Post (or close to)-Grad…Now What?

Patricia Oprea

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When the word “volunteering” is mentioned, images of high school students trying to meet graduation requirements or retired citizens spending their free time come to mind. Volunteering is known as a resume builder, character-builder, but perhaps not a priority, nor a longtime option.

For many people, that’s just what volunteering has become. Whether in the United States with governmental organizations like AmeriCorps, or outside of the United States with PeaceCorps, many post grads have made volunteering their work and community-engagement a way of life.

On Thursday Feb. 11, the University of New Haven’s Office of Academic Service-Learning invited professionals from various nonprofit organizations to share their experiences. This event, “Post Graduate Service Opportunities” showed that it is possible to pursue a career that benefits both self and society.

The purpose of a nonprofit agency is to address some sort of public need, whether that may be homelessness, literacy, or health. About 10 percent of employees in the United States work in a nonprofit field.  The Office of Academic Service-Learning itself also provides opportunities to make a difference in the New Haven area, whether it is through an ASL Course or the Community Work Study Program.

This discussion was one of the various workshops designed to inform students how to pursue the public service sector for a lifetime. “Service continues beyond college,” said Director of Academic Service-Learning Sally Anastos.

As an added benefit, these government-sponsored programs offer the ability to deter student loans!

The first panelist was from FoodCorps, Chelsey Hahn, who had googled options until she stumbled across this community experience. FoodCorps has programs all over the United States; members partner with schools to work on knowledge, engagement and access, for a yearlong term. Hahn found that she could combine her love of children and passion for food into one. Applications for FoodCorps are still available, and are due March 31.

A representative from City Year, Sean McDevitt also spoke of his experience. City Year is a yearlong commitment in which members work on bridging the gap between students and the school system in high-poverry communities. This organization has a commitment to increase graduation rates. For McDevitt, AmeriCorps inspired a sense of passion. He realized that being a teacher wasn’t for him, and found that he could still work with youth, but in a different capacity. If interested, apply by April 30.

AmeriCorps FEMA was another organization represented, by Evan McGloin. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) entails logistical and administrative support, a 10-month term serving areas recovering from disasters. The opportunity is only available to 18-24 year olds, and applications are due April 1 or Oct. 1.

Former UNH undergrad Elicia Young also came to share her experience on being in the NCCC (National Civilian Conservation Corp). Unlike FEMA, this is a direct, hands-on service, and lasts a year or less. The opportunity is only available to 18 to 24 year olds, and is a residential, team-based program, where members are stationed at one of five campuses and can travel around doing about four to six total projects. Applications are due by April 1 or Oct. 1.

Young is currently in AmeriCorps VISTA, a full-time commitment to one nonprofit organization for one year. This program works to create and expand programing to benefit the community.  She mentions that having done one program under the umbrella of AmeriCorps makes it easier to build connections and tackle another program. She remarks how wonderful the support system has been for her programming, and how one makes lifetime friends.

One of the more known organizations present was PeaceCorps, represented by Sarah Tankoos. Tankoos spent her two PeaceCorp years in Guatemala. For her, this sparked a sense of adventure and furthered her interest in community-engagement. It is recommended to apply to the PeaceCorps about nine months before a desired departure date.

Above all, the panelists remind students that it’s okay to not know their exact plans and goals, even as a graduating senior. Interests and passions change and mold over time, and organizations can provide skills and experiences that aid in solidifying goals and interests.

Don’t be afraid if all of your friends are jumping right into graduate school, getting their acceptance letters, do so only if you feel the time is right for you, McDevitt advises.

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Post (or close to)-Grad…Now What?