Grinnell College earns spot on Peace Corps’ annual Top Schools rankings

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Peace Corps Volunteer Pete Brands in Panama.

CHICAGO – For the second year in a row, Grinnell College has earned a spot on Peace Corps’ annual list of the top volunteer-producing colleges and universities. With 11 alumni currently serving overseas as Peace Corps volunteers, Grinnell ranks No. 21 among small schools nationwide.

Since the agency was created in 1961, 367 Grinnell graduates have made a difference as Peace Corps volunteers. Continue reading

Volunteer project spotlight: Grinnell alum digs deep to adjust to life in Panama

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Peace Corps Volunteer Pete Brands measures carefully as he works with counterparts to install a latrine.

Peace Corps Volunteer Pete Brands, who graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa in 2004, filed this dispatch from Panama, where he is serving with his wife, Kelly.

Since arriving in May of last year we are finally getting used to all the differences and feel like we have integrated into our community. I serve in the environmental health sector, which means I am primarily involved in latrine and aqueduct projects. My wife serves in the sustainable agriculture sector, which focuses on getting farmers to implement practices that reduce erosion and chemical dependency.

Even though we are in Panamá, we live in the mountains and it can actually get cold at night – what a wonderful thing! Some of the hardest things to adjust to were: being around people and not being able to understand or speak their language (the national language is Spanish, but they speak an indigenous language here most of the time); the food (boiled green bananas for example); how shy people are; the fact that “on time” doesn’t exist; and the lack of privacy. Life is great here in the mountains — we can see the Pacific Ocean from trails we take to get to other villages, and much of the food we eat is grown right around our community. We know a lot of the community members, and we often stop by houses for a visit and a guaranteed laugh. Continue reading

Grinnell College returns to Peace Corps’ annual Top Schools rankings

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Peace Corps Volunteer Andrea Leiser, a Grinnell alum, with the two boys she selected to attend a boys’ gender equality camp in Benin.

CHICAGO – Grinnell College jumped 32 spots to re-enter Peace Corps’ annual list of the top volunteer-producing small colleges and universities across the country after a two-year absence. With 16 alumni currently serving overseas as Peace Corps volunteers, an increase of three volunteers over last year, the school ranks No. 8 and remains a solid source of individuals committed to making a difference at home and abroad. Since the agency was created in 1961, 365 Grinnell graduates have served as Peace Corps volunteers.

“Every year, graduates of colleges and universities across the United States are making a difference in communities overseas through Peace Corps service,” said Acting Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet (Peace Corps Volunteer, Western Samoa, 1981-83). “As a result of the top-notch education they receive, these graduates are well prepared for the challenge of international service. They become leaders in their host communities and carry the spirit of service and leadership back with them when they return home.”

Peace Corps Volunteer Andrea Leiser, of Bloomington, Minn., graduated from Grinnell in 2010 with a degree in anthropology. As an education volunteer currently serving in Benin, she teaches English and introduces other teachers to new methodologies and teaching aids, a sustainable solution that builds local capacity. In her secondary projects, Leiser focuses on girls’ empowerment. Continue reading