Ask most fresh-faced, rising college grads about their post-academic plans on any given day, and you’ll likely receive anything from a withering glare to a slap-outta-nowhere. Rhyme intended.
Yep, it’s no secret that college doesn’t always prepare young adults to get a job, or you know, what the hell they should do once that tassel swings to the other side of the hat. It can be pure mayhem, guesswork, or tragedy, depending on how good your career services department was.
Full disclosure? I came to my senior year of college with a cloud of anxiety that followed me around, like a grown-up, human Eeyore.
Anyhow. As I trudged through the ragin' party that is a year of thesis writing, I started examining my options. I didn’t know much, but I did know one thing for sure: I wanted to impact the world somehow. Directly. Not as much behind-the-screen time and more people time, please.
The answer landed in my lap(top), with something I never expected: a service year.
Teach by the Beach! Join Literacy AmeriCorps of Palm Beach County
(Or so I think the posting went –– there was definitely a rhyme)
What followed? A year that changed the course of my entire career, and I’d like to think, sent a positive ripple effect out into the universe.
I’ve written a bit here on Impact Explorer about the experience, but since my time in the program, national service has gotten a facelift, a rebrand, and a way-cool slogan, not to mention bigwig partners a la Airbnb, Starbucks, and Cisco.
I chatted with Service Year to get the scoop on the program, and how you can find out more about how to make your next year one for the books:
What is a Service Year?
A service year is a full-time, paid opportunity that typically lasts 10-12 months. By spending a year embedded in a project and a community, service year corps members get a real sense of the challenges facing that community and develop valuable experience as they put together plans to tackle these challenges.
How is a service year different from volunteering here and there?
While we love volunteering, the episodic nature of it is not nearly as beneficial to a community or to the person serving as a full-time service year. When you do a service year you get paid, gain valuable workplace skills, and often times earn money to pay for college or pay off student loans. These are just a few of the benefits of a service year that you do not receive while simply volunteering.
Service Year Alliance’s slogan is "A Better You. A Greater Us." What does that mean?
We believe that a service year is a win-win experience — it benefits both the young person serving and the community being served. Not only does the person who serves gain real-world professional and leadership experience that will transform their life, but our communities and country benefit as well as these young people address pressing challenges facing our country.
Do Service Year corps members have the opportunity to create their own projects or form their own initiatives in their roles? How flexible are the positions and what people can do within them?
Service Years are available through a variety of nonprofits and public organizations. From urban to rural communities, service year opportunities are available in a wide array of issue areas as well, including: education, the environment, disaster relief, healthcare, animals, and many more.
Every Service Year opportunity is different, so the flexibility of the opportunities varies from program to program. Overall, service year corps members are given significant responsibilities and in many programs they serve alongside a larger team of young people from different backgrounds.
What are some examples of communities that have been impacted by the work done through service year?
There are 65,000 service year opportunities in cities and towns across the country.
In New Hampshire, AmeriCorps members who are doing a Service Year are helping tackle the opioid crisis by providing access to resources and supporting those affected. They help find housing for those in recovering and provides rides to treatment facilities. New Hampshire was just one out of the eight states that were recently given a grant so that AmeriCorps could help communities address this drug crisis.
In New York City’s most high-crime neighborhoods, Service Year corps members with Green City Force are teaching their neighbors environmental sustainability practices — all the while learning essential job skills for the workforce.
What are some myths or misconceptions you would like to bust about service years?
Sometimes people think that a service year is an opportunity that can only be done if you are wealthy or can afford it with support from parents. While the modest service year stipend can definitely be challenging to live on, we believe that unlike the majority of gap years, a service year is an experience that is accessible for everyone. Because the year is paid and oftentimes offers helpful benefits like education awards, healthcare, and childcare, there is no limit to who can participate.
Whether you’re figuring out what’s next after high school or college, searching for an opportunity to find a new path, looking to gain skills and experience for a job, or wanting a career change — a service year may be just what you’re looking for.
What is the best way for people who are interested in either completing or hosting a service year member learn more/ start the process?
Visit ServiceYear.org to learn more about a service year and get started searching for paid opportunities. Our team of service year alums are available to chat with you to answer questions and are always willing to share their stories from their own service year experiences.
If you want to host a service year corps member at your organization, our team can help with that as well. Visit ServiceYear.org/hosting to learn more.
Let's change the world.
Who wrote this?
Gina Edwards, Impact Explorer founder and lover of all pun jokes, making a positive change in the world, Stephen Colbert, Jif Peanut Butter, and staying inside on rainy days. Order may vary.