UW Dream Project

Looking Forward: AmeriCorps

Looking Forward is a new series where we highlight various post-grad opportunities for senior mentors in Dream Project who want to stay connected to the world of education, leadership, and mentoring. This post is from Jade Graddy, a current Planning Committee member and former AmeriCorps volunteer.

Be a National Service Volunteer!

After a few months of poor planning and lack of knowledge about the college application process, during my senior year, I was stuck. I had been rejected from the University of Washington, the only school that I’d applied to, and as a Running Start student who had earned my Associate’s degree there was no need to take more classes at community college. For the first time in my life, I felt lost and had no idea what was next for me.

I decided that it was time for me to look into something in which I’d always had interest, but never had a consistent chance to participate in: volunteer service. After hearing about a girl on my community college campus who was positioned as a Peer Mentor through AmeriCorps, I decided to check out what this program was all about.

After searching through the AmeriCorps site for listings I decided to apply for a program called the Washington Reading Corps of Solid Ground. With the WRC, I worked with Pre-K and 1st Grade English-language learning students at South Shore K-8 School in the Rainier Beach neighborhood on language and literacy development. In addition to providing a vast amount of programs to the Seattle community, Solid Ground also operates through an anti-racist lens, and each Friday of my service term was dedicated to analyzing aspects of institutionalized racism and how it plays out in our society. Our program saw literacy as a major social justice issue, and placed members in schools with a significant occurrence of free and reduced lunch and a need for additional support in instruction. My term was extremely challenging at times, but I can honestly say that AmeriCorps helped to shape who I am and is a viable option for looking for a less-traditional option following high school graduation.

What is AmeriCorps, anyway?

AmeriCorps is an opportunity to make a big difference in your life and in the lives of those around you. It’s a chance to apply your skills and ideals toward helping others and meeting critical needs in the community.

Each year, AmeriCorps offers 75,000 opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve through a network of partnerships with local and national nonprofit groups. Whether your service makes a community safer, gives a child a second chance, or helps protect the environment, you’ll be getting things done through AmeriCorps!

AmeriCorps members address critical needs in communities all across America. As an AmeriCorps member, you can:

  • Tutor and mentor disadvantaged youth
  • Fight illiteracy
  • Improve health services
  • Build affordable housing
  • Teach computer skills
  • Clean parks and streams
  • Manage or operate after-school programs
  • Help communities respond to disasters
  • Build organizational capacity

What’s in it for me?

SKILLS & CONNECTIONS. In addition to gaining valuable work skills, AmeriCorps members create a network with members of their placement organization and the greater community. Being a national service volunteer is both personally rewarding and encourages civic participation by all

A NEW ENVIRONMENT. For some, it’s an opportunity to do work in a place where you’ve never been. You can apply for positions in cities all across the United States. Many programs will fund your plane ticket and some even offer housing. A friend from high school in the graduating class below me heard about my experience and decided to do a program himself, and he’s currently serving with the Federal Emergency Management Agency Corps. He’s been doing amazing work to further disaster preparedness and recovery, and was part of a team that responded to areas affected by Hurricane Sandy in October. Who would have thought that someone from our small town could make such a huge impact all the way across the country?

MONEY. AmeriCorps members receive a monthly stipend of $1077. It’s not a lot of money, but as a service member I was eligible for low-income housing and EBT benefits that really helped me to balance my budget and supported me during the year that I was volunteering. After completing 1700 hours of service, AmeriCorps members are granted the Segal Education Award of $5550 to apply towards tuition or student loan payments for college.

PERSONAL GROWTH. Being a national service volunteer is hard. There are times when I became tired and discouraged, but I am so happy that I pulled through it. What I was able to do for my community and what I gained on a personal level was extremely valuable and I would not trade it for the world.

Okay, I’m interested. How can I learn more?

You can check out positions all across the country by visiting http://www.americorps.gov/. There, you can search for programs by narrowing down your service interests so that you can find options that are best suited towards your interests and skills.

Be aware the some programs require college degrees, but that for many you only need a high school diploma. Whether you’re a graduating high school senior looking for post-graduation options or a DP Mentor looking for a great transitional opportunity into the workforce, definitely check AmeriCorps out as an amazing chance to make a difference in our world!

-Jade Graddy

It’s National AmeriCorps Week!! Go give some love to our Dream Project AmeriCorps members, Amrita and Yen!!