Two year volunteer abroad organization changes student’s lives

Mason Carroll

While the slogan of “What starts here changes the world,” may seem like a UT cliche, the 1,838 UT alumni who have joined the Peace Corps are dedicating years to making this motto come to life.
“‘What starts here changes the world’ — has been a call to action for me and many alumni to discover ways that we can make a positive impact through our careers,” said Josh Alvarez, UT alumni who is currently volunteering in Costa Rica with Peace Corps, the two-year volunteering program which sends students around the world at no cost.

Last week UT announced it is now number eight on the Peace Corp’s 2018 Top Volunteer-Producing Colleges and Universities, according to its website. In the past year, UT has moved from number 25 on the list to eighth with a total of 61 volunteers worldwide.

Since she was in the third grade, Jacqui Bah wanted to join the Peace Corps. After spending two years in GUINEA for Peace Corps, she is now the campus recruiter for UT recruiting students to join the program that changed her life.

“We want the best and the brightest,” Bah said. “We want people who are going to love what they do and work with that, and we don’t want to cost to hold (them) back.”

With two months left of his two–year volunteer service in Costa Rica, Alvarez, who graduated with a social services degree, said he wants to create opportunities for others who may not be as fortunate as he was.

“My parents are first-generation Mexican immigrants and I’m a first-generation college graduate,” Alvarez said. “If I haven’t been given that opportunity through scholarships, then I wouldn’t be where I am today. I think it’s important that we give back and not just take, but see what we can do to help.”

When he finishes his journey in Costa Rica, Alvarez said he wants to pursue a career in social work so he can continue to give back and make a difference in the world.

Laurie Young, also a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and UT alumna who served in Jamaica, is the director of Special Projects in the International Office. During her time in Jamaica, she helped rural communities market their goods, wrote grants for the community and started the first women’s soccer team in the area.

“For me personally, Peace Corp is one of the reasons I have the career path I do today,” Young said. “So much of what I learned in Peace Corp is transferable to my career and my work life. I think it really prepares people for all elements of the workforce.”

The International Office will be holding a panel next Thursday with four Peace Corps volunteers to encourage students to apply.

“If this is something that (students) are excited about, then let’s set it up,” Bah said. “Let’s get every student who wants to do it signed up.”