UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — After his plans to serve with the Peace Corps had been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Manny Catala pivoted shortly to proceed his service to college students abroad. Catala, a 2019 graduate of Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences, will educate in Ghana this yr as a part of the International Agricultural Education Fellowship Program.
Catala, who graduated with a bachelor’s diploma in agricultural and extension education and a minor in worldwide agriculture (INTAG), can be one among 9 fellows dividing their time between working as agricultural extension brokers, lecturers and 4-H membership advisers.
The program was based in partnership with AgriCorps and is housed on the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture and Development at Texas A&M University. Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, this system trains and helps fellows to turn out to be agriculture lecturers in Ghana. The communities through which the fellows work are chosen as prime placement places by this system and its in-country companion, 4-H Ghana.
Catala arrived in Ghana firstly of August and has spent the final month coaching in preparation for the college yr, studying the Twi language and connecting with native extension brokers and farmers. The fellows even have met with their co-teachers, headmasters and different neighborhood figures.
“We’re going to be working to engage our communities to improve agricultural development and also leading youth through agricultural education and implementing school gardens,” mentioned Catala. He will educate at one host college and plans to community inside the neighborhood to see if different faculties could be all in favour of establishing 4-H packages.
Although he has been out of school for just a few years, this isn’t Catala’s first expertise educating abroad. In September 2019, he traveled to Senegal with the Peace Corps for what was presupposed to be a 27-month stint. He and different volunteers had been evacuated because of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Still, Catala mentioned the six months he spent in Senegal had been an excellent basis for his work in Ghana.
He had intensive coaching in extension work and tradition and even realized Wolof, the most typical language spoken in Senegal. Catala mentioned he additionally acquired to know the neighborhood he would have been working in by web site assessments.
“We had the framework of increasing food security and nutrition in the community,” he defined. “The goals were increasing farmers’ capacity to improve varieties of crops, and we also wanted to increase community capacity to grow food sustainably.”
Noel Habashy, assistant educating professor within the faculty’s Ag Sciences Global workplace, was Catala’s adviser for the INTAG minor and taught him within the course, “INTAG 490: Senior Seminar in International Agriculture.”
“Manny eagerly seeks out opportunities to grow, learn and engage with people around the globe,” Habashy mentioned. “He’s an enthusiastic, committed educator and learner. He wants to share his knowledge of agriculture and learn about the world around him. Despite the cancelation of his opportunity with Peace Corps, Manny was tenacious enough to seek out another way to engage with people around the globe effectively.”
Tobin Redwine is the fellowship program supervisor and lead studying analyst at Vivayic, which is a learning-solutions firm and a subawardee on the USDA grant that funded the venture.
“Manny brings incredible knowledge from his academic experience at Penn State and his professional works,” Redwine mentioned. “Though he’s only a month into his fellowship, Manny has already been trusted by the school to lead classes and advise a 4-H chapter, and he is working to organize a regional teacher training. Those efforts will further impact students and teachers in Ghana and help strengthen the capacity of school-based agricultural education in the region.”
Catala mentioned his profession objective is both to work in extension or keep within the classroom, and he hopes his time in Ghana will assist him determine which. Either approach, he plans to pursue a grasp’s diploma in worldwide agriculture growth after the fellowship.
Because of the pandemic, it was unlikely that Catala would have returned to Senegal, however he famous that the fellowship program was an excellent various. “My work in Senegal was centered on youth and engaging them in agriculture,” he mentioned. “In Ghana, I’ll be doing similar things.”
For undergraduates all in favour of educating abroad, Catala advises them to benefit from any alternatives that current themselves.
“Reach out and talk to people, get involved,” he mentioned. “I don’t have regrets, but I wish I’d taken advantage of more opportunities offered by the college. As an undergraduate, you have the most flexibility to travel and experience other cultures.”