Alumni as Peace Corps Ambassadors
But if the life will not be easy, it will be rich and satisfying. For every young American who participates in the Peace Corps—who works in a foreign land—will know that he or she is sharing in the great common task of bringing to man that decent way of life which is the foundation of freedom and a condition of peace.”
—President John F. Kennedy 1961 - 1963
This year, the Peace Corps will commemorate 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Montclair State University has had the honor of contributing to the lofty goals set forth by President Kennedy when he introduced this great initiative. Since 1961, more than 127 graduates from Montclair State University have served in the Peace Corps. Last year, eight graduates were in service.
To date, more than 200,000 Americans have served in 139 countries since President Kennedy signed the 1961 Executive Order creating the Peace Corps. Today, the Peace Corps has 8,655 volunteers and trainees serving in 77 countries, who work on developing self-sustaining projects in education, business, health, environment, and agriculture.
The Peace Corps provides an opportunity for alumni in all stages of life to apply the knowledge they acquired while students at Montclair State University and to help improve the lives of people in lesser-developed countries. Volunteering with the Peace Corps is not a one-way street -volunteers find that on many different levels, they learn from the people they are helping in these underdeveloped countries. The experiences of a Peace Corps volunteer provides invaluable lessons that are then taken back home and shared when they go out into the world to rejoin society.
Payont Jatasanont ′00 served in Romania on an environmental management and education project. Jatasanont’s host family lived in Cantina, and he found he was not only changing the lives of the people he worked with, but his own life changed as well. He recounts how while in service, he met a Romanian friend whose home was located on the countryside. “His family was very welcoming and treated me like one of their children. We still remain in touch through email,” Jatasanont said. His host organization, Ecological Society Aquaterra, was comprised of volunteers with educational backgrounds in economic development, information technology, and the health field.
“One of the reasons I attended graduate school at Montclair State was to become a Peace Corps volunteer,” he said. “Nearly a quarter of Peace Corps volunteers have backgrounds in education, and Montclair State University’s stellar reputation, particularly the College of Education and Human Services, lends itself to a student’s path to the Peace Corps.” Furthermore, Jatasanont says, “Montclair State was one of the few schools in the tri-state area that offered the program I wanted to study─environmental management.”
Linda Keuntje ′01 graduated from Montclair State University with a major in Linguistics. Keuntje said she knew since she was a senior in high school that she wanted to be a Peace Corps volunteer someday. After her college graduation, she lived in Japan and studied English as a Second Language before joining the organization in 2007.
Keuntje was stationed in Turkmenistan on a Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Teacher Training project. She said, “Turkmenistan is an unknown country, which is very closed off. Walking in someone else’s shoes sounds a lot easier than it actually is.” Keuntje explains that as a volunteer, she learned to celebrate the little successes and the process of personal discovery in figuring out “who you are and what you can do.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.” Peace Corps volunteers put that old adage into practice and inspire all by their commitment to a cause that benefits all humanity.
Montclair State University pays tribute to our alumni who choose to take the journey down this difficult but rewarding path.