Eureka metro area one of top producers of Peace Corps volunteers

Eureka mayor notes she is 'proud' of the designation

Peace Corps volunteers sing Cambodian national anthem during a Swearing-in of Peace Corps volunteers in April 2007. The Eureka-Arcata-Fortuna area is one of the top producers of Peace Corps volunteers in the United States. (TANG CHHIN SOTHY/AFP via Getty Images)
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Eureka produces a lot of Peace Corps volunteers compared to the rest of the state and country.

Peace Corps announced Wednesday that the Eureka, Arcata and Fortuna metropolitan area was one of the top volunteer-producing metropolitan areas for the second year in a row, ranking “No. 9 among metropolitan areas with the highest number of volunteers per capita,” according to a statement. There are currently 13 local residents serving worldwide in the Peace Corps, it states.

“Our culture across the board, both in our communities, in our schools and our higher education, is so devoted to service to the community that it makes sense that we have that,” said Eureka Mayor Susan Seaman. “I’m also very proud that we have that.”

Being a university community is a big part of it, Seaman said. Humboldt State University often ranks as one of the colleges producing the most Peace Corps volunteers.

Jonathan Maiullo, an English instructor at College of the Redwoods, said he was living in San Francisco and thinking of going to San Francisco State University for graduate school when he learned Humboldt State was offering a program called Ambassadors International, which allowed students to attend graduate school and the Peace Corps in tandem.

After a year at HSU, Maiullo went to the small town of Yeghegnadzor in Armenia from 2008 to 2010, which he said was a “life-changing event” for him.

“Going to a small town, you have to speak the language, you have to understand culture, you have to adapt to it,” Maiullo said. “You can’t hold onto anything about what you’re accustomed to.”

He said it was a “culture shock to return to the U.S., to everything that was once familiar to you.”

The experience was one Maiullo said he would recommend to anyone. You make lifelong friends and are afforded a lot of opportunities you wouldn’t get elsewhere, he said.

When people hear the experiences of former Peace Corps volunteers who have those memories and share those experiences, Seaman said it encourages other people to join.

Maiullo said he certainly tells his students about joining the Peace Corps once they get their bachelor’s degrees, even if they’re going for their associate’s degree at the time.

The Eureka area tied with State College, Pennsylvania, for the No. 9 spot, and California as a whole ranks No. 1 in terms of the highest total number of volunteers in the Peace Corps, according to the statement.

“Eurekans are among the more than 240,000 Americans who have served around the world in areas such as agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development since 1961,” the release states.

The Peace Corps was established in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to send Americans abroad to work with communities on areas such as health, education and agriculture, among other things.

“The domestic dividend of Peace Corps service cannot be overstated,” Peace Corps Director Jody K. Olsen said in a statement. “Across the United States, communities continue to experience the benefits of volunteers returning home with new skills and perspectives. I am grateful to these communities for instilling a sense of service in their citizens.”

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.

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