News release courtesy of the Peace Corps
DENVER - A University of Colorado at Boulder graduate student and Colorado native, Jay Shah, is one of 11 former Peace Corps volunteers from across the nation who will be recognized for their dedication to community service with the Franklin H. Williams Award in Washington, D.C., on June 23.
Established in 1999, the Franklin H. Williams Award pays tribute to returned Peace Corps volunteers of color who show an ongoing commitment to community service and who support the agency's third goal of promoting a better understanding of other countries and peoples to Americans. The award is given to 11 individuals biennially and is named for former Peace Corps Regional Director for Africa and U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, Franklin H. Williams. Ambassador Williams was instrumental in assisting the first Peace Corps director, Sargent Shriver, in advancing the agency's mission across the globe.
Finalists for the Franklin H. Williams Award were selected by the 11 Peace Corps regional recruiting offices across the United States. Shah was selected by the Peace Corps regional recruitment office in Denver which serves the states of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming.
Shah served in the Peace Corps in Nepal from 2000 to 2002 where his primary assignment was to instruct third through sixth graders in English, math and the creative arts. Additionally, Shah often stepped beyond the boundaries of the classroom by working with local teachers in developing new curricula, tutoring students and their family members and serving as a mentor for local youth.
"Nothing I have done or experienced thus far in my life has stretched my limits, strengthened my values, and allowed me to learn so much about the world and myself as my time in the Peace Corps," said Shah. "My time in Nepal provided me with such a wide range of experiences - from the incredibly challenging to the amazingly simple - all of which have contributed greatly to shaping who I am today."
Upon completion of his Peace Corps service, Shah returned to Colorado and enrolled in CU-Boulder's environmental engineering graduate program. Shah also works as a graduate assistant in that same department - supporting faculty in developing an undergraduate focus area that effectively incorporates cross-cultural awareness and community development components.
Shah is active as a Peace Corps representative on the CU-Boulder campus and throughout the Boulder community - attending recruitment meetings and inspiring prospective volunteers with stories about his Peace Corps experience. Beyond the CU-Boulder campus, Shah responds to the call to service by volunteering as a tutor and mentor with the Tibetan Refugee Resettlement Program in Boulder.
"I was very surprised to be nominated for the Franklin H. Williams award because I only do what feels natural to me," said Shah. "I am honored to receive this award because there are so many diverse Peace Corps volunteers who are out there sharing their unique gifts throughout the world."
Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez will present the 11 Franklin H. Williams Awards at a ceremony on Thursday, June 23, at 7 p.m. at the Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C. The keynote speaker will be Wilbert Bryant, counselor to the secretary for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Bryant also serves as deputy assistant secretary for higher education programs for the Department of Education.
The other 2005 winners are Christopher Aquino, Ambassador Charles Baquet III, Stefan Cojina, Roland Foulkes, W. Frank Fountain, Rajeev Goyal, David Jones, Juanita Limas, Charlotte Golar Richie and Linda Robinson.
For more information about the Franklin H. Williams award, this year's recipients, the ceremony or the Peace Corps in general, please visit www.peacecorps.gov or call (800) 424-8580, option 1.
Today, there are more than 7,733 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 72 nations who are working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment and agriculture. Approximately 15 percent of Peace Corps volunteers are individuals of color.