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Alaska RPCV Shares his Peace Corps Experiences with Nearly 600 Classrooms and Community Groups Since 1998

What do you plan to do when you retire? Tony Gasbarro, an Alaska RPCV, decided he wanted to serve with Peace Corps. First, he took a second shot at being a Peace Corps Volunteer. Then, he continued serving by sharing his Peace Corps experience with nearly 600 U.S. classroom and community groups upon his return home.

“[I first decided to join the Peace Corps] when I was just graduating from forestry school. I was moved by President Kennedy’s call and was anxious to travel and experience new things. Upon retiring from the University of Alaska, I again felt a calling to be of help and felt that I had a lot more to give. [I served as a] forestry advisor in the Dominican Republic from 1962-1964 and in El Salvador from 1996-1998.”

Upon his return from the Dominican Republic in 1998, Tony continued his service by sharing his experience with up to 33 Colorado and Alaska classrooms and community groups each year. “One of the most significant experiences in my Peace Corps service was gaining an understanding of the nature and significance of poverty. I want to bring this understanding into the classroom. My presentations do not focus on what I did as a volunteer. That comes out as I talk. My goal is to show the students the reality of poverty in the lives of young children and teenagers. Some students are interested and really moved by the presentations. Teachers really appreciate the presentations because they feel their students need to see what life is like in a less developed country.”

When asked what advice he has for other RPCVs interested in sharing their experiences with classrooms and community groups, Tony said, “Find a contact in the schools who can introduce you to some of the teachers. My experience has been that when teachers find out what you have to offer, they will call you. Or have your local Peace Corps group create a speakers bureau and send flyers to schools.” He continued by explaining, “Talk about what you are most comfortable talking about. Your presentation need not be a PowerPoint. I saw an RPCV presentation where the individual dressed in typical clothing from her service and brought in some everyday items used in the household. It was very powerful and brought Mali right into the classroom.”

Tony’s commitment to continued service isn’t just about increasing the understanding of other Americans. “As I recount my experiences, I appreciate more what I’ve been through and fine tune my understanding of what it means to be poor.”

Last updated Oct 08 2014

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