Kennedy's Peace Corps vision lives on at 'U'

BY BY JO

Published February 3, 2006

The legacy then-Sen. John F. Kennedy set in place by proposing the Peace Corps on the steps of the Michigan Union 45 years ago continues at the University.

The University had more of its graduate students join the 7,810-member corps in 2005 than any other school in the country.

Counting both graduate and undergraduate students, the University sent the sixth most into the corps. Seventy-six students entered the corps - nine less than the 85 who joined in 2004.

Temi Ifafore, who graduated from the School of Public Health last year, will join the 22 alumni from University graduate schools.

The University of Wisconsin at Madison had the second most with 18 volunteers, and George Washington University finished third with 17.

"At first, I didn't think it was something I could do because I wasn't an undergrad," she said.

When she discovered the corps needed students with higher degrees as well, she said, she jumped at the chance.

Since 1961, more than 2,145 University students have joined the Peace Corps, fourth among all schools.

Wisconsin sent 28 more alumni than the University of Michigan in 2005, taking the top spot for the 20th year in a row.

Scott Roskelley, spokesman for the Chicago region Peace Corps, said he believes the University could win the number one spot if it promoted the corps more.

"Any time the University of Michigan would like to overtake the University of Wisconsin, we'd like to see it," Roskelley said.

University alum Tom Napolitano, who is the treasurer for the Southeast Michigan Return Peace Corps, a Peace Corps alumni group, said recruitment is important to continuing the legacy of the corps.

Napolitano's group works with the local Peace Corps recruitment office to talk with prospective volunteers and offer financial support.

The University has a history of support for the Peace Corps. After Kennedy proposed the idea, students from the group Americans Committed to World Responsibility collected 1,000 signatures on a petition demanding implementation of a Peace Corps program. Less than one month after receiving their petition, Kennedy signed an executive order establishing the Peace Corps.