Most people have heard of the Peace Corps, but what about AmeriCorps? AmeriCorps is often referred to as the domestic Peace Corps. AmeriCorps is a national service organization that was created in 1993 by the National and Community Service Trust Act. This legislation combined several domestic service organizations under one central organization that has come to be known as AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps and its subprograms provide many service opportunities in communities across America, including right here in Des Moines. In order to volunteer you must be over the age of 17 and a citizen of the United States or a lawful resident. Volunteers gain real world experience, receive a living allowance and are eligible for the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award and an end-of-service stipend. Volunteers can expect to participate in programs that include tutoring and mentoring disadvantaged youth, fighting illiteracy, improving health services, building affordable housing, teaching computer skills, cleaning parks and streams, operating after-school programs and helping communities to respond to disasters. The time commitment varies from full time (1700 hours) to half-time (900 hours) to quarter time (450 hours) per year. There are also summer positions available.
Drake alumnus, Joseph Piearson, experienced AmeriCorps firsthand. Piearson graduated in 2008 with a public relations major and a theater minor. He also had a year of experience with AmeriCorps under his belt.
During his senior year, Piearson worked as the coordinator of Youth Philanthropic Activities through AmeriCorps State. This position includes setting up and coordinating high school grant boards with each other and their communities. These boards are granted money, which they then grant to businesses in their area. Piearson himself was involved with one of these boards while in high school, which is how he became so interested in them. After finishing his first year with the Iowa Council of Foundations, he was asked back for a second year, which he accepted.
Piearson, because of his work with these groups, is considered one of the state’s experts on the set up and maintenance of them. Piearson also received a direct job offer because of his involvement with AmeriCorps. After his second year of volunteering, the Iowa Council of Foundations created the position of program associate, for which he was a prime candidate, because it was similar to what he was already doing plus some administrative work.
Overall, Piearson had a great experience and would encourage others to also get involved with AmeriCorps. He does admit that it was a major time commitment for a student, but he would change his time management rather than miss such an experience. Piearson also added that the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award he received for his service was very helpful in paying off his student loans.