Learning experience - ARPC technician selected as instructor for civic education program

  • Published
  • By Mike Molina
  • Editor
Tamara Vugrin wants to be a teacher someday. But the benefits of civil service, having a two-year old son and the sometimes frequent permanent change of station moves that come with a husband in the Navy, have made a teaching career a long-term pursuit.

On Sunday, Ms. Vugrin, an accessions branch technician in the Directorate of Assignments at the Air Reserve Personnel Center, will have an opportunity to get a little closer to her goal.

From March 16-21, Ms. Vugrin will serve as a volunteer instructor for the Presidential Classroom program in Washington, D.C.

"It's a chance to teach high school students about our government and help them understand what their opportunities are for the future," Ms. Vugrin said. "I enjoy working with kids and giving them the time they need to go after and reach their goals."

The Presidential Classroom is a nonprofit organization that began during President John F. Kennedy's administration. It allows high school sophomores, juniors and seniors to learn about the government through seminars and discussions featuring members of Congress, military officials, business leaders and journalists in Washington, D.C.

"(The program) brings students from all over the country and all over the world together, and for one week, Washington, D.C., becomes their classroom," said John Croft, director of the Presidential Classroom program.

Although she will serve as an instructor, Ms. Vugrin says she hopes the experience will also give her a chance to learn more.

"I've only been to (Washington, D.C.) once," she said. "I'm hoping to see how government works and give myself a better understanding of it, especially now with the elections going on."

Volunteer instructors, like Ms. Vugrin, serve as the faculty of the program and are selected from a pool of applicants across the federal government and private sector.

"Generally, there are many more applicants than there are opportunities for volunteer instructors," Mr. Croft said. "I have the arduous task of going through all the applications and reading letters of recommendation, and the (applicant) essays and biographies.

From there we determine who would best connect with the students and who has a desire to inspire young people."

After seeing an e-mail about the program and with the encouragement of her supervisor, Ms. Vugrin submitted her application in November. By January she was being interviewed by Mr. Croft who offered her a position as a volunteer instructor.

"I wasn't going to apply, but my supervisor at the time, Sara Simms, encouraged me to put in my application," Ms. Vugrin said. "If it wasn't for Sara, I probably wouldn't have done it."

It's a decision that Ms. Vugrin is glad she made, and hopes other employees and their supervisors can learn from her experience.

"I really think programs like this are a great opportunity for employees," she said. "I think supervisors need to take an active role in encouraging people to take advantage of opportunities like this."