November 10, 2011
|Cori Walter (third from left) in Russia during her 2004-06 Peace Corps service.
It’s been 50 years since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps. Over the decades, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the federal government agency tasked with fostering world peace. That figure includes 110 Rollins College alumni who have traveled the world over the past 30 years to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology to environmental preservation.
Credit the College’s mission or commitment to internationalization, but Rollins students, alumni, faculty and staff seem to have global citizenry in their DNA, which makes them a great match for the Peace Corps. Eight Rollins alumni are currently serving with more than 8,000 Peace Corps volunteers posted around the world.
Jon Darrah (Class of 1964) has volunteered and worked with the agency for 26 years, a career that has taken him across the globe to live in places like Thailand, Malaysia, China and the Solomon Islands. The economics major participated in two abroad experiences while at Rollins that sparked his passion for global citizenry. “It seemed to me that there had to be a wider world out there beyond Winter Park,” said Darrah, who now speaks four languages. “The liberal arts education whets your appetite for a lifetime of learning. It doesn’t end with your degree and you walk away with an innate curiosity about life and a thirst for adventure.”
Darrah retired this past August but not before inspiring his nephew—a Rollins alum—and his son to also join the Peace Corps. “It’s a tremendous learning experience,” he said. “I’ve worked with more than two thousand volunteers and the remark I heard most consistently was that they learned more than they actually contributed.”
Cori Walter, lead counselor for Educational Talent Search at Rollins, could not agree more. “You definitely give a lot but you also get a lot in return.” Walter spent two years teaching in a remote area of Russia on the northern border of Iran. “I always loved the idea of traveling and doing something unique and challenging,” she said. “The Peace Corps presents an opportunity to really make a difference but it’s also a place where you can learn a skill and take that back with you to the U.S.”
Walter sees returned Peace Corps volunteers as sort of an elite club of people who have proven that they’re not only adventurous and altruistic, but also incredibly tenacious and courageous. And it’s worked to her advantage. “The person that hired me at Rollins specifically said that my Peace Corps experience made my resume stand out,” said Walters. “She knew automatically that I was the type of person who could commit to a job and handle challenges well.”
“The Peace Corps made me a lifelong believer in the commonality of all peoples,” shared professor of economics Charles Rock, who served in the Peace Corps in Botswana from 1970-73. “It also confirmed a lifelong love of living outside the USA whenever I had the opportunity; I have spent more than a dozen full years living abroad during my life. Sometimes it has been hard and complicated and challenging, but I would not change this part of my life.”
As 2012 graduates begin to think more about post-college career plans, Darrah encourages them to consider serving 27 months in the Peace Corps. “I realize that there is enormous pressure to go to college and then jump right into a career,” said Darrah. “But so many people need to understand that there is a big world out there, countries with huge populations that are going to impact the U.S. in a huge way. The Peace Corps is an ideal way to gain a new set of skills and understanding of international relations, and a tremendous way of opening up people’s eyes and minds.”
By Kristen Manieri
Office of Marketing & Communications
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