ICQ 2003/4Back from the Peace Corps



Since our 2004/3 issue, with its cover package on returned Peace Corps volunteers, we have heard from other IC community members who served or are serving in the Peace Corps. Here's a little bit about them:

Murray Stern '60, who majored in physical education teaching at IC, was a graduate student at the University of Illinois in 1961 when he heard President John F. Kennedy's speech. After enrolling in the Peace Corps, Stern completed training in Puerto Rico and at the School for African Studies at Columbia University before being assigned to Sierra Leone. He worked as the games master at a secondary school in the capital, Freetown, and then transferred to a government training college in the interior, where he worked with student teachers. During one summer break he taught swimming and life saving techniques to police officers.

Martin K. Rorapaugh '64, a television-radio major, served from 1965 to 1967 in Colombia as a producer-director for HJRN, Colombian National Television. Rorapaugh produced and directed the natural sciences programming for young people and the public health and nutrition programming for adults. He also trained Colombian citizens in television production. "I taught as much as I could but probably learned more than I taught," he says now. "My heart bleeds for the Colombians. They are friendly people with elegance and class; they live in a country that is beautiful beyond belief and has an abundance of natural wealth. They don't deserve what drug money and the attempts to control it are doing to their country."

Now an elementary school principal in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., one-time physical education major Frank Annis '69 taught gym, coached school basketball teams, and taught English as a second language to blind adults during his four-year stay in Tunisia. Annis says he formed close friendships with his Tunisian family, even inspiring his host brother to become a physical education teacher. "The way I view my students, their parents, and my school community was influenced by my earlier days as a teacher in a foreign land," Annis writes. "I find myself more tolerant of other languages and more sensitive to delays in learning because of language barriers."

Speech-language pathology and audiology major Mary Farrell '72 served in Palau, Micronesia, from 1974 to 1976, working on curriculum development and teaching all subjects to sixth graders and English to seventh and eighth graders. She continues to apply her Peace Corps training as an academic intervention services teacher for the Groton, New York, public school system. "Every March I have a Peace Corps Day," she says, "to enlighten my middle school students about public service."

Kate Cocks '00 graduated from the School of Music and is currently working with PC in Niger. "She is at the beginning of her stint. It has been interesting to compare our two experiences," says friend Holly McFarland, '00, (see below).

Speech-language pathology graduate Holly McFarland '00 served in Kenya from 2000 to 2002. "I taught in the deaf education sector, a small sector that has just recently come into full bloom in Kenya," she says. "People with disabilities in Kenya, like those in many developing nations, have yet to realize their potential. However, with slow and steady progress they are coming to stand up for themselves and learning to assert their rights. I worked in a primary school for the deaf and now miss my work, my students, and my friends there very much. It was a challenging experience that took me through emotional highs and lows that I had never experienced. You constantly face road blocks to effective change, but when you finally make a difference, it is significant and long-lasting, if only in the lives of a few. In the process, my Kenyan friends, counterparts, and students taught me patience and the value of persevering in the face of the strongest challenges."

McFarland is now working in the speech pathology department of a school in Baltimore for children with autism. Like virtually everyone we interviewed for these stories, McFarland says the Peace Corps experience was overwhelmingly positive. "It is true what they say about the Peace Corps -- you end up learning a whole lot more than you ever taught," she says.


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A. Ozolins, Ithaca College Office of Publications, 30 April, 2004