We’ve just launched our new website! Some features may still be in the works – thank you for your patience as we fine-tune your experience.

Peace Corps Achievements — July 2020

Achievements of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Across the country — and around the world

By Peter Deekle (Iran 1968-1970)
A science fellow on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response, a 2020 American Food Hero, a sustainable bee keeper in Cambodia, a ballet dancer, and an artisan are just some of the community members we feature this month. Learn more and remember to share your news with us!



Ackeem Evans (2018-2020) is leading operations for World Central Kitchen in Georgia, distributing more than 65,000 free meals to the needy and underserved in the metro Atlanta area.




Eileen McGowan (2016-2018) has an active role in the COVID-19 response, facilitating and tracking deployments for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Epidemiology Workforce Branch, which includes fellowship programs such as the Epidemic Intelligence Service and the Laboratory Leadership Service. Fellows in these programs have the experience, skills, and training to deploy in the field at a moment’s notice.



Jesse Dubin (1964-1966) reported in 2020 that a Peace Corps Volunteer Scholarship Award at SUNY College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, Syracuse, NY has been funded by RPCV graduates of the College. It is presented annually. Interested parties may contact S. Scott Shannon, Dean of the Graduate School, at [email protected].



Rodolfo “Rudy” Mendez toured with Chile’s and Costa Rica’s national ballet company during service, and developed performing arts curriculum and programs for youth. In 1978, he returned to Austin, Texas and founded the Ballet East Dance Company — a platform for young choreographers and dancers to develop vigorous outreach to Black and Hispanic communities. The City of Austin plans to change the Metz Pool and Recreation Center to the Rodolfo “Rudy” Mendez Recreation Center, following a report from 2018 listing streets and markers named for Confederate figures.



Skip Auld (1973-1974) is Anne Arundel County (Maryland) Libraries administrator. Skip was featured on a June 17, 2020 National Public Radio segment, recounting that in the summer of 2019 while listening to the Ron Chernow audiobook, Grant, he realized that he was named for a Confederate general. He resolved to change his name in recognition of the history of pain and suffering caused by his namesake. He chose the first name Charles, his father’s middle name, and made his middle name Marshall, his mother’s maiden name. “I just wanted to tear down the highly personal monument to the Confederacy in my own family history.



Jocelyn Jackson is co-founder of People’s Kitchen Collective in Oakland, California, an organization that shares the contrasting foodways of its three founders, while bringing the larger community together through dinners, workshops, and an annual free breakfast program. The free breakfast — inspired by the Black Panthers — happens yearly at a park named for Bobby Hutton, a 17-year-old Black Panther recruit, who died on April 6, 1968, after he was shot more than 10 times by police.



Corey Cappelloni (1998-2000) ran a 220-mile ultramarathon in June 2020 in honor of his grandmother and to raise awareness for residents in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, and rehabilitation centers across the world — and to thank health-care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also to honor the victims of the disease. He has been working on refugee and asylum matters in Washington, D.C. for the past six years.



Paul Devoti (1995-1998) and four artisan friends came together to form Atlantis, a ceramic art studio that operates in a home Devoti built in San Juan de Oriente in 2018. Recently, COVID-19 struck the village. Several artisan friends and family members lost their lives. Devoti initiated a GoFundMe campaign based on a test he ran with some friends in the village. The group purchased 200 pounds of rice and beans each, packed it up in two-pound packs, and then delivered the packages to 100 families throughout the village. The campaign has had a resoundingly positive effect.



Paul Willis (1973-1975) was selected by EatingWell Magazine as a 2020 American Food Hero. This annual list celebrates ten leaders who are changing the food world in innovative and meaningful ways. He started the Niman Ranch Pork Company 25 years ago. Since that time, he has helped a network of 750 family farmers raising their animals humanely, sustainably, and with care. He also co-founded Food Democracy Now and currently serves on the board for Global Animal Partnership.



Lia Cheek (2009-2012) will receive the Murie Spirit of Conservation Rising Leader Award at a virtual ceremony in August 2020. She is currently the national director of field campaigns for the Endangered Species Coalition (ESC). During her three years of Peace Corps service, she focused on community-based marine conservation. She has worked on marine conservation issues in the Asia Pacific region with RARE, and with Foreign Policy experts during her time at The Brookings Institute.



Curtis Valentine (2001-2003) is Deputy Director of the Reinventing America’s Schools Project (Progressive Policy Institute). He is an at-large board member of Prince George’s County in Maryland Public Schools. He has received the 2020 Award for Progressive Leader of the Year from the National Leaders Council of Maryland.



Dani Jump has now lived in Cambodia for more than 25 years, encouraging local honey-hunters to harvest their colonies in a sustainable manner. In 2004, Jump and two bee-minded partners set up Bees Unlimited to train Cambodian beekeepers in sustainable bee management and to show tourists the life of bees in the wild.



Anne Boyle (2003-2005) was appointed as the Director of Finance and Administration at the National Peace Corps Association in June 2020. She has more than 15 years of experience in project management and international development, most recently including nearly five years of administrative service at two divisions of Chemonics International.


Please share your news with us! Email Peter Deekle.