Knox College's Peace Corps Preparatory Program is observing its 10th anniversary this year.
In 2007, Knox became the first college or university in the country to enter into an agreement with the Peace Corps to create a Peace Corps Preparatory Program. The program, which involves a specialized curriculum and experiences, aims to better equip students for international service and widen the pool of qualified candidates for the Peace Corps' rigorous application process.
Knox students and alumni have a long record of success with the Peace Corps, with more than 200 alumni having served since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961. Last year, for example, Knox had three Peace Corps applicants—all of whom had gone through the Peace Corps Prep Program and earned a certificate. All three were accepted as Peace Corps volunteers.
One of them, Kati Stemple '16, is serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco, working as a youth asset builder. She said the Peace Corps Preparatory program "allowed me to take classes and gain experiences that would help me stand out on my application and prepare me to serve 27 months overseas."
A Peace Corps Prep class called International Service Seminar was especially beneficial, according to Stemple. "This class covered topics related to international development, volunteerism and the goals of the Peace Corps," she said. "Coming into my service last year, I felt more prepared to work in my community as I was already aware of the tools that Peace Corps uses to assess community wants and needs, which has made it easy for me to develop projects with my counterparts and community members."
Based on alumni information, at least nine Knox alumni currently are or soon will be Peace Corps volunteers, working in agriculture, education, health, community economic development, and youth development. They serve in Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Morocco, Myanmar, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Africa, and in the traditional Peace Corps Service as well as in the Peace Corps Response Program, which sends experienced professionals to undertake short-term, high-impact service assignments in communities around the world.
In addition to helping students prepare to be strong applicants for the Peace Corps, Knox's Peace Corps Prep Program also benefits students and alumni who pursue other forms of community service. One of those alumni is Raeann Boero '17, who completed Knox's Peace Corps Prep and received a Fulbright fellowship to teach English next year in Malaysia.
Marilyn Barnes '17 also completed the Peace Corps Prep Program this year and is serving in AmeriCorps through City Year, which provides mentorship and academic support to at-risk students.
Barnes, an anthropology and sociology major, has been interested in the Peace Corps since high school. While she hasn't yet applied to serve there, she believes the Peace Corps Prep Program "will continue to help me throughout my future."
"I took many social service and education courses needed to complete the program that will assist me through many barriers I may face through both my year of service [with AmeriCorps] and my long-term career goals as a social worker," she said. "My focus in the program was in youth development, which I am interested in pursuing in the social work field."
Knox students majoring in any academic field may apply to the Peace Corps Prep Program.To successfully complete the program, students must fulfill a series of requirements, which includes taking several courses from a list of designated classes that develop students' intercultural competence and builds their capacity to work in one of the Peace Corps sectors, such as education, health, environment, agriculture, community economic development, and youth development.
Brenda Tooley, director of Knox's Eleanor Stellyes Center for Global Studies and the Peace Corps Prep Program, said the program fits well at Knox "because it's what, in a lot of ways, we're already doing, and it helps students put a name and a structure to the courses that many want to take anyway. It helps them think about the connections between courses they're drawn to choose."
In addition, she called Peace Corps Prep "a fantastic window onto the structure of Peace Corps and the opportunities it provides."