Steve Cadman / FLICKR
Most college students may not envision becoming a Peace Corp volunteer when they graduate.
But for those who do, the Peace Corps is working with select colleges to improve their chances of being accepted.
Hiram College is among six universities nationwide chosen to offer the Peace Corps Prep Program beginning next fall. They join eight others, including Ohio’s Wittenberg University and Shawnee State University, that currently offer it.
The program is a combination of courses and community service that, taken together, prepare students for work in international development, according to the agency.
Hiram’s program director Lisa Safford said students of any major can join the two-year program. They’ll earn an international studies minor by taking classes with a global focus, like economics and sociology. Four courses of either French or Spanish–the most frequent languages spoken in Peace Corps countries–are also required.
Those who finish the program get a special certificate along with their degree at graduation. A certificate doesn’t guarantee applicants acceptance into the Peace Corp, but it does give them a competitive edge.
For those who do get in, the financial rewards are minimal. Peace Corps volunteers receive a living stipend and a modest bonus upon completing a two-year stint.
But Safford maintains the experience is worth it.
“I’ve heard from returnees that the experience is so enriching, and so confidence building, that they come back and think there’s nothing that they cannot do,” she said. “And I don’t mean to exaggerate that potential, but I do think that the perception is the experience is very worthwhile, even if the pay is relatively low.”
Safford said the program’s goal is to create a talent pipeline between the college and the federally funded service organization.
“The Peace Corps is really trying to increase the amount of applicants and especially those applicants who are well prepared to enter the Peace Corps,” she explained. “And this kind of program ensures there’s a good a group of students ready.”
More than 215,000 volunteers have worked in developing international countries through the Peace Corps since it was created 53 years ago.
But the Peace Corps isn’t always linked strictly to positivity. According to the New York Times, female corps members have spoken out against being sexually assaulted during their time overseas. And think-tank The Brookings Institution believes the group should reevaluate their goals to match up with today’s world, along with implementing different strategies to increase the number of volunteers.