Peace Corps Director Kicks-Off International Education Week

November 15, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 15, 2004 – Today, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez joined the U.S. Department of Education's Joseph Esposito, Deputy Under Secretary for International Affairs, to kick-off International Education Week and unveil a special exhibit dedicated to Peace Corps volunteers in the education sector who work overseas.

"Now, more than ever, Americans need to know more about the people, culture, and customs of other countries around the world. By sharing stories and creating exhibits like this one, we begin to break down barriers and promote cross-cultural understanding and recognition," said Director Vasquez.

As a partner in this year's activities, the Peace Corps' exhibit features photographs from around the world and an interactive Web site that will be showcased in the Department of Education's lobby. The photo exhibit will remain on display until January 7, 2005.

On Thursday, November 18, the Peace Corps will host a daylong cross-cultural workshop for social studies teachers. In addition to cross-cultural activities, the workshop will help teachers bring a returned Peace Corps volunteer into their classroom or talk with an overseas currently-serving volunteer to promote cross-cultural understanding in ways unmatched by textbooks.

Today, more than 2,400 Americans serve for two years as Peace Corps education volunteers in 71 countries around the world. Peace Corps' education volunteers teach English, train teachers, set up math and science curriculums, and open the world for students and teachers through computers, the Internet, and email. In addition, there are more than 20,000 teachers among the alumni of returned Peace Corps volunteers, as almost one-third of all volunteers go into education after their service.

In addition to the work of current education volunteers in the field, part of the Peace Corps’ mission is for returned volunteers to educate Americans back home about the people with whom they lived and worked during their two-year volunteer service. Several programs at the Peace Corps support this focus.

World Wise Schools
Coverdell World Wise Schools creates award-winning curriculum resources based on the volunteer experience. Teachers can use these materials to engage U.S. students. In addition, students can exchange letters, artifacts and other educational materials with a Peace Corps volunteer serving as a window for U.S. students to experience the people, culture, and customs of Ukraine, Ghana, Belize, or other countries around the world. All materials are free, are tied to national standards, and use primary source materials provided by volunteers.

Peace Corps Week
Every year during the week surrounding March 1st – the anniversary of the inception of the Peace Corps in 1961 – thousands of returned volunteers enter classrooms to share their stories and experiences overseas with U.S. students. This past March, more than 7,500 returned Peace Corps volunteers participated in classrooms and Peace Corps Week education celebrations across the country.

Beyond Peace Corps Week, every day throughout the year, returned volunteers give talks, speak in classrooms and at colleges, and participate in community events that highlight learning about other cultures.

Partnership Program
Originally known as the School to School Program that facilitated funding by U.S. schools to build schools in communities where Peace Corps volunteers served, the Partnership Program still ref="http://www.peacecorp.gov/index.cfm?shell=resources.donors.whowe">Partnership Program still helps connect classrooms in the U.S. with communities across the world. Today, through the Office of Private Sector Initiatives (OPSI), the Partnership Program provides private donation funding to Peace Corps volunteers' community-based projects.

Donations come from all over, including elementary, secondary and high schools, universities, and other individuals and organizations. Through a Partnership Program donation, students can choose a Peace Corps volunteer's project and learn about needs assessment, project planning, and goal setting as they help an overseas community develop a project, such as building a well or beginning a library. Through the process, students engage in cross-cultural exchanges and are able to see themselves through the eyes of those outside their peer group.

Fellows/USA
The Peace Corps Fellows/USA program establishes partnerships with universities that offer returned Peace Corps volunteers financial benefits for their graduate studies and places them in degree-related service internships in high-need U.S. communities. All across the U.S., former volunteers will be teaching on Native American reservations and in urban classrooms; helping to revitalize ailing communities; providing health care to immigrant and low-income populations; and addressing environmental issues.

Master's International
The Master's International program continues to further the links between the Peace Corps and universities nationwide. The program provides students, who are pursuing their master's degree at participating universities and colleges, with the prospect of completing course requirements while volunteering with the Peace Corps. This valuable opportunity gives students the chance to complete their degree, while simultaneously helping developing communities in areas ranging from education to health.

Since 1961, more than 171,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a two-year commitment.

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