From his post in Morocco, where he and his wife Kate are serving in the Peace Corps, Parkside alumnus Robert Stewart '00 took some time to reflect on what his Parkside experience meant to him. There isn’t one thing he remembers most vividly, he says, “rather, it is a mix of everything -- the tight knit social groups, the library on the first floor, the music room, the ball pit in the occupational therapy room. There are too many good memories to count.” He recalls that Parkside did a wonderful job preparing him for the future.
After Robert graduated from Parkside, he attended public school in New Providence, NJ where most of his classes were considered “mainstream,” but he received in-class support for certain subjects like math. As his education progressed into high school, he took a combination of courses, including math courses designed to move at a slower pace, and 3 advanced placement courses where he no longer needed in-class support. As he thought about the differences between his public school experience and his time in elementary school at Parkside, he said, “One particular area where I thought Parkside did a superior job was in ensuring truly diverse classes. During my years there, my classes would have an equal number of girls and boys in them, and the classes would be ethnically diverse. This promotion of true diversity is something I wish more institutions would embrace to the degree Parkside does.”
Robert and Kate started discussing joining the Peace Corps early on in their relationship. “My wife inspired me to join the Peace Corp, because I realized it sounded like a wonderful opportunity.” At their current post in Morocco, they teach English at a local youth center called a Dar Chabab. “I teach some days, and she teaches others, with some of the classes being for beginners, and others for advanced speakers,” he says. Rob says learning the local language, a variant of Arabic called Darija, has been the most challenging part about his Peace Corps experience. He is grateful for the several-month training the corps provides, and says he is lucky to have a local friend who has been tutoring him in Darija.
When asked about his single greatest accomplishment since leaving Parkside, Rob answered without hesitation. “My greatest accomplishment is having become far more aware of my surroundings then I was as a child. The work Parkside did played an invaluable role in helping me reach that point.” He notes that participating in clubs centered around his particular interests, like movies, anime, books and games, have aided him tremendously in making friends and building meaningful connections. “Parkside makes a tremendous difference,” he says, “It is a wonderful program that should be available to all it can be.”