Among Top Producers of Peace Corps Volunteers
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.”