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Pittsfield Metro Area Ranks In Top 10 Locations For Peace Corps Volunteers

By Lucas Willard

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-996624.mp3

Pittsfield, MA – The Pittsfield metropolitan area, including Williams College and MCLA, hosts an average of 8.5 Peace Corps volunteers for every 100,000 residents. This means, per capita, Pittsfield ranks 10th in nationwide metro areas' Peace Corps volunteers, right behind Roseburg, Oregon with a rate of 8.7. The top metro area on the list is Missoula Montana, with a rate of 14.7 volunteers per 100,000 residents. The numbers are determined by the Peace Corps according to the most recent US census and volunteers' self reporting.

The Peace Corps was established in 1961 after a challenge by then-Senator John F. Kennedy to University of Michigan students to volunteer peacefully by living and educating in developing nations around the world. Today there are over 9,000 serving active volunteers.

A source of the strong number of Peace Corps volunteers in Berkshire County come from Williams College. Jennifer McFann is a recruiter for the Peace Corps based in New York. She drives up to Western Mass often for recruiting.
Scott Lewis is the Director of the Williams College Outing Club and an Assistant Professor of Physical Education.

Lewis served in the Peace Corps in 1980, in Liberia, after joining right after he graduated from college in Springfield. As a teacher, he often shares his experiences with Peace Corps with his students.
The average age for a Peace Corps volunteer is 28. But that doesn't mean that all are so young. Jennifer McFann says that she sees a diverse age-range in applicants.

McFann also noted that she's seen an increase since she began recruiting in 2008. She attributes some of the increase to President Obama's call for more volunteer service after he took office. The poor economy could have also some effect on the increase in numbers. Many graduating students or people beginning their careers see the Peace Corps as 27 months of valuable experience.