Lindsay Earls '05 first discovered service work when she began volunteering with DREAM, a student-created mentoring program that matches Dartmouth undergraduates with low-income young people in Vermont. After working as a mentor since her first summer on campus, she made a bid this fall for the big leagues of global-service opportunities. Like hundreds of Dartmouth undergrads before her, Earls applied to join the Peace Corps.
"I'll go anywhere, I'll do anything," she says. "I'm really interested in continuing service."
Earls is hardly alone. From 1998 through 2003, 247 Dartmouth students applied to make the 27-month commitment that the Peace Corps requires, and 133 were accepted-an average of more than 8 volunteers per year. In all, almost 540 Dartmouth alumni have served-36 currently are serving-as Peace Corps volunteers.
Numbers like these have consistently kept Dartmouth among the country's top-producing small colleges for the Peace Corps. In autumn 2002, the Corps honored Dartmouth as one of its top-ten colleges with graduating classes under 5,000, and one of its best volunteer-producing colleges of all time.
The interest in the Corps among students today is high. In calendar year 2000, 24 Dartmouth students applied to join and 13 were accepted. In 2001, 12 applied and 7 were taken. In 2002, 13 applied and 11 were accepted. Last year, 33 applied and 10 became volunteers. This fall, at least 20 seniors applied.
"It's just phenomenal," says Susanne Delaney, the Peace Corps recruiter who serves Dartmouth's campus. "Dartmouth students are just so focused. They want to make a positive contribution to the world."
The College has been making a positive contribution to the Peace Corps since President John F. Kennedy created the Corps in 1961. Dartmouth alumni were among the Corps' first volunteers, and the world-renowned Rassias Method(r) of language instruction was first developed as a training method for the Peace Corps in the mid-1960s by John Rassias, now the William R. Kenan Professor of Languages.
"All my applicants here are in some capacity involved in the community" through volunteer work or extracurricular activities outside campus, says Delaney. "On this campus, the Peace Corps experience sells itself. People come to me, I don't go to them."
Among those who came to the Corps was Chris Curran '03. In the small, low-income town of Ben Guerir, an hour north of Marrakesh in Morocco, Curran is teaching English at a youth center.
"I wanted to give back," says the government major, who hopes for a career in foreign service. "I've been pretty fortunate in life and I wanted to help others. I also wanted to learn about the Arab world and to learn to speak Arabic."
Reached on his cell phone in Morocco, Curran said Peace Corps service can be a little lonely. Like most volunteers, he is the only American in his community. But he finds it tremendously rewarding. "I'm getting to see a totally different perspective on how the world works. I had no idea what to expect, but I've been fantastically impressed with the level of caring among the people in my community and the way they've taken me in."
Back at Dartmouth, Earls is looking ahead. In a few months, she'll find out if she can become a volunteer too. "It's kind of scary," she reflects, "but scary in a fun way."
By Doug Wilhelm
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Last Updated: 5/30/08