In a previous post we highlighted two amazing programs our country offers – The Peace Corps and Job Corps. Today, we’re going to talk about AmeriCorps.
What is AmeriCorps?
The simplest explanation is to say that it’s like the Peace Corps, but the work is done domestically. Funding comes from the federal government and donations, and all work is specifically oriented in ways that help communities thrive.
When volunteers sign up, they can fall into 1 of 3 programs:
- AmeriCorps State and National
- Nationals Civilian Commuity Corps (NCCC)
- Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA)
What Kind of Work Do Volunteers Do?
The work will depend on the branch.
AmeriCorps State and National members may engage in tutoring, home building or even recruiting for the organization. Fundraising would fall under this department as well, which could include grant writing, making presentations to donors, or coming up with marketing plans.
The NCCC is composed specifically of volunteers ages 18-24. They are based out of 1 of 5 areas that include:
Work is specific to the region and may overlap with that of AmeriCorps State and National, but can also include disaster response. For example, when Hurricane Sandy flooded many areas on the East Coast, volunteers from Maryland were on the scene, as can be seen here. When Joplin, MO was hit by a tornado, more than 350 AmeriCorps volunteers responded!
VISTA is the original program. It was founded in 1965 and currently has about 5,000 volunteers nationwide. These great Americans serve in many capacities, which includes helping in emergencies, but when there is no immediate disaster, they focus on long-term ones, which include doing good work to bring people out of poverty by helping non-profits and other agencies.
Period of Service
According to the AmeriCorps FAQ page, volunteers sign up for assignments, not periods of service. Their length of service is 10-12 months, which is perfect for graduating high schoolers or college students, allowing them a period of time to serve their country prior to taking the next step in their lives.
Potential Benefits for Volunteers
All volunteers receive a small stipend between $858-930 per month, and many receive housing. Additionally, there is an education award of $5,750 at the end of the term. The award can go toward loans or coming tuition. For members who do not wish to receive the award, they can opt out and get an additional $100/month in salary.
Above and beyond money, though, AmeriCorps is an incredible opportunity for young people to build character and see the world in a safe way that is unique. Additionally, it will help them mature and grow as they are opened up to new ideas that may help them choose their proper course of study.
Having said this, not everyone’s experience is going to be perfect. For more information see the links below that have a variety of viewpoints from real people who served our country.
From Real AmeriCorps Members
Temp Disaster Relief Army – former volunteer writes in depth article for “The Nation,” discussing multiple people’s experiences
Thinking About Quitting –a volunteer finds out what it’s like being stuck in a bureaucracy
Walking the Line Between Love and Hate – this volunteer weighs pros and cons thoughtfully, and has shown that he is really learning a lot about the world
3 Reasons I Don’t Like AmeriCorps – volunteer lays out 3 things she hates, such as the short term of service; “it takes seven months to get comfortable somewhere”
Quit My Job & Join AmeriCorps? – very interesting message board with great feedback from both sides