September 13, 2000

Peace Corps Recruits Minorities at Forum

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“An organization that represents our country should be representative of our country:” so rings the Peace Corps motto for diversity.

At the eighth annual Minority Career Forum, held yesterday in the Ramin Room of the Field House, Peace Corps representatives sought to recruit students from a broad range of nationalities to serve as volunteers.

Although colleges and universities like Cornell are valuable sources of Peace Corps volunteers, many students remain unaware of the many opportunities associated with the Peace Corps, according to minority recruiter Quincey Jones.

“The PC is unheard of to many African Americans. This is partly a function of background. Most people plan on getting jobs after graduating from college. Other opportunities are less frequently explored,” he said.

In an effort to boost the number of minority volunteers, Jones travels to several career fairs in New York and neighboring states each year with the goal of educating minority citizens. He works as part of the Blitz Team, which is a local committee with a national mission to increase minority recruitment.

The organization has several academic scholarships available to volunteers. Volunteers also have the chance to participate in the Peace Corps’ graduate school programs–the Master’s International Program and the Peace Corps Fellows Program.

Other Peace Corps efforts to recruit minorities include local diversity dinners and the annual presentation of the Franklin Wims Award, given to a volunteer displaying great personal strength and dedication to the community.

According to Public Affairs Specialist Elizabeth Kramer, increasing the minority representation among Peace Corps Volunteers helps fulfill a major goal of the organization by educating other countries about United States diversity.

“Often other developing nations see television shows like Baywatch and tend to get a false impression of the country’s diversity. Having contact with minority volunteers help people from other countries see that not everyone in the United States has blonde hair and blue eyes,” added Cornell Peace Corps Coordinator, Janet Getchell, who recently returned from volunteering to help the Mayan Indians in Guatamala.

Jones, also a former business volunteer in Mali, Africa, further suggested the importance of minority recruitment by drawing on his own experiences.

“While serving as a volunteer, I learned to be flexible, to broaden my horizons and to stretch myself to the limits. It was a wonderful experience, and I think that everyone should be aware of the opportunity,” he added. “There is a great need overseas.”

According to Kramer, diversity is on the rise in the Peace Corps. “Although we still have ways to go nationwide, there has been a gradual increase over the past decade. Most notable is the rise in Hispanic recruitment.”

The Peace Corps, founded by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, is a United States volunteer organization that seeks to spread peace and education to developing nations across the world.

The organization currently serves 134 countries and has a record of over 161,000 volunteers in its history of service.

Cornell has one of the highest recruiting rates among universities in the nation with a history of over 465 Peace Corps volunteers. Today, 44 Cornell graduates are working overseas as Peace Corps volunteers or are currently in training. Of these Cornell volunteers, nine percent are minorities.

Students interested in the Peace Corps can pick up applications in the Cornell Career Office or apply online at Volunteers must be U.S. citizens, age eighteen or older and hold either a college degree or work experience. Recruits come from a variety ofsuch backgrounds as science, liberal arts and animal husbandry.

Assignments are typically two-year commitments with an additional six months of intensive cross-cultural training.

As Kramer said, reflecting on her experiences as a volunteer in Africa (Comoros Island), “The Peace Corps gives you a new pair of eyes. It can provide you with a new perspective on the world, a greater understanding of the problems in your home community and the skills to help solve them.”

Archived article by Jennifer Roberts