November 9, 2007
By the time college students reach their senior year, they are continually fielding a chilling question from well-meaning friends, relatives, and professors: “So, what are your plans after graduation?” It’s the moment they realize they have no clue what they want to do with the rest of their lives, let alone the next few years, and it’s the start of a frantic job search. While large paychecks and flashy-sounding titles might be appealing, some soon-to-be graduates are wary of unsatisfying private-sector work and have an interest in doing something meaningful before getting strapped down to a desk.
For those on the fence about what to do with their lives, be it a steady job, graduate school, or taking a year off to travel, here are a few reasons why you should consider service-based work as a post-graduation option:
What is national service?
The idea of national service in the U.S. originates from the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program started by President Franklin Roosevelt as a part of the New Deal. The Depression-era program served as a way to employ young men in protecting America’s national resources by having them plant trees and fight soil erosion in national parks. During the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, service (appropriately extended to include young women!) evolved to a mission of alleviating poverty, helping senior citizens, and engaging communities.
In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the National and Community Service Act that created the Commission on National and Community Service and focused on service-learning programs for youth, higher education service programs, a Youth Corps, and national service demonstration models. These programs and the commission itself were later incorporated into President Clinton’s Corporation for National and Community Service in 1993 when he created Americorps and Learn and Serve America.
While Teach for America may be the most popular and well-known of all national service programs, in reality there are a plethora of opportunities that fit just about any interest: City Year focuses on educating youth about health issues while Rural Action supports community development projects that close the divide between rural and urban communities. Equal Justice Works helps low-income people with access to legal services, and there are programs that focus on immigration services and the environment. The combined work of national service members has provided more than 637 million hours of service, worth about $11.9 billion.