Engelken ’22 selected for Peace Corps in Mexico

Cornell College senior Jake Engelken is ready to put his degree to use as a Peace Corps volunteer in central Mexico.

Jake Engelken with tennis nets and a brick wall behind him.
Jake Engelken ’22

This environmental studies major will spend three months training and will work for the country’s Secretary for the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) on a climate change resiliency and awareness project. 

“The Peace Corps to me is the premier agency to accomplish community development goals in developing countries, and I’m so glad I’ll be able to work with them,” Engelken said.

Engelken became interested in a position with the Peace Corps following a campus meeting with a representative from the governmental organization his sophomore year. Ever since then, he’s been working toward his goal of becoming a Peace Corps volunteer. Engelken, who minored in Spanish, is excited to put both his major and minor to use when he arrives in Mexico in September. 

“I’m most looking forward to learning about Mexican culture from a local perspective,” Engelken said. “I’ve learned so much about the country from school, pop culture, and current events, but I feel like I’m missing the true nature of what it’s like to live in Mexico. My family has visited Tijuana, Cabo, and Cancun on vacations.  I’ve lived in Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic for extended periods of time, but I’ve always felt like I’ve been missing an understanding of our southern neighbor.  Mexico has such an important cultural influence on the U.S. and the rest of Latin America, and I have the opportunity to be there representing the U.S. in a positive manner.”

Volunteering has been important to this senior well before he arrived at Cornell. And from his first year on the Hilltop, he’s been involved in civic engagement projects and community service whenever he had the opportunity. He’s been involved in participating and leading several Alternative Breaks trips where students travel to a destination, often outside the state, to volunteer during spring or winter break.

Students and advisors standing outside holding a Cornell "C" flag and smiling.
This year’s Alternative Break trip to Biloxi, Mississippi, during Spring Break.

“Overall, I’ve been a participant on two trips and led three of them,” Engelken said. “I’ve used these trips and leadership experiences as a practice to hone the skills that I’ll use during my Peace Corps service like flexibility and problem-solving.”

They’re skills that will be put to use right away as he works to make a difference in the country.

“I hope to move in and be able to accurately assess what kind of project the community I’m working in could benefit from,” Engelken said. “I’ll feel successful in this if I can involve community members and stakeholders in the process of deciding what kind of projects that will be and how we will execute them. I’m really hoping the SEMARNAT agency has political sway and power in environmental decision-making because if that’s the case the projects might be more scientific-based as well as community education.”

Engelken will be working as a Peace Corps volunteer for 27 months.