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March 10, 2008

Woman leaves today for Peace Corps stint

By Patricia Breakey

DELHI _ A Delhi woman will fulfill a lifelong dream to "run away to the jungle" when she leaves today to join the Peace Corps.

Laura Christine Coberly, 25, is traveling to Senegal to begin pre-service training as an urban agricultural development Peace Corps volunteer, Molly Jennings Levine, Peace Corps public relations specialist, said in a news release.

"I was attracted to the Peace Corps because of my interest in foreign languages and cultures, but mostly my time with Rotary International opened me up to what is going on in the world outside of my hometown," Coberly said.

"I do not want to just settle for any job, I want to make a difference in the world." During the first three months of her service, Coberly will live with a host family in Thies, Senegal, to become fully immersed in the country's language and culture, Levine said.

Coberly said she spent a year in France in 2001 as a Rotary International Exchange Student so she has a good background in speaking French, the national language of Senegal.

"The problem is that in Delhi I haven't had anyone to talk to," Coberly said. "In New York City I would go to French movies and I had a few friends who spoke French."

After acquiring the language and cultural skills necessary to assist her community, Coberly will spend two years at an assigned position in Senegal, living in a manner similar to people in her host country, Levine said.

Coberly said she had been working as a project manager at an investment bank, so her agricultural skills are limited to helping her mother garden, but she said she is interested in environmental issues, so she looks forward to learning.

Coberly said she has been interested in the Peace Corps for years, but making the final commitment was a hard decision.

"I came back to Delhi in September because I wanted to get out of the corporate world, but I couldn't find a job here," Coberly said. "I began looking into the Peace Corps and I made my final decision to go on Christmas Eve." Coberly said her mother, Sherry Coberly, is nervous about her going, but is also very supportive.

"She definitely inspired me to go," she added.

The only concern Coberly has involves insects.

"I am very open to new kinds of food but I am kind of nervous about the bugs," she said. "I have heard that there are bugs that can get under your skin and make you sick." Coberly graduated from Delaware Academy and Delhi Central School in 2001 and then attended Marymount Manhattan College in New York City, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in international studies and French, graduating in 2006.

"I am excited to be able to use my education for a purpose," Coberly said. "I don't know what I want to go to grad school for yet, so this may help me make that decision."

Coberly previously worked as a project manager for Julius Baer Investment Management LLC, in New York City. She has interned for the Permanent Mission of the Maldives to the United Nations.

Levine said Coberly joins 429 New York residents serving in the Peace Corps. More than 11,793 New York residents have served in the Peace Corps since 1961.

The Peace Corps began work in Senegal in 1963, and since then, over 2,813 Volunteers have worked in the country.

Levine said the volunteers focus their efforts in the areas of agriculture, business development, environment, and health. Volunteers train healthcare workers and work to create sustainable agricultural techniques.

teach environmental awareness, and help to develop effective marketing information systems and improve organizational and financial management practices for small businesses. Currently there are 177 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in Senegal.

Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. To learn more about the Peace Corps visit www.peacecorps.gov.

Patricia Breakey can be reached at 746-2894 or at stardelhi@stny.rr.com.