Cristian Cedacero '12
Four members of the Classes of 2012 have been accepted to join the Peace Corps, exemplifying the continued commitment of the Colleges, a top producing school for the Peace Corps, and its students to community service and volunteerism. Cristian Cedacero ’12, Caitlin Hughes ’12, Katie Serock ’12 and Jade Vasquez ’12 will begin their two-year commitments to the organization this fall, working to promote international understanding and providing aid to those most in need.
“This is a truly impressive achievement, and one that positively reflects the hard work of these students and the institution as a whole,” says President Mark D. Gearan, former director of the Peace Corps from 1995 to 1999. “Having four students accepted to serve such a worthy cause shows a steadfast dedication to creating change and engaging with community in a meaningful way.”
Cristian Cedacero ’12, a sociology major, will serve his term with the Peace Corps in sub- Saharan Africa. Although Cedacero anticipates a difficult journey – he also awaits it eagerly. It is through struggle, Cedacero believes, that we can initiate change.
“I want to create change; I want to make a difference. Throughout our college careers we learn about the problems of the world, and I think the Peace Corps is a good way to start attempting to solve some of those problems,” says Cedacero. “I want to dedicate my life to making this world a better place for all – and the Peace Corps is the first step for me.”
Caitlin Hughes '12
Caitlin Hughes ’12, an international relations major, will be serving as an English teacher with the Peace Corps, although her placement has yet to be determined. She traces her desire to join the Peace Corps back to her time in high school, where a favorite teacher, who was a returned volunteer, shared his experiences. “His stories lit up the room,” recalls Hughes. “I wanted that life and passion he had.” At William Smith, Hughes says she was exposed to the incredible service work of the students, staff and faculty on campus and saw the impact their work had on the community. Her experiences studying abroad in Nicaragua, South Africa and Jordan also left a lasting impression.
“Everything I have done on campus has helped me gain confidence that I can serve abroad for two years, do something bold and different - and thrive doing so,” says Hughes, who has served as a chair for the Day of Service, worked as an America Reads tutor, and participated in the Alternative Spring Break and Leadership programs. Hughes hopes that the knowledge she gains while volunteering will help her pursue a career in economic development – marrying her passion for change with her interest in economics.
Katie Serock '12
Katie Serock ’12, an environmental studies major, will be serving in Central or South America as an environmental educator. A Latin American studies minor, Serock couldn’t be happier with her placement. Although Serock has always dreamed of aiding others through the Peace Corps, it was her recent internship with the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine, that prompted her to apply. Her manager at the refuge was a former AmeriCorps volunteer who spoke of the life-changing nature of service work.
“Since my study abroad experience in Argentina, all I have wanted to do is travel and experience new people and cultures,” reflects Serock. “The Peace Corps is the perfect program to immerse myself in a country, while facilitating people with their community’s needs. Hopefully as an environmental educator, I will be working specifically in the agricultural field and will be able to gain hands- on experience and bring it back to the United States with me – and maybe even develop my own farm.”
Jade Vasquez '12
Jade Vasquez ’12, an international relations and Spanish and Hispanic studies double major, will be serving in North Africa, the Middle East or Asia where she will be teaching Secondary English. Vasquez’s decision to join the Peace Corps is closely tied to her career at William Smith and she cites the mentorship of President Gearan as a major influence. Her time abroad sealed the deal. “It wasn’t until I went abroad to Spain, Ecuador and Peru that I witnessed real poverty firsthand,” explains Vasquez.
In Spain, Vasquez spent her time volunteering as a teacher’s assistant at Fundación Balia, a nonprofit organization that guides immigrant children through their immersion into the Spanish language, culture and education system. “A lot of these children and their families lived in the poorest neighborhoods in Madrid,” recalls Vasquez. “After spending a couple of months with them and learning about their experiences in their native countries, I realized that I wanted to go abroad again – but this time in a less wealthy country.”
Thus Vasquez went to Ecuador and Peru, where she learned a great deal about the social, political and economic issues of a developing country. “My experiences volunteering and studying in Latin American seemed so short,” explains Vasquez. “I always felt that had I been there a little bit longer, I would have a more significant impact; I think the Peace Corps will allow me time to do just that.”