University of Nebraska–Lincoln students Carolina Castro, Claire Gillespie and Katie Schmitz have earned a certificate from the Peace Corps for completing Nebraska’s Peace Corps Prep program this fall. All have been invited to serve in the Peace Corps after graduation.
“We are thrilled that Carolina, Claire and Katie were all accepted to serve in the Peace Corps,” said program coordinator Rebecca Baskerville, who was a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco from 2008 to 2010. “They have gained an impressive range of knowledge, skills and experiences that set them up to make a meaningful impact. Through the culminating course led by Dr. Emira Ibrahimpasic, the students had the time and space to explore ethical considerations in international development and confirm that Peace Corps is the right next step for them.”
Castro, of Omaha, is majoring in biological sciences and minoring in Spanish. Castro was a No Kid Hungry youth ambassador with Nebraska Appleseed, a Collective Impact Lincoln intern with Civic Nebraska, a teaching assistant for the Emerging Leaders Program, and the diversity, equity and inclusion director for Chi Omega. Castro joined Peace Corps Prep in spring 2023, choosing health as her sector and Spanish as her language. She received the Lieding Global Impact Scholarship to study in Spain in fall 2023 and will graduate in May 2024. Castro has been invited to serve as a youth health facilitator in Panama, departing in June. In the role, she will support work to increase public general health knowledge and school attendance, reduce teen pregnancies, and stop the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
Gillespie, of Papillion, graduates Dec. 16 with a bachelor’s degree in plant and landscape systems, and minors in international agriculture and natural resources, and specialty crop production. Gillespie has worked at the Nebraska Bee Lab and Green School Farms and as an AmeriCorps service member with Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln. She was among the first students to join Peace Corps Prep in spring 2022, focusing on agriculture and Spanish. She received the Lieding Global Impact Scholarship to study food security, health and nutrition in Zambia in summer 2022. Gillespie has been invited to serve as a food security volunteer in Nepal, departing in January. In the role, Gillespie will work with smallholder farming operations to expand crop diversity, grow extension training (focused on basic ag business skills), teach beekeeping, and provide information on recipes that feature a variety of nutrient-rich foods.
Schmitz, of Omaha, will earn a bachelor’s degree in global studies with a minor in Spanish on Dec. 16. Schmitz works as a nurse aid at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals and volunteers at Clinic With a Heart. She has served in several roles with Hope and Soul in Tanzania and Lincoln and organized a “Taste of Tanzania” fundraiser to raise $9,500 and build a house for a family that had been separated due to insufficient housing. Schmitz joined the first Peace Corps Prep group in spring 2022, focusing on health and Spanish. She received the Lieding Global Impact Scholarship in summer 2022 to study food security, health and nutrition in Zambia. Schmitz has been invited to serve as a rural community health volunteer in Benin, departing in June. In the role, Schmitz will work to promote positive outcomes in maternal and child health, malaria prevention, and youth health and well-being.
Nebraska’s Peace Corps Prep program combines coursework, hands-on experience and professional development to prepare undergraduates for international development fieldwork and potential Peace Corps service by building four competencies: sector-specific skills (in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health or youth in development), foreign language proficiency, intercultural competence, and professional savvy and leadership. Participants take intercultural assessments, receive a study abroad scholarship, engage with peers and local mentors, and take a zero-credit culminating course.
The Peace Corps, a U.S. government agency, “brings together skilled, committed volunteers with welcoming host communities for service opportunities in more than 60 countries. Volunteers live and work side by side with community members on locally prioritized projects, building relationships, exchanging cultures and knowledge, and helping transform lives for generations.” The Peace Corps provides each volunteer with housing, a stipend, transportation, medical benefits, transition funds upon completion of service, and a variety of educational and career benefits. The standard length of service is 27 months: two years, plus three months of training.
Nebraska’s Peace Corps Prep participants are not required to apply to the Peace Corps. For those who do apply, completing the program gives them a competitive edge but does not guarantee acceptance. The application process can be competitive; the number of volunteer openings is lower than pre-pandemic levels as the Peace Corps works to re-establish its programs.
The Global Experiences Office administers the Peace Corps Prep program in partnership with the School of Global Integrative Studies. The program is open to undergraduate students from all colleges. To learn more, click here or contact Rebecca Baskerville at firstname.lastname@example.org.