Interview with Jill Newton, October 24, 2022
Project: Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project
Interview SummaryJill Newton served as a Peace Corps Volunteer (Education) in Papua New Guinea (PNG) from 1988-1990. Raised in Bangor, Michigan, Jill recalls family camping trips throughout the U.S. She describes her parents as adventurous and service-oriented, values that Jill carried into her life. While studying for her bachelor’s degree in math and science education at Michigan State University, Jill met a Peace Corps Volunteer/recruiter who described riding a camel to her school. That story, and her parents’ example, intrigued Jill, and she decided to join the Peace Corps. One year after college graduation, Jill accepted a Peace Corps assignment to teach 7th-10th grade math and science to girls at Holy Name High School on the East Coast of PNG. Jill’s Peace Corps training started with a brief stop in Hawaii to meet her training group, the second stop in Port Moresby, PNG’s capital, for a few days’ administrative work, and then on to six weeks of language and culture training in the highlands of PNG. She learned Tok Pisin, a phonetic English language used throughout New Guinea. Jill spoke Tok Pisin in daily conversations and other activities to build relationships, but she taught in English. After training, Jill flew on a bush plane to Wedau Village and then traveled by tractor and wagon to her teaching assignment at Dogura Station on the plateau above. Jill’s school had a British headmistress and followed the British educational system. Several students came from families of means, but the PNG government also sponsored students from rural villages to broaden educational opportunities. Jill admired her students for being diligent and eager to learn. Teachers and students lived full-time on the school grounds. Jill’s roommates were other Peace Corps Volunteers – Susan Wendling from Chicago and then Jane Flock from Minnesota. The roommates quickly became fast friends. Jill and the other teachers were available evenings and weekends for tutoring, visiting, and picnics at the nearby beach. Jill especially remembers enjoying the girls’ storytelling from their tradition of legends. Jill was at first homesick for her family in Michigan, but she soon integrated into her close-knit community at Dogura Station and Wedau Village. And during her service, Jill was able to share her Peace Corps life in PNG with her parents and a sister who came to visit her school site and to travel together throughout PNG and Australia. Looking back, Jill views her Peace Corps service as “transformational.” Jill learned from her parets that “It’s all about relationships” and so she keeps in touch with a worldwide network of friends and former PNG colleagues, students, and their families through Facebook. Jill’s life since leaving PPG in 1990 abounds with Peace Corps-inspired activities, including: international teaching for seven years in Europe, Africa, and Latin America; and creating a month-long Study Abroad program at Purdue University modeled after her Peace Corps experience. Called “Maymester in Tanzania,” Jill’s program has taken 200 participants to Tanzania for service learning projects in schools and health clinics. Eight of its graduates have joined the Peace Corps, and a ninth is about to begin. Jill plans to return to PNG in 2024 for a reunion after attending a professional conference in Sydney, Australia.
Interview KeywordPeace Corps (U.S.) Papua, New Guinea (Country of service) 1988-1990 (Date of service) Peace Corps Volunteer Job: Education Bangor, Maine USA (hometown) Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan USA (undergraduate degree) Hawaii (Peace Corps Volunteer group convened) Port Moresby (capital of PNG and site of Peace Corps administrative days) the Highlands (Peace Corps training site – 6 weeks) Tok Pisin (Phonetic English Language) Mary Kinelom (memorable Peace Corps trainer) East Coast of PNG, Milne Bay Province (Volunteer’s geographic location)bush plane grass airstrip Wedau (Language) Wedau Village (closest village to Volunteer’s site) Dogura Station (Volunteer’s site) Holy Name High School (Volunteer’s teaching assignment at girls’ school) Anglican Mission at Dogura Station 200th anniversary Archbishop of Canterbury (attended Anglican Mission anniversary celebration in 1990) Alatou (nearest town to Volunteer’s site) Susan Wendling and Jane Flock (Volunteer’s roommates and fellow Peace Corps volunteers at site) “bagibagi” (name for girls’ cleanup chores) Ann Meredith (Volunteer’s British friend who worked at Holy Name High School) mailbag Maggie and George Parascos (Volunteer’s teacher friends at Holy Name High School who lived in Wedau Village) VHS movies Loloata Island (site of Peace Corps mid-service conference) cuscus (small marsupial that sat on shoulder of Volunteer’s father during family visit) American School of Sofia, Bulgaria Escuela Campo Alegre, Venezuela The American School of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo International School of Tanganyika (international schools where Volunteer taught after PNG Peace Corps service) Master’s degree in International Education, George Washington University, Washington DC USA Evaluator for Peace Corps office PhD. in Mathematics Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing Michigan USA Purdue University, Indiana USA (On faculty there for past 15 years) Peace Corps Prep Section Coordinator Maymester in Tanzania (Volunteer created month-long Study Abroad program at Purdue University modeled after Volunteer's Peace Corps experience) Member, Southwest Michigan Returned Peace Corps Volunteers’ group
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Newton, Jill Interview by Kathleen Kathy Beckman. 24 Oct. 2022. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
Newton, J. (2022, October 24). Interview by K. K. Beckman. Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.
Newton, Jill, interview by Kathleen Kathy Beckman. October 24, 2022, Peace Corps: The Returned Peace Corps Volunteer Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.
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