December 21, 2017
At a time when most seniors will begin new jobs or prepare for graduate school, B. James Foster will pack his bags for a two-and-a-half-year commitment to the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone.
"It is very different from anything I've ever experienced," Foster said. "But it is somewhere where I can really make a difference."
Foster will teach math to secondary students in the West African republic that in the past three decades has endured a brutal civil war, an Ebola outbreak and devastating mudslides. Though he initially had some reservations about his assignment, after some research, Foster said he is looking forward to a transformative experience.
"I've never taught before, but their needs are so great in Sierra Leone that I know I'll be able to help them in a meaningful way," he said. "I'm happy to bring my limited experience from a different part of the world to show that things can and will get better."
His acceptance into the Peace Corps is the fulfillment of a long-held dream. Initially inspired by a church youth leader, Foster said it was his semester-long Global Opportunities experience in India that cemented his decision to pursue service.
In India, Foster volunteered at the Hyderabad Council for Human Welfare, tutoring and playing with impoverished children.
"They just ate it up. They were enraptured by having foreigners at their school," Foster said. "It inspired me to realize this is what I want to do."
Amazingly, Foster will know one familiar face when he lands in Africa-India Reynolds '17, who is also serving the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone.
"The odds that two SU alums will both be serving in Sierra Leone are ridiculously low," Foster laughed. "India has been filling me in on her experience and what it's like living there. She's given me great advice."
Already looking to the future, Foster, an economics major, hopes to follow up his Peace Corps experience with a graduate school program, perhaps one in Fairbanks, Alaska, that focuses on economic development among rural, native populations.