Living within the AmeriCorps stipend of less than $1,000 per month in the Bay Area can be challenging. Derek Stephens, New Mexico native and AmeriCorps Capacity Corps member at Rebuilding Together recommends, “Silicon Valley is really expensive. Map out a budget and figure out if you can do it without going broke in the end.”
Yet AmeriCorps members can look beyond the stipend for their reward. For those who are seeking to pursue an education, giving a year to service means that the dollars will be available after your term is complete. In many cases, educational stipend dollars are matched dollar for dollar by schools including several schools in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For those who are seeking money for their children or grandchildren to attend school the Silver Scholars AmeriCorps program is available to those 55 and over.
Far and away, the biggest boost to the member is the experience they receive from their year of service. For Tim Lynds, San Jose native and AmeriCorps Capacity Corps member at Rebuilding Together, his work as a police office was rewarding but he wanted to serve the community in a different capacity. “Not only did I want to do community service, but I wanted to learn about non profits and eventually go back to school and earn my MBA. AmeriCorps has afforded me that opportunity.”
Beverly Jackson, Executive Director of Rebuilding Together currently has two AmeriCorps members and will be receiving a third at the end of summer. She has been overwhelmed with out of state candidates for her recent opening, “People recognize an incredible thing about non profits and community building in the Bay Area and they want to check it out.” She has also noticed “What I see now is that we have people who want to volunteer, but it’s folks who have been laid off who want to be engaged and productive. They want to get involved.”
Pace recognizes that employers seek out potential employees with ties to the community, “AmeriCorps members come into a community and stay.” With the network that they gain through their year of service, AmeriCorps members create the ties that bind and employers want to know that they are committed for the long term.
As any job seeker knows, it is not only your job skills, but your experience and your network that will assist you in finding your next position. The exposure that AmeriCorps members receive in their local community is akin to a crash course in “Community Connection 101.” In a climate where employers can hire the exact person they are looking for, they want to see if the candidate has that something extra that outshines the competition. That special something may very well be their choice to invest in their local community.
In the end, AmeriCorps succeeds on many levels. Not only does the organization and the communities that they serve benefit, but the member comes out as the biggest winner by the service they are providing as well as the skill set they have gained. Talk about good return on your investment.
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Michelle K. Proulx , San Jose Community Volunteer Examiner