Peace Corps volunteer numbers soar in Corvallis
Town finishes second per capita, Oregon finishes fifth in number of volunteers nationwide in 2009
By: Ryan Gunderson
The Daily Barometer
The Peace Corps recently announced the top volunteer-producing metropolitan areas and states in 2009. The greater Corvallis area was ranked as second in volunteers per capita, finishing only behind Ithaca, N.Y.
In Corvallis, 11.0 out of every 100,000 citizens volunteered in the Peace Corps in 2009, working in one of the 76 countries currently being occupied. The city of Corvallis had 52,950 residents as of 2003, according to a survey conducted by the Oregon Secretary of State.
“A lot of it has to do with having a university in the town,” said Melanie Forthun, a Peace Corps public affairs specialist. According to the official website of the Peace Corps, 93 percent of volunteers are single or unmarried, which also describes many college students at OSU.
The state of Oregon finished fifth in per capita in the ratings. Out of all current Peace Corps volunteers, 210 call Oregon home.
“The application process is not easy,” Forthun said. “It includes a written application and interview process, as well as legal and health background checks. Then we look into the education you have and how that could be useful in one of the places where the Peace Corps are currently in need of that service.”
The Peace Corps’ roots can be traced back to 1961 at the University of Michigan, where John F. Kennedy challenged Michigan students to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. Since then, nearly 200,000 people have volunteered in 139 countries.
“Oregon State has great programs that correlate well with the Peace Corps’ mission, from health to education to the forestry program,” said Forthun. “In fact, OSU just joined the Peace Corps Master’s International program in the College of Forestry.”
The program, Master’s International, is more than 20 years old and already includes over 60 academic institutions nationwide, according to their official website. OSU graduate students in forestry can study in one of three new programs while also completing a 27-month service project in the Peace Corps, typically in Africa or Latin America, according to information from OSU.
David Zahler, a senior instructor in the College of Forestry at OSU, said in a press release that the Peace Corps has stated that forestry is area needing more help. The Peace Corps’ website also shows that agriculture and environment volunteer areas account for less than a quarter of the volunteering currently taking place.
For more information about the Peace Corps or Master’s International, visit the Peace Corps’ website at http://www.peacecorps.gov.
Ryan Gunderson, staff writer
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