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Still giving peace a chance

Laura Sturza

As a high school student, Barbara Adams got her first taste of what

it would be like to serve in the Peace Corps -- which turns 42 on

Friday -- when a former volunteer made a presentation at her school.

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After getting her degree in African history and film studies, she

became a volunteer English teacher in Poland in 1991, following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

“I got to witness a historical time period [of ] a country moving

away from Communism to a free-market economy,” the 33-year-old

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Burbank resident said.

She joined the Los Angeles Peace Corps staff last year as a

college recruitment officer. The job has Adams giving presentations

to students similar to the one that first inspired her commitment to

the agency.

Adams and other former volunteers will deliver a message of

cultural understanding, peace and tolerance at Los Angeles Islamic,

Jewish and Catholic high schools on Friday, which is Peace Corps Day.

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With the U.S. on the brink of war with Iraq, Peace Corps

volunteers can be ambassadors who give a human dimension that can

help change “false ideas overseas about the U.S.,” Adams said.

Peace Corps volunteers assist developing countries to become

self-sufficient in areas including agriculture, education, health

care and information technology. City Manager Bud Ovrom was a

volunteer in Guatemala when he was 23, and believes students should

“walk away from education for a time” to broaden their horizons, he

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said.

“The Peace Corps was one of the all-time great experiences of my

life,” Ovrom said.

Adams’ accomplishments in Poland include teaching English to about

35 students, and starting a drug-awareness program at the school.

One of her former students is Tomasz Mazur, 28, who went on to

become a manager for a computer firm in Poland.

“English class with [a] native speaker teacher was [a] great

opportunity to develop myself, and it had impact on my current

career,” Mazur wrote in an e-mail. “Barbara was just great ... she

showed us that English is not only [a] set of rules and words [but]

it’s a culture, habits, views.”

People interested in learning more about becoming a Peace Corps

volunteer can call the Los Angeles recruiting office at (310)

235-7444.


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