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Release Date: Tuesday, January 3, 2012 11:10 AM
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Media Contact:
Jo-Ann English
Office of University Communications
Howard Graduate Changes Lives in Guatemala as Peace Corps Volunteer
Keisha Herbert and her students with their gardens in full bloom  
WASHINGTON (Aug. 9) – Upon commencement, one might expect a magna cum laude graduate in political science to head straight to the hottest prominent political campaign, or to a Washington think tank or possibly slip into a policy position in a Congressional office.

Not so for Keisha Herbert. In stead, the 2009 Howard University graduate headed to a remote region of Guatemala, where she spends her time as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching young girls the importance of environmental awareness, self-esteem and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
Recently, she trained more than 30 girls, ages 6 to 14, to create vegetable gardens out of recycled car and truck tires.

“The experience marked an absolute best time in my service,” said Herbert who arrived in Guatemala in April 2010 as a youth development volunteer. “The proactive attitudes and energy of the girls made the creation of a tire garden enjoyable and easy to accomplish.”

Herbert taught the girls the fundamentals of gardening, such as soil preparation, seed planting and watering. To create their gardens, the students cut out the top of the discarded car tires, painted them, and then filled them with soil

After three weeks of careful tending, the first crops of radishes were fully matured and ready to eat. Herbert then held a cooking and nutrition class with the food they generated from the gardens. Now the girls are planting other produce such as onions, tomatoes, carrots and celery seeds in the tire gardens. This initiative helped to increase local families’ access to food.

“It was a huge success and these girls definitely have green thumbs,” Herbert said.

Herbert also meets with more than 300 indigenous Mayan students weekly for English classes, cultural exchanges, dance lessons and other self-improvement topics. She conducts presentations on leadership skills, self-esteem, decision-making, goal formation and implementation, career development and HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.

As an undergrad at Howard, Herbert held leadership roles in numerous organizations, such as executive president of Pi Sigma Alpha, the Political Science Honor Society, student ambassador and co-chair of community service. She credits Howard for her preparation.

“Howard definitely prepared me for global leadership,” she said, “and it’s the reason why I am so passionate about sustainable development work.”
She said the Peace Corps provided a humbling and life-changing experience that further enhanced her desire to serve underdeveloped communities. She plans to pursue a career as a foreign service officer and eventually an ambassador.

“My passion is to serve individuals who are impoverished and underprivileged, and especially those who do not have access to life enhancement resources and opportunities,” she said.

About Peace Corps/Guatemala:
More than 4,690 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Guatemala since the program was established in 1963. Volunteers in this Central American nation work in the areas of rural health prevention, integrated youth development, sustainable agriculture and marketing, sustainable rural tourism, and municipal development. Currently, 227 volunteers are serving in Guatemala. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Awakateco, Ixil, Jacalteco, Kakchiquel, Mam, Pcomchi’, Popti’, Poqomam, Q’anjob’al, Qe’qchí, Quiché, Spanish, and Tzutuhil.

About the Peace Corps:
President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of service. More than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 77 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Visit for more information.


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