By Erik Jay Weber |
WEST LONG BRANCH – The Jersey Shore is going to Mongolia.
Students in the Monmouth University Peace Corps Volunteer Prep Program (PCVPP) have put together a care package of local “artifacts” they hope will give school children in Mongolia a sense of how people live and play here.
The package will be sent to the children through the daughter of Monmouth University professor Frank D. Cipriani, director of the PCVPP, who is currently teaching in Mongolia through with the Peace Corps.
Mongolia is “pretty much as far from an ocean as you can get,” said Cipriani, who visited his daughter, Emma, over Thanksgiving last year. “The concept is so alien, of any sort of shore, or shell, or putting a shell to your ear and listening to the ocean,” he said. Emma’s students already liked some of the concepts they were introduced to from American culture, Cipriani said, but she wanted to show the children how different parts of the United States are from each other.
“My daughter is seen as an American,” said Cipriani, which he feels foreigners often equate to “Hollywood” because that’s what they see. “We wanted to show that there’s this little tiny place of Mongolia that’s maybe different from the rest of Mongolia, and there’s this little tiny place of the United States that’s the Jersey Shore,” he said.
The resulting collection is a “mosaic that could only be the Jersey Shore,” Cipriani said, noting that shells from the beach, salt water taffy and sports items all made it into the package. “You can’t send a bagel. You can’t really send a pork roll,” Cipriani noted about two iconic Jersey Shore foods, but they made sure to include “things that people at a school in Mongolia, kids would want to play with or want to touch.”
Mayo Paco, a sophomore serving as ambassador for the university prep program and enrolled in communications and environmental studies, was excited the Mongolian students will now “have some kind of way to see that there’s a different culture, like totally odd and different from what they’re used to.”
“I think it’s going to be amazing,” said Paco. “We skateboard. I don’t know if they skateboard. I kind of want them to send something back so we can see what they do.”
The Jersey Shore artifacts were on display recently during a Peace Corps Film Festival held in Wilson Hall on Monmouth University’s campus, and included a Jersey Devils hockey stick and puck, a New York Giants football, a horseshoe crab shell, a skateboard with photos of the Forth Union Asbury Park skate spot in the carousel building, postcards, shells, an empty box of Taylor Pork Roll (Taylor Ham) with photos of how the product is eaten, a Wiffle Ball and bat, flip-flops and more. All items will be sent with note cards written by participating PCVPP students to help the Mongolian students understand their use and importance to Jersey Shore residents.
The Monmouth University Peace Corps Volunteer Prep Program operates under a formal agreement between the university and the Peace Corps and is the only such program at any university in New Jersey. It was established in 2016 by Nancy J. Mezey, a returned Peace Corps volunteer who served in Mali, West Africa. The PCVPP at Monmouth is one of over 60 others nationwide that certifies students for the federal service program.
Cipriani said students who join the PCVPP don’t have to enter the Peace Corps, adding that acceptance to the federal service program is competitive and not guaranteed. But most of the general education classes – particularly health and education – are included in the certification, which gives Monmouth students interested in the federal program “a huge leg up,” according to Cipriani.
Monmouth University program participants serve the shore area, from working in local prisons, to helping children in need, to planting trees and engaging in positive agricultural and environmental projects that can benefit other aspects of their chosen majors.
One student in the program is interested in marine studies, said Cipriani, and connected with the American Littoral Society through a seal-watching event last weekend. “The Littoral Society said, ‘Hey, we need somebody to film our fish tagging, so people know how to fish tag,’ ” explained Cipriani, which will give her course credit at the university.
This article was first published in the March 22-29, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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