||Centre graduate lends a hand in El Salvador
RELEASED: December 3, 2009
By Leigh Ivey
DANVILLE, KY—After four years of challenging, personal education, Centre College alumni are well equipped for bright futures. While many delve into graduate school, internships, or the traditional work force, others choose a different path.
Tyler Francisco '08 is one of the latter.
Francisco is currently working in El Salvador as a member of the Peace Corps, an organization that since its founding in 1961 has enabled nearly 200,000 volunteers to travel to developing countries, where they help struggling individuals build better lives for themselves, their families and their communities.
"After graduating from Centre, I had no desire to spend the next two or three years in an office or classroom," Francisco says. "I wanted to continue learning in a challenging and uncomfortable setting while making a contribution to something. For me, Peace Corps provided that opportunity."
For his location, Francisco was offered two choices: Africa or Central America.
"I chose Central America," he says, "because becoming fluent in Spanish was intriguing, as was gaining a better understanding of a region that's been strongly influenced by U.S. foreign policy. After spending more than nine months in El Salvador, I'm glad that I chose to come here."
While serving in the Peace Corps, Francisco lives with a local family, and the memory of meeting them for the first time is one he recalls vividly.
"A man from the community and I made the two-hour hike up the mountain from the pueblo to the community where I'd meet the family," he says. "We arrived and had homegrown coffee, and I realized that no one in the family was more than five feet tall."
"Every single day, there's something new to experience," he says. "New food, new people, new words, new friends, new ideas. The past nine months have been like one big memory."
One of the many projects that Francisco has been involved with is the Women and Youth Development (WYD) scholarship program. The project, he says, focuses on making education more accessible to young women in El Salvador.
Although public education there is free, students must pay for their books, uniforms and transportation to and from school. Because many families in the country earn an average of four dollars each day, they struggle to simply afford food; providing for their children's education, therefore, is nearly impossible.
To assist young women and youth in receiving a quality education, several Peace Corps volunteers formed the WYD Committee. With the aid of local nonprofit organizations, the WYD Committee provides scholarships to those girls who would otherwise be forced to leave school.
The scholarship program not only allows them to continue their education but also provides them with courses in leadership development, women's empowerment, equality and community development.
Aiding the citizens of El Salvador in this way, Francisco says, has been extremely gratifying.
"One rewarding part of serving in Peace Corps El Salvador is getting to see first-hand how complicated development really is," he says. "Gaining actual understanding of the situation is very rewarding."
The views expressed in this story are those of the individual profiled and do not reflect the views or interests of the Peace Corps. For information on how to become involved with WYD, click here.
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
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