Gap Year Volunteering with AmeriCorps
As winter continues its nasty habit of keeping people indoors, high school seniors throughout the country are having to make some difficult decisions. Choosing a college is a tough decision, made even more difficult for those individuals who haven’t decided what career they want for the rest of their lives. And who can blame them? In all reality, we probably really shouldn’t be expecting these young men and women to make decisions of this magnitude when they typically have had very little experience with all of the options out there for different careers. Sure, they know about being a teacher or a doctor or a lawyer and some may still have aspirations for professional sports or politics. But what about being a community organizer? Or a forensic interviewer? Or a translator for the U.N. or a technical writer or professional stage manager? There are so many options out there and the reality is that many young men and women have no idea these options even exist. How can we be expecting them to choose a course of education built on a very limited understanding of what their future could hold?
Obviously, it is difficult for these young men and women to have a lot of opportunity to learn about these other options – after all, not many of us can afford to pay for our children to travel the world to see what else is out there; thankfully, that doesn’t have to be the only option there it is. The term ‘gap year’ typically applies to a year taken between high school and college (although it could also be between two years of college) where a student has the opportunity to explore a little bit more of the world than what they have found by 18. And there are ways to do it at minimal or no cost.
Although it is certainly not the only program available, the AmeriCorps program does provide a wonderful platform for this type of experience. Through this program, young men and women have the opportunity to go out and travel around the country in a secure and safe environment while gaining not only a wide range of experience that can help them in future endeavors, but also unique perspectives and money to help pay for college. They also receive a small stipend as well as having their room and board provided for; they also receive medical and dental health care.
Some AmeriCorps programs allow participants to choose the type of work they want to do and where they want to do it, giving them an excellent opportunity to test out a potential career choice before committing their entire college education towards it. With other programs, participants travel around performing lots of different types of work, giving them lots of opportunity to explore and learn about the world around them so they make better informed decisions later on. All programs have oversight and leadership with a strong value on the safety and well being of program participants, so parents can feel safe knowing their child will be operating within a secure environment.
Spending a gap here volunteering provides an incredibly deep and enriching experience. And it’s a very challenging experience so it is most definitely not as though a program participant is simply taking a year off. But far and away, individuals who have participated in an AmeriCorps program strongly recommended to others as a unique opportunity to learn so much about the world of around you as well as about yourself.
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