The U-M community celebrated its legacy of service this October on the 50th anniversary of campus events that led to the creation of the Peace Corps.
At 2 a.m. on October 14, more than 1,500 gathered on the steps of the Michigan Union to commemorate a speech then-Senator John F. Kennedy gave there 50 years earlier. Kennedy challenged students to dedicate themselves to global peace and justice by living and working in developing countries. In response, Michigan students helped push for the creation of the Peace Corps.
2,200 U-M graduates have served in the Peace Corps, and thousands more have devoted their time and talents to serving others through programs such as AmeriCorps America Reads and Teach for America, and through community service while in school. Prior to the Peace Corps celebration, several graduate and undergraduate students organized a seminar in which participants brainstormed new ways for their peers to serve.
Service can have a profound impact on a student's path in life, says graduate student and former Peace Corps volunteer Gabriel Krieshok, who served as an assistant coordinator for the Peace Corps anniversary celebration.
"I'm not the same person I was before I joined the Peace Corps, and I know few that are," says Krieshok, who served in Madagascar from 2007 to 2009. "It puts your perspectives, experiences and knowledge to the test."
At U-M, students also have many opportunities to integrate service with their studies. The Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning, which commemorated its history in October, helps students learn and build leadership skills through service and community engagement.
“More and more university faculty are engaging their students in community service to support academic learning," observes Ginsberg Center Director Theresa Cusimano.
While students have engaged in service for decades at U-M, the family of alumnus Edward Ginsberg provided a home for service-learning programs by endowing the Ginsberg Center in 2000. Ginsberg Center alumni, supporters, faculty and staff, along with Mr. Ginsberg's family and friends, gathered in October to celebrate the Ginsberg Center's 10th anniversary.
“Our family hopes that the Ginsberg Center will inspire generations of young people to make service and compassion toward others a part of their lives," William Ginsberg, Edward's son and a Ginsberg Center board member, said at the gathering.