She'll be heading off to the Peace Corps.
Where did you grow up and what activities were you involved in throughout high school?
I am originally from El Salvador, Central America but have lived in Crookston since I was 6 years old. I loved growing up in a small town. Crookston has given me so many wonderful mentors, friends, and colleagues who I have learned so much from and have shaped my worldview. In high school I was involved with Leo Club, speech, band,True Players, I wasn’t to big into sports but loved cheering my classmates on! I studied abroad in Italy my sophomore year thanks to Mrs. Thomforde who gave me the information that led me to the Rotary International Youth Exchange program!
Where did you go to college and what was your major?
I went to Concordia College in Moorhead where I studied Global Studies, European concentration and as many languages I could take. I ended up minoring in German since I did a study abroad year in Germany.
What is your job title at Crookston public schools, what exactly do you do, and how long have you been working there?
I started working at CHS in 2012 as the Home to School Liaison/ Multicultural Liaison, I worked with students of different backgrounds in supporting them in school and trying to keep them engaged all through high school. I did different diversity programs and had a club called Cultures United for students wanting to explore their culture. I loved it! Then I was offered a job as a paraeducator working with 11th and 12th grade students. In 2014 I applied for the English Language Learner teaching and coordinating position that was opening up and I was lucky enough to be hired on. I have been working with students who are English learners in building up their English speaking, reading, and writing. I have enjoyed working with students and great colleagues.
How did you decide you wanted to go into the Peace Corps?
I have wanted to be a Peace Corps Volunteer since I was 5 years old. When my family and I still lived in El Salvador there were Peace Corps Volunteers stationed there and I saw the great impact they had on communities. Their hard work inspired me throughout all these years. I knew I would apply after college but am glad I worked for a few years and gained many valuable skills through teaching I know I will need while serving.
What did the process look like?
It is a very interesting process. You apply to a position that match your skills in a certain area of the world. There are positions from teaching to economic development to health care education. I applied to a co-teaching position in Macedonia since I have that teaching experience and am familiar with Europe. You fill out an application, submit a resume tailored to the position and highlighting your volunteering experience, and write a 500 word essay on why you want to serve as a volunteer. That was the most difficult part for me… I struggled with saying everything I wanted to say in 500 words. Once you submit your application and fill out a health history questionnaire, you wait to be contacted for an interview if they feel you are a qualified candidate. The interview is quite the experience, it is done through Skype or over the phone in a 3 part way where you talk to a returned volunteer about your skills, why you want to serve, and how you would deal with the difficulties of serving. Then you wait, for me the waiting was so tough but I was so lucky to hear back in just a few days time. You receive an invitation to serve with instructions on the next steps to take, sometimes they invite you to serve in a different area if your skills were more closely aligned with that position.
How many applicants were there, how many were chosen, and how were they chosen?
There are typically over 17,000 applicants for 4,000 positions. The position that I applied for had roughly 1,800 applicants, about one sixth of applicants get interviewed, and only 27 were chosen to co-teach English in Macedonia.
When will you be leaving and how long will you be staying?
I will be departing on September 21st, next fall. I will fly to Washington D.C., where I will be training for a few weeks with the other volunteers. Then we will fly to Macedonia as a group, stay in Skopje (the capital) for 3 months of language training and finally be sent out to rural areas where we will be serving for 2 years.
Where will you be going and what will you be doing?
I will be serving in Macedonia (Eastern Europe, to the north of Greece and East of Albania) for 27 months. I will be co-teaching English with a Macedonian teacher at the elementary/high school level. We’ll be developing best practices for teaching English to that age group in the community I will be in and will also do some other community wide projects throughout my time there. I’m really excited to share not only my American culture I love but also my Salvadoran culture and to be part of a great organization of changemakers that help promote understanding of all these cultures.
Have you met anyone else who will be going?
I have not met anyone that will be going. I do know of some other Crookston-ites that served as Peace Corps Volunteers though and I think that is pretty cool!
What do you look forward to most when in the Peace Corps?
Just being immersed in a new culture and language. I love learning about cultures and languages. I am excited to build relationships with the community I will be sharing two years of my life with. Macedonia is a culture rich nation with so much history I have only heard and read about and it will be quite the experience to be immersed in it.
If you’re satisfied with your experience, will you try to do the same thing again or is this a once in a lifetime experience?
I have read of some volunteers who are on their 4th or 5th volunteer experiences and I could very much see myself doing that. I am a firm believer in the exchange of culture and ideas in moving towards a better understanding of each other and I look forward to being a part of it while serving. I think down the road I am meant to live in that part of the world so it is definitely a possibility to make a career out of it.
How do you hope this experience impacts the rest of your life?
I hope to learn as much as I can about my host country, I hope I can build great friendships that will last a lifetime and through that exchange of our cultures and we can understand each other a little better. I hope I can make a difference in the community I am in just as those volunteers did in the communities in my home country. I have always been a firm believer in education is the key to a better future and I hope that I can be a success story for the students I have worked with and will work with helping them understand that with a little hard work and resiliency you can get out of any situation you are in and make your dreams come true.