By CityTownInfo.com Staff
Applications for the Peace Corps have jumped 40 percent over last year, a trend that officials are attributing to the recession and President Obama's call to public service.
"We saw a particular uptick in applications during the inauguration week and just following President Obama's speech, where he called on Americans to serve and engage in international outreach," explained Christine Torres, public affairs specialist with the Peace Corps regional office in Chicago, who was quoted by Wisconsin's The Janesville Gazette.
Others view service in the Peace Corps as a training opportunity. Alexandra Hodgkins, a recent college graduate from New Hampshire now stationed in Panama's Darien jungle helping poor community members, sees it as a stepping stone for a future career in international development.
"This is a good way to test whether this is what I want to do," she told the Los Angeles Times. "I like the Peace Corps approach of working with communities, not just giving out presents right and left."
Tom Leonard, from Dexter, Michigan, was undecided about his career path until his mother suggested the Peace Corps. He was accepted and is now scheduled to depart for Niger in July, where he will serve for two years as a community and youth educator.
"After I reflected on different job opportunities, and I was heading into my senior year, I had a breakthrough that international relations was a good field," he told The Dexter Leader [in an article originally located at http://www.dexterleader.com/stories/060409/loc_20090604002.shtml]. "I had been considering teaching English abroad, and then I thought about the Peace Corps."
The economic downturn is also a factor. Yemimyah Yisrael, a 26-year-old volunteer from Chicago who spent three years in Santa Fe teaching composting techniques, opted to extend her stay after hearing about the tough job market at home.
"Several volunteers who have gone home have advised me not to because it's so difficult to find a job," Yisrael told the LA Times. She is planning on a career in international health.
Others have taken student financial aid into consideration. After graduating from Carroll University in Wisconsin, Caitlin Brient wanted a break from school before pursuing her master's degree. Her upcoming two years serving in Mauritania, Africa will make her eligible for a fellowship to support her future graduate studies--a factor which impacted her decision to volunteer.
Torres noted in the Gazette that the Peace Corps also has graduate opportunities in education, health, agriculture and environment within its Master's International Program. Partner schools award credit for service with some offering financial aid.