Cornell, Peace Corps making an impact

Maria: Carly and I have taken a road most certainly less traveled to arrive at our homes as agriculture-focused Peace Corps volunteers in rural Paraguay.

Carly Pierson ’17 (left) Maria Goodfellow ’16 serve as Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay.
Carly Pierson ’17 (left) Maria Goodfellow ’16 serve as Peace Corps volunteers in Paraguay.

We both came to Cornell not knowing each other or knowing what to expect from our Hilltop home. Carly was drawn in by the winding country roads she would tackle on the cross country team. I went eager to compete in courtrooms across the country with the mock trial team.

It wasn’t until my senior year, and Carly’s junior year, that we were both enrolled in an anthropology course led by professor Alfrieta Monagan (who we all lovingly called Mom-agan as she shepherded us around) in San Salvador, The Bahamas. During that course we learned what it feels like to live outside our own culture.

Carly and I agree that the small groups and intensity of the block plan at Cornell helped us to excel during Peace Corps training, during long hours of both Spanish, Guarani, and technical agricultural training.

We both think back to those warm Bahamian nights and are thankful we experienced the discomfort and excitement of being outside our comfort zone, unable to understand the customs or communicate as we normally would. It made jumping into Paraguay a little bit easier.

Carly: Cornell College and the Peace Corps have something in common: Both prepare students and volunteers to make the most positive impact possible.

What does this impact look like? For Cornell graduates, it’s contributing valuable skills to their communities and professional fields. For Peace Corps volunteers, the answers vary. It could be building fogones (brick ovens for safer and smoke-free cooking), planting green manures in fields for better crop production, or teaching English to non-native speakers.

What does it take? At Cornell, it takes the dedication of faculty, the support of friends, family, and classmates, and many hours of hard work. In the Peace Corps, it takes the support of the Peace Corps staff and fellow volunteers, the initiative taken by volunteers themselves, and most importantly, the commitment and perseverance of community members.

Every day builds on the one before—one class at a time, one brick at a time.

The shared goal of Cornell and the Peace Corps is to create connections between people. Both shape dedicated, hardworking individuals who care about the world and use their skills to build capacity. Ultimately they make a difference in their own lives and the lives of those around them.

Read more about Maria, Carly, and other Cornellians in the Peace Corps.