Prominent Leaders Call on African Americans to Join the Peace Corps
May 2, 2000WASHINGTON, D.C., May 2, 2000—National Summit on Africa CEO Leonard Robinson and University of the District of Columbia President Julius Nimmons have spent their lives serving others. While their careers differ greatly, they share a common starting point: the Peace Corps.
Now both distinguished leaders are encouraging African Americans to jumpstart their professional lives by helping people in developing countries as Peace Corps volunteers. Robinson and Nimmons recently attended Peace Corps recruiting events at Howard University and the University of the District of Columbia, respectively.
"It would take a young African American 15 or 20 years to get the kind of experience and the kind of credibility, say, from a private corporation, or even the Foreign Service, that they can get from the Peace Corps," said Andrew Young, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and mayor of Atlanta. Young is now a national co-chair of the National Summit on Africa.
The Peace Corps ranks second on The Black Collegian magazine's list, "The Top 100 Employers for the Class of 2000," up two spots from last year. The number of people of color in the Peace Corps has more than doubled over the past decade, from 6 percent in 1989 to 15 percent today. The agency is committed to recruiting a more ethnically diverse volunteer corps.
"There is no question in my mind that Peace Corps served as a springboard, a launching pad, for my career in international development," said Robinson, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in India from 1964 to 1966. As President and CEO of the National Summit on Africa, a Washington-based nonprofit organization, Robinson organized an unprecedented international conference attended by more than 5,000 people in February. Summit delegates produced 254 recommendations for U.S. policy toward Africa.
Julius Nimmons, a Peace Corps volunteer in Tunisia from 1962 to 1964, assumed the presidency of the University of the District of Columbia in April 1998. He is credited with stabilizing the university's finances, negotiating its continued accreditation by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and redefining its priorities for the 21st century. The Peace Corps has launched the careers of many other prominent African Americans, including Elaine Jones, director-counsel and president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, renowned sculptor Martin Puryear, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Leon Dash.
Currently, nearly 200 African Americans are serving as Peace Corps volunteers in more than 60 countries from Antigua to Ukraine. Most serve in African countries, but many work in Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Pacific and Mediterranean regions.
With 300 volunteer positions available, people who interview with the Peace Corps by May 15 can be placed overseas by summer. Those interested in applying can call 800-424-8580, or visit the Peace Corps' Web site at www.peacecorps.gov for more information. The agency has made applying easier than ever with a new online application.
Today nearly 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers serve in 77 countries around the world, working to fight hunger, prevent the spread of AIDS, protect the environment, teach children, promote health and nutrition, and start small business. Since 1961, more than 155,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.