On February 25, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed legislation which created AmeriCorps, a service organization from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Today is known as “The Day of the A” and is simply, the birthday of AmeriCorps.
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with AmeriCorps. I am almost certain that you have heard of Peace Corps, created during President John F. Kennedy’s administration. Well, whereas individuals serving the Peace Corps (the toughest job you’ll ever love) serve around the world, AmeriCorps (ah -mer-i-core) members serve local communities around the Nation. Some AmeriCorps programs may focus on education, some on the environment, yet all focus on the joy of serving others.
I served as an AmeriCorps member for two years. Many AmeriCorps programs (such as the one I served with, the Grenada School District AmeriCorps Program), limit terms of service to two. Some may go as far as three terms (or years) of service. Why is this? Through their service, AmeriCorps members learn skills and make memories that will last a lifetime. Service through AmeriCorps can be life-changing! Those who serve in the program are urged to take the skills, experiences, and talents they gain and spend their lives seeking to change the world. Take, for example, the AmeriCorps Pledge. Each year, thousands of adults, 18 and older, take this oath as they begin their term of service:
will get things done for America -
to make our people safer,
smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together
to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy,
I will take action.
Faced with conflict,
I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity,
I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment
with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member,
and I will get things done
What are the benefits to serving in AmeriCorps? First, you will receive great satisfaction in serving others. Whether it be teaching a student to read, mentoring youth, reading a book to children at local libraries, or assisting with a local food pantry or homeless shelter, I promise that those who want to serve will receive tremendous fulfillment.
Also, those who serve in AmeriCorps will receive a modest living expense. Additionally, after successful completion of 1,700 hours over the course of one term (again, typically one year), AmeriCorps members will be awarded the Segal Education Award of $5,645 per term. So, if an individual served two terms in AmeriCorps, that person would receive an education award of $11,290 plus the living expense. With the healthcare also provided, service in AmeriCorps may just be what you have been looking for.
Imagine, for a moment, a grandparent would love to provide an incredible gift for a grandchild who is about to be a freshman in high school but money is limited. Now, imagine that grandparent serving in AmeriCorps for two terms. During these two years, that grandparents finds the joy of teaching a GED class, or putting on a puppet show at the public library, or helping children learn phonics at school. Meanwhile, she earns her living expense and healthcare coverage each month through AmeriCorps. After two years of service, she is able to present her grandchild at graduation, an education award of over $11,000! Now that is a gift!! The transfer of the education award only applies to individuals over the age of fifty-five. All others can use their education award themselves to further their education or to pay off student loans. I used my Segal Education Award to get a Master’s Degree in Christian Ministry!
As I close this article, who should consider AmeriCorps?
Anyone wanting to make a difference
(I was a bivocational pastor when I served in AmeriCorps and it fit me perfectly!)
Young adults unsure of what they want to do with their life
(You will find talents you never knew you had!)
Graduating high school seniors
(Consider AmeriCorps NCCC)
Retired individuals or couples
(You have LOTS of wisdom to impart)
GO TO WWW.NATIONALSERVICE.GOV TO FOR INFORMATION