MACON — Mercer University seniors Cierra Crawford, Sariya Mathis, Nicole Ngan and Jendai Sealey were recently selected to serve the Peace Corps in Guatemala, Peru, Vanuatu and Costa Rica, respectively.
“The Peace Corps not only seeks volunteers who possess the skills and expertise necessary for successful service, but most importantly, they seek volunteers who exude a passion for changing the world by becoming a part of something far bigger than themselves,” said Johna Wright, global education programs coordinator. “These students are the perfect embodiments of the Peace Corps mission, and I am beyond proud of the diligence, ambition and servant leadership these fantastic young women have exhibited thus far. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, they are destined for greatness, and I wish them a prosperous and fulfilling two years of service.”
Crawford, from Alpharetta, is a global health studies and Spanish double-major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She will serve as a maternal and child health promoter in Guatemala. In this role she will coordinate with and support a team of community nurses, nutritionists and social workers to promote positive health behaviors. Her assignment will begin in March 2024.
“As a global health and Spanish major, I have always had a passion for advocating for vulnerable communities and wanting to be immersed in another culture,” she said. “The Peace Corps allows me to do just that. I specifically have a passion for maternal health and decreasing the rate of maternal mortality. Finding this position felt like a match made in heaven.”
At Mercer, Crawford has served as president of the Association of Global Health, president of W.O.M.E.N. (Women of Minorities Empowering the Neighborhood), vice president of the National Council of Negro Women, a mentor for Upward Bound and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. She belongs to the Phi Eta Sigma, Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Sigma Iota honor societies and is the recipient of the Global Health Studies Outstanding Senior Award.
At the conclusion of her Peace Corps service, she plans to enter the workforce or pursue a master’s degree in public health or health care administration.
“Cierra is an outstanding global health studies and Spanish double-major with a particular interest in maternal and child health,” said Dr. Amy Nichols-Belo, associate professor of global health studies and anthropology. “During her four years at Mercer, she has taken advanced courses focused on nutrition, reproductive health, health and development issues in Latin America, and medical Spanish. She is currently completing a departmental honors thesis on Black mothers’ experiences with maternal health care.
“As a maternal and child health Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala, she will have the opportunity to integrate and apply her coursework. I have no doubt that Cierra will be an outstanding asset to the community where she will serve.”
Mathis, from College Park, is a psychology and Spanish double-major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She will serve as a youth development facilitator in Peru. Her assignment will begin in September.
“As a Spanish major, I have always strived for the chance to be submerged in a culture while practicing the language, and as a psychology major, I have a strong passion for helping and impacting the youth within and around my community,” she said. “I am extremely grateful and appreciative to be selected for the opportunity and given the chance to make a change.”
At Mercer, Mathis has served as vice president of the Iota Sigma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.; community outreach officer for Minorities in Psychology, which she helped spearhead; and a member of the Organization of Black Students. She belongs to Phi Sigma Iota honor society.
At the conclusion of her Peace Corps service, she intends to pursue a master’s degree in child and adolescent psychology with plans to become a therapist who works primarily with youth.
“Sariya was always interested in understanding cultural and language elements from different countries. She is responsible, mature and self-motivated,” said Dr. Fernando Palacios, associate professor of Spanish and chair of the foreign languages and literatures department. “Sariya will be a great Mercer ambassador.”
Ngan, from Lawrenceville, is a global health studies major. She will serve as a community health facilitator in Vanuatu, an island country in the southwestern Pacific Ocean. Her assignment will begin in September.
“I am very excited to be selected for the Peace Corps,” Ngan said. “I want to explore and experience different cultures, develop genuine relationships with people and make an impact.”
At Mercer, Ngan is a study abroad ambassador with the Office of Global Engagement and works in Mercer Athletics. She has been named to both the President’s List and the Dean’s List.
At the conclusion of her Peace Corps service, she plans to attend graduate school or begin a job as a researcher.
“Nicole is one of the most empathetic and open-minded students I’ve taught at Mercer,” Dr. Nichols-Belo said. “She recently demonstrated outstanding compassion and empathy when she facilitated a focus group for our class research project on mental health needs in Macon. Our research client, a seasoned counselor within the Black community, was incredibly impressed with Nicole’s skill as a facilitator. I have no doubt that Nicole will bring this empathetic and skillful approach to her work in the Peace Corps as a water, sanitation and hygiene educator in Vanuatu.”
Sealey, from Stone Mountain, is a public health and Spanish double-major. She will serve as a youth development facilitator in Costa Rica. In this role she will help create programs to improve the overall health of people in the community and work closely with children and parents to convey important information. Her assignment will begin in July.
“I applied to the Peace Corps to continue my love and passion for Spanish and public health. As a Peace Corps volunteer, I will be able to use my skills to support other communities,” she said. “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that have been brought to me through the Peace Corps.”
At Mercer, Sealey is president of QuadWorks, a student-led organization responsible for creating interesting, educational and fun events for the University community, and the cultural affairs chair for the Organization of Black Students. She was a recipient of the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, which allowed her to study abroad in Spain.
At the conclusion of her Peace Corps service, she intends to pursue a master’s degree in epidemiology, so she may continue to help people in need.
“Jendai has prepared well for this opportunity. Her hard work, dedication and compassion for others make her an ideal participant for this work as a Peace Corps volunteer. I am so proud of her,” said Dr. Mary Mathis, associate professor of practice in the College of Health Professions’ Department of Public Health. “As a Gilman Scholar, Jendai was ignited by her desire to pursue more international experiences. She also recognized that her values and goals were aligned with the Peace Corps. She is committed to developing cross-cultural relationships and to helping others, as evidenced by her leadership roles while a Mercer student. As a public health major, Jendai has a strong grasp of the many factors that influence the lives of people at individual, family, community, institutional and policy levels. She will competently enter this opportunity with cultural humility and a passion for service and learning.”
The Peace Corps, established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, is a volunteer program administered by the U.S. government to send the best and brightest Americans abroad to tackle the most pressing needs of people around the world. To date, more than 240,000 Americans have served in 142 countries.
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. With approximately 9,000 students enrolled in 12 schools and colleges, on major campuses in Macon and Atlanta; medical school sites in Macon, Savannah and Columbus; and at regional academic centers in Henry and Douglas counties, Mercer is ranked among the top tier of national research universities by U.S. News & World Report. The Mercer Health Sciences Center includes the University’s School of Medicine and Colleges of Nursing, Health Professions and Pharmacy. Mercer is affiliated with five teaching hospitals – Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Piedmont Macon Medical Center in Macon; Memorial Health University Medical Center in Savannah; and Piedmont Columbus Regional Hospital and St. Francis-Emory Healthcare in Columbus. The University also has an educational partnership with Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer Medicine, the clinical faculty practice of the School of Medicine, is based in Macon and operates additional clinics in Sumter, Peach, Clay, Putnam and Harris counties. Mercer is one of only 293 institutions nationwide to shelter a chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society; one of eight institutions to hold membership in the Georgia Research Alliance; and the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit mercer.edu.