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Jennifer Wooley
Biochemistry alum combines passion for learning and service as a Peace Corps Volunteer

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Biochemistry alumna Jennifer Wooley was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer on Dec. 15, 2010 after nine weeks of intense training in Kenyan Sign Language and culture. She will serve two years in the Laikipia District, Kenya as a teacher for deaf children.

Jennifer Wooley

"I developed a holistic worldview [at USD] that sparked interest in social issues locally and globally."

Jennifer Wooley

"I decided that the Peace Corps was right for me because I knew I wanted to engage in volunteer work after college with a global focus and a strong cross-cultural element," Wooley said.

The Peace Corps is an agency of the US government dedicated to promoting international peace. According to its website, more than 200,000 Peace Corps volunteers have lived and worked in 139 host countries since 1961. Wooley said she appreciates the agency's methods because it responds to requests for aid, "rather than imposing unneeded assistance." She said this allows for sustainable, positive change in the host country.

"It focuses on strengthening the host country by providing American men and women as volunteers who pledge to work closely with host country nationals, transfer practical skills and thereby develop trained men and women within the country," Wooley said.

Jennifer Wooley

"I feel confident that the critical thinking skills that were developed through a wide range of classes in the core curriculum will help me identify needs within my community and come up with innovative means to address those needs."

Jennifer Wooley

As an instructor in one of only two Peace Corps deaf education programs, Wooley is responsible for guiding her students through the academic standards, as well as HIV/AIDS education and intervention—all in Kenyan Sign Language, a form of communication she had not studied prior to beginning her Peace Corps training. She chronicles the joys and challenges of her work in a blog titled "Upendo," which is the Kenyan word for love.

Wooley lives on a local family compound and is provided a small stipend by the Peace Corps for living expenses. She said that being a member of USD's service-centered community inspired her to forsake a salaried position and donate her time to the betterment of the Kenyan people.

"I developed a holistic worldview [at USD] that sparked interest in social issues locally and globally," Wooley said.

Jennifer Wooley

"I feel comfortable forsaking a job with a salary at this point in life and instead choose to donate my time to a cause that I believe will nurture an underrepresented population of Kenyans."

Jennifer Wooley

She also credits her liberal arts education with providing the tools necessary to make her service successful.

"I feel confident that the critical thinking skills that were developed through a wide range of classes in the core curriculum will help me identify needs within my community and come up with innovative means to address those needs," Wooley said.

When she completes her Peace Corps volunteer work in 2012, Wooley hopes to pursue a career that will allow her to assist under-served communities.

"My current goal is to attend medical school upon my return to the United States and focus on physical and mental health issues in the rural villages of my home state, Alaska, " she said.

- Anne Malinoski '11

Things that can make a Peace Corps Volunteer's Day

  • A lollipop from the man at the small duka (roadside stand) sitting under an umbrella who always smiles and says "Habari!"
  • Mail. Any mail. Some of us hide letters in our room so we have something to open when we really need it.
  • A movie that we've gotten from another volunteer. I know "O Brother Where Art Thou" is on my laptop, just waiting for a tough day.
  • Successfully purchasing and loading minutes onto our phones.
  • Communicating successfully in Kenyan Sign Language.

Useful Links

http://upendoislove.blogspot.com/

www.sandiego.edu/cas/biology/

www.peacecorps.gov/