August 22, 2005: Headlines: COS - Iran: Training: Staff: The Daily Astorian: Mitra Vazeen taught Persian, survival skills and cultural issues to Peace Corps volunteers in Iran

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Iran: Peace Corps Iran : The Peace Corps in Iran: August 22, 2005: Headlines: COS - Iran: Training: Staff: The Daily Astorian: Mitra Vazeen taught Persian, survival skills and cultural issues to Peace Corps volunteers in Iran

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Mitra Vazeen taught Persian, survival skills and cultural issues to Peace Corps volunteers in Iran

Mitra Vazeen taught Persian, survival skills and cultural issues to Peace Corps volunteers in Iran

When she was 17 years old, she instructed people up to three times her age, teaching Persian, survival skills and cultural issues to Peace Corps volunteers in Iran.

Mitra Vazeen taught Persian, survival skills and cultural issues to Peace Corps volunteers in Iran

Teacher instills the ability to succeed to Tongue Point students

The Daily Astorian

Caption: Mitra Vazeen manages the Tongue Point Job Corps Center’s vocational department, which is ranked No. 3 out of 122 in the nation. Photo: Kara Hansen

Mitra Vazeen has been a teacher all her life.

When she was 17 years old, she instructed people up to three times her age, teaching Persian, survival skills and cultural issues to Peace Corps volunteers in Iran.

Now, she teaches people skills so they can find jobs.

Vazeen, the vocational programs manager at the Tongue Point Job Corps Center, said her connection to learning extends back to her parents. They placed a strong emphasis on education for Vazeen, her two sisters and her brother when the family lived in Tehran, Iran, and encouraged them to attend international school so they would speak more than one language.

In 1970, Vazeen came to the United States to improve her English at an American junior high school. She lived with her uncle, who was an Iranian diplomat, When she returned to Iran a year later, she attended an international school, where she was immersed in the second language.

“The best way to learn is to take every subject in English,” she said, noting the many hours she spent studying with a textbook in one hand and a dictionary in the other.

After graduating, Vazeen moved to London, where she studied political science, then attended University of Akron in Ohio, where she received a degree in mass media.

Most of her family lived in the United States by then, so she joined them in the West. She lived in Oregon before spending several years in California’s Silicon Valley then returning to Oregon at the end of the 1980s. She had lived in Portland for 14 years before she ever set foot on the North Coast.

“I always thought, ‘Who wants to go to the coast if you can’t swim?’” she confessed with a laugh, admitting despite the chilly weather, Oregon’s winters are more temperate than those she endured in Ohio.

When Vazeen saw Astoria, she was instantly reminded of a “small San Francisco.” She moved in 1992 without a job but quickly found one teaching English as a second language at Clatsop Community College.

Soon, she opened a small restaurant, the Astoria Cafe, where she served old-fashioned milkshakes in stainless steel cups and other American food for about a year and a half.

But Vazeen returned to the education. At age 40, she closed her restaurant to attend George Fox University, where earned her master’s degree in education. She worked as a substitute teacher for the Astoria School District before heading to the Tongue Point Job Corps Center in 2000.

The center’s 2005 Manager of the Year, Vazeen coordinates with an academic manager to make sure students leave with an education and vocational skills in one of about 18 fields, such as culinary arts, carpentry, medical assisting and seamanship, nearly all of which include industry-specific certification.

“Our goal is to make sure students leave here with marketable skills,” she said.

The Job Corps’ vocational department at Tongue Point is ranked No. 3 of 122 in the nation. The Tongue Point center overall is ranked No. 10, according to the Department of Labor.

Vazeen said she’s dedicated to the program, which offers education and job training to low-income, at-risk youth, ages 16 to 24. Tongue Point serves about 500 students, providing them with housing, schooling and post-graduation counseling and job placement services.

“I have attended schools in three continents,” she said, “and I believe the Job Corps system works.”

“My heart is in the program. We have students who have been told they can’t do it, that they can’t get a diploma or GED, and we have the job to tell them that they can do it. Amazingly, students rise to the occasion.”

She said her favorite days are during graduation, which occurs about four times each year. Nearly 90 percent of Job Corps graduates move on to further education, employment or military positions. She attributed part of the program’s success to its individualistic approach to education.

“It’s not one-size-fits-all,” she said. “(Students) work at their own pace. We focus on their learning abilities, not disabilities.”

She said all Job Corps employees should be considered educators. Regardless of their positions, they act as role models for the students.

“I am determined and I am decisive. I like to share those qualities with the students here. I tell them how lucky they are to learn subjects in their native language.”

She had to study long hours to learn school subjects English, but “I didn’t give up. I had a goal and a commitment to myself,” which she models to students.

Although she speaks multiple languages – Persian, English, some Arabic and some French – she advocates speaking only one tongue in the United States.

“It’s beautiful to speak other languages,” she said. “But English is the language of the law and the land.”

She added that as a common language, English is important because it unifies the country.

“There is this big American dream, and you can’t realize it if you can’t speak English.”

A 2001 study authorized by the U.S. Congress found that for every dollar the country spends on Job Corps, more than $2 is returned to society through the hours spent working by Job Corps graduates, the taxes they pay and the decreased burden on public safety and assistance resulting from the program.

Vazeen said she’s grateful to be a part of a program she considers patriotic.

At least four American flags decorate her office on the Tongue Point campus.

“By teaching, I feel like I’m giving something back to my country,” she said. “We are giving back to our country in the workforce.”

— Kara Hansen

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Story Source: The Daily Astorian

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Iran; Training; Staff


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