The following article is written by La Salle guest writer Gene Jessee. Thank you, Gene, for informing the La Salle Alumni Office of this great story of one of our alum.
I was in Cancun, Mexico, watching La Salle's basketball game online when I heard Jeff Bosse mention how proud Marty Strohofer was of his son Chris who had just joined the Peace Corps. I had taught Chris in government class so I had to find out more.
Chris is a St. James graduate with 5 siblings in his family. His father is a '91 La Salle graduate who had fond memories of his alma mater, so as an 8th grader Chris was interested. While at St. James, Chris attended a La Salle basketball camp so Chris was familiar with the school. He said, "Even before I got there it felt like a second home." The choice of choosing La Salle was not too difficult.
While at La Salle Chris was a member of Key Club and was very active in the e-media courses. The things that are closest to his heart are the friends he made there. He offered, "My Lasallian brothers were among the last people I saw before I left for Albania. Alex Bucholtz, Nick Moellman, Josh Strieker were among my closest friends."
"At La Salle it was the first time I started stepping out and becoming my own individual and becoming a young man. I don't think I appreciated that as much then as I do now."
Chris said his favorite class at La Salle, God love him, was his government class and it was part of the reason he chose International Relations as a major in college.
Chris didn't start college right away after high school. He worked for two years doing information technology.
While going to the Blue Ash Campus of the University of Cincinnati, Chris was offered the opportunity to study abroad and he jumped on it. Chris said of his experience, "That was in 2014. I got to study in England. I had an amazing professor that I am still in contact with. I hadn't been taking any courses that were intellectually stimulating. Then I took a course on expatriate authors and it sparked my curiosity, getting me on the academic course. "
The University of Evansville has an agreement with Harlaxton Manor in England. The University of Evansville owns the Manor. UC professors taught the course there. After that Chris started working in the study abroad office at the University of Cincinnati. It was at that time that he changed his major to International Relations, which he studied for the next four years, graduating in April of 2018.
Chris explained why he majored in International Relations, "I would drive home in traffic and I would notice the smog on the road which got me thinking about climate change and global issues."
"Most of my life had been Blue Rock Road and North Bend, those 5 miles. After studying abroad I started looking at the world from a larger perspective. I started thinking of Global Warming and climate change and my role in all of this in a larger context, which made me want to get into International Relations. Once I did I was privileged to get into some really fulfilling internships and jobs."
"It has been immensely gratifying. I had to convince some of my family on their end to show them how I find myself being productive. I think a lot of them have come around."
Chris' dad Marty said, "My first reaction to Chris living in Ghana or Albania, like any parent, was wanting to ensure his safety. But Chris has been very deliberate and thorough in his investigation and decision-making around these opportunities. His choices are not made on a whim. He is focused on his goals and his interests and everyone in our family supports him 100%."
Chris did a 4-month internship in Ghana and spent some time on the West Bank with a friend he met in Ghana. While in Ghana, Chris worked on his senior thesis for his bachelor degree, studying at the University of Ghana. Besides class he worked on a nonprofit project that was concerned about environmental research.
Chris also had a 4-month internship at the State Department with their special envoy for climate change. A lot of the people that he worked with at the State Department had been in the Peace Corps. They said how much the Corps had influenced their take on diplomacy and international relations, calling it the most gratifying thing they could have done before getting a job with the State Department.
Chris applied for the Peace Corps the month he graduated. It had been something he had wanted to do since he was a freshman in college. He didn't think he would get in because it is pretty competitive. Finally he was accepted, giving him a choice between the Peace Corps or studying abroad. He chose the Corps.
On why he chose Albania, Chris said, "I picked Albania from the outset. Reading about Albanian history, I found it so unlike the rest of Europe. I was fascinated with the opportunity to learn more about this country, a country that most people can't even find on a map."
"I'm going to teach English and let the chips fall as they may." Currently Chris is not a Peace Corps volunteer; he is a Peace Corps trainee. He will be in the country for the next four months learning the language and how to teach courses in English.
After the four months he will take a test and if he reaches a certain amount of language competence he will get sworn in as a Peace Corps volunteer and will start his two years of service.
He is currently taking the language courses with other volunteers from around the United States and is living with Albanian host families for 9 months. Chris said, "It is a 24/7 job, when I am not taking language courses I am trying to improve my language over dinner with my new host family. I am always communicating with somebody and trying to prepare myself for my service. It has been a whirlwind two weeks here already."
Chris will probably end up teaching at a high school with students that have had some exposure to English.
His dad summed it up saying, "Chris truly wants to make the world a smaller and more familiar place. I'm so proud of the work he is doing and the experiences that he continues to gain. We are all 'Called to Serve' in unique ways. It's gratifying to see him serving others by doing what he enjoys."
Chris is at the beginning of a very exciting adventure. I can't wait to see where his life takes him next. The La Salle community is very proud of Chris and all of his accomplishments.