As the Peace Corps turns 50 this year, Hobart and William Smith Colleges continue its commitment to the organization that has sent so many young Americans around the world to lend their time and hard work to make the world a more peaceful place. Recently, six students from the HWS community were accepted to serve in locations around the world. Shanelle France ’11, Lisa Maticic ’10, Kerry O’Neill ‘09, Amanda Slack ’11, Samantha Tripoli ’11 and Cara Walden ’11 will continue the Colleges’ long tradition of volunteerism.
Shanelle France ’11, an African studies major, will volunteer in sub-Saharan Africa. France will work in primary education, and will also help train teachers. “This is extremely exciting for me since I will be a freshly certified elementary education teacher,” explains France. “I have an opportunity to use what I have learned and adapt to another country’s culture of teaching. I know that this will indefinitely deepen and enrich who I am and will be as an educator.”
France’s acceptance to the Peace Corps is something she has long planned. “It has been a dream of mine to join the Peace Corps for as long as I can remember,” remarks France, who has worked hard to make this an important goal in her life.
However, both France’s experiences aboard and her commitment to community service while at the Colleges have helped guide her in her decision. “The importance placed on civic engagement by HWS was a large factor in my college application process, and since being here, it has played an integral role in my community engagement,” says France. “My study abroad experience in Cape Town, South Africa, also involved a volunteer internship, which has forever changed my life. I am much more sensitive to my participation as a global citizen and am aware of the global impact of my every action.”
Lisa Maticic ’10, who graduated with bachelor degrees in math and environmental studies, will depart for Uganda in February where she will be teaching secondary math and health education with a focus on HIV and AIDS. Because math has always been a favorite subject for Maticic, she is particularly excited to share her knowledge with the students. In addition, Maticic will also assist in creating projects designed to encourage young girls to stay in school.
“I chose the Peace Corps because I wanted to put my formal education to the best use I could think of,” says Maticic. “I want to help others before helping myself.”
The Peace Corps, Maticic believes, will also pave the path for who she will become. “I think my experiences as a Peace Corps Volunteer will positively impact who I am as a person,” explains Maticic. “That will influence my decisions and interactions with others for the rest of my life.”
Kerry O’Neill ’09, who graduated with bachelor degrees in both geoscience and environmental studies, is headed to Madagascar in late February for her service. While serving in Africa, O’Neill will work in agro forestry, which includes a broad range of work from reforestation and forest conservation with local communities. Much of her work will focus on health education – particularly for women and children – helping to educate local communities on nutrient rich foods, and ensuring that all have access to such provisions.
The Peace Corps is something that O’Neill has always wanted to pursue. “I’m excited about the new experience and the chance to explore a new place – and even myself a little bit,” explains O’Neill. “Mostly I’m just grateful to have the chance to learn something valuable about a place and its people.”
O’Neill recently served as the associate director of Environmental Studies Summer Youth Institute, a summer academic enrichment program for high school students run by HWS. As part of an interdisciplinary project at the Colleges, she also was a research technician for a National Science Foundation Grant..
Amanda Slack ’11, a sociology major and education minor, will spend two years in Central or South America. Slack got her first taste for community service when she traveled to Honduras and Costa Rica to help build a church and improve schools in the area. Slack’s love of travel also led her to a semester abroad in New Zealand as part of the education program. On campus, Slack is a member of the William Smith Tennis team.
“I’ve always enjoyed service learning, and I am so glad I can continue to serve through the Peace Corps,” explains Slack, who will depart a few weeks after graduation. “I don’t know what I’ll be doing, so I really want to go with few expectations! However, I’m most looking forward to meeting tons of new people and helping in any way that I can!”
Samantha Tripoli ’11, who is double majoring in sociology and women’s studies with a minor in public policy, has also been accepted to volunteer, and will be joining the Peace Corps in the fall of 2011. While on campus, Tripoli has been a part of the HWS Leads program through which she has received her Leadership Certification, as well as an active member of the Women’s Collective. Tripoli has been a volunteer for the America Reads program, and serves as an ARAW Rape Facilitator and a Sociology Teaching Fellow.
Cara Walden ’11, a sociology major and public policies and religious studies double minor, will serve in the fall of 2011. She has not yet been notified of her placement. On campus, Walden is involved in HWS Hillel, and studied abroad in Central Europe the fall of her junior year.
Within the past few years, the number of HWS graduates serving in the Peace Corps has increased dramatically, and the number of graduates actively engaged in service has more than doubled going from 8 to now more than 20. In fact, HWS currently rank No. 17 for ‘Small Colleges and Universities’ on the Peace Corps’ annual rankings of Peace Corps volunteer-producing schools. Since the organization’s inception, nearly 200 HWS students have joined its ranks.
President Mark D. Gearan, former director of the Peace Corps from 1995 to 1999, along with those in the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning, have been instrumental in the increase in volunteers, providing numerous opportunities for students to learn more about the Peace Corps.