BHSU alums dedicate service to the Peace Corps

Author: BHSU Communications/Thursday, March 12, 2015/Categories: 2015







   

   

   

       

            

       

       

            From left, Black Hills State University alum Alex Spencer hikes Harney Peak with his nephews Christian and Matt Dewolfe. Spencer departed for Peace Corps training in February. He will spend two years in Ghana, a country in West Africa, as a community health volunteer.

       

   



Since he was 14, Alex Spencer has wanted to help others.



Now Spencer, a Black Hills State University alum from Rapid City, has deployed to Ghana to begin training with the Peace Corps, a program that sends American&rsquos abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of individuals around the world.



Spencer left earlier this year for Ghana, located in West Africa, where he will spend two years educating and spreading awareness on a variety of health topics that will improve the lives of the people in the community.



Spencer is one of two BHSU alums that have dedicated service to the Peace Corps. Sunny Foster, who graduated from BHSU in 2012, served for 27 months, returning in December 2014. Foster served as an agriculture volunteer in Paraguay where she worked with local farmers developing sustainable permaculture practices. She also worked with the local government and schools.



"My time in the Peace Corps showed me how much can be accomplished when you have an open mind," Foster said. "I have interpersonal and professional experience that is invaluable and incredibly unique."



Spencer will receive three months of training in Ghana, learning the local language and integrating into the Ghanian culture while staying with a host family. He will then be sworn into service and assigned to a community to complete his two years of service.



"I hope to gain perspective," Spencer said. "I want to learn more about myself while doing a little bit of good in a country that needs it."



"Alex goes to Ghana with a great dedication to serve others," said Heather Mangan, public affairs specialist for the Peace Corps Midwest Regional Office. "Like other Black Hills State University students and graduates considering Peace Corps, his education gave him skills to work on a global level and prepared him to make the commitment necessary to live and work in a foreign country."



Spencer graduated from BHSU in 2013 with a degree in mass communications and graphic communication art. He credits BHSU for his preparedness to enter the Peace Corps.



"Black Hills State introduced me to different ideas and concepts," Spencer said. &lsquoThe professors kept me interested and made me step outside my comfort zone."



Spencer first considered joining the Peace Corps when he was 14 after he visited with a Peace Corps officer.



"When I was younger I viewed the volunteers as heroes because they travel the world and help those who need it," Spencer said. "I&rsquove always wanted to travel the world and help others. There are so many different cultures and amazing places to see. I&rsquom excited to come home and share what I learned with other people."



After graduating from BHSU, Spencer began the lengthy application process to enter th­e Peace Corps. He was required to complete a series of essays, interviews and a background check. He logged more than 100 volunteer hours to become an HIV/AIDS outreach specialist, as well, to secure a position as a community health volunteer. The entire process took a little more than a year, Spencer said.



While stationed in Ghana, Spencer will have limited communication with friends and family in the United States. He said there is Internet connection two hours from the city he will be living in. He will bike the two hours to send emails to his family. Letters he will mail can take up to a month and half to be delivered, as well.



When Spencer completes his two years of service he plans to continue traveling throughout Europe before returning to South Dakota.



Foster, who is now back in the United States, said her experiences in the Peace Corps have led her to pursue a career in the international development field.



"Peace Corps is a life-changing, heart-breaking, heart-building, extraordinary experience," Foster said. "I would encourage anyone to do it."



There are currently 17 South Dakota residents serving in the Peace Corps. More than 636 South Dakota residents have served as volunteers since the agency was created in 1961. BHSU students that are interested in learning more about Peace Corps can contact Peace Corps Recruiter Brian Green. Green specifically recruits in South Dakota and can be reached at 612-203-2512 or bgreeen@peacecorps.gov.
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