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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.


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


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.


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



“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)