Bridging the Opportunity Divide

The Sure-Fire Way to Get Millennials Interested in Public Service

March 2, 2017
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The Sure-Fire Way to Get Millennials Interested in Public Service
President John F. Kennedy started the Peace Corps in 1961. This year, the organization is celebrating its 56th birthday. Photo via @PeaceCorps/Instagram
To celebrate Peace Corps week, NationSwell uncovers how one Pacific state recruits more volunteers than anywhere else.

The Peace Corps sends young Americans to 141 countries, but its number of volunteers is less than half the record high it reached back in 1966. The state of Washington, however, continues to churn out an impressive number of civic-minded youth interested in the program.

For several years running, the Evergreen State’s colleges have claimed the highest number of Peace Corps volunteers, consistently sweeping top spots in categories for large, medium and small colleges alike. The University of Washington, with second-place showing of 73 students in 2016, has taken first or second place for all but one year since 2005. For medium-sized colleges, Western Washington University, with 48 volunteers, nabbed second. And among small campuses, University of Puget Sound tied for second, with 13 new recruits.

Recent changes to the application process, like letting a person choose the country where they wish to live, boosted the number of applicants. Still, the nation should look to Washington for some ideas on how to foster a global commitment among the next generation.

At the University of Washington, a master’s student who completed a Peace Corps mission abroad is a constant presence in the school’s career center. “Over the course of four years of undergrad, students are going to see and hear from the Peace Corps a lot,” says Patrick Gordon, who served in Bulgaria. “It’s become a part of the overall environment of the campus.”

Despite a decade-long strong performance, U of W doesn’t hold top honors for contributing the most Peace Corps volunteers. That designation goes to the University of California-Berkeley, which has sent 3,640 alumni, compared to Washington’s 2,981.

 

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