Peace Corps Prep Program Prepares Wildcats for Volunteer Service Abroad

Thursday, April 18, 2019
UA seniors Ruth Byrnes and Gina Aniano participated in the Peace Corps Prep program and were invited to join after graduation. Byrnes will serve in Morocco and Aniano will serve in the Philippines.

Every year several University of Arizona (UA) graduates make meaningful contributions around the world through service in the Peace Corps—helping to fulfill the Peace Corps’ mission of promoting world peace, friendship and understanding between Americans and people from other countries. Since 1961, 1,639 Wildcats have volunteered, with 46 alumni currently serving today. And since 2018, UA’s Peace Corps Prep program (PCPP)—housed in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences — has helped undergraduates from any major to develop skills specifically targeted to volunteer service abroad.

In February, UA seniors and PCPP students Gina Aniano and Ruth Byrnes received invitations to serve in the Peace Corps after graduation. Recently, they took time from their busy schedules to answer a few questions about their decision to apply for the Peace Corps, what steps they took to become strong candidates and what they hope to gain from their experience.

Gina Aniano

Psychology Major
Gender and Women’s Studies Minor

 

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I came to UA from Long Island, NY, to experience a big change. Throughout my four years at UA, I have been very involved with volunteer work and internships that support marginalized populations and women impacted by sexual assault. After the Peace Corps, I plan to return to school to become a Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry, and then pursue a Ph.D. in Psychology.

Where will you be serving and what will you be doing?

I will be serving in the Philippines, beginning July 2019, as a Youth Development Facilitator—creating empowerment projects with at-risk youth populations such as girls who have been physically or sexually abused. I may also be working with Filipino government organizations as an advocate.

Why did you want to join the Peace Corps?

Through my coursework and an internship with the Women and Gender Resource Center on campus, I became very aware of the systemic injustices against women and marginalized people on a global scale. After hearing someone talk about the Peace Corps and the various projects volunteers have that are empowering women, I began to research the program and felt it would be a perfect fit for me and my career goals.

What steps did you take to be a strong applicant for the Peace Corps?

Volunteering in work that supports marginalized populations and children, leadership involvement, participating in the Peace Corps Prep program and meeting with the Peace Corps campus recruiter. Prep program coordinator, Tammy Orr, and campus recruiter, Annalise Gardella, really helped to streamline a very complicated application process.

What are you most looking forward to as a Peace Corps Volunteer?

I am looking forward to meeting and working with young men and women—addressing issues such as sexual violence through preventive education.

Are you worried about anything?

I am very worried about leaving my loved ones for such a long period of time. They have always been my support system, and I know I won’t be able to contact them as easily as I can now. But, as in everything, they are extremely supportive of my decision to serve in the Peace Corps.

What do you hope to learn from your Peace Corps experience?

I hope to build new relationships, experience a new culture and step outside my comfort zone.

Ruth Byrnes

Global Studies Major
Government and Public Policy Minor

 

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am from Phoenix, Az. As a Global Studies Major with a Human Rights, Migrations and Social Movements emphasis, I started Amnesty International Club to advocate for global human rights and support Amnesty priority campaigns. Currently, I am a UA Global Ambassador and help lead international orientations, the student Buddy Program and study abroad outreach.

Where will you be serving and what will you be doing?

I will be serving in Morocco, beginning Sept. 2019, as a Youth Development Specialist. I will be working in either a youth center or a women’s center—training and mentoring youth to improve their life skills, including communication, self-concept and decision making.

Why did you want to join the Peace Corps?

I have always known that I wanted to pursue an international career in grassroots service, community development and peace building. Ever since high school, when I first heard about the Peace Corps, I have felt strongly about that organization being the right choice for me.

What steps did you take to be a strong applicant for the Peace Corps?

I studied abroad in Guatemala and volunteered for an entire summer at Casa Jackson Hospital for Malnourished Children in Antigua. This experience inspired me to continue pursuing grassroots development work and gave me the confidence to step out of my language comfort zone. I also think being a part of UA’s Peace Corps Prep program gave me an advantage —I received notice of my Peace Corps interview; interviewed; and received my invitation to serve all within one week.

What are you most looking forward to as a Peace Corps Volunteer?

The complete immersive experience of a new culture—making relationships and memories with new people I will live and work among. And I am definitely looking forward to Moroccan food!

Are you worried about anything?

I am a little worried about learning Arabic, but my study abroad experience in Guatemala taught me that language is a barrier I can break. I am also concerned about being homesick.