Joining the Peace Corps isn't all fun and games, but this volunteer says it's worth it.

You don't have to be an extraordinary person to make an extraordinary difference in the world.

When the opportunity to join the Peace Corps arose, Jessica Drazenovich didn’t think twice. It just felt like the right next step for her.

You see, Jessica was an Army brat. She was used to travel and change — a pro at acclimating to new situations. She’d also taken a keen interest in social justice early in her life, volunteering with various organizations throughout college. After graduating, she wanted the chance to make a difference at a grassroots level, so she applied.

All images of Jessica Drazenovich's service time in Guatemala used with permission.


She served in Guatemala for two years, teaching the kids in her community about food security.

The times she spent with them were some of her happiest memories because the kids accepted her completely. They didn’t laugh at her rusty Spanish. They didn’t judge her for any small cultural misunderstandings. They gave her a chance, and together, they learned a lot.

She taught them about recycling and nutrition, and they helped her discover that she loves the bond that comes with working with kids. Their openness and enthusiasm inspired her. And her life wasn’t the only one that changed. Volunteers often have long-lasting influences on their students’ lives.

It’s been almost a year since Jessica’s service ended, but her students still talk to her. They tag her in photos on Facebook, and they send her messages letting her know that they miss her and wish she could be there.

"Guatemala has changed me forever" Jessica said, looking back on her time there. "And it’s not like 'Oh, I traveled here and it was cool.' No, Guatemala is a part of me.”

But it wasn’t easy. Guatemala tested her in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

Many people she met were hesitant about outsiders.

"There’s a huge tourism industry there," Jessica explained. "So a lot of Guatemalans were a little wary of outsiders just because it tends to be [a] relationship of take, take, take. Like 'We’re going to come here and we’re going to take your resources and we’re going to suck up all of the tourist stuff and not give anything back.'"

On top of that, Jessica has a number of tattoos and piercings and is gay. Navigating a culture where these parts of herself aren't as accepted — while gaining enough respect to serve the community effectively — proved to be difficult.

"The Guatemalan culture is very, very, conservative," she said. "Things that we think are harmless — like a tattoo or a piercing or being openly gay — there, that’s just not acceptable," she explained. "Trying to build legitimacy in the community professionally, sometimes I kinda felt like I was covering up part of my personality to integrate."

In spite of these challenges, she didn’t let herself feel isolated; she stepped up.

She accepted almost every invite she received. She talked to members of the community and learned about them. She built relationships, and in the process, she realized that she had to let go of preconceived notions of what the community wanted. Instead, she listened to them when they described their needs and worked with them to find solutions.

In the end, she immersed herself into her new life completely.

To anyone thinking about joining the Peace Corps, Jessica says "do it."  But know what you’re getting into.

She warns against romanticizing the experience. It’s service work, so it will be hard. But you don’t have to be a great adventurer or extremely rugged to join. You just have to want to make a difference.

"You’re making a commitment with the community to work with them on the issues that they deemed to be important," she said. "You have made that commitment with them, to them. Don’t take it lightly."

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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