Peace Corps takes Elk River grad

Katelyn Johnson, 22, of Ramsey, has been accepted into the Peace Corps and departed for Cambodia July 10 to begin training as a health volunteer.

Johnson will work in a health center on projects related to maternal and child health and infectious disease prevention and treatment.

“Volunteering just felt natural, and the value I have placed on service is indescribable,” Johnson said. “Taking time off before going to medical school meant I needed experience, too, and Peace Corps has all the values, expectations, cross-cultural experiences and goals that I have for my volunteer work. It is a perfect fit.”

Johnson is a 2009 graduate of Elk River High School. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University in Saint Joseph, Minn., with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and pre-medicine in 2013. She says her time at the College of St. Benedict helped prepare her for international service.

“My background in sociology has opened my eyes to problems people face,” she said. “Though I have taken an alternative route to get to where I am today, the service opportunities provided at school have led me to value service and ultimately choose to serve in Peace Corps.”

During the first three months of her service in Cambodia, Johnson will complete technical, language, health and safety training while living with a host family to become fully immersed in the country’s language and culture. The training and cultural exchange is designed to prepare Johnson for her two years of service, while also allowing community members to gain a better understanding of Americans. After Johnson is sworn into service and assigned to a community, she will work on sustainable, community-driven development projects for the people of Cambodia and hopefully learn leadership and cross-cultural skills she can use throughout her career, according to a press release.

“Peace Corps provides the unique opportunity to live with host families, completely immerse into a new culture and learn a new language,” she said. “This priceless experience will provide me with cross-cultural awareness that I know will help me as a future doctor.”

Johnson joins the 233 Minnesota residents currently serving in the Peace Corps. More than 6,287 Minnesota residents have served as volunteers since the agency was created in 1961.

More than 255 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Cambodia since the program was established in 2007. Currently, 114 volunteers serve in Cambodia. Volunteers are trained and work in the Khmer language.

Since President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps by executive order on March 1, 1961, more than 210,000 Americans have served in 139 host countries. Today, 8,073 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth in development. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment and the agency’s mission is to promote world peace and friendship and a better understanding between Americans and people of other countries.

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