Should I Join AmeriCorps? – Benefits & Drawbacks Of Service

Interested in volunteering? What about giving again to the neighborhood, gaining a leg up within the workforce, and meeting like-minded individuals? AmeriCorps is a program that teaches you distinctive abilities, allows you to earn money in direction of your schooling, and instills a brand new appreciation in your nation.

While lesser identified than the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is a greater match for many individuals. Whether you wish to serve for a pair months or a year, someplace in your hometown or in a metropolis on the alternative facet of the nation, full-time or part-time, you’re more likely to discover one thing that piques your curiosity.

My 10-month time period with AmeriCorps was accomplished in 2015 at a well being heart in Boston working with the Latino neighborhood. Armed with my Bachelor’s in Spanish, AmeriCorps gave me the chance to stay in a brand new metropolis whereas furthering my language abilities. It additionally taught me the best way to work in an expert setting, study extra about social methods within the United States, and uncover what it’s love to do social work.

Rarely do you discover jobs straight out of faculty that may give you all of this.

Origins of AmeriCorps

While AmeriCorps was formally created in 1993, branches of this system existed earlier than then.

Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) was the primary, created by President Lyndon B. Johnson as half of his War on Poverty in 1964. At the time, it was largely often known as the “domestic Peace Corps.” The recognition for the War on Poverty finally declined, however based on The Washington Post, VISTA was thought-about a hit because it created newfound jobs for unemployed Americans.

In 1990, President Bush adopted his predecessors who sought to extend volunteering domestically by signing the National and Community Service Act. This act helped get extra packages underway, together with the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), which was created in 1992.

Soon after, in 1993, President Clinton created the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which tied the whole lot collectively. The CNCS was created as a way to facilitate simpler matches between Americans and numerous service websites. It coincided with the official founding of AmeriCorps.

According to, this system has achieved some spectacular numbers since its founding:

  • More than 1 million members have accomplished service
  • Over 4 billion hours of service have been accomplished by these members
  • Service websites throughout the U.S. now whole 21,600

Volunteer Options

AmeriCorps is damaged into three foremost packages: AmeriCorps VISTA, NCCC, and State and National.

AmeriCorps VISTA

The focus of this program is to assist people and communities rise out of poverty. By inserting volunteers into organizations with suitable objectives, the intention is to speed up native charitable initiatives. It is a full-time dedication and often includes a one-year time period.

Program examples embody:

  • Working at a meals pantry and natural backyard, serving to improve entry to wholesome meals. The same program presently exists serving faculty college students and their households in Tennessee.
  • Serving at a company working with low-income college students to supply data and gear associated to video work, together with sound, modifying, image composition, and lighting. An ongoing program like that is underway in rural Montana.

AmeriCorps NCCC

Broken up into Traditional Corps and FEMA Corps, NCCC volunteers work for 10 months to deal with neighborhood wants which can be attributable to disasters.

Traditional Corps volunteers use hands-on, direct intervention to reply to disasters. Examples embody:

  • Installing sandbags in communities to reduce the influence of flood disasters.
  • Constructing low-income housing to ease shelter considerations.
  • Removing vegetation that’s dangerous to the atmosphere and native economic system, planting new timber of their place.

FEMA Corps is aimed toward those that wish to develop skilled abilities in emergency conditions. Experience is gained in a variety of actions, together with:

  • Helping those that survive disasters fill out purposes for emergency help.
  • Constructing and working shelters to assist reunite households and their pets after a catastrophe.

AmeriCorps State and National

The most versatile of all of the packages, members can work part-time or full-time, serving at a neighborhood or nationwide group in a spread of areas, equivalent to schooling, catastrophe aid, veterans affairs, and well being providers. Program examples embody:

  • Helping pair faculty college students with low-income youth for mentoring relationships. A program like this presently exists in Vermont.
  • Recruiting dental college students to help with outreach actions that make entry to dental providers simpler for low-income communities.

Benefits of Service

AmeriCorps can set you up for a brilliant future in your career by offering hands-on work experience, worthwhile networking alternatives, {and professional} abilities coaching. In truth, some extremely profitable individuals received their begin with AmeriCorps.

Macon Phillips, after serving with AmeriCorps VISTA in 2001, went on to develop and handle the Obama Administration’s on-line program. Blair Brettschenider took her experience with AmeriCorps VISTA in 2010 to begin her personal nonprofit known as LadyForward, which provides younger ladies that come from war-torn nations mentorship and academic alternatives. Check out AmeriStories for extra examples.

Here are the skilled and personal advantages to anticipate.

1. Explore a New City With New Friends

Moving to a brand new metropolis could be intimidating. Luckily, in most placements, you find yourself serving with a bunch of members which can be your age and in related conditions. There aren’t any ensures, however there’s at all times the prospect that this group will act as a assist system and whilst associates.

It takes a sure sort of particular person to do one thing like AmeriCorps. Not everyone seems to be prepared to spend a bit of time working for little money. You’ll possible have this in frequent along with your AmeriCorps friends, in addition to different related pursuits associated to your service space.

Living on a restricted stipend signifies that you’ll be involved in doing the identical free or low-cost actions collectively. This provides you a brand new appreciation for the way a lot a metropolis or city has to supply. You will discover there’s extra happening than you’ll have anticipated.

Boston (my service metropolis) is way from a reasonable place to stay. While I did make associates exterior my AmeriCorps group, it was tough to search out shared pursuits and actions. My AmeriCorps group, however, was involved in going to artwork studio openings, live shows at close by parks, Shakespeare on the Esplanade, and dawn yoga through the summers – all of which have been free.

2. Gain Professional Experience

One main cause for individuals to do a service time period with AmeriCorps is to see what it’s wish to work in a specific occupation. If you’re AmeriCorps, you possible have a level or are planning to earn one. This doesn’t imply that you already know for certain which kind of career you’d wish to pursue, however pupil debt will possible be half of your future.

Pro Tip: To cut back this burden, take a look at 16 Ways to Reduce & Avoid Overwhelming College Student Loan Debt.

AmeriCorps is a wonderful option to see what it’s wish to work in your discipline of curiosity and assess if it’s an excellent match. If you study that it’s not fairly proper, you possibly can keep away from furthering your schooling in that discipline and losing money. Figuring out your career path shouldn’t be a straightforward feat, however AmeriCorps gives you extra readability than you’ll anticipate.

I had each intention of changing into a social employee and going again to highschool for my Master’s. My AmeriCorps position was similar to social work and shortly taught me that it was not one thing I wished to do for a dwelling. This gave me new perception and in addition saved me lots of time and money.

3. Qualify for Education Awards

Depending in your program and the way lengthy you serve, AmeriCorps will repay some of your loans or provide you with money to repay future loans. According to, AmeriCorps members have been given a complete of $3.3 billion {dollars} by the Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards.

For my 10-month service time period, I was given $5,600 to repay loans from my undergraduate diploma. I additionally had the choice of accepting an end-of-service bonus of $1,200, so should you don’t have loans or don’t plan on accumulating any, you’ll nonetheless get a little bit further on the finish. The actual award quantity varies relying in your service dedication:

Effective October 1, 2017

Participation Type Minimum # of Hours Amount
Full-Time 1,700 $ 5,815.00
Half-Time  900 $ 2,907.50
Reduced Half-Time  675 $ 2,215.24
Quarter-Time  450 $ 1,538.36
Minimal-Time & Summer Associate  300 $ 1,230.69

4. Improve Your Professional Network

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics exhibits that in 2015, 2.8 million graduates entered the workforce, with unemployment charges on the lowest rate in seven years. Many current graduates anticipate a level to be sufficient to get a job, however there merely aren’t sufficient jobs on the market. People want a aggressive edge, and AmeriCorps may give you that.

A service time period can function one lengthy trial interval for gaining full-time employment. Depending in your service website, there’ll possible be job alternatives at your precise website, or maybe with one other group that you just work carefully with. If you make an excellent impression throughout your time period, you’ll have a significant leg up in comparison with different graduates.

I can personally attest that having AmeriCorps in your resume units you aside. Committing to a time period of service speaks extremely of your character. It is one thing many employers will acknowledge, admire, and search out.

5. Opportunities for Professional Development

During a time period with AmeriCorps, most websites provide and encourage as {many professional} growth alternatives as potential. There can be a number of trainings associated to your service space, throughout which you’ll be able to obtain numerous certifications. For instance, each different Friday of my program, we accomplished volunteer tasks and had discussions associated to the well being care discipline, homelessness, psychological well being, and extra.

Some websites will allow you to take courses that rely in direction of your hours should you can show that it’s associated to your service space. Several individuals in my program have been capable of take Spanish and Portuguese courses at a neighborhood faculty, getting them paid for by our program since we served primarily Spanish-speaking individuals. You can even volunteer at different organizations, utilizing these hours to succeed in your required quantity of service time.

In whole, you possibly can earn your hours in a spread of methods, taking your service year to discover and study extra about your potential discipline and your self. All of these achievements look nice in your resume.

Tips for Success

Even if AmeriCorps is ideal for you, there are nonetheless methods to enhance your service year. Here are some ideas to remember.

1. Understand the Pitfalls of Long-Term Volunteering

AmeriCorps is what you select to make it. How many individuals have you ever heard saying that, in an ideal world, they’d give up their jobs and spend their lives volunteering? But they don’t. That’s as a result of volunteering doesn’t at all times pay the payments. AmeriCorps simply barely paid my payments. It could be straightforward to deal with what you’re lacking out on by not having a traditional paying job. Volunteers typically dream of costly dinners, lavish holidays, and frivolous spending. You might begin to really feel such as you deserve “more,” particularly when you have a level.

The actuality is that it’s all about your perspective. Focusing on what you’re lacking out on by not being paid extra does nothing for you or your happiness. AmeriCorps affords you a lot alternatives that different jobs wouldn’t; it’s necessary to maintain that in thoughts.

The money facet shouldn’t be the one half that may make long-term volunteering taxing. Your job will ask you to offer continually and assist everybody round you. Volunteering on the weekends is one factor, however full-time service could be exhausting. You’ll shortly study whether or not or not going right into a service occupation is suitable for you.

Making time for your self is essential as a way to keep blissful. When your full-time job is giving a lot of your self to others, it may be straightforward to neglect to make your self a precedence. In the top, conserving your self blissful means that you can higher serve your neighborhood. This could be achieved in a spread of methods. For me, I found yoga. While yoga is usually costly and subsequently not reasonable, I discovered a studio that allowed me to take courses without spending a dime in alternate for signing college students into class and staying late to brush the flooring.

2. Leverage Your Financial Situation to Better Understand Poverty

Through AmeriCorps, you’ll obtain a stipend and often meals stamps. The actual stipend varies, as advantages are adjusted barely for the native price of dwelling. However, it’s by no means lots of money.

The stipend is absolutely manageable if you’re trustworthy and reasonable with your self. If you wish to eat out daily, then this will not be the best selection. Or, it might be good to choose a service website in your hometown the place you possibly can proceed dwelling with your loved ones.

If you have already got debt from faculty, then most loans shouldn’t accumulate curiosity throughout your service time period. Everyone’s financial state of affairs is completely different, however when you have different payments to pay and never a lot in your financial savings account, then AmeriCorps could also be a wrestle (however not unattainable).

Pro Tip: For extra assist, take a look at 25 Easy Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget.

The plus facet is that you’ll know precisely how a lot money to anticipate every month. Therefore, you possibly can absolutely plan forward to stay inside your means. Most individuals don’t know that it’s really potential to stay on a small quantity of money. Since my service year ended, I have felt extra grateful for common paying jobs that my associates would contemplate financially inadequate. I’ve additionally fearful much less about money as a result of my AmeriCorps time period taught me robust financial accountability. After dwelling off of $14,000 a year in Boston, I know that I could make any measurement funds work.

Serving will even provide you with a brand new appreciation for these dwelling under the poverty line, which is partially the purpose of a small stipend. Depending on the phrases of your service, you may be eligible to obtain meals stamps. Everyone in my program used them as a result of it was essential to make ends meet. I realized that having an EBT card, which acts identical to a credit card, can get you free or low-cost entry to many museums in Boston. Using an EBT card on the public market means that you can double your spending energy. (This applies to many cities!)

But the necessary lesson that I realized was humility. The first couple occasions I swiped my EBT card, I felt a lot disgrace. The profit of it appearing as a credit card is that nobody is aware of what cost type you’re utilizing moreover the cashier. However, I nonetheless fearful in regards to the assumptions that have been being made about me for utilizing this card. Having an understanding of poverty provides you a perspective that might not be gained in another means. It adjustments the way in which you view these points, boosting your empathy for individuals who are struggling to make ends meet.

3. Research the Program and Site Carefully

AmeriCorps packages range enormously relying on the character of service. For instance, some FEMA packages require members to put on a uniform, take part in each day bodily exercise, and stay on a good schedule. Some require members to stay in dorm-style housing, whereas others help you stay wherever you please.

These variations are necessary and can have an effect on the standard of your time in AmeriCorps. The extra time you spend researching the particulars of your program, in addition to pondering critically about what really fits you greatest, the extra possible you’re to have a constructive experience.

4. Consider the Limitations of Your Role

With many roles in AmeriCorps, your position can be clearly outlined. These jobs are designed in a means that they are often handed on from member to member as they full their service time period. Therefore, there will not be a lot flexibility or room for creativity.

In addition, it’s a government-funded position. This signifies that there are specific restrictions on what you are able to do and the way a lot accountability you may be given. For instance, whereas serving my time period at a well being heart, it was strictly forbidden to talk to sufferers about abortion. If a affected person introduced it up, I was to right away move it alongside to a different workers member. It was forbidden to even give emotional assist.

Understanding precisely what your tasks are will result in much less frustration.

Final Word

A year with AmeriCorps is actually distinctive. The “domestic version of Peace Corps,” as it’s typically referred to, is a good step for these trying to get experience earlier than becoming a member of the workforce and provides again to a neighborhood in their very own nation. It’s additionally perfect for anybody in search of to turn out to be an element of a program with a strong alumni network that may assist you lengthy after your service time period is finished.

Living on a small funds is difficult. It provides you a brand new appreciation for the little issues and exhibits you what you’re really succesful of. Putting your self in uncomfortable conditions is while you study precisely what you possibly can and can’t do. More typically than not, you will notice that you’re succesful of far more than you ever would have anticipated.

You will even see a special facet of the neighborhood than you’ll have by working in another job. Direct service is one thing you’ll admire for years to come back.

Have you ever volunteered? If so, what did you study out of your experience?

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