Do you need to write an aspiration statement for your Peace Corps application? Feel free to use mine for inspiration: this is what Morocco's youth development program has to look forward to!
Aspiration Statement & Resume
One of the first "official" assignments that we're given after accepting the invitation to join the Peace Corps family is to send an aspiration statement and updated resume. I don't know why putting these together felt like such a struggle . . . possibly because the words I write will be the Host Country Nationals' first impression of me. Almost definitely because if I die, these are the words that Peace Corps will write in my obituary. Yes, so the words below are immortal, locked in the files of the government for ten to twenty-five years.
.....unless the lights go off first......
A. Three professional attributes that you plan to use during your Peace Corps service and how these will help you fulfill your aspirations and commitment to service.
1. Youth Development Work: The first professional attribute that I bring is my experience as a youth development worker. I have worked with young people on many levels, including: facilitating, tutoring, mentoring, leading small groups, and case management. Additionally, I have developed programming for youth in: leadership growth, workforce development, and positive choices. My undergraduate degree was focused in youth development. During my time in Dar Chababs, I hope to use content-based English learning to build relationships and ultimately develop young people into strategic leaders with transferable skills that can contribute to their community, country, and world.
2. Collective Impact Work: Serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA has taught me how to utilize existing resources in order to build community sustainability. Through working in schools with high turnover rates, I have learned how to create foundational partnerships in the midst of change in order to generate stability within a program. I believe in an asset-based approach; communities already have many of the strengths necessary to create positive change, they just need assistance in understanding how to connect and build upon their existing talents. Through collaborating with existing resources and seeing the strengths and gifts of others, I will be able to assist in more community cohesion for long-term programming. I hope to bring more people, trainings, and resources to Dar Chababs and Nedi Neswis, as well as find ways to develop collective impact strategies for whole-community change.
3. Long-term Strategic Thinking and Capacity-Building: I bring a mindset that enjoys to learn, research, think through probable opportunities, and heavily involve outside voices before outlining creative solutions to situations that arise. I can envision how seemingly small opportunities fits into a long-term puzzle that contributes to community sustainability, which occurs best when people are empowered to change the systems that block upward mobility. Although short-term fixes (such as teaching a class) can be a necessary first step, my goal is to build capacity within the individuals of Morocco, so that when I leave, they have taken ownership of projects that I helped to develop and are committed to positively impacting their community, country, and world.
B. Identify two strategies for working effectively with host country partners to meet expressed needs.
1. I will focus on listening and observing others in order to understand cultural norms. I value fully integrating myself into the community, and it is not until I begin the journey of acculturating into the Moroccan way that I will be able to meet its expressed needs. I will arrive not as somebody who brings with me a plethora of quick-fix solutions; rather, as somebody prepared to learn from my host country partners and to take time to understand what they see as needs within their community and country.
2. I will employ my ability to be creative, adaptable, and resilient. As a guest in Morocco, there will be many times when I try to meet the express needs of my host country partners, but find that what I thought to be the perfect solution did not meet the necessary priority. When this occurs, I will not only be humble in my missteps, but adaptable in finding different ways to help support the needs. Depending on the available resources, this may require creativity in how I execute the projects I am designated.
C. Your strategy for adapting to a new culture with respect to your own cultural background.
As stated above, taking the time to listen and understand cultural norms is crucial when it comes to adapting to a new culture. I am no stranger to being a minority in culture different from my own. I grew up as the only African-American in a small town that wasn’t used to experiencing cultures outside its borders. When I moved to Denver, I experienced this challenge again as a Black woman who was expected to understand African-American cultural norms that I had not grown up with. In both situations, I have found that in addition to learning the cultural norms around you, it is important to have a good sense of humor and not take anything personally. I’ve had a lot of well-meaning people say things that can seem offensive. I’ve learned to react with a smile, and if appropriate, I give them a chance to understand the situation from a positive point of view. As a single woman of color, I may come across people who won’t initially recognize my professional capacities. If this occurs, I will respond with respect and showcase my aptitude by my quality work, in order to empower through example, allowing others to see the full capabilities of all persons and women. I hope to find an enriching group of females that supports my endeavors and helps me navigate their world of dress, culture, and history.
Because of my experiences, when I find myself a stranger within a foreign culture, I’m careful not to rush to judgment about situations that I may not understand. Since I was raised to see the world with Western eyes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of superiority. Humbleness, open-mindedness, and the willingness to try new experiences are vital to cultural acculturation. Ultimately, I strive to see each society in multi-faceted lenses, in which various cultures create a mosaic of a beautiful world landscape.
D. The skills and knowledge you hope to gain during pre-service training to best serve your future community and project.
The first skill that I hope to accomplish through my pre-service training is to become at least low intermediate in Darija. This component will be vital when communicating as an effective teacher and community participant. Equally as crucial is to understand the history, culture, and norms of Morocco and the community where I will serve. I look forward to getting to know my first host family and learning how to cook in the Moroccan way. I also hope to gain technical training in how to teach content-based ESL, as well as best practices for participatory community assessment. Finally, I seek culturally-responsive ways to empower young women in their educational and professional endeavors. Through my pre-service training, I hope to be equipped with the tools and resources necessary to be an effective Peace Corps volunteer for the people, women, and youth of Morocco.
E. How do you think Peace Corps service will influence your personal and professional aspirations after your service ends?
I wish to work within the international field in order to build sustainability through asset-based community development and empowerment. In particular, I would love to empower young women in the MENA region who wish to better themselves and their community. I hope that my time through the Peace Corps will act as a transition between my current work in education and youth development into the international field. After service, I plan to enroll in a graduate program and to find opportunities to work as an international consultant to promote gender equity through people-centered development. Personally, I believe that this opportunity will help me grow in independence and resiliency, while also allowing me to develop greater compassion and empathy for cultures and people different from myself. I hope to document my journey throughout my Peace Corps experience for friends and family across the United States so that they can see the unique beauty of Morocco and its people and culture through my eyes and the eyes of my Moroccan comrades.
Executive Director, Young Adults for Positive Action / June 2014 – Present
- Oversee and provide strategic advice to staff across five sites
- Oversee STEM Arts program, healthy living program, and workforce development program
- Planned and coordinated the first annual Youth Summit with over 400 high school students in attendance, and lead subsequent monthly leadership trainings for students involved
- Implement and coordinate engagement opportunities for families and community members
- Cultivate a compelling vision to ensure positive brand recognition, including: logos, fliers, newsletters, reports, and press releases
- Develop and maintain long-term strategic partnerships with non-profits, businesses, local schools, foundations, government entities, and elected officials
- Direct and engage in collective impact and alignment opportunities
- Design policies and procedures, and ensure programming undergoes rigorous evaluation
ESL In-Home Tutor, Emily Griffith Colorado Refugee Program / January 2015 – Present
- Work with refugee family in order to navigate resources and support English-learning skills
- Research and design all ESL curriculum and lesson plans
- Volunteer six hours a week with Afghani woman who has little knowledge of English
Executive Director of Programs, Denver Urban League / April 2013 – May 2014
- Recruited students for extended-day and workforce development programming
- Developed print material, social media and website design, and other communication tools
- Researched and designed student curriculum schedule
- Mentored students through ongoing college and career readiness planning
AmeriCorps VISTA, Foundation for Educational Excellence / April 2012 – April 2013
- Developed Community Ambassador program with membership of over 100 volunteers
- Developed monthly training sessions for community ambassadors through creating schedules, recruiting participants, and inviting partners and local leaders to educate community members
- Planned and coordinated community-wide conference with over 400 community members
Volunteer Tutor, Literacy and Math Intervention, Bluegrass Youth for Christ / September 2009 – April 2011
- Tutored disengaged high-school youth on a weekly basis in math and literacy
Summer Youth Intern, Portland Promise Center / Cornerstone United Methodist Church / Pasadena Community Church / Summers 2008 – 2010
- Acted as a mentor and positive guide towards middle and high school youth
- Developed youth ministry curriculum and designed engaging summer-long programming
- Organized youth-led services and encouraged young people to showcase their talent
- Supervised youth in summer camp and local mission trip activities
- Asbury University / Wilmore, KY / 2007-2011 / B.A., Youth Ministry, Sociology
- Awards: Dean’s List – 3.77 GPA, Cum Laude, Excellence in Youth Ministry Award, Roy Lauter Servant Leadership Award
- Leadership Involvement: Chair of the Intercultural Relations Committee, Allelon (Student Leadership, Department of Intercultural Affairs), Transitional and Guidance Leader
- Collective Impact Training / December 2012 – Present / Four hours every quarter: Participants develop collective impact methods; learn to leverage resources and services from non-profits, schools, companies, and other organizations; and collaborate with local partners to develop tangible alignment efforts.
- Colorado Refugee ESL Program Training / January 10, 2015 / Eight hours: Prepares participants as an in-home tutor through interactive work in: refugee background, cross-cultural awareness, ESL tutoring, creating personalized lesson plans, flexibility, and communication.
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers Training / Colorado Department of Education / August 2012-August 2014 / two-day seminars, twice a year: Various trainings through Colorado Department of Education on developing community and after-school programs for youth, evaluating programs for effectiveness, and creating long-term sustainability.
- Clinton Global Initiative America / June 23-25, 2014: “This working meeting brought together leaders from the business, foundation, NGO, and government sectors to develop solutions for economic growth, long-term competitiveness, and social mobility.”
- Building a GradNation Summit / April 27-29, 2014: “This annual focal point of the GradNation Campaign, a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations, and communities pulling together to empower more young Americans to graduate from high school on time and ready for college, careers, and thriving adulthood.”
- Relevant Coursework (three credit hours each): Introduction to Communication, Organizational Strategies, Journalism and Culture, Youth Ministry, International Social Issues, Family Life Education, Leading Groups, Juvenile Delinquency, Foundations in Educational Ministry, Adult Ministry, Multicultural Psychology, Social Problems, Urban Studies, and Rural Studies.
- Spanish: Spanish 101, Spanish 102, Spanish 201
- Hobbies: Community service, cooking, creative writing, drama and improvisation, hiking, meditation, reading, research and learning, web design and social media/blogging, and yoga
- Compassionate interfaith dialogue and shared action
- Creating bridges between persons and cultures
- Developing youth leaders through mentorship and positive example
- Discovering community-based assets to build long-term sustainability
- Women’s empowerment through educational opportunities