Merced County Times Newspaper
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El Capitan High grad joins reinvigorated Peace Corps

Harrison Emery
Harrison Emery

When people travel abroad for humanitarian missions, it is often in search of adventure or recognition. For Harrison Emery, a graduate of El Capitan High School, the tipping point on the decision to join the Peace Corps was how people reflected on their hardships.
“One of my grandmother’s friends did the Peace Corps in South America,” said Emery. “He got horrible parasites that changed his life, and he still deals with today. And he told me that even knowing that would happen, he would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat.”

The Peace Corps is a competitive program. Founded in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, it is a humanitarian organization with a mission “to promote world peace and friendship.” Volunteers live and work in more than 60 countries, and Peace Corps volunteers serve for 27 months.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, everything came to a screeching halt. In March of 2020, all volunteers with the program were evacuated from their host countries. It wasn’t until recently that their approach to their mission began to return to normal.
Emery is a part of that return to normalcy. At the end of August, Emery will be traveling to South Africa, where he will be assisting a healthcare mission in the region.

“The Peace Corps mission there is part of the larger mission to eradicate AIDS and HIV,” said Emery. “We’re working with local governments, NGOs, and clinics to spread information, remove stigma, and educate the public.”

Emery graduated from University of Nevada in 2021, after receiving his middle and high school education in Merced. He is currently on the path to medical school, but is taking a pause before continuing his education to serve with the Peace Corps.

“Right out of college is a moment in my life that I have a lot of time to play with before moving into a career, so I took the leap,” said Emery.

Despite the long commitment and more demanding living conditions, Emery shows no hesitation to start his mission.
“In my head I’m already there,” laughed Emery. “I’ve been applying longer than I’ll actually be in-country. That time went pretty quick, I’m sure when I’m busy there it’ll go even faster.”

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