Michael Pikuza '17

Most seniors in college dread the “What are your plans for after graduation?” question. For Michael Pikuza, a student studying International Relations at Lewis University, it was quite clear to him that he was called to make a difference in the world. After submitting an early application and months of waiting patiently, Michael will be the first student to join the Peace Corps directly after graduating from Lewis.

“Peace Corps Volunteers work in the areas of the world where help is needed the most,” says Dr. Serafima Gettys, director of the foreign language program at Lewis University. “Getting accepted is an honor, because it is a very competitive and sought-after position.”

He will be serving as an educator in Moldova – a former republic of the Soviet Union. He will be teaching middle school and high school level English classes.

“I felt like this was truly a gift from God,” says Michael. “I feel like this is my opportunity to make a difference in the world and work to promote world peace and diplomacy.” 

His main goal while serving this community is to be a mentor to the students he teaches on not only a professional level, but a personal level too, as he helps to motivate them inside and outside of the classroom. “I want to leave knowing that my students have found where their passion lies,” says Michael. “Not only do I want them to know what their dreams are, but I want them to also feel confident in pursuing those dreams.”

Inspired by the stories that his grandparents told him about being international refugees, Michael learned at a young age that he wanted to help people that are facing obstacles today, just as his own family once did.

“My grandparents have instilled many important values in me; the most important being that language is a way to unite any group of people, no matter what they are going through.”

That piece of advice motivated Michael to study Spanish and Russian while at Lewis, and use language to promote diplomacy. He was also heavily involved in the International Student Association and Foreign Language Club on campus.

Michael is thankful to have had a college career full of unique opportunities and experiences. After studying abroad in Costa Rica for four months, he had an internship opportunity for which he traveled to South Africa and helped with the Special Olympics World Games 2015. This is where he first considered applying for the Peace Corps.

“I met several volunteers at the World Games who had volunteered with the Peace Corps,” he says. “After hearing their admirable stories, I felt inspired to learn more about the opportunity.”

It was not until a recruiter from Peace Corps came to Lewis and talked with students about this opportunity, that Michael realized this was the right path for him.  Michael is thankful for the inspiring teachers he had while at Lewis that motivated him and gave him the confidence to pursue this dream. He does not believe he would be at this point in his life if it were not for Dr. Serafima Gettys and Dr. Justin Delacour, assistant professor of political sciences.

As a transfer student, he also received a scholarship which allowed him to focus on gaining great experience in the field he aspires to work in. Michael wishes to take the knowledge and insight he gained from experiences he had while at Lewis and utilize them to stand up for what is right and make a difference in the world.

“I want to be able to inspire and influence my students in Moldova the way that my teachers at Lewis have for me.”

Michael leaves for Moldova on June 3rd, 2017 where he will begin to shape the minds of our next generation leaders. Afterwards, he plans to obtain a master’s degree and hopes to work for the State Department one day.

“With so many languages under his belt and this experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer, Michael will be able to reach his ultimate career goal and represent the United States on the international arena,” Dr. Gettys adds.


November 2016

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