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 Stories for April 15, 1998

Volunteer 3,000 Signs Up for Peace Corps Duty
Campus is Tops in Numbers of Volunteers

by Jacqueline Frost, Public Affairs
posted Apr. 15, 1998

Cynthia Park recently became the 3,000th Berkeley graduate to enlist in the Peace Corps – a milestone for the campus and for the venerable, 37-year-old volunteer service organization.

“It is a major accomplishment for the Peace Corps and the university,” said Peace Corps spokeswoman Heidi Thoren. “No other university has come close to producing this many volunteers.”

On Tuesday, April 14, Peace Corps representatives, including Deputy Director Charles R. Baquet III, were on campus to celebrate Berkeley’s 3,000 volunteers. Recruiters visited more than 35 classes, met with faculty and staff, and lunched with student leaders.

On Tuesday evening, International House hosted a party for the past, present andfuture volunteers and their families.

Berkeley has turned out more Peace Corps volunteers than any other college or university in the country. The University of Wisconsin at Madison is in second place, with 2,300 volunteers. More than 150,000 people have served in 132 countries since the Peace Corps was founded in 1961.

“Berkeley is our bread and butter,” said Carla Semmler, recruiter for the Peace Corps. “At other campuses, we have to struggle to find people who are open to the idea of enlisting. What I absolutely love about being a recruiter at Berkeley is that there is already a notion of giving back to the community that’s so ingrained in the classes they take. They are wonder applicants. They never cease to amaze me.”

Park, a 1994 Berkeley graduate, said that she volunteered because she wanted to get off the “straight and narrow path” and see the world from a new vantage point before she begins a career in the health field.

“I really wanted a different experience,” said the 24-year-old biology major, who has not left the United States since she moved here from South Korea 14 years ago. “I didn’t want to follow the traditional route of college, graduate school and career. I think that I will learn a lot about myself through this experience.”

In June, Park will travel to Cameroon – an African country she said she had never heard of until she received her assignment letter – where she will teach science.

Before entering the classroom, she will undergo three months of intensive language and skills training.

More than half of Peace Corps volunteers today teach English, math, science and business development, while many others work in the areas of environmental awareness, conservation and HIV and AIDS education. The Peace Corps has volunteers in 84 countries, with 40 percent of the enlistees in Africa. The second largest contingent of volunteers is assigned to Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, followed by Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.

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