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AMERICORPS WORKERS TEACH - AND LEARN A LOT

Peace Corps volunteers working in remote corners of the world during the 1960s often encountered times of terror as they learned to cope with different cultures and climates.

But Shannon Rush, a 22-year-old AmeriCorps worker in a remote corner of central Idaho, has suffered her own moments of terror and culture shock in the United States. She's a teacher at the Land of the Yankee Fork Interpretive Center near Challis."I didn't have any experience at all, and I was so terrified that the night before I had to make my first presentation at school, I didn't sleep at all," she said. "First of all, I didn't know anything about the minerals of the area, and I was terrified that the kids would ask me questions that I didn't know the answers to."

AmeriCorps is the domestic Peace Corps implemented by President Clinton in 1993. In exchange for 1,700 hours of volunteer time, Rush will receive a living stipend of $7,650, basic health insurance, and an education award of $4,725 to be used for higher education or vocational training. If she needed it, Rush would also receive a child-care allowance.

Nationwide, there are about 20,000 AmeriCorps workers, 45 of whom are working in Idaho in three programs: One focuses on prisons, schools and Indian reservations; the second puts people like Rush to work on parks and recreation programs, and the third is a fisheries and wildlife program staffed by members of the Shoshone-Bannock and Nez Perce tribes.

Enlistees must be at least age 17, U.S. citizens and hold a high school diploma.

As one of 10 AmeriCorps volunteers for the Idaho Parks and Recreation Department, Rush researches the history, environment, and natural resource production of the area, then develops programs and curriculum for elementary schools.

Rush said coming to a strange community, taking a crash course on its culture, history and environment, then organizing programs that might benefit schools and the community in one short year is a big challenge and was overwhelming at first.

"Right now, I'm too close to it to recognize what I'm learning," Rush said. "But when the year is over, I'm going to be able to step back and say, `Wow, I really learned a lot.' "