By JESSICA MARSTON

Special to The Hays Daily News

Fort Hays State University prepares 13,000 students for out-of-the-box thinking and competitive careers worldwide. Tre' Giles, a senior from Colorado Springs, Colo., will soon be one of those graduates heading to the other side of the world -- Africa.

Giles will graduate May 16 with a degree in organizational leadership. He will leave for Gambia, Africa, with the Peace Corps on May 28 and expects to return Aug. 28, 2017.

Giles is involved in several extracurricular activities including Encounter, a campus religious organization, Anderson VIP Ambassadors and the Black Student Union.

"I take a lot of pride in being considered a leader. Some of my biggest times being a leader was not necessarily when I was the face or the voice but rather in being a follower," Giles said. "I learned how to be a leader by following."

Raised by a single mother, Giles' mom played an important role in his life, instilling values he would carry with him for the rest of his life.

"My mother has been the only one there for me my whole life," Giles said. "I did not have to worry a lot about everyone else's opinion because quite frankly, theirs didn't matter as much. ... My mom made sure to keep me heavily involved in sports and activities so I wouldn't be running around the streets causing trouble."

Growing up, Giles played soccer, basketball, football and baseball. That led him to coming to FHSU to play football.

"Sports were my entire life; they were quite frankly the only thing that mattered to me. I had a ton of pride in being the small guy who could compete with the best," Giles said.

At 5 feet, 7 inches and 165 pound, Giles was recruited to play cornerback for the FHSU football team. However, prior to the start of his first season, a knee injury ended his football career.

He said that moment served as a wake-up call and has been a "blessing in my life thus far."

"It forced me to re-evaluate my life and figure out what else I was passionate about," Giles said. "I discovered that I love to help people and do service, and, well, the rest is history."

He said service filled the void sports left.

"On one of my first weekends in college, they had an alternative weekend through Tigers in Serves," he said. "We went to some little town ... and when we got there, we just started cleaning up yards, helping to paint houses, and helping a lot of people who couldn't do that kind of stuff on their own. That was the first time I had done real service for somebody. It felt like a big void in my heart was filled."

Since that time, Giles has participated in state, national and international service projects. He has also participated in several trips that piqued his interest in how the world works.

"The traveling opportunities that Fort Hays has offered me have helped me discover that I love those things," Giles said. "Looking back at my travels to Mexico, Guatemala, China, and all over the United States, I have realized the times I have gone somewhere new are the times I have learned the most. Not only learning about other cultures, but I have learned the most about myself and what makes me tick."

Combining his love of travel, his love of service, and his sense of adventure, Giles has decided to join the Peace Corps after graduation.

"The Peace Corps has always been on my radar since I was in high school, and college helped me affirm that is what I wanted to do," Giles said. "I love to do service, learn, have fun, see new things, be put in hard situations, and to be forced to adapt to something new."

Giles had been planning to go to Cameroon, Africa, since July. But on March 2, he received a phone call saying his program had been canceled.

Two days later, Giles received a second phone call from the Peace Corps offering him the opportunity to go to Gambia.

He will work in a local primary school helping coach the teachers in using the strategies the Peace Corps uses.

"I'm not only going there to help teach them; they are going to be teaching me. It is a reciprocal relationship," he said. "I want to leave my own personal agenda back in the states when I leave. I want to be a clean slate."