After college, a move to Arizona and seven years of teaching, Century High School global studies teacher Daniel McGurren joined the Peace Corps, traveling to the Dominican Republic from February of 1997 to April of 1998.
McGurren attributed his decision to three factors.
"I had known of the Peace Corps through commercials and thought it looked like a good way to be of service to the U.S. and another country," said McGurren, who also knew of a colleague with a brother who had a positive experience when he served. "I was going to turn 30, so I thought it was a good time if I was ever to do something like it.”
As a resource center specialist, his job was to work with a Dominican counterpart and help with presentations and teaching in rural schools.
“The reality was quite different,” McGurren said. “Owing to my limited Spanish skills and my counterpart’s desire to do his side business during that time, we didn’t do a lot of presentations. We did serve as a physical resource for many materials, which we would get once a week."
He considers his largest contribution to be teaching English to those living in the communities he visited.
“I taught a total of three groups: some members from the business community, some teachers and the Kansas City Royals’ Dominican farm team,” McGurren said. “I got a lot of enjoyment out of that, and the people are what I remember the most.”
McGurren’s typical week consisted of working 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, like a school day. His English classes were held in the late afternoon or early evening.
He says bucket baths and no electricity were not the most difficult parts of the experience. Overcoming cultural and language differences were more challenging.
“My favorite story to tell is a learning event that happened to me," McGurren said. "While I was in my first few months, we lived with a host family. Every morning, I would use this bowl to bucket bathe and shave with. I had done this for about a week when the young son, who was fluent in English, saw me using the bowl and burst out laughing hysterically. I was using his parents’ bedpan for my wash bowl.”
While McGurren says the emotional impact of the trip has faded over time, he does enjoy sharing his experiences with others.
“It did make me think differently about myself and our culture to a degree," he said. "I remember not having watched some TV after spending about eight weeks in a pretty limited area. When I got to Santo Domingo, the capital, I went straight for the TV and remember how the commercials were obnoxious and annoying. The experience might have made me less materialistic.”