AmeriCorps started twenty years ago, on September 12, 1994, when President Bill Clinton signed the legislation creating the national service program. AmeriCorps is a volunteering program that provides members with salaries, education awards and, in some cases, shelter, in exchange for hard work dedicated to helping others in the community. Members of AmeriCorps dedicate themselves to full-time or part-time service, in partnership with non-profits and public agencies, to help communities in the areas of education, public safety, health care, and environmental protection. Since AmeriCorps’ inception, over 900,000 men and women have put in more than 1.2 billion hours of service tackling the challenges of poverty, hunger, domestic natural disasters and even the drop out crisis. This year another 75,000 volunteers will join the ranks of AmeriCorps, serving their country while earning wages and gaining important work skills.
What are the benefits?
You have heard about the benefits of joining federal programs such as the armed services or the Peace Corps.
AmeriCorps is one of the best programs for a variety of reasons:
- AmeriCorps is easier to get in to
- AmeriCorps is more flexible
- AmeriCorps requires a shorter commitment
In addition to the monthly stipend of about $1,100 per month, at the end of a 12-month term, all members receive an education award too.
With the completion of a year’s service, AmeriCorps members earn an education award equal to the maximum amount of a Pell Grant. For 2014-2015, that amount is $5,645. Serving two years in AmeriCorps, would earn a member over $10,000 towards his or her education, which in most cases, is more than enough to complete a two-year degree at a community college.
Members have seven years to use the education award and the award can be applied towards student loans too. AmeriCorps alumni gain a tremendous amount of flexibility to pursue their dreams through a college education.
Some schools also give additional scholarships to match the education award for AmeriCorps alums. Usually there’s a cap on how much you can get, so be aware of it. To check if the school you are interested in offers these scholarships, click here.
Additionally, there are loan-repayment and loan-forgiveness options too.
Prepares You For Employment
Serving a year or two with AmeriCorps will give you work skills and experience to put on your resume. For example, many tuition-exempt, part-time staff positions at your school will require 1-2 years of prior work experience in addition to a GED. In another example, your AmeriCorps experience might help you get a position as a Resident Assistant at a college dormitory, allowing you to save money on boarding.
Showing that you are skilled and responsible by completing a 12 month term in AmeriCorps are especially important qualities to demonstrate for GED holders.
Get your foot in the door and make connections. Many host agencies hire the AmeriCorps alumni who demonstrate excellence during their time volunteering.
How Can I Serve?
You can choose between three main programs within AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps State and National Program
The AmeriCorps State and National program has the broadest network. Groups under the State and National umbrella recruit and train members to meet community challenges in education, public safety, health, and the environment.
The AmeriCorps VISTA program dates back to 1965 as a domestic counterpart to the Peace Corps. The major focus is to help raise low income individuals and communities out of poverty. With VISTA, you can choose the exact location, organization and position you want to apply for. You can also apply for multiple positions, just like with a regular job search.
AmeriCorps NCCC-FEMA Corps
A particularly good option for young people, AmeriCorps NCCC-FEMA Corps is a full-time, team based residential program for 18-24 year old men and women. Developing leaders and strengthening communities by team based national and community service is the mission of AmeriCorps NCCC-FEMA Corps.
- Communities In Schools
- Jumpstart for Young Children
- Citizen Schools
- City Year
- Youth Volunteer Corps
- Notre Dame Mission Volunteers – AmeriCorps
- Girl Scouts of the USA
- Boy Scouts of America
- Boys and Girls Club
- Big Brothers and Big Sisters
- Camp Fire
- New York City Coalition Against Hunger
- Habitat for Humanity
- The Student Conservation Association
- Project Transformation
- Reading Partners
- Teach For America
Go for it! What are you waiting for?
Take the GED. Apply for AmeriCorps. Gain the skills and experience for the workforce. Earn the money to continue your education.