Peace Corps Recruit heads for Armenia

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Peace Corps Recruit heads for Armenia

Peace Corps Recruit heads for Armenia

Peace Corps Recruit heads for Armenia

Peace Corps recruit seeks just to 'touch a few lives'

May 03, 2001

When you think of the Peace Corps, you of course think of JFK's stirring call to "Ask not . . . ."

In other words, quaint sentiments from bygone, more committed days about service to others.

And when you think of today's young adults, you don't exactly think of folks lining up to comfort the afflicted.

But then you likely don't know Kelly Pearce and, as it turns out, you probably don't know many young adults.

Pearce, 32, has been a reporter for 10 years, the last four at The Arizona Republic. Friday was her last day at the newspaper.

Usually a last day for a newspaper reporter means a first-day just around the corner at a bigger newspaper.

Pearce, however, will be headed first to Washington, D.C., for training and then to the former Soviet republic of Armenia as a Peace Corps volunteer. She will teach English, helping students gear up for the global community that their new country hopes to join in commerce and communication.

The early 30s are prime years for a journalist. You're midcareer. You've put in some time. The idealism that brought you into the business has gelled nicely with skills honed through countless assignments, stories you've dug up yourself and the ever-increasing responsibility that comes with more specialized work.

Yet sometimes something is missing. That idealism that brought you into the business sometimes creates a yearning for other avenues. Journalists by tradition, however, usually content themselves with being merely observers, though many argue that sharing our observations amounts to extremely active involvement.

"I always wanted to give back," Pearce said. "I felt I was not making as much an impact as I had hoped."

She said this though she was a good education and community reporter. But, as one indication that Pearce wanted something a bit more participatory, she has had three little sisters as part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

Still she had thought she would always be a journalist, a profession that allowed her glimpses of "so many little snapshots of lives," she said.

But a question nagged. "Are we really feeling the passion we see in other people's lives?"

Pearce grew up in Prescott. While she was growing up, she didn't observe her parents volunteering much. They must have passed something on, however. Pearce's sister was also a Peace Corps volunteer, serving in Ecuador.

Pearce is older than most volunteers, who tend to join right after college at about age 22 or 23. The average age of a volunteer, however, is now up to 29, skewed upward by people even older than Pearce who have finished their careers but for whom sedentary retirement is singularly unattractive.

At 32, folks are often thinking of mortgages and accumulation of things.

This has been one of Pearce's fears.

"It's very easy to take things for granted," she said. "And I don't want to be like that."

Though she doesn't own a home, she has acquired "stuff." And with the "stuff" has come a realization. "It doesn't make me happy," she said.

So as of last week she had reduced her "stuff" to an amount that might fill two duffel bags and was intent on reducing it even more.

By serving for the next two years instead of accumulating and seeing how people live good, fruitful lives without the creature comforts we take for granted, Pearce hopes that she will become stronger, more independent and more appreciative.

Though it's tempting to view Pearce as an anomaly among young adults, she isn't really.

According to spokeswoman Susan Buchanan, the Peace Corps, celebrating its 40th year, generally has to turn volunteers away. The number of volunteers is limited not by the number of folks applying but the amount of the agency's budget.

This year, there are, including trainees, about 7,300, the highest number since 1973. They serve in 77 countries.

And many voice the same sentiment as Pearce.

"I don't hope to change the world. I just want to touch a few lives," she said.

In short, Pearce is hoping to serve and has come upon the rare notion that in service comes the very best personal growth.

Reach Pimentel at or (602) 444-8210. His column appears Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

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Story Source: The Republic

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