Lauren Gianoni came to Villanova as a returning Peace Corps volunteer with a rich background in community involvement and helping underserved communities. While obtaining her first degree from the Pennsylvania State University, she was active in the university’s IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, or THON, a year-long fundraising and awareness campaign for the fight against pediatric cancer. After graduating from Penn State, and unsure of what she wanted to do, Lauren searched for different ways she could continue to make a difference in someone’s life. Though unsure of her path, helping others was undoubtedly her passion which she hoped she could one day translate into her profession. After some consideration, Lauren felt joining the Peace Corps would give her the best opportunity to not only give back but to also evaluate where her passions could take her in the professional world.
So, she ventured from her home in Erie, Pa. and began her 10 month journey of service. Originally stationed in La Cuesta, Peru, Lauren transferred sites to Samne, Peru after 6 months; both small towns about an hour or so from the coast. She began her work as a community health promotion volunteer. She and the other volunteers interviewed families in these areas to assess the biggest health promotional need and then created projects to help bridge the educational gaps. Lauren’s primary focus was teaching nutrition to a group of mothers, though she also taught English and started a youth group to teach about goals, self esteem and sexual health practices. In conjunction with her teaching, she also followed up on a latrine project started by a previous volunteer.
While living in Peru with a host family, she experienced celebrating holidays within a different culture including Christmas, Easter and several birthdays. Lauren especially appreciated the opportunity to see the variety within the culture and found it interesting that each town had differences in dress and cultural customs.
While in Peru, Lauren had the chance to see what different sides of healthcare had to offer. Ultimately, she felt drawn to nursing. The profession’s flexibility and versatility along with the compassionate, nurturing and supportive nature of the role was what led her to choose this path.
When she decided to become a nurse, Lauren wanted to complete her education at a university that offered the most opportunity to continue her service work. After learning about Villanova’s numerous service opportunities and its sense of community, the school’s College of Nursing was the obvious choice. Through the Coverdell Fellows Program, Lauren and other returning Peace Corps volunteers have the opportunity to continue working with underserved populations while still continuing their personal education. “My peace corps experience greatly affected my perspective and nursing education. I have learned how to better listen and be culturally sensitive.” After graduation, Laura plans to work in an emergency department in an underserved community for a few years and then joining an organization where she can further her work in serving others abroad and eventually become a nurse practitioner.