In the small town of Jayanca, Peru, alumnus Rashad Thacker (‘16) made a big impact. He served as a Youth Development Volunteer there with the Peace Corps, working with youth ages 12 to 22 by helping them pursue their career dreams.
“They would often get discouraged due to socioeconomics, so my job was to show them an alternative route.”
Rashad lived and worked in this small community for two years after he graduated from the College of Charleston, allowing him to build relationships with the community and better understand their needs. While he sought to help all of Jayanca, his ultimate goal was to build up the youth to take the reins after his departure so they could continue to build up their community.
As his time in Peru was ending, he invited a handful of individuals he had worked closely with to assist him with one last project. He asked what they thought would be the best project to benefit the community. Their answer? A community-wide Vocational Expo: A career-based event meant to benefit young people not only in Jayanca, but in surrounding towns as well.
The students played a significant role in planning the Vocational Expo. They appealed to the local government to ask for funding to pay for vendors to visit, which allowed them to secure over 50 university and employer vendors from around the country. Two main high schools in the area along with three high schools from surrounding areas were able to get a charter to attend the event. Roughly 750 seniors were able to have conversations with representatives, expressing their interests and desires. Although Rashad wasn’t entirely fluent in Spanish when working with youth, the Expo provided students a chance to converse freely in their language with representatives. This allowed them to receive the best help they could get to pursue their own careers and personal goals after Rashad’s departure.
“University applications rose 17% as a result of the event. I am still in touch with old students who graduated. Some of them have gone on to music school, nursing school, and even perform in bands across the country. They were able to do what they wanted to in order to support themselves and their family instead of just doing what has to be done to make ends meet.”
Rashad’s double bachelor’s degrees from the College of Charleston in Studio Art and Art History has paved the way for his very rewarding career today.
“The art I focused on in school was always directed towards young people and how to express emotion. Having opportunities at the Charleston Museum and Chicora Elementary School in North Charleston helped me realize that I liked the arts and working with youth, so I wanted to blend both interests together into a career.”
He went to an info session about the Peace Corps during his senior year of college and it all clicked as he learned
about programs working with youth. He entered his career through his Peru experience and then went on to become a Regional Recruiter. In this role, he was able to liaise with professors across the Eastern Carolina area to plan events focusing on different career paths within the Peace Corps. He was recently promoted to a Recruitment and Placement Specialist, where he is now able to recruit at a technical level with a nationwide approach. He now works with more experienced candidates interested in volunteering to help place them in positions abroad that last several months.
“I love going to work every day with a team that is bright, cheery, and excited to do what they do. I have been in jobs where you just push through to get the job done, but this job has so many wonderful repercussions that you can’t imagine.”
Rashad was able to enter a career path that is very rewarding for him. To current students, he provides the advice:
“You don’t have to figure it all out now. It’s okay to go slow…you should go to undergrad for what you like.”
He recommends selecting a major that utilizes your skills and what you enjoy studying. If you’re interested in a specific career area, talk to someone who has done it! Hear about their experiences to see if it might be right for you. Take some time during your undergrad to explore your options. Doing so will hopefully lead to a career that you find rewarding, just like Rashad’s.
-Camille Hamrick, Career Counselor