Missouri State University
Laura Pearson

Laura Pearson

  • French and religious studies

Alumna takes her skills to Africa

A desire to travel and explore cultures has taken one Missouri State University alumna to Africa.

Laura Pearson, a Springfield native who graduated from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in French and religion in May, recently started training for a two-year term with the Peace Corps.

“I love learning, and the Peace Corps may be one of the most thorough programs for that very type of life,” Pearson said.

Pearson’s interest in traveling abroad was piqued through a study away semester on La Reuníon Island, a French territory off the coast of Madagascar. She is currently posted in Cameroon, Africa.

During the 10-week training period, Pearson will be studying French and Cameroonian culture as well as learning necessary technical skills. She will work as a youth development coordinator.

“Though the Peace Corps has existed in Cameroon since 1962, we are the first class of trainees to be assigned specifically to youth development,” she said.

Pearson said they will be working in the areas of in-school girl’s empowerment, out-of-school girl’s empowerment, boy’s engagement and community leader support of youth development.

She believes that the program will be a perfect fit because of her previous experiences working with youth. Pearson worked at Camp Barnabas and Camp Galilee, and she also volunteered as a pre-literacy reader and a reading tutor for Ozarks Literacy Council.

“I love working with youth because of their passion,” Pearson said. “They seek understanding and meaning in everything because they haven’t fully figured out who they are yet.”

She remembers as a teenager that her family, teachers and church youth leaders were extremely supportive and gave her a sense of empowerment. She hopes to do that for others.

“Youth are a wellspring of potential and a little bit of investing in them goes a long way,” Pearson said.

This article was originally published in the Springfield News-Leader on Nov. 14, 2011.