During a commencement address last month, Barack Obama singled out the Peace Corps as an American institution dedicated to "opportunity, equality, and freedom." As the Los Angeles Times reports, the president's glowing praise—combined with Obama-era idealism and a weak job market—has contributed to a 16% jump in applications to join the volunteer agency.
Participation in the Peace Corps, founded by JFK, dipped in the 1980s but is flourishing again, and the organization is returning to former warzones like Rwanda and Liberia. "It's refreshing and uplifting to witness this sort of outpouring of American idealism again," said one professor, a former volunteer. Yet volunteers aren't blind do-gooders; one woman in Panama said she's extending her tour for a year because back home "it's so difficult to find a job."