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CollegeCorps Sends Students to Service

By Laura H. Owen, Contributing Writer

CollegeCorps, a nonprofit organization founded by two Harvard juniors, has announced the first batch of students it matched with summer internships in seven different countries.

Founded last September by Hani N. Elias ’05 and Adam Kalamchi ’05, the organization pairs undergraduates with host organizations which provide public service opportunities in foreign countries.

The interns will also receive a total of $40,000 in need-based scholarships, funding which CollegeCorps raised from local businesses and foundations.

The 11 students, seven of whom are from Harvard, will travel to China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, South Africa and Tanzania.

Two additional interns are from MIT, one from Brown University and another from Tufts University.

Students who are accepted must identify faculty advisers with whom they will work on academic projects during their summers abroad.

During the school year, interns also have weekly training sessions with experts about regional social policy issues.

Among the guests have been former members of the Peace Corps and Jennifer Leaning, professor of international health at the Harvard School of Public Health.

“Some of our students have gone abroad,” Elias said, “but a lot of them aren’t social science majors. This gives them a good grounding before they go.”

To attract applicants, CollegeCorps advertised in The Crimson and Boston-area newspapers. Students submitted applications through CollegeCorps’s website. CollegeCorps screened and interviewed the applicants. The host organizations then reviewed the interviews and selected students for internships.

The Harvard students who were chosen for the program include Kathryn E. C. Berndtson ’06, Jeffrey R. Daffron ’06, Kathryn A. Eidmann ’06, and Cornelia L. Griggs ’05, who is also a Crimson editor.

Berndtson will travel to San Carlos, Costa Rica where she will work with children in local schools.

“No matter how much time I spend learning about the pervasive injustices in the world, I think that the opportunity to act holds infinitely more value,” she said in a press release.

Griggs, a pre-med history and science concentrator, is the coordinator of Project HEALTH at Harvard. She will travel to Cape Town, South Africa, where she will volunteer in hospitals and clinics.

Griggs said CollegeCorps is unique because it reaches out to undergraduates who want to volunteer abroad. She said many of the host organizations with whom CollegeCorps works do not normally seek college students for internships. Child Family Health International, the host organization with whom she will intern, usually accepts only medical students as volunteers, she said.

“Undergraduates are the population that CollegeCorps is trying to serve,” Griggs said. “Undergraduates are untapped potential in terms of working for these organizations.”

Daffron, an economics concentrator, will teach English to middle school students in the Hunan Province of China. He became interested in the CollegeCorps program last fall, when former Harvard Professor Jeffrey D. Sachs ’76 praised it in a lecture on developmental economics. Daffron’s faculty advisers are Daniel J. Benjamin, a teaching fellow in economics, and Lawrence Buell, chair of the English Department, who has worked extensively in the Hunan Province.

In an e-mail, Daffron described his project as “an analysis of Chinese socio-economic development with a specific interest in the effect of current capitalist progress on the emergence of governmental liberalism.”

Eidmann, a social studies concentrator, will intern in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where she will document and disseminate information on human rights abuses in the region.

“I’ll probably also do some work in the refugee camps,” she said.

Other Harvard students who will pursue internships through CollegeCorps are Benjamin B. Collins ’06, who will volunteer in Tanzania; Kyle C. Klopcic ’06, who will volunteer in Nicaragua; and Jyothi L. Ramakrishnan ’06, who is headed to Ecuador.

Nearly 50 students applied for the CollegeCorps Intern program this year. Elias hopes to be able to send more students abroad next year.

“Once these students come back,” he said, “we’ll be able to convince a lot of people that a program like this is important.”

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