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Rita Torres, '13 and an International Studies major, recently interned as an administrative assistant at the Peace Corps office headquarters in Washington, D.C.
A globetrotter, Torres has been to countries in Asia, Africa, and South America, as well as Central America. She knew she wanted an internship that combined deaf advocacy and an international perspective and worked with Gallaudet's Career Center to find the perfect opportunity.
"In these countries, I saw a lack of accessibility for deaf citizens, so I thought working for the Peace Corps could benefit me by exposing me to different cultures with a focus on international development," said Torres, of Silver Spring, Md.
Torres' parents emigrated from El Salvador, so the mission of advocating for deaf individuals and creating opportunities for underrepresented communities is a personal one.
At the Peace Corps, Torres learned how to manage projects, plan events, and recruit interns, volunteers, and employees.
One project Torres led involved creating a workshop to recruit deaf individuals into the Peace Corps. She educated staff about Deaf Culture and accessibility issues that could be resolved in order to recruit more deaf volunteers. She focused on the deaf community's abilities, strengths, and desire to create positive global impact.
Former Peace Corps volunteer Erikson Young, '03, is one of many Gallaudet alumni who have served overseas. He was the first deaf Peace Corps volunteer at a remote Kenyan school from 2005 to 2007.
"I chose to sacrifice my life for two years in Africa, but at end of service, I came away with a rich experience," Erikson said.
Education is a top priority in the Peace Corps agenda. With so many countries needing to improve their deaf education standards, the Peace Corps seeks to continue to recruit and retain deaf individuals who can offer the skills and shared cultural experiences needed for these schools to improve and grow.
As a result, Torres' work in educating Peace Corps administration becomes vital.
"My work here at the Peace Corps office will not result in an overnight change," Torres said. However, she said she is confident the staff has gained greater awareness and exposure as a result of her contributions.
"People listened to my vision and statements with interest," said Torres, who also offered ASL classes until her internship ended in January.
Torres' long-term goal is to work for the European Union, focusing on accessibility and international policy law.
"Improving deaf accessibility is my dream," she said, and she is working on developing the required skills and knowledge.
Torres advises students to begin seeking internship opportunities as early as possible in order to prepare to enter the work force and help develop professional and interpersonal communication skills. Gallaudet offers campus career counselors who can help students find opportunities to develop a career path, hone their skills, and contribute to societal advancements.
Gallaudet University is a federally chartered private and premier university for the deaf and hard of hearing since 1864.
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