Description of United States Peace Corps Volunteer Service (D.O.S.)
Christopher Wilkins Weiss
Country of Service: Belize
Invitation to Serve: After completing his application, interview, background investigation, and receiving medical/dental clearance, Christopher Weiss received his invitation to serve in the United States Peace Corps in April of 2008. He accepted his assignment to serve in the country of Belize as a Youth Development Facilitator in the Youth Development Sector.
Dates: August 18, 2008 – October 28, 2008
Location: Independence, Stann Creek District, Belize
Christopher entered pre-service training on August 18, 2008 at the Peace Corps Belize Headquarters in Belmopan, Belize where he completed a twelve week (331 hours) intensive training program that covered the following areas:
Cross-Cultural Training – Volunteer safety and security; working as a development volunteer and professional, forming and working with groups; training and motivating adults and youth; integration into Belizean culture and community (94 hours)
Technical Field-Based Training – Training in youth development practices; training on how to work with groups and local organizations; utilizing non-formal education techniques; planning and organizing a community event with local youth group (164 hours)
Language Training – Intensive Belizean Kriol language instruction (73 hours)
Mr. Weiss was sworn in as a United States Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) on October 28, 2008 by U.S. Ambassador Robert J. Dieter at Governor General Sir Colville Young’s residence in Belmopan, Belize. Mr. Weiss was assigned to Edward P. Yorke High School in Belize City, Belize to serve as the Program Developer/Coordinator of a youth development program. Built with the help of Peace Corps Volunteers in 1962, Edward P. Yorke High School is a government funded co-educational institution based on a firm foundation of discipline. Since that time, it has gained the reputation of being one of the best secondary schools in the country.
Peace Corps Service
Dates: October 28, 2008 – September 22, 2010
Location: Belize City, Belize
Christopher arrived at Edward P. Yorke High School in Belize City, Belize on October 30, 2008 as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Throughout his two year service he was responsible for the following:
Program Coordinator/Developer – Coordinated, developed and facilitated an after-school at-risk youth development program: It’s Up To Me. Each of the two years, 15 students were selected in August by the school’s administration to participate in a 25 week behavior modification program. He increased the program’s group promotion rate from 50% to 73% within a one year period. Six students who took part in the program during Mr. Weiss’ stewardship eventually graduated from high school. He created a 60 page student workbook to allow for program fluidity and sustainability; subject areas included: time management, study skills, friendships, decision making, personal strengths, anger management, communication, puberty, stress, drugs, goals, life-purpose and HIV/AIDS prevention. The It’s Up To Me student workbook was presented to the Minister of Education’s Task Force on Alternatives to Corporal Punishment. He also wrote and received a $500 grant from the Kids to Kids organization to help pay for the student workbook, sporting equipment and school supplies for the students in the program. He created a 40’ by 40’ vegetable garden (basil, tomatoes, lettuce and cucumbers) on the school’s compound to be utilized by the program in the future.
Life Skills Instructor – Mr. Weiss taught eight 36-week Life Skills (5 in 2008-2009: 150 students, 3 in 2009-2010: 90 students) courses at E.P. Yorke High School to students ranging from ages 14 to 19. Students were exposed to various methods of instruction such as debates, panel discussions, role playing, class discussions, group projects, reflective writing, guest speakers, class lectures and presentations to enhance their assertiveness, critical thinking and decision making skills. Subject areas included: goal setting, values, self-awareness, communication, conflict resolution, sex education, decision making skills, social issues, career development and exam taking skills.
Disciplinary Board Member – As a member of the Disciplinary Board, Mr. Weiss met twice a quarter with students nearing expulsion and their parents to discuss their child’s future at E.P. Yorke High School. After the meeting concluded, board members vote on the status of the child. Often times, the meeting served as an intervention to let the student know he or she needed immediate improvement or face expulsion.
Disciplinary Seminar Lecturer/Facilitator – In August of 2009, Christopher facilitated a two day Disciplinary Seminar (50 participants in 2009) to teachers and senior administrators at E.P. Yorke High School with the Vice Principal of Discipline; topics included: suspension rates, reason for suspensions, setting disciplinary goals, alternative methods of discipline, positive discipline and the introduction of the Think Sheet. Towards the end of the seminar, Mr. Weiss facilitated, in a democratic forum, the changing and implementing of school policy in the following areas: homework policy, equipment/textbook policy, tardiness, absenteeism, demerit policy, study hall and Think Sheet policy.
School Management Member – Each Friday during the school year (August – June), Mr. Weiss met with the Principal, Vice Principal of Academics, Vice Principal of Discipline and the Counselor to report and discuss the progress and status of the students involved in the It’s Up To Me Program. Management meetings included general discussion of the status of E.P. Yorke High School; Mr. Weiss compiled data, created visual charts/graphs, provided analysis and recommended necessary policy changes for the betterment of the high school.
American Football Coach – Mr. Weiss was responsible for running the American Football Club on Wednesday’s during the school year. Each week, 40 male students ranging from ages 13 to 19 learned about and played American football under Mr. Weiss’s tutelage.
Sports Committee Member – Mr. Weiss was a member of the E.P. Yorke Sports Committee. He was responsible for setting up and running numerous sporting activities (October – February), culminating in the annual Sports Day. In collaboration with the Sports Committee, Mr. Weiss wrote the first Sports Day rulebook. In addition, he wrote a grant proposal for a $300,000 sports/multi-purpose complex that contained plans for on-site sporting and coaching development as well as the development of the Belizean student-athlete.
Contributions to Peace Corps Community:
Mr. Weiss served as the Volunteer Advisory Committee (V.A.C.) Representative for the Belize District (June 2009 – June 2010). The Volunteer Action Committee is a forum for volunteers to vocalize their questions and concerns to Peace Corps Belize staff. Meetings were held once a quarter.
He served as the Warden for the Belize District (June 2009 – June 2010). Wardens are responsible for relaying safety and security information to district volunteers.
He facilitated two sessions on Mentoring and Working with Belizean Youth to the Peace Corps Youth Development Sector Trainees (September 2009 and March 2010).
He took part in training panels for Peace Corps trainees: Life as a PCV and Relationships in the Peace Corps (October 2009).
He documented numerous stories on personal blog: Far From Home: Wilkins Weiss http://christopherwilkinsweiss.blogspot.com/ (June 2008 – September 2010).