By: Jalen McNeal
Dionte Driskell is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV), Morehouse graduate, business owner, and avid traveler. I had the opportunity to interview Dionte on his Peace Corps experience and how it has given breath to his current lifestyle as a Rwandan resident, stress-free entrepreneur, agriculturalist, and adventurer. Following his graduation from Morehouse in 2010, with an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Leadership Studies, Dionte embarked on a life-changing journey with the Peace Corps immediately after– at the ripe age of 22. As part of his Leadership Studies at Morehouse, Dionte participated in a study abroad opportunity in South Africa that ignited a passion and curiosity for the African continent. He explained:
We served for maybe about 2-3 months in South Africa and that trip kind of opened up my eyes and I got the passion to explore more of Africa. It wasn’t my first time being abroad, but it was my first time being on the continent of Africa. After graduation, the economy was in a recession and kind of rebuilding– there weren’t many options as it pertains to work per se, so the Peace Corps gave me that opportunity to go back to Africa following graduation.
After returning from the study abroad trip, Dionte continued with his undergraduate studies while synchronistically hearing about the Peace Corps through conversations with peers, homecoming festivities, and self-motivated research. In light of the colloquial American rat race that many college graduates find themselves running, Dionte ensured his post-graduate experience would be characterized by his passions, genuine interest, and service-oriented mentality, which are facets that are often sacrificed in exchange for the prize at the end of the race. After applying to the Peace Corps the summer following graduation, Dionte was off to Rwanda.
While serving as a volunteer, Dionte completed the TEFL (teaching English as a foreign language) certification and taught English as his primary assignment while simultaneously building water tanks, facilitating community engagement initiatives, and traveling. He emphasized that while the Peace Corps does assign tasks based on the volunteer’s respective sector, volunteers must have the capacity to take initiative, adapt to different working environments, be innovative, and maintain an open mind. Upon completing two rich years of service in Rwanda, Dionte shared his experiences following his completion with the Peace Corps:
Upon finishing with the Peace Corps, I took some time vacationing around Africa–East Africa– going to Zanzibar, Tanzania, and just traveling through different countries that I wanted to visit. I think I finished Peace Corps in 2012 and arrived back in the states around 2013. Upon arriving in the states, I knew I wanted to work with kids in education, so I worked in D.C. for a bit as a program coordinator and did that until having to return back to Atlanta. In Atlanta, I mentored and taught part-time. I was also working with the Department of Human Services/Family and Children’s Services. I was also working with Leslie; we were starting a project where we were giving out passports and doing lectures/talks/discussions about the Peace Corps and traveling abroad– getting more youth and people of color (POC) to engage in international affairs.
Some time passed, and though Dionte was doing impactful work, an opportunity birthed from the need to depart from the stress of the 9-5 American work culture presented itself– an opportunity that allowed him to return to Rwanda. He already had a base in Rwanda that involved shipping different Rwandan products to family members and friends in the states. This base evolved into a clothing business that fabricated items from different African fabrics. With Dionte’s entrepreneurial spirit and skills, he was also able to open a successful tea & coffee shop. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, he had to cease operations with his business endeavors and is now focusing on developing a skill set in the agricultural industry. As you– the reader– can see, Dionte has maintained the skills of flexibility, adaptability, and stick-to-itiveness that are necessary to be a successful Peace Corps volunteer and global citizen. As our world constantly transforms and adapts to changing economic, political, environmental, and social conditions, let us use these skills as a means to survival, progress, and sustainability. Dionte closed our interview by sharing these words of wisdom:
If you’re interested in the Peace Corps, it’s definitely a great avenue. It gives you a lot of time to reflect. I would recommend the Peace Corps to people of color who maybe want to travel abroad, but just don’t have the means… it definitely provides the opportunity to explore the world. I encourage everyone to remove all western ideals prior to serving; the world is so much bigger and there is lots to see– lots of cultures to see. When serving, be open, flexible, free, and curious… it’s lots to see, a lot of adventure, a lot of opportunities. If you are open and willing, opportunities will fall into your lap.Dionte Driskell