Many of people are familiar with or have at least heard of the Peace Corps. But not many people have even heard of AmeriCorps, commonly referred to as the “domestic Peace Corps.” Created in 1993, AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that engage citizens in intensive service to meet the nation’s critical needs in education, public safety, health, the environment, and more.
Through a network of partnerships with national nonprofit groups, AmeriCorps offers 75,000 opportunities a year for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve their communities. Knowing the state you wish to serve in and where your interest lies, you can search the thousands of available opportunities to find one that best fits your skills, goals, and passion for service. To be eligible to serve through AmeriCorps, you must be at least 17 years old and be a U.S. citizen and national or lawful resident, but specific programs may have additional qualifications.
Serving through AmeriCorps, you are a not an “employee” or a “volunteer”, but rather a “member”, who, depending on the program, will commit 9-12 months of your life to national service. AmeriCorps has four different programs, each with its own structure, focus, and time commitments: State and National, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), and National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). Most members who have successfully completed their first term are eligible for additional terms.
Members are paid a “living allowance” that is modest yet typically enough to cover your needs, but members are also eligible for certain government assistance. Additionally, AmeriCorps offers a number of other benefits, including a monetary education award upon program completion, student loan forbearance for the duration of service, child care, healthcare, and incredible professional development through direct service and various trainings.
Occurring this year from March 10-18th, AmeriCorps’ annual All AmeriCorps Week is a time when members come together for various service projects and community outreach. The 2012 theme is “AmeriCorps Works,” reflecting one of AmeriCorps’ biggest goals to “get things done.” By 2010, 2.5 million disadvantaged youth had received service, tutoring, or mentoring and 2.6 million volunteers had been managed and/or mobilized through the 860 million service hours of 706,000 members “getting things done” since 1994.
For the high school graduate looking to earn some money and build a resume before college, the middle-aged mother looking for a career change, and everyone in between, AmeriCorps provides members opportunities to serve their communities and be a part of something bigger than themselves, while gaining incalculable personal and professional skills and experiences.
Emma Drosten-Brooks is a Community Outreach Coordinator working on behalf of Rio Vista CARE.