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Age not a factor in National Service

July 13, 2009

by Julienne

It was March 2007, and graduation was right around the corner.  The “real world” was eagerly seeking new recruits, and I was next.

I know I’m not the first to feel the impending doom of commencement, and I certainly won’t be the last.  38 years before my episode ever began, The Beatles acquiesced with my sentiments when they sang: “Out of college, money spent/See no future, pay no rent/All the money’s gone, nowhere to go.”

So I started looking for a job, but I had requirements.  Absolute musts included: health coverage and the opportunity to give back to my community.  Quite frankly, tuition reimbursement would not have offended me, either.   In short, I was looking for an excellent opportunity before I headed back to university for my graduate work, and my search led me to the local Americorps office.  I interviewed, filed the necessary paperwork, and had the perfect job before my May D-Day.

Americorps is a division of the Corporation for National and Community Service, created in 1993 under the administration of President Clinton.  It aims to bolster the work of domestic non-profits by providing agencies with service members who will assist in increasing capacity.  It addition to creating new service opportunities for the new millennium, Americorps merged with VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) – a program that was previously created in 1965 as a Stateside answer to the Peace Corps.

In June of 2007, I began serving as a member with Americorps VISTA, a program whose main goals are poverty alleviation and the development of agency infrastructure.  Although members only sign up for one-year terms, I chose to complete two years of service – finishing in June of 2009.  My time with Americorps was spent as the coordinator of a global education program.

This is what I see as one of the main benefits of service—namely, that age is not a factor in the National Service world.  Organizations enlisting the expertise of Americorps members are fully aware that members are educated, hardworking twenty-somethings; knowing full well that they have a lot to offer.  With the backing of a National Service program, young people are allotted a great deal more responsibility than in the private sector.

On April 21, 2009, President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act into law.  In addition to continuing the funding of Americorps programs already in place (like VISTA), it created five additional service corps, with Clean Energy corps being one.

With decisions like this, the lawmakers in Washington are sending a clear message to the American people.  They are saying that National Service is an important and honorable task.  To support it financially is to acknowledge that civil society is often called upon to bridge the gap between services offered and the real needs of our population.  They are providing the overall agency with the tools required to send those willing to serve.

In their September 10, 2007 edition, Time Magazine made a “Case for National Service.”   While they highlighted Americorps, Time introduced other important programs and gave an overview of American politicians’ opinions on the subject of national service.  It is interesting to note that, per the article, Barack Obama’s position on national service included a program to assist disadvantaged youth in gaining skills in the area of environmental work.

For a Service newcomer, there is a lot through which to navigate.  Knowing the fundamental differences between the various service programs is helpful in choosing which one is best for you.  Basic Americorps members sign up for 1-year terms within the United States, with the option of extending their service; as previously mentioned.  They can gain an array of experiences, in areas such as construction, education, environment and health.

The Peace Corps conducts similar programs; the main difference is that experience is gained overseas.  Additionally, volunteers commit to 2-year terms.  Teach for America volunteers likewise commit two years of their post-college life.  They educate students in low-income, domestic neighborhoods.

Benefits for all service programs vary, but most come with health coverage and a post-service, educational award – not to mention excellent work experience.

While the tangible benefits are low, most Service members will agree that they were impacted just as much, if not greater, than those they assisted in their service year.  If you are at a crossroads and looking for an opportunity to impact your world, I believe that herein might lie your answer.

Links

Americorps homepage

Peace Corps website

Teach for America homepage

The Case for National Service” (Time’s full article)

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One Comment
  1. Julienne permalink
    July 29, 2009 8:43 am

    For anyone interested, check out the following Friends & Family Coupon:

    http://www.gapinc.com/giveandget/teachforamerica/

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