WIU's Peace Corps Fellows program is receiving about $30,000 more in federal money this year. That's enough to let three more students enroll this fall.
The program allows former Peace Corps members to spend a year earning a free master’s degree from Western while working part-time in McDonough County.
“We are tapping in on those skills they developed and refined as Peace Corps volunteers overseas and we are applying them to small, rural communities in Illinois," said Karen Mauldin-Curtis, the program's manager.
Students then spend a second year in another rural Illinois community working full-time on economic development projects, helping small businesses and creating jobs. Typically, a community pays $25,000 to participate. Although frequently grant money is available to offset the cost.
“But what we are really wanting them to do is lay the foundation, put the right people in place, mobilize those local resources, and by local resources I mean people as well as money, to have success longer term in those communities," Mauldin-Curtis said. "Because then our state is better off longer term.”
This year, the program received $159,600 in funding from the Corporation in National and Community Service.
Western’s Peace Corps Fellows program is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Mauldin-Curtis said 100% of the program's graduates in the last three year's have found employment in their field of study.