UNIVERSITY PARK – Through volunteering in areas such as youth and community development to health and business information education, Penn State alumni are changing the world as Peace Corps volunteers. With 58 undergraduate alumni and two graduate alumni currently serving, Penn State ranks 20th on the Peace Corps’ 2011 rankings of colleges and universities in the large school category.
“It’s exciting to me that students at Penn State have a strong interest in participating in service opportunities,” Nellie Bhattarai, Penn State Peace Corps recruiter, said. “Peace Corps takes the skills and personality of an individual and uses it to impact others in a community-oriented manner. The skills that students gain here at Penn State have had a life-changing impact on communities throughout the world. This would never happen without students selflessly taking up the call to go and serve.”
Some of the hard work Penn State alumni performs includes grass-root projects in agriculture, education, the environment, health and HIV/AIDS education and prevention, small business development and youth development. Bhattarai said her applicants have received nominations from the Peace Corps to serve in countries in Africa, South and Central America, Asia and Eastern Europe.
According to Bhattarai, even though Penn State’s rankings in the large school category have fluctuated, the number of Penn State graduates in the Peace Corps has increased during the past several years. Penn State alumni began to serve in the Peace Corps in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy launched the organization to spearhead progress in developing countries and promote friendship between the American people and other men, women and children throughout the world. Since then, 932 Penn State alumni have served as Peace Corps volunteers.
In this year’s Peace Corps ranking, eight Big Ten universities placed in the top 25 of their respective institutional categories. In addition to Penn State, large Big Ten university campuses include University of Michigan (94 volunteers), University of Wisconsin–Madison (91), Michigan State University (87), Ohio State University–Columbus (68), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (67), University of Minnesota–Twin Cities (63) and Indiana University, Bloomington (51).
Peace Corps celebrates 50 years of service on March 1, the date in which Kennedy signed the executive order creating the organization.
For more information about becoming a Peace Corps volunteer, visit http://studentaffairs.psu.edu/career/students/PeaceCorps.shtml online.
Rebekka Coakley, Penn State University