This month, the Peace Corps is celebrating its 50 year anniversary.
Since its initiation, the program has enabled over 200,000 individuals to promote peace and unity throughout 139 countries worldwide. As the 18th largest university recruiter nationwide in 2008, UCSB enlisted around 1,500 alumni to serve in the organization.
Kristi Bullock, a program officer at Direct Relief International who worked in South Africa from 2005 to 2007, said the Corps is a viable alternative to a career after graduation.
“When you’re at a point in your life where you don’t necessarily need an income, volunteering is so much more rewarding than a job,” Bullock said.
Aleah Klingenberg, a fourth-year global studies major, agrees that the Peace Corps offers a unique opportunity for graduating seniors unsure of their career path.
“I think a lot of us are really young and we have interests, but no clear choices for a career field,” Klingenberg said. “Being immersed in a different culture helps you understand yourself better and what career is best for you. There are so many options for what you can do with your life, but if you don’t go out there and experience them you’ll never know.”
Aside from benefiting those who participate in the program, Wade Roof, director of the Walter H. Capps Center, said the Peace Corps aids the underprivileged and improves global relations.
“The Peace Corps offers a venue for people wanting to help others and to go places where they can do this,” Roof said.
Even though the Peace Corps technically wasn’t created until 1961, it traces its origins to Oct. 14, 1960 when then-Senator John F. Kennedy first presented his vision of broadening students’ horizons through volunteerism in the developing world.
Bullock credited the program’s continued prominence to its innovative nature.
“There’s nothing like it,” Bullock said. “You are taken out of your place of comfort and experience
something totally new. How often do you get that chance to both give and receive so much?”