Alex Mederos, Class of 2009
The seeds that drew Alex Mederos '09 from Belleville, New Jersey to Botswana, Africa, were planted many years ago. Now a Peace Corps volunteer stationed in Masunga, a village of 5,000 people, Alex cites two tragic events that impacted his decision to work abroad and serve others: 9/11 and its aftermath, which Alex says shaped him in many ways, and he November 2015 terror attacks in Paris, when he was in the midst of a study abroad program in Germany. “After the Paris attacks, I knew I wanted to do some sort of service after college,” said Alex. “I wanted to do something helpful and meaningful.”
Two months after he graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a degree in Government Studies, Alex was on a plane to Africa. Following three months of training to be a Peace Corps volunteer, he was assigned to an HIV intervention program. Botswana has the third highest HIV prevalence in the world, though its AIDS-related deaths have been dramatically reduced.
“The issue is not that people are dying of AIDS,” explained Alex. “They are living with HIV. With the suppressed viral loads, the issue is now educating young people on safe sex, taking care of yourself and healthy living. The goal is to limit the risk of contracting HIV or maintaining health if you have HIV.”
Alex readily admits the work is a challenge. He studied statistical modeling, not public health, at Franklin & Marshall and worked to register more than 190,000 voters in Lancaster County as a fellow for the Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential campaign. “It’s hard,” he laughed. “But, I’m taking it day by day. Everyone is welcoming, people are willing to listen and I’m excited to be working here.”
Of his years at Stevens Cooperative School, “It always influences everything I do,” said Alex. “The desire to explore, that’s something you learn real quick at Stevens.” In fact, when completing the application for the Peace Corps, “I had to list everything I had done, including the cultural exchange with the Kipling School in Mexico City. Not many people can say they had a study abroad experience in 8th grade.”
The Peace Corps is a two-year commitment and Alex hopes to learn and explore as much of Sub-Saharan Africa as possible. When he finished talking to SCOOP, there was an application for malaria training in Senegal that needed to be completed. With two days of leave earned each month, he plans to travel to Johannesburg and Swaziland in the coming months. “I never pass up an opportunity to do something different,” said Alex. “I go to church every week. And I don’t think I had been to church since I was 10. But I go because people here asked me.”
This article was originally published in the 2017 Winter Issue of SCOOP Magazine.