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UA Peace Corps celebrates 50th anniversary

UA Peace Corps celebrates 50th anniversary

UA Peace Corps Fellows and returned Peace Corps volunteers of Southern Arizona are celebrating the organization’s 50th anniversary with a fair in the Student Union Memorial Center on Tuesday.

Exhibitors will have the opportunity to share their Peace Corps experiences with students and the public.

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 and Arizona has been a major contributor for individuals serving ever since.

A total of 3,242 UA alumni have served in more than 139 countries in the past 50 years of the Peace Corps, and 76 are currently serving.

Georgia Ehlers, director of fellowships and community engagement at the Graduate College, said now is a “”time to look back on the legacy of service,”” as well as celebrate its vitality.

The fair features world music, people in traditional and ceremonial dress, elaborate displays and food.

People who worked in Latin America, Africa and the Middle East will represent their regions by sharing experiences and answering any questions students may have.

Ehlers said anyone with an interest in the world should stop by, including those thinking about studying abroad, joining the Peace Corps, ecotourism or going on vacation.

Ehlers said fellows enjoy sharing their stories with students.

Jessamyn Bowling, a first-year Peace Corps fellow and public health graduate student, decided to join the Peace Corps after hearing a Corps fellow describe his time in the Republic of Mali.

The fellow described his time serving “”as one of the hardest things he had ever done but also the most rewarding,”” Bowling said.

After hearing his story, she decided she wanted to have those “”incredibly rich”” experiences.

She served in the Republic of Cameroon as a health volunteer and explored her interests in “”youth development and gender empowerment through health education, summer camps and workshops.””

Bowling said she highly recommends joining the Peace Corps.

“”I think traveling allows you to fully understand your culture,”” Bowling said.

Lauren Schroeder, another returned Peace Corps fellow and public health graduate student, said she joined the Peace Corps because it was the “”perfect mix”” of her interests. She said she caught the traveling bug as an undergraduate at a small liberal college and after her graduation she began working at a clinic to treat HIV and AIDS patients. When Schroeder signed up for the Peace Corps, she said she had the perfect combination of working with people with health issues and living abroad.

Schroeder served in the Republic of Zambia. She said she enjoyed it so much she extended her stay twice, serving from May 2005 until May 2009.

“”It’s a unique and wonderful opportunity,”” Schroeder said.

The most memorable part of serving in the Peace Corps was “”connecting with people on such an intimate level from a different culture,”” Schroeder said. “”We shared the happiness of birth and the sorrow of death.””

Schroeder said she definitely recommends joining the Peace Corps and will be at the Zambia table at the fair today.

The Peace Corps Fellows/USA program partners with 47 colleges and universities around the country to offer returned Peace Corps volunteers a graduate education at a reduced cost. The UA is second largest cohort in the country with 57 fellows.

Recruiters will also be present for people interested in the Peace Corps as their next career move, Ehlers said.

Aaron Hoholik, the Peace Corps recruiter on campus and graduate student studying a language, reading and culture and public administration, said most applicants have a sense of adventure and an interest in traveling the world, international issues and integrating with a new culture.

For students looking to join the Peace Corps, Hoholik said that the program develops a person’s professionalism, utilizes the languages they learn in school and offers the opportunity to take the lead on projects, oftentimes with little resources.

Fellows also become part of the National Peace Corps Association Social Network, which could help students find jobs after service, and Hololik said employers look highly on having the Peace Corps on a resume.

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