Ohio University Office of Career Services

Guest blogger: Americorps can be an excellent transition from college to the “Real World” by Alyse K

A guest blog post from Rachel Diskin, an AmeriCorps VISTA leader at Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks

I was a frightened college senior in the spring of 2008. On paper I looked great: I had a good GPA and numerous degree-related internships. Unfortunately, I had no job prospects and no real clue where I envisioned myself working! I knew 3 things: that I wanted to work with people, that I wanted to “make a difference”, and that I had no idea how to accomplish those goals.

I had heard of different national service programs like Teach for America or City Year, so I decided to look deeper into those programs. What I learned was that these programs fell under an umbrella organization called AmeriCorps. Upon doing a little research, I learned that there are 3 branches of AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps State and National (working directly with people in poverty), AmeriCorps VISTA (building sustainability in an organization through behind-the-scenes work) and AmeriCorps NCCC (a traveling service team that works together to accomplish a variety of different tasks). Of the three options, AmeriCorps VISTA seemed the most appealing to me. The position descriptions I found detailed tasks such as recruiting volunteers, grant writing, creating marketing plans and materials and fund raising. I knew these responsibilities would lead to great professional experience for my resume. After scouring the website I had some serious decisions to make…

  1. I would technically be a volunteer (VISTA stands for “Volunteers in Service to America”), but I’d receive a living allowance- That’s great! Spending a year volunteering looks great on a resume, and I wouldn’t go broke doing it!

  2. There are thousands of AmeriCorps positions located across the USA- and positions are opening all the time- I could apply for positions anywhere- from New York to Iowa to California- even Hawaii or Alaska!!

  3. My student loans would get put into forbearance- The longer I can go without worrying about paying off student loan debt, the better!

  4. After my year was complete, I could pick between two End-of-Service Awards: $5,350 towards student loans or further education or $1,500 cash- Wow! That’s a great deal! I’d love to get rid of about 1/5 of my student loan debt right off the bat!

  5. AmeriCorps is a great introduction to the Non-Profit world- Hmmm… one year of volunteering could help me decide what I’d like to do for a career and help me land a job!

It sounded great, so I decided to give it a try. To make a long story short, I eventually made it through the interview process and moved from Michigan to serve for a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Habitat for Humanity- Greater Columbus. All of the positive aspects that helped me make my decision held true. In fact, I enjoyed my position so much that I decided to begin a second year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader with the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks. Being a VISTA member and then a VISTA Leader has provided me a number of excellent opportunities. I have built relationships with a variety of great organizations within the central Ohio area, and now feel well-prepared for almost any position within the non-profit sector. I’ve gained skills in grant writing, interpersonal relationships, and leadership. AmeriCorps VISTA proved to be an excellent transition piece from college life to the “real world” and helped me find my passion in life. If you’re interested in getting your feet wet in the working world with a “year of service” feel free to contact me at rdiskin@oashf.org or 614.221.4336. Or you can visit the AmeriCorps website at www.americorps.gov.

— Rachel Diskin, AmeriCorps VISTA leader


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