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Flame of altruism burns, even in US

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They ask in return, however, that all add a practical component to their studies by taking on internships in underserved communities. The program is funded by grants from the host university, the Peace Corps, and other sources, and is open to all former Peace Corps volunteers, no matter how long they have been back in the US.

So, for example, one volunteer just back from teaching English in Costa Rica, is getting a master's in education and is teaching bilingual English-Spanish classes in a low-income neighborhood of Chicago.

Another, who spent two years building a women's microcredit program in Senegal almost two decades ago, is now getting a degree in nonprofit management and working at a hunger project in Pittsburgh. Someone in Milwaukee who is now juggling an internship at a juvenile justice program and law classes was, just last year, building a school in Bulgaria.

And a young man in Arizona, currently working on economic and agricultural issues facing rural communities as he gets a degree in environmental studies, was an agroforestry technician in Paraguay 10 years ago.

Victorson, who received a degree in social work from the Shriver Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is today a neighborhood organizer in Baltimore.

"By the time you get back to the US, your peers are three years into their professional life and all your social contacts are in Africa," he says. "You know you have to establish a career, but you are somewhat overwhelmed and could use some help."

The expectation is that most of the fellows will remain in the service field after graduation, putting their professional knowledge to use in the communities they live in.

And while there is usually no requirement for staying in the host community, many do. In Baltimore, for example, a study found that while 81 percent of the fellows in the Shriver program came from outside the state of Maryland, 71 percent remained in the area after completing the program. Many of them also buy homes and start families in the communities where they work.

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