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At a time when political reforms in Eastern Europe could open a new world to a new generation of U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, the agency's director Tuesday inaugurated a nationwide student involvement program at East High School in Salt Lake City.

"This program is designed to bring the knowledge and expertise of our volunteers overseas back to our schools and to have them talk to you, our future leaders," Peace Corps Director Paul D. Coverdell told the East High student body.While in Utah, Coverdell also addressed the Council of State Governments, telling the 700 delegates from around the country that as many as 145 Peace Corps volunteers may be stationed in Eastern Europe within five years.

He said the agency expects to have about 45 volunteers in Hungary and 80 in Poland by the middle of next year. The Peace Corps is ready to respond to the changing political climate, he said.

On the other side of the world, the corps' 369 volunteers in the Philippines, its second largest contingent in the world, are safe but have been directed to stay in their homes until the strife ends, he said.

The director said that although there are contingency plans for evacuation, none had been activated by Tuesday afternoon. However, the corps is monitoring the stability of the situation on hour-by-hour basis.

Worldwide, there are about 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 68 nations. The largest contingent, 410 volunteers, is in Honduras, which will be East Highs link to the program.

Called World Wise Schools, the project is designed to enhance student cultural and geographic awareness by connecting schools with corps volunteers around the world.

East High's corpsman will be Anthony Moses, who is serving for two years in Olanchito, Honduras.

"It sounds like a fun program," said East senior Shawn Stringham. A member of the school's student council, Stringham said plans are being developed to involve the entire student body in the program.

After launching the program in the Mountain West during the Salt Lake City visit, Coverdell left for Denver, where a middle school will be added to the list participating. Eventually, the Peace Corps plans on linking 6,000 schools, including others in Utah, with Peace Corps volunteers.

Coverdell said studies have shown many U.S. students have huge deficiencies in their knowledge of world geography and culture.

"We haven't done as good a job as we should have. We are geographically deficient. We don't know about international affairs. It is a glaring deficiency that will cause up problems in the future," he said.

Coverdell explained to the students that, in the past, America was fairly self sufficient, but today it must compete in a growing worldwide economy that requires global awareness.

Through a link with one Peace Corps volunteer, the East students will learn about another country, its people and their culture, he said.

East's Peace Corps volunteer, Moses, helps train Hondurans in self-help construction in an effort to upgrade living condition in Olanchito.

In the future, Coverdell said, the Peace Corps plans on developing other programs here at home.