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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Peace Corps Fellow-Turned Associate-Reflects

The Peace Corps Fellows program began in 1985 in response to "A Nation at Risk," which warned that an entire generation of children in the United States was being raised scientifically and technologically illiterate. The goal of the program is to provide inner-city schools with qualified, effective and committed teachers in critical subject areas.

The program initially offered former Peace Corps volunteers partial tuition remission toward a master's degree and a permanent teaching certificate in exchange for a commitment to teach in New York City public schools for two years. This year's cohort of 48, however, consisted of 19 who received the reduced-tuition awards, another 12 who attended the College without financial assistance, and 17 who used the services of the program to secure full-time teaching positions (the last two groups have become known as Honorary Fellows over the years).

Daniel Tamulonis, Coordinator of the Peace Corps Fellows program at TC, said the Board of Education of the City of New York is a strong supporter of the fellowships. "The board continues to be impressed with the caliber and level of dedication of the Fellows."

Don Overly, who served in Fiji, has taught 9th grade biology for two years at George Washington High School as a full-time salaried teacher and is completing his master's degree in Secondary Science Education.

Overly sees his academic experience at TC as one that introduced him to student-directed learning. "As I took classes here," he said, " I tried to integrate those ideas into my teaching at George Washington. I attempted to make science more than vocabulary or just concepts, but to make it what's happening in the lives of students."

In July 1999, Overly was not only getting ready to teach for the fall semester but also became one of six new Peace Corps Associates who received partial tuition remission. The Associates program is funded by Chase Manhattan Bank and an anonymous donor. In the past it was supported by Elliot S. Jaffe, TC Trustee, and Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Sunshine.

Tamulonis likes to think of the Associates as a linchpin in the success of the Fellows program at TC. "Without the Associates, the support and commitment to the Fellows-current, past, and the future-would be limited and lacking greatly in the richness that their presence brings," he said. As an Associate, Overly took on the challenging and important role of assisting the new Fellows, some of whom came directly from their Peace Corps service and others who were changing careers. Overly said, "There's a lot of adjustment that has to take place."

While the cohort of 19 Fellows were working toward their degree and teaching in New York City public schools, Overly and the other Associates assisted the Fellows in a wide-range of activities, especially organizing special monthly seminars.

Smiling at the thought of the work he has done with his new colleagues, Overly said, "I hope I've brought a lot of energy to being an Associate and carried on the tradition set by my predecessors."

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