The Daily Gamecock

Peace Corps builds ranks at USC

304 alumni have been part of volunteer organization, and 26 currently serve

Recent USC graduate Chelsea Leroux is set on her next move after college, but it involves being away from family and friends for more than two years while she serves as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala.

She decided to apply for the Peace Corps after working at a medical clinic in Costa Rica during her junior year and noticing how little people knew about common health issues.

“Falling in love with a community and realizing such a problematic issue made me want to do something about it — and why not do it now while I can?” said Leroux, who graduated in December with a degree in exercise science.

If the 27-month commitment sounds daunting, it may help to know that Leroux is not the only member of the Carolina Community to serve in the Peace Corps. In fact, she will become one of the 304 USC alumni who have volunteered in the Peace Corps since its start in 1961 and the 26 more who are currently volunteering.

This involvement ranks USC as eighth in the Southeast region on the Peace Corps’ Southeast region ranking of the top 25 colleges and universities producing Peace Corps volunteers, according to a news release from the U.S. Peace Corps Press Office.

Some of the returned volunteers visited campus Monday evening for “Gamecocks Inside the Peace Corps: 50 Years of Impact,” an event hosted by USC Community Service Programs in partnership with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Carolina.

“We really know the value of students committing their lives to meet community needs,” said Michelle Peer, the program advisor for Community Service at USC.

At the event, roughly 50 students gathered in the Russell House Ballroom to learn more about the Peace Corps and hear from people who have served in various countries. In addition to viewing a presentation and a video of testimonials, students had the chance to break into small groups and learn about specific categories of service, including business and information technology, social work, environmentalism and education and social work.

Karla Buru, a USC alumna who served in Romania from 2007 to 2009 and is now part of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Carolina, said the event was organized to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps and highlight the impact USC has made over the years. Buru studied public relations at USC and is currently a graduate student earning a master’s degree in social work and a master’s in public health.

“It’s the best experience you’ll ever have,” Buru said of the Peace Corps. “Be prepared for anything, and be flexible with your expectations of what it means to be a volunteer.”

Leroux, who plans to go to physician assistant school after the Peace Corps, said she is nervous about being away from her family and friends for more than two years but is looking forward to the experience. She applied for the Peace Corps in April and just learned of her acceptance this month.

“I am most excited to learn the new skills required to be a Healthy Homes volunteer,” Leroux said. “I will be visiting homes and promoting public health while also improving sanitation in homes by building cement floors where there are dirt floors, building latrines and also improving open fire stove tops that cause respiratory illness in infants.”


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