May 20, 2003 - Waco Tribune-Herald: Sara Lopez heading to El Salvador to work in Municipal Development

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: Peace Corps Headlines - 2003: May 2003 Peace Corps Headlines: May 20, 2003 - Waco Tribune-Herald: Sara Lopez heading to El Salvador to work in Municipal Development

By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 - 12:22 pm: Edit Post

Sara Lopez heading to El Salvador to work in Municipal Development

Read and comment on this story from the Waco Tribune-Herald on Sara Lopez who is heading to El Salvador; and Wesley Johnson, who is going to Paraguay. Lopez is an example of the demographic shift of more young people using that untapped energy to go into international volunteerism, McCarthy said. "It's very refreshing and very encouraging to all of us to see that young people are not as cynical as they are made out to be, and that they really care." Read the story at:

2 area adults head to Peace Corps duties*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

2 area adults head to Peace Corps duties
By TERRI JO RYAN Tribune-Herald staff writer

The Kennedy-era organization that sought to build bridges across cultures around the globe through the public service of idealistic young Americans is alive and kicking as two people with local ties will be heading into the Peace Corps next week.

Sara Lopez, a 1998 Lorena High graduate who earned a degree at Southwestern University in 2002, is heading to El Salvador; and Wesley Johnson, who graduated from Baylor University last week, is going to Paraguay. They both will work in the field of municipal development, a broad assignment that will encompass many projects.

Lopez said she will miss keeping up with the news while she is gone. A voracious reader of magazines, newspapers and books, she is also used to being able to explore the Internet much of the day to hunt down information she needs.

"I'm afraid I'm going to lose track of what's going on in the United States," said Lopez, who also traveled to Spain and Mexico in her student days.

Her work with the Heart of Texas Financial Literacy Coalition, through her internship since September with the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation, has inspired her to plan a tax/legal aid/immigration clinic for the people of whatever town she ends up in. She wants to teach computer literacy and help the citizens get more involved in their government.

Her parents, Antonia and Manuel Lopez, are worried most about her safety, which she is concerned about the least, she said. She said she will be cautious, however, because there is a mistaken impression in some foreign lands that all Americans have money. The Peace Corps doesn't pay a "salary," but provides an allowance for living expenses.

Her parents are state employees: Antonia at the Waco Center for Youth, and Manuel at the Texas Department of Human Services. Sara said her parents were a major influence in her decision to join the Peace Corps, as the entire family are self-described "hard-core liberals." Her father, in particular, is known for railing at the dinner table against corporate avarice and oppression against the poor.

"It's greedy to just make money and give nothing back," Sara said. "I want to go into a developing country and help in any way I can. I think everyone should be active in the community, no matter where they live."

Maggie McCarthy, Lopez' boss this year, said her intern "is a fine demonstration of a young person who wants to be civically engaged and has great potential. She had lots of opportunity here to grow professionally, and some of that experience she gained here in Waco, working in collaboration with other groups, will serve her well overseas."

Lopez is an example of the demographic shift of more young people using that untapped energy to go into international volunteerism, McCarthy said. "It's very refreshing and very encouraging to all of us to see that young people are not as cynical as they are made out to be, and that they really care."

Johnson, a Fort Worth resident, came to Baylor four years ago, intending to earn an accounting degree. But his bean-counting major changed into one for Latin American studies, after he was exposed to the larger world on three study-abroad opportunities.

Not only did trips to Mexico, Cuba and Argentina scratch his travel itch, he said; they inspired him to seek more adventure and gain valuable skills through a volunteer stint with the Peace Corps.

Johnson, a Latin American studies major, also heads out next week for his assignment in Paraguay. His specific task will be to aid a semi-rural town of between 5,000-25,000 people (he won't know until he gets there) to clean up corruption in the administration and operate more efficiently.

"I wanted to take time out to help others, while I could, and I think it's going to be a great experience," he said. When he returns to the states in 27 months, he'll have a nest egg of $6,075 a "readjustment allowance" volunteers get of $225 for each month of service to apply toward a graduate school education in law and international studies.

"There are a lot of stereotypes about what it means to work in the Peace Corps," Johnson said. "My friends, they thought it was you go and hand out canned goods or something. They didn't realize the extent of the technical positions available."

Since the Peace Corps' establishment in 1961, 5,087 Texans have served in the Peace Corps, said public affairs specialist Jesus Garcia. Twenty-three of the volunteers have come from Waco, and 101 have been alumni of Baylor University, he added.

Currently, 299 Texans are in the field, including six Baylor alums, Garcia said, out of more than 6,600 volunteers and trainees in 70 lands. Throughout its history, more than 169,000 volunteers and trainees have worked in the fields of education, health, environment, business and agriculture in more than 130 nations.

The Peace Corps in 2003 is 61 percent female, 91 percent single, 15 percent minority, with a median age of 25. There is no age limit for service, Garcia said. Some 7 percent of volunteers are 50 and older.

"Now we're going after retiring baby boomers who wish they'd done it before," he said. Some volunteers, for example, are putting their business acumen to work, helping former Communist states get into the free market system.

Terri Jo Ryan can be reached at or at 757-5746.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Paraguay; Recruitment; Municipal Development; Minority Volunteers; COS - El Salvador



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