The Peace Corps experienced a 16 percent increase in national volunteers last year, continuing the upward trend seen over the past five years. To continue such advancement, Peace Corps Recruiter Alison McReynolds gave a short presentation at the College of William and Mary’s Sherman and Gloria H. Cohen Career Center Wednesday.
McReynolds described the organization’s two-year post-graduate program that takes volunteers to all corners of the earth to do public service and encourages the study of other cultures.
Volunteers of all ages and from a variety of backgrounds get involved in the organization through a lengthy application process. If accepted as volunteers, they are assigned a project in a certain area of the world, trained for three months in a country in that part of the world, and then expected to work for two years in a community. Unlike other service organizations, the Peace Corps provides volunteers to communities and programs that have specifically requested them.
Students from each social class attended the session, ranging from freshmen to seniors, all interested in joining the Peace Corps for different reasons.
“I [feel as if] it would be a great way to help people and learn languages,” Rachel Faith ’14 said.
Faith cited the large number of College students in the Peace Corps as another reason for her interest. According to McReynolds, the College is ranked as the eighth highest producer of Peace Corps volunteers in the nation amongst medium-sized schools.
Currently, 41 College alumni serve as volunteers. According to the presentation, this is approximately one out of every 150 College undergraduates.
McReynolds, a former Peace Corps volunteer, spoke openly about her experience, in addition to describing the Peace Corp application process.
“For the first time, I felt a part of the community; I had done something that mattered to them,” McReynolds said.
McReynolds, now a regional recruiter for the Mid-Atlantic Region, served in the Peace Corps in Mauritania from 2008 to 2009 and in Liberia from 2009 to 2010. Describing her own experience in Mauritania, she talked about the challenge of leaving everything familiar behind. The high point for her, however, was organizing an Earth Day event in Mauritania as part of an environmental education program. She was specifically thanked by the mayor of the town for changing the way people thought about the environment.
“It is absolutely life changing,” McReynolds said. “It also strengthens a resume.”
The presentation, which began with a recruitment video, covered everything from the different programs the Peace Corps offers to the daily struggles and rewards of working in an impoverished community overseas.
The Peace Corps, an organization created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, sends Americans to over 139 different countries to live and work in impoverished communities. The mission of the Peace Corps is both to provide other countries with trained men and women to work in all kinds of jobs and to promote a cultural exchange between Americans and citizens of other countries.
The organization has six main areas of focus: education, healthcare and HIV/AIDS prevention, business development, environment and youth development.