Mercyhurst Magazine Spring 2021

Peace Corps mission resonates with Mercyhurst graduates

” AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps. In particular, she recalls her service-learning trip to Guyana, South America. “I learned what it was to work alongside local community members that want to make positive change, she explained. The trip allowed me the opportunity to engage in culture sharing and connecting with people from very diferent backgrounds. “ ” ” Discussions of issues like social justice with professors and fellow students also helped her rethink and challenge her view of the world. “I believe that my time at Mercyhurst and the Peace Corps helped prepare me to become a more thoughtful global citizen, she said. debating Vice President Richard Nixon on Oct. 13, Kennedy arrived very late at the University of Michigan. Pulling in around 2 a.m., he found an estimated 10,000 students waiting to hear him speak. They responded enthusiastically to his suggestion that young people could serve their country and the cause of freedom by living and working in developing countries for years at a time. After his November win, President Kennedy created the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961. In the years since, more than 240,000 volunteers have accepted the challenge and served in more than 141 countries. degree in social work in 2016, she frst spent a year with AmeriCorps, developing skills like capacity building and community organizing that served her well when she headed to South America. Maggie said her education at Mercyhurst prepared her well for her work in both

’ Maggie always planned to pursue a graduate degree after her Peace Corps tenure; she even took the GRE and submitted applications from Peru. “I was lucky in that I returned to the U.S. with a plan of action, albeit a few months earlier than anticipated. Now I m at Emory University in Atlanta pursuing my master s in public health and we’ll see where life takes me next. ’ ” ’ One thing is defnitely on the agenda: a return trip to Peru as soon as it s safe to travel there. “I was very close with my host family and community and I d like to have the chance to see them again and have a proper goodbye. ’ ” When 2020 began, more than 7,000 young Americans were volunteering with the Peace Corps in 60+ countries around the world and the agency was gearing up for a yearlong celebration of its 60th anniversary. Then COVID struck, forcing it to quickly suspend operations and bring everyone home. Leaders hope to have most volunteers back in service in their host countries by the end of 2021. We asked several Mercyhurst volunteers to tell us about their experiences, including a few recent graduates whose service was cut short by the pandemic.

“ MAGGIE SWITZER ‘16 Margaret Maggie Switzer was just months from the end of her Peace Corps assignment in Peru when COVID reared its ugly head. Evacuated March 21, 2020, she had to board a fight home with only the clothes on her back and the few possessions she had taken with her to a conference in Lima. She had spent the past two years in Amazonas, ” ’ in Peru s northern highlands, as a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) volunteer. She worked with the local government, health clinics, schools and other community leaders to ensure the availability of safe drinking water and to promote healthy practices like hand- washing. The Peace Corps – with its blend of service, learning about other cultures, and discovering new places – had been on Maggie s radar since high school. But after earning her Mercyhurst ’ The Peace Corps describes itself as “a service opportunity for motivated changemakers to immerse themselves in a community abroad, working side by side with local leaders to tackle the most pressing challenges of our generation.” For Mercyhurst graduates who have absorbed the commitment to service of the founding Sisters of Mercy, it’s an appealing message. According to the Peace Corps, at least 47 Mercyhurst alumni have joined the Peace Corps since its founding. Sen. John F. Kennedy frst proposed the concept of a Youth Peace Corps during his campaign for the presidency in 1960. After


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