With the unemployment rate in the Silicon Valley climbing into double digits it’s important for job seekers to look at all of their options. New graduates are joining the ranks of the recently, and not so recently, laid off making the job market more competitive than ever.
Get a leg up by taking a side step in your career and increasing your portfolio, volunteer. One of the best programs that I have found for engaging in community outreach while receiving a paycheck is AmeriCorps.
Launched in 1993 AmeriCorps is best described as a domestic Peace Corps program. With the recent authorization of the Serve America Act, signed in April, the Corporation for National and Community Service (the parent company of AmeriCorps) has increased the number of AmeriCorps positions from 75,000 to 88,000 next year and 250,000 by 2017.
Along with receiving a nominal stipend during their service AmeriCorps members who complete their term are eligible for an education award that can be applied to future college tuition or to repaying federal student loans. Current legislation could raise that award from $4,725 to $5,350, the first increase since the program started.
President Obama’s call to service along with the desire to create positive community impact has created an era where “service is a cool thing to do” says Megan O’Leary, Development Director of City Year. O’Leary goes on to state, “Asked to step up and serve people are responding,” and they responding in numbers like never before.
AmeriCorps applications reached 9,731 in February, more than three times the number for the same month last year. Beach Pace, Executive Director of City Year (which exclusively employs AmeriCorps members,) remarked, “If I were 17, I would have a better chance of getting into Stanford than getting into City Year.”
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