Three new Elon graduates joining the Peace Corps

A trio from the Class of 2014, including one student who was among the first to complete the requirements of the university’s new Peace Corps Prep Program, will soon head around the world to serve local communities.

Three alumni who earned their degrees in May from Elon University will join the Peace Corps over the next year to serve communities in nations that include Paraguay and Nepal.

Melanie Witman, Cameron Hawkins and Kylee Bushway are among the newest members of an organization whose mission is to promote world peace and friendship through sustainable change on the grassroots level.

The Peace Corps, a volunteer program run by the United States government, enables participants to go abroad for two years to serve in a variety of roles in government, education and service.

Witman, who leaves this summer for Paraguay, represents the first student to successfully complete the requirements of Elon University’s new Peace Corps Prep Program and subsequently accept a position with the Corps immediately following her graduation.

Elon students taking part in the Peace Corps Prep Program complete courses in environmental science, food security, green design, global awareness and foreign language. They also must incorporate 100 hours of volunteer service into their degree plans.

The exercise science major from Pennsylvania had been drawn to the Corps following her involvement in Elon’s Periclean Scholars program. “The Peace Corps mimics a lot of what Periclean Scholars represent,” Witman said. “They are both a sustainable, long-term service kind of thing.”

Because the university’s Peace Corps Prep Program first started in 2013, very few students in the latest graduating class were able to complete its full curriculum, though several did take at least one course.

Hawkins was in the latter group. The biology major from Durham, North Carolina, completed a sustainable food production class and audited a permaculture course. She recently deferred for one year her Peace Corps assignment to Nepal while she completes a fellowship in India with the Comprehensive Rural Health Project.

The fellowship is funded by the Periclean Scholars program, which partnered with the CRHP to help bring medical and educational resources to an impoverished part of the country.

“The Peace Corps is a more organized way to be immersed in a culture and to know a people, their way of life, their religions, their problems,” Hawkins said. “I look at the fellowship as preparing me for the Peace Corps. It will be a great introduction to the culture and understanding of how everything runs before I’m released into a more independent role in the Peace Corps.”

Bushway discovered the Peace Corps through her campus job in the Student Professional Development Center. After meeting a Peace Corps recruiter, the public health studies and psychology double major from New Hampshire approached Elon faculty member Steve Moore – the instructor who oversees the Peace Corps Prep Program – for advice and mentoring.

Like Hawkins, Bushway hadn’t taken many of the prep program’s classes, but her interest in women’s health and youth development earned her acceptance in the Peace Corps. Her tentative departure date is February 2015 and she will receive her assignment in the months ahead. “My skills aligned with what they need and I felt it would be a great experience to grow and learn,” she said.

Moore praised the three students for their dedication to helping a cause greater than themselves.

“I just have the highest admiration and respect for somebody willing to throw themselves into an unknown project in an unknown country with just the thought of wanting to make the world better,” he said. “In today’s world, that’s a huge commitment for any of us to make.”

Two additional students – Dana Hedman and Meredith Bayer – completed requirements of the Peace Corps Prep Program but have yet to apply to the Corps or are pursuing other career aspirations.

– Story by Sarah Mulnick ’17 and Eric Townsend in the Office of University Communications