PROFILE: Peace Corps Leads Student to Study Planning
University of Cincinnati student Rebekah Kranch of Mansfield, Ohio, spent two years in the Peace Corps where she taught English in Bulgaria. This fall, she started as a master’s student in UC’s School of Planning and is now organizing home-buying classes in Over-the-Rhine.
Date: 12/13/2004 7:59:00 AMWhile teaching English to Bulgarian children in 2001-2003, University of Cincinnati student Rebekah Kranch, 25, had something of a quiet life. Living in a valley guarded by mountains on three sides, she never heard heavy traffic, much less an airplane or a helicopter. “It’s been too loud for me since I got back,” laughs Rebekah. And busy too.
By: Mary Reilly
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She returned to Ohio and this past fall, started back to school as a first-year master’s student in UC’s well-respected School of Planning. Rebekah is specializing in international development, hoping to return one day to the Balkans.
But first, she has to negotiate a full load of classes, an on-campus job and one in Over-the-Rhine as well. Rebekah is working in Over-the-Rhine as UC’s first member of the Peace Corps Fellows/USA program – a partnership that the Peace Corps has with 37 universities that matches former Peace Corps volunteers with degree-related service.
In Over-the-Rhine, Rebekah is working with SmartMoney Community Services, a non-profit that provides affordable financial services and economic education to underserved individuals. She’s been organizing a Wednesday series of home-ownership workshops that focus on the home-buying process for first-time home buyers, everything from finding a home to applying for a mortgage.
“I like being in the community. It’s fun to be in a different environment than school, working with a non-profit and just the one-on-one with people,” explains Rebekah. She laughs, “And I sit in on the home-buying classes I’m organizing. I’m learning a lot.”
She says the same was true of her time in Bulgaria. There, she had to acquire language skills, and she even had to learn how to teach English. “Just because you speak a language doesn’t mean you know how to teach it. Boy, did I learn that in a hurry.”
Rebekah opted for the Peace Corps after graduating with an anthropology/criminology degree in 2001 from Ohio State University. “And ten days later,” she remarks, “I was in the Peace Corps. When I decide to move on, I move on.”
For the moment though, she doesn’t plan to move on from SmartMoney. She’s set to organize another series of home-buying education sessions during winter quarter. “We had a waiting list for our current fall classes for first-time home buyers. There’s a waiting list for the classes that start in January too. I hope to make the classes more and more effective. Right now, we have guest speakers and materials, and I’m asking people to fill out pre- and post-program surveys to find out what was most valuable, what they learned, what’s memorable.”
With her community work as the first Peace Corps Fellow at UC, Rebekah seems to be setting a trend. Already, several more former Peace Corps volunteers have applied to enter the School of Planning, part of the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, in the fall of 2005.