, Port Arthur, Texas


May 9, 2007

Assignment an opportunity to show girl power

By David Ball

The News staff writer

Did you know that Mongolian’s Naadam festival is the celebration of the anniversary of the regions’ independence from China? And one of the favorite events is shaqaa — a sport that involves flicking sheep ankle bones at a target several feet away? Another favorite is khoomii or throat singing.

Darlene Hernaez did not know these things either until she began studying Mongolia in preparation for her two-year relocation there as a Peace Corps trainee this June.

“I’m still a trainee and I’m still not official,” the former Port Arthur resident said. “I have to ‘survive’ the first 11 weeks learning Mongolian language and customs. I’ll be there under the English Education and Community Development program. Then I’ll be sworn in as a full-fledge Peace Corps volunteer.

Hernaez said “it’s been a lifelong dream” to join the Peace Corps.

“I always wanted to keep all of my childhood aspirations,” she said. “It’s so important to never let that little girl die. To say that I can get another stamp on my passport. Instead of sitting on my butt I can be proactive.”

Hernaez admitted growing up she would look at Peace Corps volunteers as saving the world. She now knows she won’t change the world, but that she can make a difference.

“My family is a little concerned because I’m the baby and they care,” she said. “Unfortunately, I was the most mischievous growing up and I was the most likely to go to the Peace Corps. I call my friends my support group and they’re not that surprised. They know I do wild and crazy things. Some of may friends in Austin are applying too.”

Hernaez recently graduated from the University of Texas in Austin. She earned a bachelor of science degree in corporate communication studies where she plans to enter either marketing, public relations, or maybe event planning. She added she could see herself working for another non-profit organization or something in international relations.

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