TruLe’sia Newberry brought her curious mind to Florida International University from her home state of Arkansas because she knew she could expand her worldview here.
The international studies junior knew she’d encounter different cultures, languages and nationalities in Miami’s melting pot. Now, with a new program debuting at FIU that will groom students for the Peace Corps, Newberry sees a springboard to learn even more.
“It’s going to be a good experience to go out and engage the world,” she said after signing up for the program.
Before an auditorium packed with students and faculty Friday, FIU announced the first Peace Corps Prep Program at a Florida university. Through four global learning programs, four semesters of foreign language study, a community service project and written self-reflection, the university hopes to prepare undergraduates for the international volunteer organization that sends Americans to place like Albania, Senegal, China, Peru and dozens of other countries.
About 70 students, including Newberry, have already signed up for the program. The partnership comes on the heels of a big surge of Peace Corps applications, with 17,336 people applying for the two-year service positions — the highest number in 22 years.
“Americans have always wanted to serve,” said Peace Corps director Carrie Hessler-Radelet, who came to the Modesto A. Maidique Campus for the announcement. “Now we’ve removed some of the barriers.”
She attributed the increase to a shorter and more open applications process that was introduced after she became director in June. Where it used to take about eight hours to finish an application before this year, now it can be done in one. Hopefuls can also choose where they want to serve based on their strengths and background, although Hessler-Radelet many still offer their service to whichever area has the most need.
“More than 50 percent still chose to serve where they are most needed,” she said.
Over time, nearly 200 FIU alumni have served in the Peace Corps, which was founded in 1961. Eleven are currently abroad.
Hessler-Radelet said working with FIU allows the Peace Corps to reach a large Hispanic population, which factors in the larger goal to reach more under-represented communities. About 25 other universities have similar partnerships.
FIU grads who complete the program will receive a certificate and medallion marking the achievement when they graduate.
Provost Kenneth Furton said the program fits into the university’s global learning for global citizens initiative, a movement that requires students to take courses and participate in activities that emphasize their role in a diverse international community.
“It’s a natural extension of our mission,” he said.
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