The Peace Corps on February 18 announced its 2015 rankings of the top volunteer-producing colleges and universities across the country. This year, Saint Michael's College ranked No. 20 among small schools, with 9 alumni currently volunteering worldwide.
Saint Michael's College alumni are currently serving in Costa Rica, Eastern Caribbean, Ecuador, Gambia, Mozambique, Nepal, Senegal and Zambia. They work in sectors including agriculture, education, health and community economic development.
"The Peace Corps provides an indispensable opportunity for young people out of college to put their unique skills to work making a difference for communities around the world," Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet said. "Volunteers make lasting change by living and working at the grassroots level in their communities of service and using their talents to tackle some of the most critical challenges in international development."
Alumni from more than 3,000 colleges and universities nationwide have served in the Peace Corps since the agency's founding in 1961, including 183 Saint Michael's alumni.
Elizabeth Watts: Teacher training in The Gambia
Elizabeth Watts '14, a native of Wellesley, MA, departed for her Peace Corps service in June 2014.
She says her main project is to train teachers at the school where she is assigned, particularly in literacy, and currently she is working to help four teachers in grades 1 through 3 implement a writing workshop, which is a program designed by Teacher's College Colombia University. Secondary projects she has done include Leadership Trek and Camp GLOW, which are both programs that help develop gender equality, future planning, and leadership skills among senior secondary (high school) students.
"If I had not gone to Saint Michael's, I don't think that I would be a Peace Corps volunteer today," she says. "The school helped me develop the confidence to challenge myself to do something different in order to try and make an impact in the lives of individuals. I have been lucky enough to have every opportunity in the world available to me, so I felt I needed take the time to at least try and give back to our global community – and St. Mike's gave me the courage to do it."
"My favorite part of my service thus far has been making friends with the people in my host community," she says. "I have built many close relationships and these relationships are what I believe is truly going to make a difference."
Christina Colley: Improving literacy in Grenada
"I love my students! They make me laugh all the time and are so incredibly motivated to learn," says Christina Colley, a 2010 graduate and native of Brookline, MA, serving as an education volunteer in Grenada. "I'm using my skills from my degrees, work experience and Peace Corps training to improve the teaching practices in my primary school. By improving instruction and materials used we can eventually improve the literacy rates at my school and in my community."
"Anyone who has gone to St Mike's can tell you that there is a strong community of volunteers. We have the MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts) program, which connects students with different volunteer opportunities, and I took advantage of that every semester I could," Colley said. "I focused a lot on elementary education through the MOVE program since this was my undergraduate major, and it allowed me to gain a lot of experience with education, students with learning differences, ELL students, and literacy education. Through volunteering and meeting several other people who were interested in Peace Corps, I became even more convinced that this is something I want to do."
Vermont is the top Peace Corps volunteer-producing state in the nation on a per capita basis. Forty-nine (49) residents of the Green Mountain State are currently serving in the Peace Corps. In 2014, the Burlington-South Burlington metro area also ranked No. 3 nationally for per-capita production of Peace Corps volunteers, with 15 area residents serving overseas.