Why choose to do one or two years of service after you graduate?
-The opportunity to serve others. There is a good chance you will receive far more from those you serve than you can ever give.
-An opportunity to explore your vocation and receive experience in your career of interest.
-Learn a new skill. For example build a house, plant a community garden, and organize people.
-Work and possibly live in a place that is culturally different than your familiar surroundings
-Gain new perspectives
-Student loan deferment
-Living stipend and health insurance/benefits (may vary by program)
What service opportunities are out there?
AmeriCorps is a national network of service programs. Placements are in nonprofits, public agencies, and faith-based organizations. Focus areas: Disaster Relief, Education, Environment, Health, Homelessness, Community Development, and many more. Programs include: AmeriCorps*State and National, AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers In Service to America), and AmeriCorps*NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). A stipend and education award are offered.
City Year aims to “unite young people of all backgrounds for a year of full-time service, giving them the skills and opportunities to change the world.” Volunteers serve in schools as tutors, mentors, role models, and leaders of afterschool programs. A stipend and education award are offered.
Solid Ground believes that “ Our community has the resources, will and ability to end poverty. All people have the right to food, shelter, social justice and opportunities. Racism perpetuates poverty. To end poverty, we must undo racism.” Programs include JustServe*AmeriCorps, MLK VISTA Corps, Washington Reading Corps, or Service Learning VISTA Corps. Focus areas include: domestic and youth violence prevention, elementary school literacy, and support for anti-poverty organizations. One year commitment, living stipend, and education award offered.
Local, National, International
Habitat “seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action.” Habitat AmeriCorps members commit ten- to twelve-month serving with a team to build affordable housing for and with low-income families. No previous construction experience required. Living allowance and AmeriCorps education award are offered.
Local, National, International
The Jesuit Volunteer Corps is a local, national, and international program. Jesuit Volunteers make a one to two year commitment to serve where the need is greatest, to work with people who are marginalized by society and to live in an apostolic community with other JVs. JVs work for and with people who are homeless, unemployed, refugees, people with AIDS, the elderly, street youth, abused women and children, the mentally ill and the developmentally disabled. Jesuit Volunteers in the Northwest are committed to the four values of social and ecological justice, spirituality, simple living and community. A living stipend and education award are offered.
A national service program that provides literacy services to youth, adults and families in communities throughout the United States. Literacy AmeriCorps requires an 11 month commitment. A stipend and Education Award are offered. Service areas include: computer literacy, teaching and tutoring English Language Learners (ELL), naturalization, GED-prep, adult basic skills, family literacy, and vocational literacy.
Lutheran Volunteer Corps is a local and national program. LVC Volunteers provide direct service, community organizing, indirect service, advocacy and public policy to a variety of different non-profit organizations. LVC volunteers are committed to the four values of social justice, spirituality, simplicity, and community. Volunteers commit to one year of service and live together in intentional household communities. A living stipend and education award are offered.
The Peace Corps' mission is to “Help the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women. Help promote a better understanding of Americans, and help promote a better understanding of other people on the part of Americans.” The Peace Corps is a two year commitment addressing global needs in one of 71 countries. Placements include public health, education, HIV/AIDS awareness, information technology, agriculture, environment, business development, etc. Volunteers receive medical, finical, and educational benefits including loan deferment.
Sound Youth works to “build partnerships with schools, community organizations, and faith-based organizations to holistically support local youth and their families.” Volunteers commit 11 months to tutor in schools and neighborhood centers, organize parent events, recruit volunteers, develop after-school programs and hold community events that support and celebrate kids. A living stipend and education award are offered.
TFA’s mission is to “build the movement to eliminate educational inequity by enlisting our nation's most promising future leaders in the effort.” Teach for America requires a two year commitment serving as full-time paid teacher in an urban or rural public school in low-income areas of the country. An education award is offered. Members do not have teacher certification but must pass certain exams required by their district. Some graduate schools offer members the opportunity to earn a Masters degree in Education.
Gain hands-on experience in the environmental field. WCC members commit one year to build trails, do restoration plantings, biological monitoring, and service projects in the community. WCC members attend a series of paid trainings throughout the year (e.g. Wilderness First Responder, Wildland Firefighting, Hazardous Materials Response, Ethnobotany, and GIS/GPS). WCC Members must be 18 - 25 years old. Members earn $8.55/hour and receive an AmeriCorps education award. They work as part of a team, receive training and education as well as earning an AmeriCorps education award.
*There are many more service programs/opportunities than the ones listed above. Check out the book Alternatives to the Peace Corps by Paul Backhurst for more options.