Highest Number of Americans Serving in the Peace Corps in 29 Years

November 29, 2004

WASHINGTON, D.C., November 29, 2004 – Continuing on a trend that has seen volunteers in the field steadily increase over the past two years, Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez is proud to announce a marked increase in Americans serving overseas as Peace Corps volunteers.

The official count for 2004 – taken every year on September 30 for consistency – is 7,733 Peace Corps volunteers serving in 71 countries. This number is up from 7,533 volunteers serving in 2003, representing the highest number of Americans serving in the Peace Corps in 29 years.

"Peace Corps volunteers are to be commended, as it is their dedication that continues to make the Peace Corps relevant today," said Director Vasquez. "The Peace Corps would not be able to achieve these record numbers without the spirit of giving that exemplifies the Peace Corps volunteer."

Applications to the Peace Corps also continue to rise, as nearly 11,000 citizens have applied to become volunteers since the start of 2004. This represents an increase of 10 percent over the same period last year, indicating that the recruitment campaign, "Life is Calling. How Far Will You Go?" continues to resonate with Americans.

Adding to the increase of volunteers and applicants and in keeping with one of the Peace Corps’ three goals – to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served – the Peace Corps continues its efforts to attract a volunteer corps reflecting the extraordinary diversity of America.

As an example, the Peace Corps, in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges, launched its first major concentrated effort specifically targeting community college graduates earlier this year. Community colleges in many ways exemplify the diversity of the U.S. culture and therefore offer an important source of diverse applicants for Peace Corps service. As well, community college graduates have the necessary experience and occupational and technical skills to respond to the critical needs of countries.

In addition to the traditional recruitment campaigns on mainstream college campuses, the Peace Corps has developed partnerships with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Hispanic Serving Institutes. Likewise, the Peace Corps is also reaching out to the Retired Teachers Association and the American Association of Retired Persons in order to tap into the talent pool of retired Americans.

While the number of volunteers in the field reaches a record high, so does the caliber of volunteer. This year, 97 percent of volunteers have at least a bachelor's degree, with 13 percent having a master's degree. Seniors age 50 and over represent 6 percent of volunteers, with the average age of a volunteer being 28 years, and the oldest volunteer turning 82 this month. The number of minorities in the field is 15 percent.

Since 1961, more than 178,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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