By Yousof Hamza
Members of AmeriCorps serve communities across the country. It’s an opportunity for recent college graduates to make money and gain experience while getting involved in community service, but it’s open to people of all ages.
AmeriCorps partners with Notre Dame Mission Volunteers who has over 4,000 members in 24 cities. Laura Roch, the Northeast Ohio site director and Youngstown State University alumna, said there are great benefits for those serving in the communities.
“In communities, especially where ours are, a lot of people are struggling just having a member kind of be the light to them,” she said.
Many members who were initially uncomfortable with their work later grew to love it, Roch said. A live-in member at Zelie’s Home in Cleveland initially couldn’t connect with anyone and was having a hard time.
“She reached out to me and her site supervisor, which is the person on staff there all the time, and said how much she grew to really love the home and love her position,” she said. “She actually wants to come back for a second year.”
AmeriCorps members are paid $15,100 while serving. They also receive an education credit of almost $6,000, which they can apply toward student loans or future education costs.
Roch said there’s a myriad of other benefits to help members after they’ve served.
“They receive an alumni AmeriCorps access, job board access, free tax returns, other discounts,” Roch said. “Say you’re planning on doing your master’s, some colleges will actually look at that and say, ‘Wow, this person did a year of service,’ and then they’ll match the education awards.”
Roch said students can serve up to four times, but only get the educational credits twice.
Other benefits include forbearance on eligible student loans, interest accrual payment on all eligible student loans, health insurance and child care.
Recent YSU graduate Marta Hergenrother is serving in AmeriCorps with the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown. She said the experience pushed her outside of her comfort zone and allowed her to learn new skills.
“I have also served as a tutor for Beatitude House’s Immigrant Outreach Program where I help with ESL [English as a Second Language] classes for adults and coordinate the after-school tutoring program for kids,” she said.
Hergenrother said the connections she made were one of the biggest benefits of serving.
“Being able to learn from so many different people on a daily basis has been the most significant part of my AmeriCorps experience,” she said.
Recent college graduate and veteran William Brown said serving has helped him out. He is serving in the organization Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods in Youngstown, which aims to develop a community of diverse leaders and to raise racial awareness.
“It’s a great transition getting out in the field and, you know, just getting your name out there,” he said.
Brown said serving in AmeriCorps helps tremendously with his student debt.
“The VA paid all my school loans, except for around $30,000 of it. So, that extra money of doing a year or two of AmeriCorps — they’re going to pick up a little bit of that as well,” he said.
Notre Dame Mission Volunteers has several opportunities in northeast Ohio, including a position as a teaching assistant at the Rich Center for Autism on YSU’s campus.