances, and tasting the Colombian cuisine as well.”

Weinberg is the son of Jeffrey and Judy Weinberg and a graduate of Smithtown High School West. He then attended The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he earned a bachelor’s degree in international affairs and political science in 2013.

Before applying to the Peace Corps, Weinberg served as a visa clerk at the U.S. Department of State, for which he previously interned for two years. He also worked as a political affairs intern at the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq, a research assistant for the Program on International Policy Attitudes at The University of Maryland and a geographical information system data assistant at the Virginia-based company iMapData, Inc., which helps organizations mitigate economic risk.

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

“I hope to foster better relations between Americans and Colombians through my actions and relationships,” Weinberg said. “I wish to help as many students as possible with their English language skills whether it’s through tutoring or after-school programs so that they can become bilingual and have a brighter future.

“Above all else, I would like to make new, lasting friendships and to be considered an honorary member of their community by the time I leave,” he added.

Weinberg joins the 416 New York State residents currently serving in the Peace Corps and more than 13,527 New York State residents who have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

The Greater New York City metropolitan area was recently recognized as the top producer of Peace Corps Volunteers for the fourth straight year. It ranked No. 1 among regions with the highest number of Peace Corps Volunteers currently serving overseas. New York State, meanwhile, is ranked as the No. 2 Volunteer-producing state in the nation.

Click here to learn more about Peace Corps Colombia.

Hamilton Resident Named Peace Corps Recruiter for New Jersey

Daniel Turkel - Posing with Class
New Jersey native Daniel Turkel, center, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania from 2013 to 2015. He is currently working out of the Garden State as a Peace Corps Recruiter.

Peace Corps recently named Daniel Turkel of Hamilton as its new recruiter for the state of New Jersey. As a Peace Corps Recruiter, Daniel will promote awareness of Peace Corps programs for residents of the Garden State and serve as their liaison for Volunteer applications.

Turkel, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University-New Brunswick in 2012, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Albania from 2013 to 2015, where he specialized in health education.

During his service, Turkel worked at a local health education office in Albania, for which he developed and taught lessons on different health subjects at various schools, community centers and factories. He also worked at an HIV/AIDS clinic where he promoted methods of prevention and treatment and created the first youth center in his Albanian community.

“First and foremost, I joined the Peace Corps because I wanted to help others,” Turkel said. “In doing so, I knew I wanted to have some sort of an adventure along the way. Looking back, it’s now clear to me that it wasn’t only a great fit – it was a great decision!”

Turkel lives and works in New Jersey and can be contacted at dturkel@peacecorps.gov.

There are currently 187 Garden Staters serving as Peace Corps Volunteers. Since the agency was founded in 1961, 5,063 New Jersey residents have joined the Peace Corps.

In addition, 22 undergraduate alumni from Rutgers University-New Brunswick are currently serving overseas while 347 Rutgers graduates have joined the Peace Corps in its history.

Creating Purpose for Women Abroad – Including Herself

Leanna Pohevitz
Leanna Pohevitz, who hails from Oceanside, New York, is currently serving as a Community Services Volunteer in Morocco.

Before applying to the Peace Corps, Leanna Pohevitz, of Oceanside, New York, always wanted to discover new cultures abroad. Growing up outside the world’s biggest melting pot, Leanna traveled to various countries to learn about local customs – including Egypt, Tunisia, Guatemala, Turkey, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Greece – but never imagined what it would take to settle into a foreign lifestyle for two years.

“Accordingly, when the time came to make the big move, I felt pretty prepared,” said Leanna, who is currently serving as a Community Services Volunteer in Morocco. “I sure was wrong – it’s different missing peanut butter for three to six months and missing it for over two years.”

While adjusting to these new cultural standards, the Long Island native still relies on the resourcefulness she picked up from the city that never sleeps, which recently topped Peace Corps’ list of metropolitan areas producing the most Volunteers in 2015.

“Some things have stayed the same – I lived alone both at home and abroad, so how and when I take my coffee is up to me, but the blend is different,” she added.

Since departing for service in January 2014, Leanna – who graduated from Hampshire College in 2012 – has worked to improve the developmental skills of Moroccan women in her community by teaching various classes at a local women’s center, including swimming lessons at a public pool.

She regularly affirms the impact she has made on her female students when noticing the confidence and strength they have built over time.

“One day, a woman in her mid-sixties, who claimed she never even put her face under the water in the shower, swam a full length of our large 50-meter pool,” she recalled. “She reached the wall, grabbed it and started sobbing. When I walked up to her, she turned to me with a million watt smile and said, ‘Now I can swim with my grandson at the beach.’ They were tears of joy at her accomplishment.”

As she nears the end of her two-year service, Leanna believes she will cherish this unique experience of helping people across the world accomplish their goals – of which they didn’t think they were capable – and harness that gratifying feeling once she returns to the United States.

“It’s nothing like the 9-to-5 jobs I’ve held in the past,” she joked. “It’s been great, but in the future, I won’t ever complain about doing laundry when there is a machine involved.”

Click here to learn more about Peace Corps Morocco.

Peace Corps & Cornell Institute for Public Affairs Launch New Fellows Program

Priyanka Jagtap
Priyanka Jagtap, far left, pursued her graduate degree at Cornell University as part of the university’s academic partnership with the Peace Corps.

The Peace Corps and the Cornell Institute for Public Affairs (CIPA) at Cornell University 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 American 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 Cornell University 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.”

Fellows selected for the program will receive a tuition fellowship award of at least $8,000 per year. Additional tuition aid may be available for exceptionally well qualified Fellows, including grants to cover summer internship expenses.

“Given their rigorous interdisciplinary field experience, Peace Corps Volunteers are an ideal fit for the mission of the college,” said Alan Mathios, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology. “I am confident that Cornell’s MPA program, supported by a global community of public affairs professionals, will provide opportunities for these Fellows to advance their careers and make a positive impact on our world.”

“As one of the country’s original land grant institutions, Cornell is positioned at the vanguard of education for public service careers and has enjoyed a strong partnership with the Peace Corps since 1961,” said CIPA Executive Director Thomas O’Toole, who negotiated the Coverdell Fellows Program partnership. “In addition to foundational coursework and specialized coursework in eight concentration areas, the flexible curriculum of our MPA program offers professional development and engaged learning experience which will enhance the knowledge, skills, and abilities that Returned Peace Corps Volunteers obtain in the field.”

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.

Coverdell Fellows pursuing their MPA degree at CIPA will complete core training in management, economic analysis, and quantitative techniques prior to specializing in one of eight areas of concentration (from generalist concentrations such as public and nonprofit management to more specialized concentrations such as international development studies and science, technology, and infrastructure policy).  Fellows will also have the opportunity to intern and provide consulting/advisory services through several experiential learning programs, including the CIPA Public Service Exchange and Capstone programs and off-campus programs in Washington, D.C., and New York City.  These programs will connect Fellows with projects facilitated by government and nonprofit organizations serving communities in need.

This year, Cornell University ranked No. 5 among Peace Corps’ top Volunteer-producing medium size schools, with 33 alumni currently volunteering worldwide. Since Peace Corps was established in 1961, 1,641 Cornell alumni have served overseas.

Cornell University offers two other Peace Corps Coverdell Fellows Programs in the Department of City and Regional Planning and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The university has also partnered with the Peace Corps to offer its Master’s International Program – which provides students with the opportunity to integrate Peace Corps service abroad with a graduate degree – at the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

In addition, a special Peace Corps representative based at Cornell University serves Ithaca students, staff and faculty. Contact information for the Peace Corps office at Cornell is available here.

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 the Cornell Institute of Public Affairs, contact Executive Director Thomas O’Toole at tjo22@cornell.edu or by phone at (607) 255-8018.