MEGHAN WISCHUSEN '05
Second Generation RC Alum
Made a Difference in the Peace Corps
You might say that Meghan Wischusen’s time since leaving Roselle Catholic in 2005 has been relatively brief … but it measures long, in terms of her service to others.
Knowing there are a lot of needs in the world, Meghan decided the Peace Corps is one of the countless organizations that would let her make a major contribution. So on September 1, 2010, her mother, Mary Ellen’s, birthday, she departed for Nicaragua, as an Environmental Education Peace Corps volunteer.
After Roselle Catholic, Meghan attended and graduated from Providence College in 2009, as an Elementary and Special Education major. In the summers of 2008 and 2009, she worked at a non-profit special needs camp, Ramapo for Children, in Rhinebeck, NY. It is a nine-week, overnight camp for kids with emotional and behavioral disorders and for children with learning disabilities. Following graduation from college, she was hired as a fourth grade teacher at Robert Gordon School in Roselle Park for the school year 2009-2010. “Although I worked with tremendous staff and students, I decided to apply for Peace Corps because I wanted to make a difference in another part of the world.” Then during her summer hiatus in 2010 while living in Italy and teaching English to her host-family, she found she had been accepted as a Peace Corps volunteer.
“During my first three months in Nicaragua, I lived in a small region called Carazo. There I lived with a host family and received much needed tutoring in Spanish from a Nicaraguan professor four days a week, six hours a day. Throughout those three months, I also received in-depth cultural training, as well as training in my sector, Environmental Education, which included building a school garden, forming a youth group, and teaching three observed science classes in the local elementary school.”
For her remaining time in the Peace Corps, Meghan lived in Teustepe, Boaco, an area where approximately 26,000 people live in the town and in 60 surrounding communities. Her primary job was teacher training. “I co-plan science class with seven teachers in four elementary schools to incorporate hands-on, dynamic activities that engage the students and promote environmental awareness.”
Yet, Meghan went way beyond her teaching responsibility, bringing her talents and tireless energy to help and support the local community.
She worked in four elementary schools in three communities with the students and teachers to make gardens (tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumber), tree nurseries and compost. The objective was to teach the students the importance of maintaining and utilizing the natural resources in Nicaragua, where deforestation is a huge problem, as well as, a deficiency in nutrition and healthy lifestyle.
Meghan also worked with a small group of women making earrings out of bottle caps as avenue for raising needed funds for community projects. “We held a town fair where we sold recycled-materials crafts and raised enough money to buy two book shelves for the local library.” Her family and friends from NJ also bought earrings and donated money to the ‘earring fund.’ Meghan has since left the village, yet the women continue what she initiated, still making earrings to support their small family incomes.
Another of her many projects involved painting two world maps on the side of two elementary schools, working with elementary students and Amigos de las Americas volunteers.
Meghan’s love of sports and experience on RC’s softball team benefitted the local high school softball team, helping to train and lead the team to the Nationals in the capital city of Managua in July 2011.
During her two years in Nicaragua, Meghan Wischusen worked with other Peace Corps volunteers to create a new Natural Science teaching manual for the Nicaraguan public schools; contributed 45 lessons to manual, focusing on hands-on activities using didactic, environmental-friendly materials.
Additionally, she gave English classes to both college graduates and elementary school students, and worked with the librarian to provide homework help to first through third grade students.
Meghan’s two-year service as a Peace Corps volunteer concluded September 7, 2012.
There were daily struggles Meghan faced during her time in Nicaragua. “When I was having a tough day or wanted to share a great moment, it was difficult not having people from home by my side. The language learning process was draining but rewarding at the same time. I think the biggest challenge was seeing the conditions and extreme poverty around me everyday.“
Meghan’s sister, Alison and her cousin Jeanine visited her while she was in Nicaragua. They came back saying that unless you witness it first hand you cannot get a true sense of the conditions and cultural differences Meghan experienced.
Meghan has lived in Cranford all her life, and is the second child of Charlie and Mary Ellen Wischusen. Meghan has an older sister, Alison. Charlie, her father, is a graduate of Roselle Catholic’s Class of 1970, and a long-time contributor to the RC community, as coach of softball and girl’s basketball.
Meghan gives much credit to her parents and sister for their support throughout the entire Peace Corps process. There were of course some nervous moments when she told them she wanted to apply, but their response was extremely positive, which confirmed she should accept a service position if offered one. “Everyone at home was constantly sending encouraging thoughts through e-mail, phone calls, and letters.” Charlie Wischusen ’70, says of their daughter’s inspiring spirit, “When we would talk to her, the enthusiasm in her voice made Mary Ellen & me so happy that she is doing something that she wants to do. She had so many stories of a life that I am not familiar with -- truly amazing!”
Until Fall 2013, when Meghan will attend the University of Texas at Austin to receive a Masters degree in Multicultural Special Education with an extension in ESL/Bilingual Education, she will be teaching third grade at Sherman School in Roselle Park.
No matter what Meghan is doing in her life, she always finds time to volunteer -- currently, teaching US citizenship classes to a group of 9 students in North Plainfield two days a week.
“I truly loved RC because it has more than just academics to offer. The emphasis on community service is something I would not have been exposed to in another school.“