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Celebrating 50 Years of the Peace Corps: A National Call to Service

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps, the Career Center is sponsoring an exhibit at the Dining Hall, featuring alumni experiences with the organization. The college’s records indicate that approximately 40 alumni have volunteered over the years.

Each day, Dec. 12-16, news.hiram.edu will profile one alumni’s experience. Please continue to check back, and be sure to stop by the Dining Hall exhibit by Dec. 16 to learn even more.

Next: Chris Szell: ‘To Foster Peace and Friendship’

Name: Jeannine Tonetti ‘65

Major at Hiram: Philosophy

Tonetti joined the Peace Corps directly after graduating from Hiram College in 1965, just four years after former president John F. Kennedy created the program. She served in the Kurdish area of Turkey from 1965-67, teaching English as a foreign language.

Why did you decide to join the Peace Corps?

After spending four years learning, Tonetti said she wanted to get out and do something, and the Peace Corps allowed her that opportunity.

In 1965, the organization didn’t have the 50-year history that it has today, but she was motivated by then-President Kennedy’s call for Americans to serve their country.

“Kennedy was our idol then,” Tonetti said. “We got this thing going for service abroad and the whole environment was inspiring.”

How did it enhance your education?

“I learned how to think, to not assume that what I thought was correct, to doubt, to inquire, to be curious,” Tonetti said. “That certainly contributed to my desire to find out about other cultures.”

How has it influenced your life to this point?

After returning from the Peace Corps, Tonetti’s experience in Turkey played a part in her decision to get a master’s degree in nursing.

The lack of women’s health care in Turkey at the time struck her – there was a lack of access to doctors and other women’s health resources, and many women died in childbirth. Tonetti now works as a nurse practitioner in gynecology.

What are your most vivid memories?

Tonetti said she remembers the village lifestyle she experienced while serving in the Peace Corps – “the warmth and hospitality of the Turks” and “the emotion of being in this community where everybody accepted you.”

“Everybody wanted you to be there,” she said.

What advice would you share for a student considering the Peace Corps?

Though the Peace Corps doesn’t guarantee placement in an applicant’s preferred countries, Tonetti recommended those applying choose a country whose history interests them.

“Put your education into action,” she said. “I always had an interest in ancient history and archaeology.”

She calls the Peace Corps the best anti-terrorism program the United States has, and said volunteers really can contribute to the country.

“If you’re open to learning and you’re open to giving, you will change,” she said. “… You’re happy when you give, not when you receive.”

 

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