This year six seniors, along with one Knox alumnus, will be joining the Peace Corps to serve countries in need. They will be among the 203 volunteers who have joined from Knox College since the program’s founding in 1961.
Volunteers are currently serving in a variety of countries, including the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Fiji, Morocco, Paraguay and Uganda. Their job areas also vary widely from Agriculture, Youth Development, Health, Education and Community Economic Development
One of the volunteers is senior Jessica Fritts, who has chosen to work in Rwanda starting this September. While in high school, Fritts’ aunt and uncle both decided to volunteer for the Peace Corps in Ghana. Their experience encouraged her to join.
“I’ve seen the lasting experience that it’s had on them and the acquaintances that they met in the village,” says Fritts. “It’s really given purpose to their lives.”
However, Fritts’ decision was not made without some hesitation.
“I’ve had a lot of moral reservations about the Peace Corps.” said Fritts. “You’re going into another country and you’re going in with your own agenda and I was very uncomfortable with that idea.”
Fritts credits Africana Studies Professor Kwame Zulu Shabazz, who she says shared her reservations about the Peace Corps, with convincing her to join. Despite their concerns, he convinced her that having such an awareness before joining would allow her to still do good.
One of Fritts’ goals is to go in and “help change the conversation of the Peace Corps.”
As with all Peace Corps volunteers, Fritts will serve for a total of 27 months. The first three months involve pre-service training (PST), where Fritts will be instructed in the local language, Kinyarwanda, as well as cultural norms. After that she is assigned to serve as a teacher. But those plans can change according to what the needs of the community are.
“My title is primary educator, but, honestly, once you get there it’s basically ‘How can you best fit our needs that we have?’” Fritts explained, “So even though my title might be something, it might be something completely different once I get there just because the needs have changed.”
Senior José Guevara, who will be volunteering in the Dominican Republic, also sees this unpredictability as inevitable to the Peace Corps’ mission. Guevara explained that serving a community in need is demanding, but insisted that the impact of the program makes any difficulties worth it.
“There’s a world outside of you,” Guevara said. “There’s a responsibility of everyone in the world to be an international citizen.”
Guevara signed up to work in Youth Development, where he will take part in after school programs or help parents in learning necessary skills. He sees the impact that youth programs had on him while growing up in Houston as his motivation to reach out. This, along with his upbringing in underrepresented immigrant communities, drove his decision to serve in a Latin American country.
“When I chose the Peace Corps, it was also really important for me to find a program that was going to work with youth,” said Guevara. “They’re going to be the new generation. They’re going to take these countries wherever they need to be taken.”
“The reason I think about those things is that that’s what others were for me,” Guevara said, speaking about the importance of role models. “If it wasn’t for the examples I had in my life I probably wouldn’t be here. Those components are really important for me, and I think every child everywhere needs that.”
Information about the identities of the other four Peace Corps are unknown because of volunteer confidentiality.