Service-Learner Earns MU’s First Peace Corps Prep Award

Dana Humphrey holding a child in Ghana.
Dana Humphrey served as a health education advocate in Ghana as part of Mizzou’s Peace Corps Prep Program.

In December, St. Louis native Dana Humphrey graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from MU. Along with this degree, Humphrey received the Minor in Leadership and Public Service, the Multicultural Certificate and was MU’s first awardee of the Peace Corps Prep Award.

The Peace Corps Prep Award is presented to students who complete the 16-credit-hour MU Peace Corps Prep Program, which helps students prepare for the Peace Corps application, develop academic coursework and field experiences and enhances long-term Peace Corps career development.

Nine course hours of the Peace Corps Prep Program are service-learning classes that equate to at least 105 documented community service hours and are intended to expose students to potential Peace Corps service situations. These service hours are completed locally or abroad with the Office of Service-Learning’s Global Service Programs.

Humphrey served as an English teacher in South Korea through the Teach and Learn Korea program and as a health education advocate in the Ghana Global Service Program.

“My experiences in Korea and southern Ghana made a huge difference in helping me to prepare for the Peace Corps,” Humphrey says. “One of the biggest services that Peace Corps volunteers provide is education in all sorts of topics. By learning how to create lessons and practicing speaking to students, I was able to gain confidence in my ability to teach others, among many other things.”

While in Ghana, Humphrey spent time serving for The Blessing Basket Project, a non-profit based in St. Louis that helps reduce poverty of artisans throughout the world through the sale of weaved baskets. Humphrey helped develop website materials, gather information for publication from the artisans and complete other tasks as necessary.

This service was unaffiliated from the university, meaning Humphrey served alone without other students, which gave her yet another view of her capability to serve.

“Being there on my own made such a difference in my ability to think, ‘Yes, I can do this,’” Humphrey says. “Surviving without running water, learning to cook food in the way of Ghanaian culture, providing instruction – it gave me a sense of strength and was a determining factor for me to apply to the Peace Corps.”

Lebo Moore, MU Peace Corps recruiter, says that applications to the Peace Corps increased by 70 percent in 2014 compared to 2013, making it even more important for potential applicants to hone their skills based off of specific service sites they are interested in.

“You have to be good at catering your resume and making sure you have the skills for the location you’re applying for,” Moore says.

Humphrey applied to the Peace Corps in January and is currently under consideration for a service position in Peru.

“What’s really great about Dana is that she has located exactly what she wants to do and made sure she has the skill set for what the Peace Corps is looking for,” Moore says. “She was always interested in Peru and she knew what she would have to do to get recognized for it.”

“She was phenomenal in the program,” says Jason Kinnear, MU Peace Corps Prep Program instructor. “The level of dedication and determination she had was impressive and she had a very focused and obvious desire to serve and have an impact on others.”

Humphrey will know in March if she has been selected for Peru. If selected, she will leave for a two-year service period in  August.

Peace Corps volunteers live and work alongside the people they serve in countries that have requested assistance. They partner with local governments, schools, communities, small businesses and entrepreneurs to create sustainable, community-based projects that address changing and complex needs across six sectors: Youth in Development, Agriculture, Environment, Community Economic Development, Health and Education.

The Peace Corps provide volunteers housing and a living stipend to cover food and incidentals.

“I’m grateful to have been exposed to the service experiences that I have, which taught me so much about myself, the world, different cultures and peoples, and the importance of giving back,” Humphrey says. “If a student is even slightly interested in the Peace Corps, they should participate in the Peace Corps Prep Program. Students will gain a better understanding of whether the Peace Corps is right for them.”