Xavier Billingsley has worked in many organizations while at MU. He is a member of a Greek-letter organization, has worked as a peer advisor in Hudson residence hall, worked in the Homecoming Steering Committee, worked as a Summer Welcome Leader and served as Missouri Students Association president.
Billingsley is now sending his spirit of volunteerism on a larger adventure and adding his name to a service organization that includes Chancellor Brady Deaton and 980 other MU graduates since 1961: the Peace Corps.
Billingsley is one of more than a dozen students from MU, Missouri State University, UM–Kansas City and UM–St. Louis who have been invited to volunteer with the organization, MU’s Peace Corps recruiter Claire Lea said.
“(The Peace Corps is) such a great experience to live and learn,” Billingsley said. “You get to learn a language, get a feel for international relations and learn about yourself.”
Billingsley said every past volunteer he spoke to has positive things to say about the experience.
“It’s a great mission and great work,” Billingsley said. “Being part of the Peace Corps movement is good for learning about myself as well.”
Lea interviews applicants, recommends candidates and speaks to classes. She also oversees the monthly informational meetings that allow students to learn more about becoming a Peace Corps volunteer.
Lea said, to become a volunteer, students must be nominated, interviewed and then matched to a project or emphasis of best fit. Applicants also have to pass a number of medical and legal clearances to be accepted as volunteers, according to the Peace Corps website.
“Xavier was such a strong candidate,” Lea said. “He works a lot in Columbia, making a difference in lives of students and lives of community. Like most competitive candidates, he is working already in something that he’s interested in in his local community, and looking to expand into the global community.”
Lea said she truly saw Billingsley’s commitment to helping people and his interest in building cross-cultural skills. In addition to these assets, the strongest quality in a volunteer is flexibility, Lea said.
“When you're working in an unfamiliar situation or language that isn't your own or culture that has different cultural expectations, you have to let go of pre-conceived notions,” she said. “You have to work with the community in a more positive way.”
Lea said volunteers must be flexible to overcome these hurdles.
“You have to be willing to go any where in the world and help a community who is asking for your help in any way you can,” she said.
Billingsley is interning with the U.S. Embassy’s foreign policy department in Jamaica. He said he is interested in going into foreign policy and international relations.
“The Peace Corps opens doors to foreign service in the State Department,” Billingsley said. “You can get a better sense of foreign policy and what better way than living in a community and learning directly from them?”
Billingsley is assigned to work in Youth and Community Development, one of the areas volunteers can focus on in their service, but will not know his exact location or his exact assignment until after he passes all security clearances.
“Youth in development can be anything – anything from Boys and Girls Club of America-style group, tutoring, athletic training after school or working with at-risk youth,” Billingsley said. “Nothing is quite set in stone.”
Senior Laura Ebone was also selected as a Peace Corps volunteer.
“I have always wanted to work internationally, and upon changing my career focus from medical school to public health, I re-looked into the Peace Corps,” Ebone said.
Ebone said she hopes to take away lessons from her time as a volunteer.
“(I want) a better idea of who I am and where I want to go next, as well as a more global perspective on the issues of the world,” Ebone said. “The thought of a new adventure excites me beyond belief.”