Two UC Merced
alumni are headed to Morocco for what promises to be an adventure of a lifetime.
Jackie Shay and Socorro Composanto (2009) are the first UC Merced graduates to sign up for the Peace Corps. Their decision to help the world reflects the university's commitment to instilling a sense of community service in its students.
Shay had been interested in the Peace Corps since she was a child, though it remained a passing interest. While studying at UC Merced, she came across an informational workshop that was organized by the Career Services Center.
"It rekindled the flame," Shay noted. "I remember thinking, ‘This does feel right for this time in my life. This is definitely what I need to be doing.'"
Camposanto started thinking about the Peace Corps when she was 17 years old. She went to her first informational workshop at UC Merced when she was a freshman . Having never traveled outside the country before, it took her longer to decide whether to join.
"After they made their offer, I spent eight of the 10 days they gave me to decide making lists of pros and cons and freaking out," Camposanto said.
Once the 27-month commitment was made, the nervousness was replaced with a philosophical calm.
Shay, who is no stranger to travel, had no doubts. "Leaving home, uprooting my life, that's nothing to me. The Peace Corps will mold where I want to be in the future," she explained. "I feel like it will answer lots of questions I have about myself."
A former president of the University Women of Merced Network and vice president of the Associated Student Government , Shay said the experience at UC Merced prepared her for the Peace Corps better than any other school could have. Her work will include developing programs and setting up agendas.
"I'm very excited, and I feel like I'm continuing the pioneer spirit," she said. "UC Merced has turned me into a lifelong pioneer."
Camposanto said that same pioneering spirit helped her stand out to the Peace Corps representative who interviewed her. "He said he enjoyed my fresh perspective on college. I told him how being in such a new school meant that you had to start everything yourself. That really impressed him."
Creating programs and clubs out of nothing, Camposanto told the Peace Corps representative, taught her the importance of learning how to work with other people. On a more personal level, she said that the university was a place where she could dabble in new arenas. "It forced me out of my comfort zone."
UC Merced was where she sang solo for the first time. Camposanto concluded her college career performing her original song, "We Rise," at the 2009 commencement ceremony, which she dedicated to the pioneering class of UC Merced.
Both women, who are good friends, are graduates of that class; Shay with a degree in biological sciences, and Camposanto with one in conservation biology. Although they are pleased to be based in Morocco together, their different disciplines will take them in separate directions.
Shay will work within the rural health community program, while Camposanto's role will be centered on environmental issues within the area.
"I am really excited about the Peace Corps," Camposanto said. "I think it's perfect for anyone who is curious about what's out there in the world."