These are uncertain times, especially anxiety inducing for the Class of 2020.
Surging unemployment rates mean even plans B, C and D aren’t viable for most graduates. While our current circumstances will not last indefinitely, experts agree that a semblance of the world as we knew it is unlikely to return for 12 to 24 months.
What should a graduate do as they matriculate into a world with uncertainty? How can they embark on this next chapter while rising to what this public health and economic crisis demands of us? My advice: Consider AmeriCorps as a way to continue gaining skills while lending a hand to your neighbor and earning cash during unprecedented times.
Since 1993, AmeriCorps has mobilized millions of young Americans for service opportunities. Louisiana — no stranger to disaster — has benefited from AmeriCorps members’ service more than most states. Not only have AmeriCorps members helped us in the wake of Katrina, the 2016 floods and other natural disasters, but they tutor our kids, help to restore our coastline, expand food access in our communities and more.
Service terms give the gift of giving back while exploring potential career paths and igniting smoldering passion. From the classroom to the wetlands, Louisiana is home to many AmeriCorps programs. This network of diverse full-time, paid opportunities deserves graduates’ attention.
When I graduated from LSU with a humanities degree, the economy was still recovering from the 2008 recession and job prospects were bleak. I took the plunge and made the pledge to join Serve Louisiana, Louisiana’s longest-running AmeriCorps program. It was — and is — a program that offered a modest monthly living allowance, health coverage, an education award upon graduation, and valuable professional development and networking opportunities.
While serving as a youth garden coordinator in the program, I learned about my hometown, built an expansive professional network, honed transferable skills and served alongside wonderful people who became lifelong friends. I paid off my student loans with the education award, and while the living stipend made things tight, it was a small and temporary sacrifice that I’d make again for opportunities I gained.
Today, I’m the program director with Serve Louisiana, because I believe in what a service term does for our members and in what our members do for the community. AmeriCorps isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly for those who feel called to a part of something bigger than themselves.
At Serve Louisiana, our vision is to build continually healthier, more sustainable and more equitable communities for each new generation, and we need bright, energetic new talent to make it happen.