Peace Corps Director Gets Valuable Input From Prominent African-American Leaders As Part of Agency’s Diversity Strategy for the 21st Century

Washington, D.C., August 12, 2002–Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez hosted a meeting with prominent members of the African-American communities of metropolitan Washington D.C. in order to strengthen the agency’s diversity strategy for the 21st century, which seeks to increase the number of minority applications by 33 percent over the next five years.

Currently, about three percent of the 7,000 Peace Corps Volunteers serving worldwide are African-American, a number the agency wants to boost. The roundtable was an opportunity to present the Peace Corps’ recruitment strategy to African-American educators, businesspeople, clergy and other community leaders. More importantly, the agency was able to get valuable feedback on the most appropriate methods that should be used to diversify the Peace Corps so that it more accurately reflects the multicultural nature of America.

President George W. Bush has asked the Peace Corps to double the number of Volunteers over the next five years to 14,000. Monday’s roundtable was the second in an ongoing series of planned discussions with America’s ethnic minority leaders about expanding and improving the Peace Corps’ diversity strategy. The first roundtable was with Asian American/Pacific Island leaders.

African-Americans represent nearly 13 percent of the total U.S. population and are seen as an important source of potential Peace Corps Volunteers. Currently, ethnic minorities make up only 15 percent of the overall number of Peace Corps Volunteers. Since 1961, the Peace Corps’ active recruitment of people from different ethnic backgrounds and age groups has played a central role in building the agency’s great legacy of service.

Director Vasquez stressed, “Peace Corps Volunteers are some of the best goodwill ambassadors America can hope to have and it’s important that they portray an accurate picture of who we are collectively as a people. The support and counsel of our friends in the African-American leadership will prove invaluable as we work to increase the number of African-American Volunteers.”

Henry McKoy, Director of the Peace Corps’ Africa region, believes this open dialogue about mutual goals will benefit both the agency and the African-American community. “In my opinion," he said, "this investment by the Peace Corps and African American leaders to work toward improving diversity will pay large dividends through increased Volunteer applications to our agency and an expansion of foreign experience opportunities for minority youth.”

Each year, the Peace Corps sends thousands of trained men and women to live and work in interested countries around the world. The Peace Corps is committed to ensuring that even more people of color can experience the opportunities for professional and personal growth that come with serving as a Volunteer.

More than 165,000 Volunteers have served in 135 countries since the Peace Corps was established in 1961. Today, more than 7,000 Volunteers are helping interested countries address their needs in education, health and HIV/AIDS, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. The Peace Corps also seeks to promote a better understanding of Americans worldwide and foster a greater understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

photo of Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez and Deputy Director Jody Olsen with local African American leaders

Peace Corps Director Gaddi H. Vasquez and Deputy Director Jody Olsen meet with local African American leaders.

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