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Why a Year Of Service is the Best Thing You Can Do With Your Life | Tales from an Americorps Alumni

Updated on March 13, 2015
Countless shouts out and thanks to City Year, San Jose, where I completed my AmeriCorps year of service.
Countless shouts out and thanks to City Year, San Jose, where I completed my AmeriCorps year of service. | Source

My National Service Experience

Where were you in 2013? I was earning five dollars an hour, working 60 hours a week while studying for my L.S.A.T. and maintaining a host of long distance friendships, all while living in a crappy apartment in a notoriously 'bad' neighborhood and drowning under a sea of stress. Oh, and doing my part to improve our country. And loving every second of it.

Bill is an AmeriCorps Supporter

From 2013-2014, I served as a Corps Member at a national service organization called City Year, a national non-profit sponsored by AmeriCorps.

If you haven't heard of AmeriCorps, you can imagine a domestic version of the much more well known Peace Corps. Although that is a simplistic way to think of a unique organization with it's own storied history and mission. AmeriCorps does a lot of different things in a lot of different places around the country, but in every AmeriCorps affiliated program, Corps Members spend a year serving their country. Being part of AmeriCorps is about giving back to a community in need, learning valuable professional skills, and developing a love of national citizenry, all while becoming part of a team and having a unique and transformative experience.

Barack Obama Loves City Year!

City Year, the national non-profit that I served with, has these same lofty intentntions. But in addition, City Year is defined by some very unique and ambitious goals.

In the United States, fifty percent of all high school dropouts end their education at ten percent of the nation's high schools. This concentration of students that don't have the opportunity to participate in higher education is disheartening, but for a lot of reasons it makes sense; the socio-economic conditions that make it harder for young people to graduate high school are responsible for the concentration of these same students in urban areas and low-income neighborhoods. The circumstances that many students are born in to define their future prospects, creating conditions that hinder the potential of millions of America's young people. And in this tragedy, City Year sees the potential for change.

By leading programs at schools in 25 of America's biggest cities, City Year works to address the national high school drop-out crisis by turning a strategic eye to those students who need the most help. City Year provides mentoring, tutoring, and more to students on "focus lists" in underprivileged districts around the country, utilizing data and a scientific approach to work with individuals most at risk of giving up on their future in education. City Year prides itself on being a twenty first century organization with an eye on the future, so it's mission and operations are continually evolving to meet the needs of the young people it serves.

Why Should You Consider a Year of Service?

"City Year" is named after an idea; that every young person in the United States should have the opportunity to give back to their country by serving a community in need, and should make time to do so by devoting a year of their life to national service. America's young people need a "City Year," a time after their senior year in college to continue their educational experience and develop as national citizens while giving back.

And the idea makes sense and works in practice: Corps Members who complete a year of service with AmeriCorps develop as leaders and improve the country they serve. If any of this sounds interesting to you in the least, consider these reasons for joining a national service organization today.

A Year of Service is "Walking the Walk"

Whatever you majored in during your time at college, you probably have some ambitions to "help people" through your future work. And AmeriCorps and other service organizations allow you to get a head start on helping people in a tangible, meaningful way that you can be proud of for the rest of your career.

A Year of Service is Patriotic

Even if you don't consider yourself to be particularly patriotic of don't agree with everything that America does, a year of service will connect you with your national identity like little else will. It isn't political; AmeriCorps and other national service organizations make a point of staying out of the messiness of political drama, and instead focus their energy on helping the people in our country who need it the most. And you never know, national service may make a patriot of you yet!

Corps Members who complete a year of service with AmeriCorps develop as leaders and improve the country they serve..."

A Year of Service is Non-Violent

Interested in serving your country, but not a big believer in the military? National service in the AmeriCorps vein carries on the non-violent tradition of evoking change that has been practiced by leaders like Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi for generations.

A year of service makes you part of something bigger.
A year of service makes you part of something bigger.

A Year of Service Changes YOU

AmeriCorps and other national service programs put a big focus on developing participants, and your leadership and professional skills will be coached to fruition. If you have a degree to your name, but don't feel like you have the real world experience yet to jump into grad school or the job market, serving your country will change you for the better and prepare you for what's next.

A Year of Service Has Lots of Other Perks

After completing a service year with AmeriCorps, you will be eligible for lots of grants and educational assistance programs designed to help you invest in your own future. Hundreds of universities offer partial or full ride scholarships to Year of Service Alumni in dozens of disciplines. Plus, you will receive and educational award to help you pay for past expenses like college loans.

City Year Application Deadlines

September
30
November
15
February
15
April
30

A Year of Service Can Help Change The World

Don't be naïve and think that in one year you will fix all of America's problems, or transform the world all on your own. But through a Year of Service, you become part of a larger movement, and you help move our country in the right direction.

AmeriCorps Has Been Changing The World for 20 Years

The Bottom Line

A year of service isn't for the faint of heart, and it isn't easy.

You will be working harder than you have ever worked, doing things that you aren't qualified to do and won't have the time to perfect. You will cope with long hours, meager pay, and so much work stress that your head might explode. But you will grow as a result; you will leave your year of service as a leader, and a citizen.

And you will prove that you are on the right side of history, that you want to change the world, and that you aren't worried about getting your hands dirty to make real change happen. You will be part of the solution; your countless hours of service will be hours spent changing someone else'e life. You will be part of a wave of progress, pushing history in the right direction, one Service Year at a time. Trust me: I'm an AmeriCorps alumni.

So what are you waiting for? Read more about the different national service programs available, and apply for a Year of Service today.

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