Cara Walden ’11knew she wanted to join the Peace Corps when she was still in high school. This January, her dream will be realized when she begins training to become a youth director with the Peace Corps, serving in Grenada. Her two-year service will begin in March.
“The Peace Corps allows you to get to know a culture in a way that no other program allows you to do,” says Walden. “While I had also planned on going abroad while studying at HWS, I knew that living and working in a community is a very different experience.”
Walden earned her B.A. in sociology cum laude with minors in public policy studies and religious studies. One of her advisers, Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter, was a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Dominica, and Walden spoke with him at length about his experience there. She also took a Caribbean religion class with him that gave her insight into the culture and a desire to learn more.
“Now that I have my assignment and it’s in the Eastern Caribbean, I couldn’t be more thrilled,” she says.
Walden also had numerous opportunities to learn more about the Peace Corps while a student. A number of faculty members are former volunteers and Colleges President Mark Gearan is a former director of the organization. Through a variety of informal discussions and formal panels and presentations, she was able to speak with volunteers who have returned and were happy to share their stories with her. Among these was Professor of Economics Alan Frishman, who taught math in Africa.
“They have all said positive things and continuously encouraged me to apply,” she says.
As she waits for her training and assignment to begin, Walden is currently living in Kiryat Shamona, Israel. She is participating in Israel Corps, a program through Masa, a corporation that provides grants for people between the ages of 18 and 30 to enable them to go to Israel for anywhere from five months to a year.
Her experience there has been a combination of taking Hebrew classes, volunteering in various classrooms in the community teaching English, and working for a facility member who specializes in animal therapy for sexually abused children.
After the Peace Corps, Walden plans to attend graduate school and pursue a career in social work. She is interested in working with at-risk children. “It is a long way off and a lot can change in the next three and a half years, so I am staying open for any opportunities that may come my way.”
The photo above features Cara Walden ’11 on a hike in Israel.