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Recent graduate joins Peace Corps

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For many NKU students, summer’s end meant heading back to classes. But for recent NKU graduate Samantha McKenzie, the end of the summer meant preparing to move to Central America.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology accompanied with minors in Spanish and chemistry she chose to join the Peace Corps.

McKenzie spent early August stocking her backpack, but not with school supplies.

Instead, she was deciding what essentials she would need for the next two years of her life, limited to 100 pounds.

“I wanted to do something for myself,” Mckenzie said. “I am finally a graduate and I feel like this is the best time to go.”

Her thoughts of joining the Peace Corps came as early as high school.

For 27 months, she will be devoting her time as an environmental education promoter in Nicaragua, co-teaching in two primary schools. McKenzie’s tasks will include community research activities, classroom management, gardening techniques, and compositing.

During her time at NKU, McKenzie worked as a camp counselor for school-aged children at the NKU Early Childhood Center.

“[Samantha] was always one of the most adored counselors,” said Doug Staton, senior elementary education major and former Early Childhood Center summer camp counselor. “The kids always wanted to be around her.”

McKenzie worked several consecutive summers with Staton and other NKU student workers, ensuring a summer filled with both learning and fun for school aged children from the community.

“If it weren’t for my experiences at the [Early Childhood Center,] I would not have pursued child development,” Samantha said. “It impacted my desire to work with children and reflecting back, I believe it was meant to be.”

The NKU science department also played a role in McKenzie’s aspiration to use applied science in underdeveloped countries.

“Samantha was always interested in the bigger picture, of how science impacts our world,” said Charles Acosta, associate professor in the department of biological sciences. “She wanted to integrate her social concerns with the biological sciences to solve pressing environmental problems.”

While at NKU, McKenzie gained experience through lectures, laboratories and field trips, which provided her with technical skills, as well as global perspectives. By joining the Peace Corps, she can finally take action in helping communities with their environmental challenges.

“It is rewarding to see students developing such empathy and going out in the world to contribute to the well-being of those in most need,” Acosta said. “I believe we gave her the best education possible, and in return, she has made us proud.”

McKenzie is “not worried about roughing it,” but said that leaving her family, boyfriend and cats behind is a weighty decision. She is excited to begin her journey and to gain a lifelong experience while in the tropics.

To follow Samantha’s experiences, visit her blog at http://gallopintoandcompost.wordpress.com/ .

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Recent graduate joins Peace Corps