Thursday, August 22, 2013

UA's Peace Corps Fellows Program: Tucson BrightSpot

Over a decade ago, my HUD colleague, Ric Gerakos, asked me to arrange a meeting with UA "powers that be" to brainstorm the idea of bringing the Peace Corps Fellows Program to the UA Grad College.  He had experience with the success of this program in California and, with our Tucson and Phoenix HUD offices working together, he planted the seeds at NAU, ASU and UA.  The seed has flourished at the UA which now houses the 2nd largest Peace Corps Fellows Program in the USA. .  Currently, twenty-seven different UA academic programs support the Fellows' academic careers. Most are seeking master's degree but an increasing number take on the doctoral track. This year there are twenty-six new Fellows and three returning Fellows who have served in over twenty different countries while in the Peace Corps.

At the University of Arizona, the program has been nurtured by Georgia Ehlers (and other staff).  Georgia is in the red dress in the photo below.  Each fall a reception is held for incoming fellows and agencies and programs who attempt to get matched with a Fellow.  Community Renaissance was fortunate, when our PECE program was temporarily housed at the College of Education, to recruit a work-study Fellow, Beau James, who has helped with a wide range of community dialogue and conversation events.  Base grad tuition is waived for 2 years with possible additional scholarships for the students and, if it applies credit internships and/or work-study placements.  In return, students complete projects with their matched agency or program.  It's a Win-Win for everyone. 

I attend each year, reminiscing to myself how this program started and that it is probably my primary HUD legacy.  It's also a joyful time to listen to past Fellows, many who have gained professional employment with Tucson agencies, share their story about how this program has changed their lives.  It has changed our Tucson community, as well--and deserves to have attention as a Tucson BrightSpot!

No comments: