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NLU Alumna Enters The Peace Corps After Early Retirement

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NLU Alum Sandra Mattison retired early from teaching fifth grade and will volunteer with the Peace Corps in Uganda for about two years. She will support primary education.

After 22 years of teaching in an elementary school, Sandra Mattison, 54, of Wheaton, Ill., retired early and embarked on another adventure. She left recently for Uganda, where she will serve as a Peace Corps volunteer for about two years.

Mattison, B.A. in Elementary Education ’92 and M.Ed in Interdisciplinary Studies in Curriculum and Instruction ’04, will use her professional experience and National Louis University education to support primary education in Uganda.

She will live and work at the community level to provide formal and informal training and support to elementary school teachers. Her projects may focus on health, HIV/AIDS, the environment, childhood development, English as a second language, remedial education, science and language arts. She will also occasionally teach classes.

“The idea of joining the Peace Corps only first entered my mind a little more than a year ago during one of my six-mile weekend runs,” Mattison said. “But this lightning bolt of an idea came with such force and clarity that it changed the direction of my life. I ran home, turned on my computer, searched for Peace Corps, and that’s where my story begins. “

Mattison retired earlier this year from teaching fifth grade in Wheaton’s Community Unit School District 200. She taught for eight years at Washing Elementary School and 14 years at Wiesbrook Elementary School.

During the first three months of her service, Mattison will live with a host family in Uganda to learn the local language and integrate into the local culture. After acquiring the language and cultural skills that will help her make a lasting difference, Mattison will be sworn into service and assigned to a community in Uganda where she will serve for two years.

“My early retirement and joining the Peace Corps just makes perfect sense at the perfect time in my life,” Mattison said. “Becoming a Peace Corps volunteer is the icing on the cake after a wonderful teaching career in District 200. Throughout my years of teaching, I would tell my students to always follow their heart. Well, it is time for me to ‘walk the walk,’ as they say, and follow my heart.”

Mattison will work in cooperation with the local people and partner organizations on sustainable, community-based development projects that improve the lives of people in Uganda and help Mattison develop leadership, technical and cross-cultural skills that will give her a competitive edge when she returns home. Peace Corps volunteers return from service as global citizens well-positioned for professional opportunities in today’s global job market.

“Living in Uganda, integrating into a brand new culture, and teaching in the primary schools is an amazing opportunity allowing me to use everything I know, believe and value in a purposeful, meaningful and challenging way,” she said. “There will be many challenges, but I also believe I will get more back from my service than I give and learn more than I teach, and that excites me, too.”

Mattison joins the 300 Illinois residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 8,302 Illinois residents have served as volunteers since the agency was created in 1961.

The Peace Corps provided the following information.

About Peace Corps/Uganda: There are currently 137 volunteers in Uganda working in the areas of health, education and community economic development. During their service in Uganda, volunteers learn to speak the local languages, including: Ateso, Dhopadhola, Luganda, Lugwere, Lumasaaba, Lusoga, Runyakore, Runyole, Runyoro-Rutoro and Uhopadhola. More than 1,305 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Uganda since the program was established in 1964.

About the Peace Corps: As the preeminent international service organization of the United States, the Peace Corps sends Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. Peace Corps volunteers work at the grassroots level with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to develop sustainable solutions that address challenges in education, health, economic development, agriculture, environment and youth development. When they return home, volunteers bring their knowledge and experiences – and a global outlook – back to the United States, enriching the lives of those around them. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to foster a better understanding among Americans and people of other countries. Since then, more than 215,000 Americans of all ages have served in 139 countries worldwide. Visit www.peacecorps.gov to learn more.