Warner School of Education at the University of Rochester logo in the print header
Page link printed 07/16/2018

Affiliation: Alumna

Warner Program: MS in Teaching and Curriculum

Education: SUNY Geneseo, bachelor’s in English

Background: AmeriCorps VISTA, Albion School District, In Our Village project
Laura Rog


Laura Rog

Hard work and tenacity are central to Laura Rog’s being. And they have been ever since the Warner master’s graduate (’09) was a child.

“From a very early age, I was constantly and consistently encouraged to go to college by both of my parents,” she says. “But my mother's angle was so much different and, as an adult, I can see how it was much more insistent on raising me to be a strong, independent, and self-sufficient person.”

Rog’s mother stayed home with her and her sister until she was in 5th grade, with her father working full- and part-time jobs to allow her to be home.

“I still vividly remember receiving ‘business woman Barbie’ for one of my birthdays in elementary school from my mother,” says Rog. “Though I could thoroughly deconstruct the meaning behind the Barbie now in much different terms than I understood them as a child, I still love the thought of that present—the matching pink suit and calculator, and most importantly, the briefcase. I played with it endlessly and today would love to find it on eBay. It sounds strange, but that present laid the foundation for possibility.”

Rog, who went on to study English at SUNY Geneseo, joined AmeriCorps VISTA upon graduation, intrigued by their focus on educational challenges caused by poverty. After a one-year assignment with the Albion School District, she was hired full time by Albion as federal grant coordinator, where she stayed for the next seven-and-a-half years.

“Starting there as an AmeriCorps VISTA completely changed me as a person,” she explains. “To have given me such responsibility at a relatively young age and to allow me to make mistakes while celebrating my successes through it all with such patience and care on their part is one of the greatest gifts I have ever been given professionally.”

It was at Albion where Rog learned about What Kids Can Do (WKCD), a non-profit organization that finds and publicizes compelling examples of young people—especially those marginalized by poverty, race and language—working with adults in their schools and communities on real-world issues.

“Cathryn Berger Kaye, a national service learning consultant at Albion, talked about this great book, In Our Village, edited by Barbara Cervone, the founder of WKCD,” Rog says. “Cathy described how the book was written by children in a small village in Tanzania, Africa and the fact that all the proceeds went back to the village itself in the form of scholarships for students and other village needs such as beds for the infirmary, water tanks, etc.

“Cathy went on to create the In Our Global Village project, where students from around the world write and photograph their own ‘village’ books in response,” she adds. “Completed books are published on the In Our Global Village Web site and copies are sent to Barbara to take on visits to Tanzania.”

When Cervone told Rog that WKCD needed help to gather supporting data from a village in Tanzania to fund a new water tank there, Rog jumped at the chance.

“Over the course of a week, we visited schools where I talked with students at both the elementary and secondary levels about their experiences with water in school,” she recalls. “One day, three secondary students led me on a tour of what they do when they need to get water. I gave them cameras and we hiked the narrow, dusty, and steep path to the stream to take photos of the journey.”

Once home, Rog set out to contribute to the overall In Our Global Village project. So she worked for two years with elementary students to document Albion in a book In Our Village: Albion Elementary. Even after completing the book, the trip stayed with Rog, eventually inspiring her to leave Albion for something new.

“I began to recognize that my true passion lies in intellectual pursuits of knowledge and knowing, and those often get pushed aside in the day-to-day grind of coordinating,” she says.

Today, Rog teaches English in Japan through The Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET). She lives in Fukuyama, a 400,000-person city, and teaches at Seishikan Senior High School, one of the top academic schools in the region.

“There is a huge sense of accomplishment in that I am cultivating a life that isn’t just about me and how far I’ve come despite the limited financial resources I had available, but rather a life that through experience allows me to take on larger social constructions and enable a mission to radiate out and shape the world,” she says. “I often say that without Albion, there would not have been Tanzania, and without Tanzania, there would not have been Japan. I am very excited and open to where this experience might take me upon my return home to the States.”

In Our Village: Albion Elementary can be found at www.lulu.com. Look up “In Our Village: Albion Elementary.”

(Published February 2010)