French Student to Join Peace Corps
Djene Sylla, '17, Will Travel to Burkina Faso with the Peace Corps After Graduation
Carlie Sisco, English and creative writing, '19
Djene Sylla, '17
Djene Sylla, '17, will join the Peace Corps in June.
On June 11, 2017, senior French major Djene Sylla will embark on a two-year journey to Burkina Faso, a land-locked country in West Africa. She will serve as a member of the Peace Corps, teaching English as a foreign language to children in Burkina Faso and participating in leadership programs to support the education of young girls.
Although she was born in the United States, Sylla grew up in Guinea and Ivory Coast, both West African countries. She later returned to the U.S. for high school, but she retained her ability to speak French and several African languages.
At Widener, Sylla's mastery of these languages helped her as both a volunteer and a paid intern at the Upper Darby Welcome Center, where she worked with recent immigrants to the area, teaching ESL and civics classes in addition to serving as assistant to the director of the Center. Also at Widener, she served as co-president of the French Club, participated in community outreach to the French students at Chester High School from 2014 to 2015 and took advantage of leadership workshops offered through the Oskin Leadership Institute.
Sylla said that all of these experiences led to her decision to join the Peace Corps. She specifically credits the French program for giving her the opportunity to engage in activities that helped her discover a passion for teaching and realize that she could integrate that into her French major.
"Throughout this program, I encountered people who not only helped me make decisions, but also made me question them," Sylla said.
One of those people is Dr. Stephanie Schechner, professor of French. Sylla said that Schechner commits herself to guiding students throughout their Widener careers to ensure that they not only find success as students but also as graduates.
Schechner is thrilled to see Sylla join the growing group of Widener French majors who have gone on to use French to do good in the world. "We, the students and faculty of the French program, are really proud of her and look forward to following her progress through the Peace Corps Correspondence Match program," Schechner said.
Sylla will graduate in May 2017 with a major in French and a minor in international relations. As an English teacher in Burkina Faso, she plans to work toward increasing student success, improving teaching and improving school community engagement. After two years with the Peace Corps, she hopes to obtain a master's degree in French and continue working with immigrants either through non-governmental organizations or as a teacher.