“I wanted to apply to the Peace Corps because the mission and goals of the organization consist of all the things I am passionate about – experiencing different cultures in authentic ways, assisting people in need, advocating for individual and community health and wellbeing, and traveling,” says Alexis Bennett ’22, who graduated this summer from William Paterson University, summa cum laude, with a bachelor’s degree in management.
A native of Piscataway, New Jersey, Bennett is heading to Ghana in January, where she will serve with the Peace Corps as a Community Health Extension Agent for the next two and a quarter years. In that role, Bennett will work to raise rural communities' average health standards through community-centered education initiatives. Among her goals are to improve community members' water, sanitation, and hygiene practices and thereby lower the incidence of diarrheal illness; strengthen the health knowledge and life skills of youth; and empower mothers to adopt behaviors that support healthy pregnancies, healthy newborns, and healthy children.
“During my service, I will also look for opportunities to collaborate with community members to advance gender-equitable norms and elevate girls' sense of agency,” she adds.
Though her degree is business-centered, Bennett was so inspired by a public health course she took on campus that when it came time to choose a research track within the University’s Honors College, of which she was a part, she chose global public health. That initial course, Social Determinants of Health, “completely changed my perception of health outcomes in America,” Bennett says. “I was amazed by what I learned.” She went on to enjoy all her Honors coursework in that area and subsequently chose to work in the public health sector of the Peace Corps.
“As a college student, you have a very unique opportunity to explore different things,” Bennett continues. “You won’t know what you are truly passionate about until you allow yourself to see what’s out there. Use college as a time to try new things,” she urges today’s students, “because it may lead you to once-in-a-lifetime experiences that can change your life.”
Bennett is about to embark on a life-changing experience of her own, and says she expects to “evolve greatly” throughout her Peace Corps service term. That said, though she isn’t quite sure what path she’ll pursue after her time in Ghana, Bennett hopes to use everything she learns with the Peace Corps to improve health outcomes for Black women in America. She also hopes that sharing her experience with others when she returns will inspire them, like her, “to take brave and bold steps toward their dreams.”
William Paterson University
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