Volunteerism Takes Center Stage at Morehouse College
by Michael Orlando Moncrieffe
With today’s national minority unemployment rate hovering in the double digits, students were presented an option with the Peace Corps. A panel discussion held at Morehouse College on November 26th introduced students to post graduation alternatives. This year’s event was well attended by friends, families, and prominent leaders in the communities that has served or currently serve in the Peace Corps’ global network.
The event was well attended, and held in Morehouses’ Bank of America Auditorium located at the Massey Leadership Building on campus. It commenced with a meet and greet in the reception hall where attendees were offered an assortment of refreshments, and non-alcohol beverages. Students, family members, and honored guests were able to interact briefly prior to the presentation that was held in the auditorium.
Leslie Jean-Pierre the in-house AUC Peace Corps Recruiter opened the event with a warm welcome to the friends, and families of the Peace Corps. He then introduced Hugh L. Williams a returned Peace Corps Volunteer, which officiated the opening prayer. Mr. Williams a US Diplomat in Residence at Spelman College provides a direct link for students to US State Departments, and government agencies that may have international opportunities. Mr. Williams shared his extensive experience with the Peace Corps, and how it was catalytic to his successes as a member of the Foreign Services for 35 years. He followed by invoking words to the deity for providing support, and strength to those that go out and serve the Peace Corps, and those that support them.
The evening proceeded with inspirational words from Julius E. Coles who is the former President of Africare, and the Director of Morehouse College’s Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership. Mr. Coles has traveled, and worked for over 28 years in various countries, which include Vietnam, Morocco, Nepal, Liberia, Swaziland, and Senegal. He encourages young men and women to travel, learn, and experience as many countries, and cultures as they possibly can. He holds numerous accolades on both national, and international stages, however his proudest may be being the parent of a peace corps volunteer who has followed in his footsteps, by serving others overseas (Benin in 1997-99).
Mr. Coles turned the floor over to the events’ guest speaker Dr. Gerald L. Durley. Dr. Durley was Pastor at Atlanta’s historic Providence Missionary Baptist Church for over 20 years, and is one of the Peace Corps’ founding volunteers. Dr. Durley attended and graduated Tennessee State University where he had planned to play on the basketball team, enhance his skills, and eventually get drafted into the NBA. A directional change of planned occurred after he joined the Peace Corps. He was first dispatched to Nigeria as a volunteer to work with youth programs, which taught him a life lesson to share and serve. After decades of community service today Dr. Durley is an educator, preacher, motivational speaker, and psychologist. Dr. Durley spoke of how the Peace Corps changed his life mainly by learning through exposure, and experience. He feels the Peace Corps is one of the worlds greatest developers of people, and encouraged the audience to support it.
A panel discussion followed. The panel consisted of parents of Peace Corps volunteers that have served or are just coming home from serving throughout the world. With a diverse panel such as this, there was plenty of nostalgia to absorb. Leslie Jean-Pierre moderated the discussion by introducing questions, and concerns that might affect the discussion making process in joining the Peace Corps. Many topics were addressed that ranged from initial perceptions of the Peace Corps, to what they felt their sons, and daughters gained from serving. The audience was then given a chance to address their concerns in volunteering. The panel was offered their experiences on coping with the challenges of having their children living in foreign countries. They spoke of the gains, and growth that their children achieved through volunteering. The panel also spoke of how the Peace Corps enabled their children to learn through volunteerism and opened opportunities to graduate programs, and future careers.
After a comprehensive panel discussion Rulester Davis brought the evening to a close. Davis is President of the Southern Association of Black Peace Corps Volunteers. She spoke briefly of evolved Peace Corps network support opportunities for returnees. Davis thanked the attendees for coming and allowing the Peace Corps community to share their experiences, and applauded the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers that attended.
The evening with friends and families came to a close as the ambitious attendees mingled, and networked with the volunteers, the students and their parents. Today’s organization is not your granddaddy’s Peace Corps. It has skillfully evolved, and extended itself into the community of color. It uses today’s technological advances, has become more volunteer friendly and more adept in the needs of the global community.