Jan. 11, 2018
Rev. Alex Schwartz, of Pittsburgh (15206), a 2016 graduate of Saint Vincent College and non-denominational minister, recently gave a presentation at Saint Vincent College on his Peace Corps service in Batouri, Cameroon, Africa, to build cross-cultural awareness. Schwartz will continue in-country service until August 2019 as part of the education sector of the Peace Corps.
Schwartz draws from the skills and material he learned while earning his engineering science degree to craft lessons for the secondary school students he works with in Cameroon. He is the computer science teacher at his school and works with students on computer competency; his students have learned to put together their computers as well as use them.
As a Peace Corps member, he serves the community as an agent of change, and part of his implementation is redefining classroom management. The school where Schwartz teaches promotes literacy through programs such as Drop Everything and Read. D.E.A.R. encourages students to make reading a priority activity in their lives by setting aside periods of 30 minutes to stop what they’re doing and pick up a book. Other primary projects of his service include sanitation awareness through the creation of reusable feminine care products and the use of hand-washing stations.
Schwartz has even connected with Saint Vincent College professors to promote cross-cultural awareness. Dr. Margaret Watkins, a professor of philosophy, is searching for philosophy textbooks to share with Cameroonian teachers in the philosophy department at Schwartz’s school. Schwartz has also partnered with Dr. Derek Breid, a professor of engineering science, and some of his students to create lesson plans for basic physics concepts such as thermodynamics. “These simple lessons allow the students to learn material that they would otherwise never be exposed to,” boasts Schwartz.
Aside from his teaching role, Schwartz has multiple secondary projects underway in Cameroon. In the Peace Corps, secondary projects allow volunteers to work hands-on with the community in a way that shows their strengths and passions. The secondary projects Schwartz is currently working on are mead making, well building and the restoration of both the library and multimedia center. One of Schwartz’s fellow volunteers taught him to make mead, and now he teaches people in Cameroon, who are able to use the practice to generate additional income. When the electricity is out, as it often can be, clean water is not easily accessible; funding was received to build a well for the students so that they no longer need to worry about water during power outages. The restoration of the library will help promote D.E.A.R. Day, and the multimedia center will give more people access to technology.
The Peace Corps volunteers participate in community economic development, agriculture, health, education and environment-based projects in order to aid other countries. The three fundamental tasks they set out to accomplish are to share technology, build cultural awareness and America in the countries served and build awareness of the countries served back in the United States.
Photo: Alex Schwartz with students in Cameroon.
Follow us on Twitter: @MySaintVincent
Like us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/saintvincentcollege