Volunteering for a year of service with AmeriCorps answers a call to make our nation stronger, safer, and healthier. Regardless of which three branches of AmeriCorps volunteers serve – State and National, VISTA, or NCCC – volunteers make it their mission to improve America’s less fortunate communities. Since its inception, over 1 million AmeriCorps volunteers have dedicated their time and service to their country.
When their service commitment is complete, AmeriCorps volunteers become part of a unique group in American society. By giving just one year of service, AmeriCorps alumni gain a remarkable amount of fuel to drive their future. Let’s take a look at how.
Segal Education Award
When full-time AmeriCorps volunteers complete their service commitment, they earn the esteemed Segal Education Award, which can help pay off student loans or further their education, or both. Currently, AmeriCorps alumni have up to seven years to use their education award. Since 1994, over 1 million AmeriCorps volunteers have earned more than $3.3 billion in education awards.
The education award was created as a recruiting incentive as well as a means to encourage alumni to pursue additional education. Universities began to learn that AmeriCorps alumni made excellent students, and so some of them established scholarship programs that matched AmeriCorps’ education award.
According to the AmeriCorps Alumni Outcomes Study (AAOS), issued by the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps alumni are more likely than the average adult to pursue post-secondary education. In fact, the study showed that the number of AmeriCorps members with a graduate degree grew from 5% before AmeriCorps, to 38% after AmeriCorps. Overall, the alumni surveyed indicated that AmeriCorps had a significant impact on the choices they made for higher education following AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps volunteers gain real-world experience and valuable skills, making themselves attractive candidates to potential employers. This fact is so well known among employers, that simply seeing AmeriCorps on an applicant’s resume is a credential all on its own.
AmeriCorps service indicates that the applicant is a multi-tasker, capable of facing a challenge and figuring out a plan to accomplish a goal. AmeriCorps alumni are seen as team-players, people who can lead the way but delegate, or accept delegation and work alongside others amicably. Employers know that AmeriCorps members do not waste time, preferring instead to lead the charge forward and get the job done.
Research indicates that AmeriCorps opens doors for its volunteers. Over 50% of alumni surveyed in the AAOS said that their experience with AmeriCorps exposed them to a career opportunity that they had not considered beforehand. Forty-two percent said that they got a job through an AmeriCorps connection within six months of completing their service commitment. Some alumni even reflect that their experience with AmeriCorps pulled them out of a dead-end job and opened their eyes and hearts to the potential of a meaningful career. Later, the education award, combined with connections they made in AmeriCorps, made the career opportunity possible.
Research not specific to AmeriCorps indicates that those who volunteer are likely to be more civic-minded. It’s no surprise, then, that research shows the same about AmeriCorps alumni.
The AAOS shows that alumni actually have a greater voting rate than the general public. Ninety-one percent of those surveyed were registered to vote in the 2016 presidential election, and 94% of them actually voted. This is quite remarkable, when compared to the 58% of the nationwide registered voters who actually voted. Beyond voting, alumni credit their AmeriCorps experience with their ability to solve problems within their communities. Indeed, 90% of alumni feel that they are better problem-solvers because of AmeriCorps. And, 80% of alumni feel capable of creating a plan to fix a community problem because of skills they gained while in AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps alumni complete their year of service with a sense of making their communities better and safer, wherever their communities might be. Whether they tackle smaller community problems like keeping local parks clean or address larger problems like bridging cultural gaps or encouraging people to vote, AmeriCorps alumni generally feel equipped to handle the challenge and confident in themselves to lead the charge.
Volunteering with AmeriCorps is a unique experience, one that gathers diverse groups of people and unifies them behind a common mission. It is perhaps no wonder that one trait all AmeriCorps alumni share upon completion of their service is that no matter what their background is and no matter how great the challenge is in front of them, they are AmeriCorps alumni, and they can “get things done.”