January 11, 2004 - Dayton Daily News: Peace Corps opens up to younger volunteers

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Headlines: January 2004 Peace Corps Headlines: January 11, 2004 - Dayton Daily News: Peace Corps opens up to younger volunteers

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-19-87.balt.east.verizon.net - on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 4:09 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps opens up to younger volunteers

Read and comment on this story from the Dayton Daily News that raises issues with the Peace Corps' new policy of actively recruiting younger volunteers from two-year Community Colleges at:

Peace Corps opens up to younger volunteers*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Peace Corps opens up to younger volunteers

Former offical: Safety issues remain

By Russell Carollo
Dayton Daily News
Saturday, January 10, 2004

For the first time in its 43-year history, the Peace Corps next month will launch a nationwide campaign to recruit graduates of two-year community colleges to serve as volunteers.

The move opens the door for younger Americans with less education to serve overseas. Ninety-eight percent of current volunteers have a bachelor's or master's degree.

The recruitment drive comes 10 months after the agency's Office of Inspector General reported that placement officers had invited "borderline candidates" to serve overseas because they felt pressured to fill positions. The inspector general also suggested that the current recruiting system might not produce enough volunteers to meet President Bush's goal of doubling the number of volunteers.

The new recruitment drive also comes as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considers a hearing on issues raised in an Oct. 26-Nov. 1 series in the Dayton Daily News. Among the newspaper's findings was that many volunteers with bachelor's or even master's degrees lacked the education, training and experience to do their assigned jobs.

In 2002, Russia announced that it would expel volunteers, citing their lack of education and training, and the Peace Corps' own inspector general echoed a number of the same concerns in a May 2002 report on the agency's presence in Russia.

Peace Corps spokeswoman Barbara Daly said the new recruitment drive, which kicks off with a press conference in Washington, D.C., next month, is part of the Peace Corps' goal to increase diversity.

Asked if the expansion into community colleges had anything to do with President Bush's call to double the size of the agency, Daly said, "The Peace Corps has always accepted qualified candidates whether they were a community college graduate or not. The only change is that the Peace Corps is now doing a more proactive, more public recruitment campaign at the community college level."

The Peace Corps has nearly 7,000 volunteers in about 70 countries, where they serve for 27 months.

John S. Hale, former Peace Corps acting inspector general, said the new recruitment drive raises questions about problems that have troubled the agency before.

"Has the agency prepared effective, safe assignments with proper training and support?" Hale said. "Will the Peace Corps rise to a new level of maturity and accountability in how it sends these new community college recruits into often difficult and unhealthy environments where good intentions are not enough?"

The academic requirements to enter community college typically are lower and students can graduate at a much younger age and be available for Peace Corps service before their counterparts at four-year colleges. The minimum age for Peace Corps service has been 18, but since the agency generally only accepted applicants with bachelor's degrees, only a small percentage of current volunteers are younger than 20.

In defending its decision to expand to community colleges, Peace Corps officials said that the average age of community college students is 29, but that average may be misleading, experts said.

Clifford Adelman, a senior research analyst specializing in community colleges for the U.S. Department of Education, said his research shows that after removing students not taking courses for credit, the median age of students at community colleges in 2000 was 23.5. The median age for Peace Corps volunteers currently is 25.

Gary Honnert, director of public information at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, said his typical student is a woman, often a single mother. Older students, too, have obligations that could prevent them from applying for the Peace Corps, Honnert said.

"They're probably married already or at least have children obligations, so the likelihood of them picking up and taking off for two years to go do something is pretty rare," Honnert said.

The percentage of younger students attending community colleges is growing. Between 1991 and 2000, the number of credit-seeking students younger than 22 increased from 32 percent to 42 percent, Adelman said.

At Sinclair, 17 percent of the student population is between the ages of 17 and 19, and the fall enrollment showed a nearly 10 percent increase in the number of students entering Sinclair directly from high school.

Community colleges also have a slightly higher percentage of female students: 57 percent, or 2 percent higher than students at four-year colleges. At Sinclair, 59 percent of the students are women.

Female Peace Corps volunteers have been the most vulnerable to assault. About 60 percent of current volunteers are women, yet they make up about 70 percent of assault victims since 1990, the Daily News examination found.

Just months before the Peace Corps announced its community college campaign, the agency's inspector general, who is charged with identifying waste, fraud and abuse, reported that the agency's recruiting system had "significant weaknesses."

The recruiting system, an April 2003 report found, had been producing the same number of volunteers for the past 30 years.

"The combined pressure to double numbers while revamping the delivery system prompted one regional recruitment manager to liken the situation to changing a car tire while going 65," the report says.

Placement officers and medical screeners were pressured to deliver volunteers, the report found.

"These pressures are likely to increase as the agency seeks greater numbers of volunteers," the report says.

The report did not recommend that the agency recruit in community colleges.

Asked if the inspector general's report had anything to do with the new community college campaign, Daly said, "This is part of the Peace Corps vision and goal of increasing diversity among its volunteers to better reflect the face of America."

Norma Kent, spokeswoman for the American Association of Community Colleges, said she has been working closely with the Peace Corps on its new campaign, and she acknowledged that increasing the number of applicants was at least one of the motivations behind the new campaign.

"I think they're intent on a number of things," Kent said. "One is they want to be more diverse. Two, they want to supply educated individuals in key areas where they know community colleges can provide those individuals. And, thirdly, they're probably looking for additional recruits."

Though the Peace Corps cited diversity as its goal in the campaign, Daly said the agency hasn't established age or other limitations on the students being recruited.

"There are no number limitations," she said. "If we have 40 qualified candidates then we will invite them to serve in Peace Corps. If we have one qualified candidate then we will invite that one candidate to serve. The issue is not numbers, it's

qualifications, which are very competitive."

A Peace Corps brochure outlining its community college campaign indicates it is recruiting volunteers for programs in health, agriculture, environment, youth development and water resources.

Even using graduates of four-year colleges, the Peace Corps has had trouble for years placing skilled people in these and other fields, the Daily News examination found.

The Daily News, which interviewed more than 500 people in 11 countries, found that the Peace Corps has for decades relied on graduates of four-year colleges who often were trained for jobs unrelated to their degrees. Every year, the Peace Corps sends these "generalists" around the world with just a few months of training the bulk of it language lessons to teach experienced farmers new techniques, show veteran classroom teachers new methods, introduce new concepts to foreign business professionals.

The newspaper's 20-month examination found that though many volunteers have little or no experience traveling outside the United States, minimum language skills and virtually no background in their assigned jobs, they are sent to live alone in remote areas of some of the world's most dangerous countries and left unsupervised for months at a time.

Chuck Stevens, who earned a degree in marketing from Indiana University in 1997, and his wife, Amber, went to El Salvador in early 2001 to teach people how to build water systems, but neither had any experience in building water systems. Both quit the Peace Corps halfway through their service for a variety of reasons, Stevens said.

In March 2001, the inspector general reported that 63 percent of all assignments in Romania were "problematic" because volunteer roles were not well defined or understood.

Even volunteers with degrees from four-year colleges have had trouble being accepted in countries where their foreign counterparts are often better trained and expect more qualified volunteers.

A December 2001 inspector general report on Peace Corps operations in Guinea found that "the role of the volunteer is confusing to the host country teaching colleagues who expect the volunteers to be trained teachers."

Volunteers in Ukraine and Russia found the same reception from government officials.

"I think sometimes we would encounter situations where we would be meeting with ministry officials or government officials doing training and they thought that we were experts coming from America to help them, and it was harder for them to understand that, you know, most of us were pretty young, didn't have a lot of experience, didn't have a degree in like engineering or chemistry," said Juniper Neill, a graduate of Mills College in Oakland, Calif., who was a volunteer in Ukraine in 1997.

"It is a cultural difference that I think sometimes manifested itself in our relationship with people that were really well educated, held doctorates, had been in government for a long time and then maybe had a little bit of a problem understanding why we were there."

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December 13, 2003 - Peace Corps to begin recruiting graduates of two year community colleges

Read and comment on this story from the Cleveland Plain Dealer on December 13, 2003 that the Peace Corps will launch a new recruitment initiative in February targeting graduates of two year community colleges to join the ranks of Peace Corps Volunteers.

Over its forty year history, the Peace Corps has traditionally required that volunteers possess either a college degree or special skills based on real life job experience. The policy of recruiting graduates from two-year community college programs is a new and untested one and we have concerns about its potentially negative effects on the Peace Corps. We have three concerns: First that graduates of two year community college programs may lack the skills and maturity to serve effectively as Peace Corps Volunteers and that the overall quality of volunteers may fall if this policy is adopted. The second concern is that Countries of Service may not want to accept volunteers who do not possess a college degree. This was certainly an issue in the 1960's when the Peace Corps was first getting started. Third, "perception is reality" as they say in the PR world, and if the perception becomes widespread that volunteers do not possess the education or skills to serve effectively, then the overall image of the Peace Corps may be affected, and even the best qualified volunteers may suffer.

We understand that the Peace Corps wants to recruit from a larger pool of potential volunteers to meet President Bush's goal of doubling the Peace Corps by 2007. However this new policy, if adopted, may have the unintended result of diluting or damaging the Peace Corps' "brand name" that Director Vasquez talked about during his confirmation hearings. We urge the Peace Corps to consider this policy decision with care. It has taken forty years to build the positive image that the Peace Corps now enjoys - why take a chance on a policy that may damage that image? We'll be covering this issue in more detail in coming issues of PCOL. For now, read the story and leave your comments at:

Peace Corps to begin recruiting community college graduates*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Peace Corps to begin recruiting community college graduates


For the first time in its history, the Peace Corps will start targeting community college graduates to join its ranks of volunteers. The 42-year-old organization, founded by President John F. Kennedy, will launch the new recruitment initiative in February.

Until now, the Peace Corps has primarily relied on graduates of four-year colleges. The volunteers are sent to developing countries around the world, where they work with local residents in such areas as public health, AIDS education, environmental preservation and business and agricultural development.

Barbara Daly, press secretary for the organization, said the initiative is part of a larger goal to increase diversity among its volunteers. She said recruiting at community colleges will bring in older adults, couples and graduates with world and job experience.

Openings for community college graduates will primarily be in the health care, agriculture and information technology fields. Daly said the recruitment initiative will be launched at colleges in Southern California, Minnesota, Denver and Washington, D.C.

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Investigative Journalism; Community Colleges; Safety and Security of PCVs; Recruitment; Expansion



By daniel (0-1pool136-9.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - on Sunday, January 11, 2004 - 12:46 pm: Edit Post

This is a sacastic remark to this recruitment effort: Yea, why not recruit at community colleges. Eighteen year olds can go to Iraq. Why not send more naive volunteers because we need to get to the that 12,000 number.

Those young women on the picture will they be paired together with another volunteer in Muslim countries?

By Pat Hubble (user-38lc24f.dialup.mindspring.com - on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 9:53 pm: Edit Post

Why not lower the bar?
We have been dumbing down so many aspects of American society that soon, we, the United States, will need to welcome Peace Corps-type volunteers from other, more "developed" countries into the United States as "experts".

By Ken Rustad Bolivia 62-64 (1cust191.tnt1.farmington.nm.da.uu.net - on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 10:10 pm: Edit Post

There were eighteen-year olds in my group in Bolivia(1962-64.) A large number of these young people,right out of high school, were invited to training with about half "deselected" by the Deselection Board. The request by the Bolivia Ministry of Agriculture was for 32 males. Sixty-one were invited to training. Thirty four went to Bolivia including ten females. More of the older deselectees were in the older age groups as was the one who was nearly sent home.

The eighteen & nineteen-year-old trainees were assigned housing with an older Volunteer and were exceptionally mature and flexible. I do question if this standard of resultscan be met with the current selection procedures.

The siuation with Peace Corps administrators seems to vary substantially from country to country, region to region. The selection of political appointees for country directors etc. is a problem as is the five-year limitation for staff positions which should be changed to ten years, at minimum.

By Bob Utne (cache-da08.proxy.aol.com - on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 10:41 pm: Edit Post

In our group of 35, Gabon 1, only a couple had college degrees. However, we had four months of training outside the country and "only" 20 months within. 90% of us made it through the 20 months and we left Gabon with 15 new primary schools and 30 teachers' houses.

27 months seems too long of a duration to commit for public service. 18 months appears an ideal amount of time for many college students who want to take a break and serve abroad.

I'd like to see 150,000 PCVs in the field and 150,000 fewer US military personnel abroad.

By Gregory Jay Seelhorst (gseelhorst) (0-1pool237-173.nas17.albuquerque1.nm.us.da.qwest.net - on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 11:09 pm: Edit Post

I agree with Bob Utne regarding more PCVs is better than more military personnel. I feel that being a Peace Corps volunteer is quite a noble cause if one is willing to give more than get out of it.

Obviously, younger people might bring more of an energy dynamic than the older, but lack of maturity and experience can be an issue. This should be left to the descrimitation of the recruiters and reference checks. (Possibly place more demands on the junior college grads) When you get a few 19-20 year olds who can't drink legally in the U.S., but could in a third world country, this could also be a potential problem.

I have a B.S. and was in Mali (93-96, WRM). At school once again as a renewable energies major at a junior college in New Mexico, I know a few A.A. grads who would be great for the Peace Corps, and regret these 4yr degree requirements. There a some great vocational majors that could bring invaluable skills overseas.

By Jerry McQuade (nygateway2.prudential.com - on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 9:34 am: Edit Post

2 more years of partying in college won't make a person more mature or more ready to face the challenges of being a PCV. The 4 yr degree requirement is artificial, and is really an age minimum in disguise (since an age minimum greater than 18 would probably be unconstitutional). And as the story states, even PCVs with 4 yr degrees are often less educated and more importantly less experienced than their host country colleagues. Energy and creativity are far more important to a PCV than education or experience.
And let's not forget that there are three goals of the Peace Corps. Only one of them is technical assistance.
Jerry McQuade Albania 94-96

By Lenette Golding (dhcp005049.sph.emory.edu - on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 10:10 am: Edit Post

It would be a huge mistake to allow individuals with only a two year degree into the Peace Corps. Unless, they have tangible skills they will have very little to offer communities. Individuals in developing countries can do for themselves; they don't need a group of young people from another culture coming in and "helping". Even PCVs with Bachelors degrees don't always have enough experience and knowledge to be of any use. I think Bush should think quality not quantity.

Lenette Golding
RPCV Jamaica 1997-1999

By Steve Manning (209-128-170-203.dial-up.ipa.net - on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 8:24 pm: Edit Post

If this is done, it should be made clear to the host countries exactly what the qualifications of the recruits are. If this is understood and the volunteers are still requested, great, if the volunteers aren't taking jobs away from local qualified people (and even then it could work if part of a reciprocal exchange program in which a host-country national could come and find comparable work in the U.S. for a similar length of time.) Both countries benefit from cross-cultural experiences, as we all know.
I think if volunteers came back to the U.S. after two years in the Peace Corps, many would return to get four-year degrees and more, and that the last years of college would be more purposeful for those people than for most college students - not to mention the positive impacts they could have on their fellow students. If the Peace Corps wishes to recruit at the junior college at which I teach, I am ready to facilitate this to the best of my ability.

By Terry R. Thomas (adsl-67-114-249-218.dsl.lsan03.pacbell.net - on Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 7:11 pm: Edit Post

In and of itself, there is no right or wrong with having 2-yr grads or younger volunteers in the Peace Corps. The problem that I anticipate starts with whether or not the recruiting process can screen out persons that are either immature, unqualified, or otherwise unsuited for the Peace Corps service. As a recently returned "senior" volunteer, I found that age, qualifications and experience did matter to the community groups that I worked with. I realize that providing useful technical assistance is only one of the three Peace Corps goals, but what does a community lucky enough to finally get a volunteer to work with them do when the volunteer has neither skills nor experience to assist them. In general I think this is another well-intentioned, but bad idea.

By Ron Seibel (cache-mtc-aa05.proxy.aol.com - on Saturday, January 17, 2004 - 1:24 pm: Edit Post

Junior College grads as PCV? DUMB IDEA. They aren't old enough to help in this country, let alone a foreign country.

A better idea, would be to go after Retired Military (of any rank). At least they have an ability to survive. PC had a medically discharged Green Beret as Country Director in Kazakstan. I liked him! I can't judge his effectiveness as I was out of PC then. At least military would provide a "stable" background and good records.

Peace Corps has enough problems with four year degree people. Why make problems grow? I believe the two year grad would be just as supercilious as the 4 year PCV. Also, would the two year grad have the A.A. or A.S. degree?

I believe you'll have more problems with JC age PCV than if you gave convicts the option to serve their time in PC. (In the 1950s, judges gave the option of prison or US Marines.) They made good Marines. Former Marines make good PCV. (At least they get on better with HCN.)

By Gary D. Admire (ip68-98-232-58.ph.ph.cox.net - on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 9:30 am: Edit Post

The Peace Corps has changed substantially since I entered service at the age of 19 in 1964 (without completing my second year at a community college). Although not a college graduate at the time, I think my early exposure provided by the Peace Corps allowed me to contribute to my own country in a more significant way.

Today, the emphasis is on very specific projects that may require very specific skills (possibly including completion of a four year degree).

This trend away from the generalist to the specialist is, in my opinion, very unfortunate. When I entered the Peace Corps, I believed the primary goal was to humanize America to those sometimes hostile countries to which we were sent. Building schools, bridges, water resources, fishing cooperatives, etc were bonuses.

From what I have read and heard, the Peace Corps has evolved into a more bureaucratic organization requiring progress reports, specific standards for in-country activity, and substantially more supervision than previously. This trend saddens me.

Getting back to the bottom line, given the current goals and attitudes of the Peace Corps, it may very well be a good idea not to actively recruit at community colleges. Doing so may be a disservice to both the Peace Corps and to the Volunteer.

Gary D. Admire
Peace Corp Volunteer (Panama 1964-1966)
Deputy District Attorney (Homicide Specialist)
State Administrative Law Judge
Chief United States Administrative Law Judge
International Legal Consultant El Salvador

By Thomas A. Banks ( on Friday, January 23, 2004 - 9:45 am: Edit Post

As a two-year college administrator for twenty-seven years and a former Peace Corps Volunteer, I highly recommend recruiting two-year college graduates to serve in the Peace Corps. In many ways they may be more focused and mature than Bachelor-level graduates. They graduate with a sense of direction and a set of useful skills appropriate to many developing countries. I worked with two CUSO (Canadian University Service Overseas) volunteers who did not have four-year degrees. Their consturction management skills were highly respected. I, on the other hand, entered the Peace Corps with a graduate degree and struggled during my two years to convince myself and others that I was an "Agricultural Expert" with only three months of intensive training.

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