Peace Corps presence at Toppel

Students looking to enter the Peace Corps will be able to visit the Toppel Career Center for additional resources that will help them to complete their applications.

A grant from the Peace Corps will fund a permanent on-campus recruiter in Toppel. This person will reach out to students and faculty about the benefits of participating in the 54-year-old service organization.

Alicia Rodriguez, director of Toppel, says the recruiter will give students an edge in the application process.

“This resource will be here to help people become more competitive candidates in whatever stage that they are at in the process, or wherever they are in college,” she said.

Founded in 1961, the Peace Corps is an international agency that sends Americans abroad to tackle the world’s foremost challenges. Volunteers serve in areas like education, health, environment and economic development for two years in about 64 countries.

Though some may say that studying abroad in college provides a similar experience, Betty Zambrano, who recently returned from volunteering in Peru, also studied abroad as an undergraduate student. She says the Peace Corps “was nothing like this.”

“It’s an opportunity to really see the world in a different way, and that will only help you in the future,” Zambrano added. “That end goal of a worldly experience can’t be duplicated in any other way.”

Zambrano helped develop a college preparation campaign and a girl’s empowerment curriculum.

“Just being an American gives you a role of leadership, and I had the opportunity to work with government agencies and take the lead on projects,” she said.

In 2014, about 45 percent of volunteers served in Africa and 23 percent in Latin America, according to the Peace Corps’ website. About 6,818 volunteers total served in these and other areas throughout Asia, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands.

The University of Miami has been recognized for its involvement with the Peace Corps. In 2010, UM ranked No. 15 on the annual national rankings of top volunteer-producing schools, with 23 undergraduate alumni serving abroad in the Peace Corps. Four graduate students were also serving.

UM was ranked No. 21  on the list the following year.

The School of Education also offers a graduate program in community and social change that integrates the two-year Peace Corps experience into its curriculum.

President Donna E. Shalala also chose to serve. Instead of going to law school, she volunteered in Iran from 1962-64.

“I think that for students that want to become world citizens there is no better experience,” said Shalala in a Miami Hurricane article published in 2005. “It gives you an experience at a very young age about other cultures, whether you are going on into medicine or law or anything, especially before you go to grad school or move on to your career.”

Toppel is still in the process of finalizing the post and has not yet hired someone to fill the position.