RIT’s Peace Corps Prep program to open doors for deaf community

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There are only 120 universities in the country that can say they offer the Peace Corps Prep program.

Now, RIT joins that list as the first school in Western New York to receive this designation. Rochester Institute of Technology has received the Peace Corps Prep designation enabling students to take certain classes to better prepare them for service upon graduation.

For RIT students who are intellectually curious and globally conscious, the school’s new Peace Corps initiative can be a stepping-stone to their future.

“RIT’s Peace Corps Prep program will prepare students to serve in the Peace Corps itself or for a variety of careers including foreign service and international nonprofits,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Granberg.

The Peace Corps has produced thousands of volunteers ranging from local lawmakers like State Sen. Samra Brouk (D-Rochester) to individuals like Maya Penn, who is currently a graduate student at RIT working at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Penn also received her bachelor’s degree at RIT.

“My experience was wonderful; it’s irreplaceable. I experienced so much growth in the two years that I participated there. It was incremental growth, but it was exceptional,” Penn said.

Since the Peace Corps was established under President John F. Kennedy, Jr., approximately 2,000 deaf people like Penn have served as volunteers, and the push continues to broaden the diversity of its volunteers, especially in underserved communities.

“Here in the U.S., deaf education is a luxury. In places like Africa, there are no formal systems like we have here in the U.S., so having a deaf adult with education is important,” Penn said.

Having served in Ghana for the Peace Corps, Penn hopes to encourage more deaf people like her to help make a difference abroad.

“Know that you’ll be a role model because many people have never seen a successful deaf adult. In other countries, deaf people have limited opportunities. They’re not allowed access to many things, so individuals should think about how they would like to role model and represent being deaf,” Penn said.

Graduates accepted into the Peace Corps commit 27 months of service, usually in a developing country where they live and work in the community they serve. Often volunteers live with a family and work in areas such as education, agriculture, health or community development.