March 9-17 mark an important celebration for the government program, AmeriCorps. It is the week in which many AmeriCorps programs celebrate, inform, and participate in numerous service projects that serve different communities. This year’s theme is “AmeriCorps Works,” which explains how it returns on investment for the recipients of service, the people who serve, the larger community, and the nation.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the program, the best way to describe it is the “domestic Peace Corps.” It is an excellent program for newly graduates or people who are considering the non-profit/service industry. There are multiple programs and branches of AmeriCorps. AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is a 10-month long intensive program that visits different cities and helps with disaster relief and develops leaders through community service. AmeriCorps VISTAs helps build capacity and improves programming that aims to help low-income individuals and help fight poverty. AmeriCorps State and National programs support a broad range of programs from intensive to indirect service to address communities’ needs. There is also SeniorCorps (for senior citizens) and Teach For America, which places individuals within school districts to teach.
AmeriCorps programs offer multiple benefits for recent graduates. AmeriCorps members, receive a living stipend, health insurance (full-time member), loan forbearance on federal loans, as well as the Segal Educational Award at the end of the service. Members may serve in full-time (1,700 hours) or half-time (900 hours) positions throughout the state they’re interested in applying. Members may also choose to forgo the Segal award for a cash option of usually $1,500. AmeriCorps State/National programs allow individuals to have another job and go to school. AmeriCorps VISTAs allow you to do some classes, but only under restrictions. Due to the harsh living styles AmeriCorps NCCC members live in, the age is restricted to 18-24. You also receive preferential treatment when applying for governmental jobs, which a lot of us PMers seem to gravitate. It is the an awesome way to gain the experience that everybody needs for a job, but can't seem to get because nobody will hire you.
I am the Volunteer Coordinator for the Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness AmeriCorps State program. I serve at the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness (MCAH) I love being an AmeriCorps member because not only can I work another job (which helps supplement my income), have health insurance, I will be able to put $5,550 towards my student loans. It’s pretty great. I serve at MCAH and am able to gain a lot of experience. I am in charge of grant administration for Project Homeless Connect, a one-stop, one-day resource fair for the precariously housed or homeless individuals. I also provide volunteer trainings for my fellow AmeriCorps members. Other members in my program provide direct service to the homeless. This is why I love my job.
Now some individuals may say that a living stipend isn't enough to live on, but it is more money than you would be making at a minimum wage job part time, trust me I worked in retail last year at minimum wage. It also gives you training, experience and you are able to help serve the community. It’s a wonderful program that has multiple options. If you have an interest in environment, there’s a program for that. There’s a program for education, helping children, disaster relief, homelessness, refugee services, etc.
If you’re interested, go to the AmeriCorps website. It's a great job right out of college and a wonderful way to gain that experience that everybody is trying to attain.