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   Date: 5/4/09 Bookmark and Share

Smith Among Top Producers of Peace Corps Volunteers

By Rachel Miller ’09

Smith has a long history of international involvement. But recently a renewed focus on international themes and successes has brought Smith’s Study Abroad, Fulbright Fellows and Peace Corps programs to the fore.

Currently there are 21 Smith graduates scattered around the world serving as Peace Corps volunteers. Take a train trip in Zambia, Russia or Togo and you may find yourself seated next to one of them.

Smith ranks third in the country among small colleges and universities in enrolling Peace Corps volunteers, behind the University of Chicago, which produced 35, and St. Olaf College, which produced 26 volunteers. Smith is tied for third with Middlebury College and the University of Puget Sound.

When President John F. Kennedy inaugurated the Peace Corps program in 1961, he said, “every American who participates in the Peace Corps will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”

Since the program’s inauguration, Smith has produced 328 volunteers, working in countries from Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, to Uzbekistan in the Middle East. Volunteer projects range from after-school movie clubs to building latrines, composting to teaching English, growing coffee to restoring coral reefs.

Melissa Estrella ’08 works as a health extension worker in Amman, Jordan, this year, where she also teaches English to young women.

For many Smith students, the Peace Corps, which offers pre-service training, on-the-job-housing, and loan deferment (or partial cancellation of the Perkins loan) is an ideal opportunity.

Sociology major Mia Teitelbaum ’09 knew she wanted to join the Peace Corps as far back as 6th grade. “Not having any real plans for after [Smith] graduation, I attended a Peace Corps orientation on a whim,” she said, “and decided this was the perfect way to go about achieving my goals.” Teitelbaum has a particular interest in Spanish language and social justice, and she has been nominated to do Youth Empowerment in Latin America or the Caribbean.

Nomination is only the first step:  after an interview and tentative placement, applicants follow a rigorous process of medical examinations and legal bureaucracy.

Christa Daly ’09 submitted the initial application, had her interview and was nominated to teach English in the Pacific Islands by the end of November. Her tentative departure date is October 2009, but that could change based on her medical clearance.

Daly is a government major with a concentration in international relations and a Third World development studies minor. “That may end up helping me,” she says. “[Smith] has helped me to have a very global worldview.”


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