If you’ve ever wanted to flex your altruism muscle, West Chester University has its share of methods to get you going. You could join one of the numerous clubs and organizations that focus on community service, go on an alternative spring break or visit the Office of Service-Learning and Volunteer Programs on 624 S. High St.
The point is, WCU has a lot of options to get involved that you have probably already heard of. But I found out not too long ago that our campus has its very own Peace Corps recruitment program located in Mitchell Hall. I recently got the chance to sit down with WCU’s Peace Corps recruiter, Rajany Mathew, and ask her some questions about this fairly new sector of the campus.
The Peace Corps is a government-run volunteer program that’s been around since the early 1960s, when former President John F. Kennedy issued an executive order to get it through Congress.
Since then, Peace Corps has had over 200,000 members who have traveled to more than 141 countries worldwide.
West Chester’s piece of the pie started humbly in the fall of 2015 with Dr. Peter Loedel, assistant vice president for International Programs. Loedel had worked with service trips in the past but saw an opportunity to expand volunteer programs at WCU. Peace Corps is known to work with universities all over the country, and Loedel knew that West Chester was a great institution to work with Peace Corps because of its already vibrant service-learning opportunities. Once WCU got “accepted,” the next step was to assemble a team.
That’s when Mathew came on as campus recruiter, and Shila Scott joined as campus ambassador in hopes of spreading the word about Peace Corps to interested students.
One of those interested students is Rachel Lally, who will be heading out on her Peace Corps program to Cameroon this coming September.
Lally met with Mathew to clear up all of her questions about her upcoming trip. She asked questions about what to pack and how Mathew—who spent two years herself in Madagascar with the Peace Corps—felt about her experiences in the program. Lally had already applied and got accepted to the Peace Corps before she met with Mathew, but the fact that there was someone on campus who had gone through the experience before and was there to help was invaluable.
“The meeting was still beneficial, and I’ll probably go see [Mathew] again soon,” she said.
According to Mathew, her job as a recruiter is not only to help students like Lally feel better about their upcoming trips abroad, but also to spread knowledge about the program and all of the benefits that come along with joining.
“Peace Corps offers things like a great traveling community, loan forgiveness and even possible options for grad school,” she said.
If any of these benefits strike your interest, you can meet with Mathew yourself and find out more about the program. She usually does tabling once a week around campus to answer questions, give advice and help walk people through the application process. Or you can always send her an email at RMathew@wcupa.edu.
Peace Corps at WCU is also having numerous events throughout the semester to spread the word and get people interested. Check out Peace Corps Week from Sunday, Feb. 26 to Saturday, Mar. 4 or attend “Grow with Peace Corps” on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m. Attendees will be able to create their own container gardens while learning about what Peace Corps has to offer. For updates about locations, like the Peace Corps at West Chester University page on Facebook and never miss an event.
Although Peace Corps only came to WCU less than two years ago, the program is gaining traction and getting buzz all over campus. It just may be the perfect volunteer opportunity to dive into.
Rachel Alfiero is a fourth-year student majoring in communication studies with minors in Latin American studies and Spanish. She can be reached at RA806657@wcupa.edu.