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2013 Winter Issue 5 (February 15, 2013)

Carleton Top School for Peace Corps

February 15, 2013
By Ben Strauss

For the second consecutive year, Peace Corps placed Carleton on its list of the top volunteer producing small colleges and universities. Carleton also placed many students into Green Corps and AmeriCorps.

Volunteer organizations have a wide range of missions from College Possible helping students prepare for college, Peace Corps helping people in foreign countries and Green Corps organizing to help the environment.
Students find many benefits to joining volunteer organizations: learning about different cultures, helping other people, gaining valuable experience and accepting responsibility.

Students who volunteer experience very different cultures than those to which they are accustomed.

At College Possible, students learn about inner city schools.

“Coming from a suburban public high school, I wasn’t entirely aware of the issues facing inner-city, underfunded high schools and the enormous disadvantage that students at these schools face daily,” said Jonathan Isaac ‘12.

Peace Corps send students to different countries. “I found the Peace Corps to be a tremendously rewarding experience both personally and professionally by giving me the opportunity to integrate into a culture vastly different than my own,” said Roy Martin ’10 who volunteered in Honduras.

In the Peace Corps, students can engage in conversations with people from all walks of life. “I spent most of my time combing through the cobblestone streets in my community sharing cups of strong Honduran coffee with Honduran mothers and talking about their lives, and telling them about mine,” said Martin.

Students also find satisfaction in helping other people and positively impacting a community.

At College Possible, volunteers create a ripple effect throughout the entire community. “…on a small scale, we help high school juniors improve their ACT scores and we help seniors apply to and get accepted into college,” said Isaac.

“On a larger scale, we improve the countless lives of those who are impacted by the work we do--parents who are proud to see their child be the first in the family to attend college, younger siblings who admire their older brother or sister and want to also go to college, neighbors who are inspired to return to school and complete their degrees.”

In addition, students find the experience valuable. “The great thing about Peace Corps though, is that so much happens outside of work.  You´re constantly knee deep in a incredibly powerful experience that´s tough to even understand when you´re in the throes of it,” said Martin.

Daniel Curme ‘10, who teaches in Seattle as part of Americorps,  claims he joined to have a first-hand experience working in a classroom. “I’m going into education but I don’t know for what exactly.  Teaching?  Administering?  Professor-ing?  I’m not sure.  I wanted to gain experience and perspective before going to education graduate school.”

“Green Corps not only launched my career in organizing and environmental advocacy, but it helped me develop my perspective on politics and power and the conviction to drive the solutions I imagine,” said Bessie Schwarz ‘08.

Volunteer organizations also give a large amount of responsibility to volunteering students.

“Green Corps is an intense year - I worked harder than I had ever before, I moved to new cities where I had not connections, I was immediately responsible for my own staff and representing major groups in the media. Allowing this level of commitment and responsibility respects young peoples talents and passion and fosters effective advocates,” said Schwarz.

The payoff proves rewarding as well. “Seeing those lightbulb moments and the excitement of students when they improve their ACT scores makes all the pressures of responsibility worth it,” said Isaac.

Volunteer organizations help students to embark on different career paths as well.. “There is no particular place volunteers go after their service. 

Many continue work for non-profits, many go on to work in the government, they go on to business and industry, work in education, go on to graduate school,” said Brad Kmoch, Assistant Director of the Career Center.

“Volunteer service is [a] wonderful stepping stone into a variety of different careers and jobs.  I’m guessing that you’d find that many who do volunteer service programs continue that sense of service throughout their lives: in addition to their chosen occupation, they volunteer at schools, the senior center, church, soup kitchens, serve on non-profit boards [and other charities],” said Kmoch.

A sizeable percentage of Carleton students go into volunteer work. “Typically, about 12-15% of each graduating class indicate they will be working for a volunteer, non-profit or NGO.  There are a lot of different variables that go into that number…so it is a guess at best,” said Kmoch.

Still, it is no wonder that so many Carleton students go onto volunteer given how Carleton prepares students and enhances their knowledge of the world.

Carleton helps students learn about the world. “Carleton encouraged me to join the Peace Corps, in a large part, by awarding me the Initiative for Service Fellowship the summer before my senior year at Carleton,” said Martin.

“That summer gave me a taste for the richness of opportunities that are offered by living in another culture and left me with wanting more.”

“Carleton opened my eyes to everything in the world of which I knew little. I was able to spend a summer teaching English in a rural town in Lesotho and to spend a term in London seeing theatrical productions,” said Isaac.

Finally, Carleton facilitates discussions about global issues. “Carleton does a wonderful job inspiring a commitment to social change issues through student engagement and a supportive atmosphere for dialogue.” added Schwarz.

Carleton clearly merits the honor for students becoming Peace Corps volunteers and praise for sending students to other volunteer organizations. Current students should consider joining as well.

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