Valencia Smith, who recently graduated magna cum laude with bachelor’s degrees in both biology and Spanish, learned this spring that she had been accepted as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer.
Smith, 23, will serve as a youth health facilitator on the indigenous reserve of Ngäbe-Buglé in Panama, a place where 90 percent of the population lives in poverty.
Her service, she says, will allow her to help the Ngäbe community with general health concerns. She will also teach young people about health issues, run healthy camp experiences for kids and manage community activities related to health education. She will begin training in July, and will remain at her post for the next two years.
Joining the Peace Corps has long been a dream for Smith.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind. Just growing up, I knew some people who have done it, and it sounded really cool… to not only give your time to help others but, in turn, learn a lot from them,” she says.
Smith, who grew up in Twin Falls, Idaho, says she always wanted to be bilingual. She was interested in pursuing a Spanish degree at EWU, she adds, because she thinks it is a beautiful language that’s also practical. “I wanted to use Spanish to communicate with the Latino community in my career, and in my day-to-day life,” Smith says.
During her time at Eastern, a Peace Corps recruiter visited her Spanish class and that inspired Smith to join. She also spent time traveling in Spain, which gave her the itch to go abroad and accomplish even more.
After finishing her time with the Peace Corps, Smith hopes to pursue graduate school in Spain and then either pursue a doctorate degree or enter the medical or environmental field.
“My bilingual skills will help me in my next endeavor as a Peace Corps volunteer, in my graduate school studies and, hopefully, in my future career,” she says.