Graham ’16 finds joy in Peace Corps service

Claire Graham ’16 doesn’t let a day go by in which she isn’t putting her Cornell College degree to good use.

She spent her time on the Hilltop majoring in English and earning a secondary education certification. 

Claire Graham ’16 on a beach
Claire Graham ’16

Now she lives on a small, four-mile island in the country of Sāmoa where she’s an education volunteer with the Peace Corps.

“I volunteer as an English literacy instructor in a primary school doing pull-out groups with grades four, five, and six, as my lessons look different with every group,” she said. “For example, some of the students I work with practice basic letter sounds and writing letters and others are writing book summaries and focusing on critical thinking skills.” 

The Northbrook, Illinois, native says Cornell prepared her for her years of service by helping her embrace change and find joy in every situation.

“The friends I made at Cornell, the professors I worked with, and the atmosphere of Mount Vernon brought so much joy to some very stressful blocks,” she said. “Joy is a cornerstone of Sāmoan culture and every conversation is full of jokes and laughter.”

She spends her free time on the island helping her host grandma prepare leaves to weave mats and watching movies with her host siblings.

Once she’s done with her time as a Peace Corps volunteer, Graham is looking forward to delving further into the education field.

Peace_Corps_Logo“I’d like to explore how education policy is made or look into the tech in the education sector to learn more about ways to improve education outside of the classroom,” she said. “There are so many interesting ways to work in the education field and I’m excited to bring the insight I’ve received from the Peace Corps into something new.”

According to the Peace Corps, Cornell College currently has 10 alumni serving as Peace Corps volunteers, and more than 158 alumni have served since Peace Corps was founded in 1961. In 2018 and 2019, the organization selected Cornell as one of the Peace Corps’ top volunteer-producing colleges.