Service After Graduation

By Katelin Haley
Peace & Justice Editor

With under a month to graduation, many seniors are wondering what’s next? Some will begin their time in the work force, others might stick around for a few more years and continue with their education, and still others will dedicate a year or more of their lives to service. Many students are dedicated to service during their college careers and wish to continue to serve after graduation, but when faced with student loan paybacks and the allure of a steady paycheck, it can be a difficult decision to make.

Several Marywood alumni and current seniors have made the choice to give back after graduation by serving across the nation for a year or more. Monica Ernst, Class of 2007, volunteered one year with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and is completing a second year with Louisiana Delta Service Corps. Monica graduated with a degree in English, but has been spending her years of service utilizing a variety of skills. She spent one year based in Sacramento, CA and is currently working with rebuilding in New Orleans. Her service work has ranged from tutoring elementary school students, to removing invasive blackberry plants that were threatening oak trees, to constructing new homes for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Alumnae Stephanie Simon, Class of 2008, is currently serving with AmeriCorps Citi Year in Little Rock Arkansas. She studied Psychology at Marywood and is now leading a group of volunteers in a literacy intervention program with elementary school students. Based upon Stephanie’s strong service background from Marywood, she was elected to be a Senior Corps Member, even though she had not participated in Citi Year before. She is volunteering for a year then returning to complete her education.

Current senior Janean Shedd, an early childhood and special education major, will be doing a year of service following graduation with the Vincentian Service Corps in St. Louis, MO. Janean will be working with inner city populations in a day care, emergency care services, or teaching fifth grade girls. Janean identifies that “service is a large part of my life now, and it’s something I want to continue.” She also is using this year of service as a way to explore a different area of the country and to not be “tied down” to one spot by beginning a teaching career immediately after graduating.

These programs are not without their perks, either. AmeriCorps Natinoal Civilian Community Corps provided Monica with free room and board and travel expenses as well as a $150 stipend every two weeks. Louisiana Delta Service Corps provided her with $500 stipend every two weeks and $400 towards room and board as well as over $4000 in educational credit upon completion of her year of service. The program that Stephanie is working with, AmeriCorps Citi Year, provides a monthly living stipend, covers the cost of the required uniforms, and provides a cell phone for use during the year of service. All of the programs will allow your loans to be deferred for the time of service and some programs will provide a partial loan repayment.

Very few programs have requirements of what your degree needs to be in and the application process is typically several essays and possibly an interview. There are programs nationally and internationally to work with and address a variety of needs. For underclassmen, there are programs that run over the summer months and take short-term volunteers as well. All of the students who are involved in a year of service provided similar advice, “Just do it!” They all encourage interested students to do their research. Stephanie emphasizes finding an organization that matches your goals and interests; “Are you interested in physical service and travel? Then NCCC might be appealing to you. Are you interested in human service with components of leadership development? Then City Year might be best for you. Are you interested in human service through religion? Then Mercy Volunteers may be the best fit for you. Are you interested in working within a nonprofit on a more individualized level? Then you should look into Americorps VISTA. These of course are just four programs out there where there are hundreds of different programs you can be a part of. So just look into every possibility.” It’s also ok to be a little selfish when you are looking at doing a year of service. Stephanie notes, “While doing service is a self-less and compassionate act, there are many things that you can benefit from.”

For anyone who is considering this option, or even if its something you never thought of before, get involved at Marywood now and see if service is something you would like to participate in long term. All of the long-term volunteers agree that their service exposure at Marywood influenced them to pursue a year of service. Monica and Stephanie advise students looking towards a year of service to “be flexible” and to “consider service as an option. It has been the best decision I have ever made and I know it has changed me for the better.” Janean echoes their sentiments, “Explore your possibilities now, because what you find may just open whole new doors for the future-doors…opportunities, that you never before knew existed!”

For more information on long-term service, please contact the Campus Ministry Office in the Swartz Center for Spiritual Life.