My wife, daughter and me

Name: Charles Scrase
U-M Affiliation: Alumni

Where do you work?

Google

When did you serve in the Peace Corps?

2001-2003

Where did you serve (which country/countries)?

St. Vincent & the Grenadines

What were your main responsibilities as a volunteer?

Developing a curriculum for secondary schools in St. Vincent to prepare students to take the International Computer Drivers License examination. I also served on the board of the regional athletic association, was editor of the Eastern Caribbean Peace Corps magazine and also worked as a trainer for the Peace Corps.

Is there a specific person (or persons) who made a strong impression on you during that time?

One of the most important relationships I had was with Cuthbert "Mr Cool" James, who was the APCD for the island of St. Vincent. Mr. Cool was an incredibly friendly and helpful man, an helped make my Peace Corps experience fantastic. He taught me the most important lesson I learned in the Peace Corps - to build my support network from within my community, and not other PCVs.

What was one of the most memorable moments you had as a volunteer?

There were so many, but the ones that really stick are related to students and children in my village coming up to me to thank me for making such a big difference in their lives. I once returned to St. Vincent after a few years, and one of my former students told me that it was my influence and belief in him that inspired him to forego an opportunity to run marijuana illegally for a secure job with a local business.

In what ways did your Peace Corps experience affect your life and/or career decisions?

The Peace Corps had a profound effect on my perspective on life and decision making. It taught me to always seek out and embrace change and challenge; to be truly sensitive (not just superficially) to those who are in minority groups and to be comfortable adapting yourself to the environment around you. I ended up marrying a woman from St. Vincent, and I experience on a daily basis the blending of cultures and the importance of being understanding and compassionate.

In what ways did your U-M education, both inside and outside the classroom, prepare you for your Peace Corps experience?

My education at Michigan taught me to dream big and to believe in myself. Both of these major life lessons led me to the Peace Corps and led me to be successful in the Peace Corps.

What advice would you give to others who are contemplating going into the Peace Corps?

Don't consider joining the Peace Corps until you are really ready to take on a tremendous challenge. It won't be easy, and any expectations you have will almost certainly be challenged. Be flexible and open minded, dedicate yourself to adapting to the community you are a part of, and always strive to grow.

What is the value gained from the Peace Corps experience?

The Peace Corps gave me a broader world view, but perhaps more importantly, it gave me a clear view of who I was as a person, outside of all the stereotypical norms of my society. This understanding of my own identity allowed me to develop a true self confidence and become a leader.

What lessons did you learn in the Peace Corps that you carry with you today?

Challenge is the key to growth. Flexibility is the key to happiness.

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