By Molly O'Brien-Foelsch
LEWISBURG, Pa. — For Amanda Roy, it's the prosecution of war crimes and abuses of human rights. For J.J. Parker, it's medical relief in developing countries. For Sithanda Ntuka, it's economic development and the status of women. And for Kirby Thomas, it's individual rights and civil liberties.
After they graduate from Bucknell University on Sunday, these four members of the Class of 2012 will live in different parts of the world, but they'll be working toward a shared goal: achieving justice and human dignity.
Peace Corps work in Tanzania
Amanda Roy is headed to Tanzania, where she'll live in either a rural village or a larger banking town and teach secondary school mathematics. She'll also conduct HIV outreach and education. The two projects are connected.
"Part of the issue with education in Tanzania is that many of the people who are of career age and teaching have been impacted by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region, so the nation is desperately in need of science and mathematics teachers," said Roy.
Roy eventually plans to earn a graduate degree in human rights or international law so that she can prosecute war crimes and human rights abuses. She sees her Peace Corps experience as a fitting launching point for her career.
"I realized this could be the only time in my life that I'd have the opportunity to live and integrate into the life of a developing country, learn the language — Swahili — and give back," said Roy. "This is about a lot more than sending Americans to developing countries to teach English or education local populations. It's about what we can learn from each other on a person-to-person level."
Humanitarian aid in Nicaragua
Like Roy, neuroscience major J.J. Parker will perform humanitarian work before he enrolls in professional school. The future physician has signed up to volunteer in Nicaragua as a program director with Manna Project International, a nonprofit organization that empowers developing communities through collaborative, community-based approaches at sites in Nicaragua, Guatemala and Ecuador.
Parker will teach English and work alongside community members to address community needs in Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere.
"I want to use my energy and passion for service to give back to a developing country, while at the same time I will learn many lessons about humanity and myself," said Parker. "I think next year will be a great opportunity for me to grow as a person and will be an important step for me in meeting my goal of becoming a doctor in the U.S. and providing medical relief in the developing world."
Professional preparation at Harvard Law and PricewaterhouseCoopers
According to Pam Keiser, executive director of Bucknell's Career Development Center, Roy and Parker are part of a small number of students — about three to five percent in each graduating class — who volunteer full-time for a year or two before pursuing employment or enrolling in graduate or professional school. Other young alumni choose to first enter the job market or graduate school and may plan to focus on some aspect of humanitarian work later in their careers.
Take Kirby Thomas. The English and political science major has been accepted to Harvard Law School, where she'll focus on constitutional law. "My dream job is to work for the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm dedicated to defending individuals and businesses whose rights have been violated by the government," she said.
Thomas said her varied academic experiences, internships and work for a campus newspaper helped her develop her writing and critical thinking skills — skills she believes will serve her well in law school.
Sithanda Ntuka also credits her broad academic background as an accounting and women's and gender studies double major, along with several internships, with preparing her to fulfill her goals. After graduation, Ntuka will work as an assurance associate at PricewaterhouseCoopers. But she doesn't plan to spend her career in the finance sector. Instead, like Roy, Parker and Thomas, she has plans to become a humanitarian with global reach.
"In a few years, I want to go to graduate school for a master's in diplomacy and law," she said. "I will hopefully work for an international organization such as the United Nations or the African Development Bank on issues such as economic development, humanitarian issues and improvement of women's status around the world. Eventually, I want to become the Secretary of State of Botswana, my home country."
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