Greener to the Corps

Evergreen Earns Top Spot on 2012 Peace Corps College Rankings

Jenny Reed with a group of kids waving

Peace Corps volunteer Jenny Reed ’09,had often heard other volunteers talk about how wonderful their service is and all the things they had done. But, she says, “never in my life did I think I could be the catalyst to bring a community into action.”

Twenty Evergreen undergraduate alumni and six graduate alumni currently serve in the Peace Corps, including Reed, who spent the past eighteen months in the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, working with DPK Didar, a nonprofit youth center. More than 200 Evergreen alumni have served as Peace Corps volunteers.

In January, Evergreen was ranked 10th in the nation in the Peace Corps’2012 rankings of volunteer-producing colleges and universities in the small college category (less than 5,000 undergraduates). Evergreen's ranking was up from 11 in 2011.

Reed is not surprised to hear how highly Evergreen ranks, and says her programs and the people she met at the college made her passion for helping people around the world flourish. While in Kazakhstan, she was instrumental in helping the youth center’s staff, parents and students apply for grants through the Peace Corps to rebuild the crumbling basement space where they met, and to purchase new sports equipment. She also got lots of experience improvising new ways to get things done.

Jenny Reed with Kids making masks

In September 2011, her center received about $2,000 from USAID to remodel the center and buy the needed equipment. Although they had the money for supplies, management wouldn’t dedicate money for labor. Once her Kazakh community heard there was one to do the work, the staff, parents and students began volunteering.

“I was surprised to find our dance teacher was not only a talented choreographer, but also skilled in puttying walls,” says Reed. “Our sports trainer could inset windows and helped paint. Our director held meetings with parents addressing their issues, concerns and needs. In a community where every penny is managed and money is in short supply, people were donating. Dads were installing light fixtures and moms were sewing curtains. Due to the community’s proactive involvement and commitment to improve the youth center, the project was sustainable.”

Unfortunately, in November 2011 all Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated from Kazakhstan because of safety concerns, although Reed had not experienced problems. She is now back in the U.S., preparing to enter graduate school to pursue her master’s degree in arts therapy in the fall. “I had a wonderful community that accepted me like a daughter,” she says. “I was heartbroken to leave. Only twelve months into my service, I had already seen the difference my presence made on the community, and found joy in knowing that it will continue after I am gone.”

Photos: Brodie Henry. Opposite page, bottom: Jenny Reed and Brodie Henry volunteered together in Otegen Batyr, Kazakhstan. Photo: Kalkaman Yagudin.