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Are you passionate about serving others? Would you like an opportunity to live in another part of the country? Do you fantasize about combining the above with the prospect of earning money for your education? If your curiosity is piqued, then we highly encourage you to consider applying to AmeriCorps.  

Often referred to as the domestic Peace Corps, AmeriCorps is an agency committed to serving numerous community programs and organizations throughout the United States. Participants are involved in projects ranging from building affordable housing and mentoring disadvantaged youth to disaster relief and fighting illiteracy.

While the time commitment to AmeriCorps varies, most assignments range from 10 months to a year. Though many positions are full-time, it is possible to find some part-time service opportunities. Moreover, although it’s common for members to simply serve one term and then move on to other endeavors, it is possible to re-up and serve a second term.  

Fortunately, AmeriCorps does provide some financial incentives to their members. Active participants receive an allowance (and in some cases free housing) to cover living expenses. Though modest, most find this stipend meets their needs.  

More importantly, those who successfully complete their stint will receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award. The amount awarded is tied to the maximum amount of the U.S. Department of Education’s Pell Grant. These figures can vary annually. However, in 2011, the amount given to full-time participants was $5,550. We should note that awards for part-time service are pro-rated based upon the established amount of the full-time award.  

This money can be put towards repaying qualified student loans, educational training or costs incurred while pursuing higher education (at qualified institutions). To receive your award, you will need to have earned a high school diploma (or equivalent). Finally, you must use this money within seven years of service completion (with very limited exception). 

Beyond monetary awards, AmeriCorps members are potentially entitled to a loan forbearance. This means that you would be able to temporarily postpone your repayments while you are active in AmeriCorps. Though interest will continue to accrue, upon successful completion of the program, the National Service Trust will likely pay all or a portion of the interest. Further, in certain cases, you might also be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. This act forgives outstanding Federal Direct loans for those working full-time public service jobs (with stipulations of course).

To qualify for AmeriCorps, you must be a U.S. citizen, national or legal permanent alien. Additionally, while there are a few exceptions, most assignments require participants to be at least 17 years of age. Those interested in the National Civilian Community Corps must be between the ages of 18-24. Aside from that, there are no age maximums.

For the right candidate, AmeriCorps is truly a fantastic opportunity. You’ll enjoy the satisfaction of making a difference and giving back to the community as you hone skills you can no doubt apply to future jobs. Even better, you will have the chance to earn money for your education. And that will allow you to give back to yourself!



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Don Munce