Skip to content

Start Your Career or Serve Your Country?

March 30, 2017

Today’s guest blog is written by Raffi Wineburg. Raffi is a 2015 AmeriCorps NCCC north central region alumnus. He currently lives and works in Boston, MA.


crossroadsignIt was an unusually warm, sunny November day in Manhattan when I received my first job offer. I stood outside my soon-to-be office in a short-sleeved button-up and turned my head to the sky. I smiled as two years of post-college job anxiety simply melted away.


The weather turned for the worse when I returned to the office the following week. The building looked very bleak through a gray veil of fog and rain. I’ll always remember that final image of my could-have-been office. I buzzed myself in and turned down the job.


Later that week, I cleared out of my Harlem brownstone and flew to Vinton, Iowa (population 5,000) to begin 11 months of national service as a Team Leader for AmeriCorps NCCC.


It was the hardest decision I’d ever made: start a career or serve my country. The offer on the table wasn’t just any old job, mind you, but my dream job—being a full-time reporter in New York City.


Hard decisions offer a rare opportunity to look beyond material factors like money, comfort and stability. They allow us to consider deeper questions like,

Who am I? What do I believe in? Where do I stand?


It was unclear which of my two options would have led to greater wealth, status or any other traditional measure of success. So I threw these considerations to the wind and simply took a stand: I’m with service.


The next year in AmeriCorps NCCC was perhaps the most impactful and inspiring time of my life. Together with my team, I traveled the Midwest – shacking up in different communities, engaging in some of our country’s most pressing issues and learning in ways I never imagined possible.


raffi-fireIn Coon Rapids, Iowa, I set fire to the earth. I watched flames eat their way through prairie grasses, turning whole acres black in an instant, as if the night had suddenly fallen out of the sky.


In Flint, MI, I saw a country I didn’t recognize. On some city blocks, in-between two decaying homes there would simply be a pile of rubble where the neighbors’ house had burned down, giving the impression of a rotting mouth with missing teeth.


In Willow River, MN, I laid in a bunk and listened to pre-adolescent boys escalate into hysteria as they shared their hopes and dreams: to beat LeBron James in a game of 1-on-1, to have five houses and 10 girlfriends, to be Spiderman, to cure AIDS.


After that, they all fell silent. It was a camp for children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS.


Throughout my service year, I felt as if I had swallowed some magic bean of infinite potential. I carried a feeling that anything was possible, that I was constantly on the cusp of something incredible. It was only when my service year ended that I realized the incredible thing on the horizon was now behind me.


The reason I value writing (thus the reason why turning down my job offer was so difficult) is because it forces me to define and articulate my beliefs. There’s less at stake when you’re talking politics at the dinner table, or yelling at the talking heads on cable news because your thoughts and opinions are fleeting. Not so with writing. Your truth lasts on ink and paper, or on typeset and fiber optics, for all to see.


Even so, there’s a certain amount of distance you can have with writing. Just like how, when I was in college, I wrote papers about democracy then forgot to vote. Service, like writing, allows you to define your truth, only it narrows this distance. Through lifting, laboring, sweating, teaching and learning, your service itself pronounces your beliefs. If you work hard every day, you end up with a perfect, final draft.


raffi-headshotThrough writing I’ve tried to hone in on my own version of ‘good’. But life is hard. I now work full-time, and my scope becomes intensely narrow as I cycle through the same weekly motions: morning coffee, daily commute, meetings, etc. I can’t or don’t always do the things I’ve claimed are good like volunteering, engaging politically or remembering to call my parents on weekends. But at least AmeriCorps taught me how to do these things (maybe not the last one). It produced a version of myself that I can look back on as a role model, and aspire to become.


There’s a line in the AmeriCorps pledge that continues to resonate with me, “Faced with apathy, I will take action.”


More than anything, this sums up what it means to serve. Service translates the spirit that we care about one another, as fellow Americans and humans, into action. Because to act is to care, and caring is the opposite of apathy.


What would it be if we could all serve and care just a little more?

From AmeriCorps to SIT and the World

March 23, 2017

Today’s sponsored post is written by Shaunbay Ltifi on behalf of School of International Training (SIT). Shaunbay served 3 years with AmeriCorps State & National at Alternatives, Inc. in Hampton, Virginia. SIT Graduate Institute offers master’s degree programs in TESOL, Sustainable Development, International Education, Peacebuilding, and Intercultural Service Leadership and Management. AmeriCorps alumni who have completed their service and are accepted into one of SIT’s master’s degree programs are eligible for a competitively awarded $5,000 scholarship.
Learn more at


Shaunbay Ltifi

I joined AmeriCorps in 2010 as a sophomore at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia. I was a full-time student and volunteered during my off-time as a life skills and youth development facilitator for middle and high schoolers with Alternatives, Inc. I taught subjects like drug resistance, self-assertion, physical health, and peer influence.

Originally, I planned to spend one year with AmeriCorps but ended up renewing my contract for a total of three years because I loved volunteering – and still do! Toward the end of my last service year, someone suggested that I continue my education through Peace Corps in combination with the master’s program offered at SIT Graduate Institute.

SIT was founded in 1964 as a training center for Peace Corps volunteers. The institution has grown considerably since then and now offers master’s degrees in international education, peacebuilding, TESOL, sustainable development, and intercultural management. SIT has also retained its close connections to the Peace Corps and continues to offer attractive scholarships for returning Peace Corps volunteers and AmeriCorps alumni.


AmeriCorps alums who are accepted into an SIT master’s degree program after completing at least one year of service get great incentives like a $5,000 scholarship, Segal Education Award matching and a 25% tuition scholarship for City Year alumni or staff. What’s more, current SIT students can complete AmeriCorps service for their SIT practicum, as long as their service relates to their degree area.


As it turns out, I didn’t go into the Peace Corps. Instead, I spent a year abroad in Ireland and Tunisia. The combination of AmeriCorps and SIT opened my eyes to the beauty of fully offering oneself to the greater good. Both programs helped me to get closer to where I want to be in life by enabling me to see youths’ worldview and to broaden my own.


At SIT, I joined the Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation concentration in hopes of co-piloting my own youth program. I’ve always loved kids and I thought it was amazing that I got to train in classes and participate in the youth programs run by World Learning, SIT’s partner nonprofit organization, doing a lot of the same things that I had done in AmeriCorps. Now, after completing my degree at SIT, I’m working at a public charter school in Washington, DC, using the experience that I learned from both opportunities to serve fifth- and six-grade students.




For anyone considering SIT after serving in AmeriCorps, I would wholeheartedly recommended it. A friend I met at SIT there says, “History speaks here.” Every conversation I had with colleagues reminded me that each person has her or his own unique story to tell. The curriculum, course set-up, and practicum phase all seemed designed to help me dig deep into each story so that I could discover my own.


SIT and AmeriCorps both helped me to grow into the person that I am today – someone with a broad worldview. Serving in AmeriCorps was my catalyst for attending SIT, and SIT has been my best career decision so far.



AmeriCorps alumni who have completed their service and are accepted into one of SIT’s master’s degree programs are eligible for a competitively awarded $5,000 scholarship. SIT offers master’s degree programs in both online and on-campus formats. Both full-time students just entering the field and working professionals can find a program ideally suited to their career goals.

Applications being accepted for Summer and Fall 2017.  Learn more at

4 Ways You Can Help Save AmeriCorps Funding

March 17, 2017

4wayssave-blog3As reported by many news outlets, yesterday, the Trump administration released its “America First Budget – a blueprint for 2018 federal spending”.


The budget proposes funding reductions for numerous government agencies while funding for 19 agencies will be completely eliminated – including the Corporation for National and Community Service.


As AmeriCorps alumni, we all have personal stories on how our service has impacted our lives, our career and our community. On the heels of AmeriCorps Week, we also know that AmeriCorps has proven financial and community impact and is necessary this year and beyond.


There are many steps in the political process between the President’s proposal and actual law for fiscal year 2018 – but we do know that the best way to ensure continued bipartisan support is to raise our voices in support of national service and against the proposed cuts.


Here are 4 ways you can help save AmeriCorps funding:

  1. Contact Your Members of Congress – Using easy tools from Voices for National Service, you can email, call, or write a letter to your representatives. This is especially important if your congressional representatives are on the appropriations committee. Click here to view House and Senate committee members.
  2. Share Your AmeriCorps Story – Share your AmeriCorps experience with your personal and social networks. This shows the importance of AmeriCorps to non-alums and encourages fellow alums who may not be connected with us directly to take action. Alums like Adwoa or on our Twitter feed have shared recently.
  3. Publish an Organizational Statement – If you work for a nonprofit or company that supports national service or AmeriCorps members, consider publishing an organizational statement in support of AmeriCorps. Points of Light, Service Year and Voices for National Service have all published statements that can be used for reference.
  4. Reach Out to Your Local Paper – Write a letter to your local paper that talks about how service has impacted you and/or your local community. Specifically talk about why your legislature should continue to support AmeriCorps. The Voices for National Service toolkit has a template to guide you.


Click here to view the full action toolkit from Voices of National Service.


Faced with adversity, we will persevere. AmeriCorps Alums stands in full support of AmeriCorps and we invite every alumni to use your voice to support your legacy of service and opportunities for others to serve.


In Service,

AmeriCorps Alums


AmeriCorps Works: How Grant Writing Became the Foundation for a Career

March 10, 2017

In celebration of AmeriCorps Week 2017, AmeriCorps Alums is highlighting how serving in AmeriCorps impacts alums and organizations this year and beyond. Today’s blog post is about Adwoa Asare, a two-time AmeriCorps alumna who now works for Habitat for Humanity.

Adwoa, tell us about your service experience.

I served in Winston-Salem, NC from 2009-2010 as an AmeriCorps VISTA for One Economy Corporation (OE) working on digital literacy and digital inclusion. The program was called “Digital Connectors” and it was a program for youth digital literacy. My favorite component of the program was that it encouraged youth to train older adults in their community on how to use computers and the internet. It was at OE that I cut my teeth into community organizing.


I also served in Chapel Hill, NC, from 2010-2011 for AmeriCorps State/National at Johnson Service Corps (JSC), formerly known as Johnson Intern Program, working on social justice and vocational discernment. JSC is under the umbrella of Episcopal Service Corps, which is under the umbrella of Catholic Network of Volunteer Services. In JSC, eight of us lived in shared intentional community (meaning: one house, shared rooms, shared food budget, shared chores, weekly spiritual formation, and more) and worked at different social justice organizations. My placement was at Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. I was the liaison for what would eventually become a nationally recognized student-led initiative at UNC-Chapel Hill to build 10 homes for 10 employees of the university and hospital. My first day on the job, my supervisor picked me up and I joined in on a marketing photo shoot (I’m in the background carrying a box) and then went to the Chancellor’s office to discuss the project. That’s what I call hitting the ground running.

Why did you decide to join AmeriCorps?

I attended Wake Forest University where most of my peers were on the business management track, law track, or doctoral track. I felt called to do something different and pursue what I would describe as the road less traveled. I was attending a career fair my senior year and noticed that among the long list of businesses, there was also a technology nonprofit on the list of vendors. I talked to the representatives and realized that many of my experiences in leadership, technology, service, and international travel made me a strong candidate for working at their company. It was the first time I learned about AmeriCorps aka the “domestic Peace Corps”.

What do you do now?

Adwoa1-householdingI stayed on full time with Habitat after my [second] AmeriCorps year. I am currently the Associate Director of Community Development and Engagement at Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. My role includes program management for our repair programs, grant writing, and community outreach. The best thing about my current role is the direct interfacing I do with community residents. Being a part of seeing their dreams for their home come to fruition is one of the greatest things. They send me thank you notes that I have posted up all around my office.

How did serving in AmeriCorps impact you?

AmeriCorps gave me my current job! Many of my friends are people who have served and many of my coworkers were former AmeriCorps members. I appreciated a year of loan forbearance to try my hand in the nonprofit sector and discover that I love being able to serve people and match them to programs and opportunities that will help them sustain themselves.

What leadership or career skills did you gain from your service?

Right out of the gate I was invited to participate in grant writing at One Economy. I remember I was so nervous about writing the narrative, thinking,

“Do I know enough to even do this? I can’t believe they trust me with this!”

We were awarded the full $25,000 that we requested and I remember being so happy. I think I still include that grant writing success on my resume today. Now I write grants totaling over $150,000 annually.

My second term with JSC included a five month course on servant-leadership. Having formal training helped me hone my budding leadership skills to include both those who are high ranking executives and those who are often on the fringe of society. It also gave me extensive tools for conflict resolution and meeting facilitation.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about AmeriCorps or who is in their first term of service?

If you are thinking about AmeriCorps you should do it! In my VISTA year, half of my cohort were recent college graduates but the other half were looking to make a career change and used their AmeriCorps year to transition into the nonprofit sector. Be sure you understand the specifics of your program so that you can commit to the entire year. The key is to finish your year, learn as much as you can from the experience, and connect with as many full time staff and community members as possible. Those connections will either secure a position for you at your current placement or put you in the position to gain employment from your new network that you built while serving.adwoa3-treefriends

Turn Your AmeriCorps Service into a Career as an Expert Urban Teacher

February 23, 2017

Today’s sponsored blog is written by Urban Teachers. Through Urban Teachers, participants receive a $20,000 stipend during the first year, earn a Master of Science in Education degree from Johns Hopkins University, can earn up to two Segal Education Awards and receive a full teacher’s salary and benefits. Join the webinar on Monday, 3/20 at 9PM eastern to hear from current participants who are City Year, AmeriCorps alums.



Tierra Woods served in City Year New York City before launching her teaching career in Baltimore with Urban Teachers’ teacher preparation program. Tierra compares the Urban Teachers program to medical school. Woods says,

“You’re in the classroom kind of like you’re a surgeon; you’re in the ER.”



Tierra Woods, City Year NYC alum

She is learning how to be an expert teacher through a year-long residency where she receives over 1,500 hours of practice as a co-teacher before taking on her own classroom. Tierra served as a resident in the same school where she now serves as a first-year, 4th grade math teacher. Her coach, who was born and raised in Baltimore, helps Tierra better understand her students and their families. Woods learned how to be “clear, explicit and always follow through” in order to be effective in the classroom.  Listen to the full WYPR story about Tierra here.



Urban Teachers believes that every child deserves a great teacher, every time.  To improve teacher quality in urban schools, Urban Teachers, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, the 2nd ranked graduate school of education in the country, provides a Master’s of Science of Education.


Participants make a four-year commitment; a residency year, followed by three-years of teaching in a high-need urban public or charter school, three years of one on one coaching, job placement and a cohort of colleagues to go through the process with across an entire city.  By holding participants accountable at every stage of the program, students receive highly qualified, effective teachers who are ready and able to improve student outcomes—just like Tierra in Baltimore.








When you join Urban Teachers, you are starting a journey to become one of the most expert and results-oriented teachers for high-need urban schools. Our participants assume leadership roles early in their careers and join us in making the case for better teacher preparation and educator accountability nationwide. Our teachers are drivers of change in the communities in which they work.


Starting with three sites, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Dallas/Fort Worth, Urban Teachers is redesigning teacher preparation to build a highly effective urban teacher workforce.  Since our inception in 2010, Urban Teachers has welcomed nearly 690 residents into our program, serving more than 17,500 students across 144 public schools.  The results of our program are more committed teachers, higher retention and improved student outcomes.



Angel Crockett, City Year LA alum

The efficacy of our teachers is best seen through the individual impact they have on their students. Angel Crockett of Urban Teachers’ DC Cohort 2016, and former City Year Los Angeles Corps member shared, “Throughout the first semester, one student was constantly walking out of class because she was upset.  I would be there to calm her down and bring her back inside. This caused her to frequently miss instruction, be the subject of bullying from other students, and lose confidence in herself. School administration scheduled a functional behavior assessment for her, but the results never came and we were back at square one with trying to find what would work best for her. Other staff around the school, including my host teacher and myself, came together to create a daily behavior tracker that allowed the student to monitor and assess her own behavior at different points in the day and have check-ins with me to ensure that she always has someone to go to when she is feeling upset. Since then, she has been able to remain in class for the majority of the day, begin improving her relationships with other students, and make academic gains. Though there is still room to improve, step one was letting her know that she had someone in the classroom that is always in the corner rooting for her.”



Angel’s unwavering commitment to her student and effectiveness in building a plan to help her is what being an Urban Teacher is all about.


Urban Teachers is now an AmeriCorps Affiliate program which means participants can earn up to two years of additional AmeriCorps service and may be eligible for up to two Segal AmeriCorps awards towards the cost of tuition.  Urban Teachers is also a charter member of Employers of National Service.


To learn more, join a webinar with AmeriCorps Alums who are now teachers at Urban Teachers and to learn about Urban Teachers’ AmeriCorps Affiliate Program, March 20 at 9PM ESTClick here to register.

Make the Call TODAY to Save AmeriCorps

February 22, 2017


Dear Alums,

You probably heard over the weekend that The New York Times reported AmeriCorps may be among a number of high profile federal programs proposed for elimination in the Administration’s next budget.

Alums must raise our voice and support National Service!
CALL Congress TODAY – click here to call Congress & tell them to protect AmeriCorps

The Administration’s budget is a recommendation for Congress, but Senators and Representatives are the ones who ultimately decide what’s funded and what’s cut. We must make sure Congress protects AmeriCorps.

Contact your member of Congress today. Tell them to protect national service funding.

Alums have a first person perspective on AmeriCorps – one that Congress needs to hear.  AmeriCorps service has bi-partisan support amongst voters in cities and towns across the country.

Our stories and voices are needed more than ever – we’ve fought for AmeriCorps before and won, and it’s going to take our full efforts to win again.

In Service,
AmeriCorps Alums

PS – After you call, click here to tweet or post on Facebook to encourage your fellow alums, friends, and family to call too!

PPS – Use this post card template to write your members of Congress a personalized message to their district or DC offices.

Managing Student Loans Webinar

January 27, 2017

Student loans are a strange beast. They don’t really look, feel, or behave like other loans. They’re placed in the hands of consumers with no proven ability to repay them. They can grow to massive size, despite being unsecured by any sort of collateral. They can’t be shaken loose by delinquency, default, or even bankruptcy.

So how can you tame this beast?

Through our partnership with Bank of America we hosted a webinar presented by Money Management International that addressed the most pressing student loan concerns and helped navigate the sometimes muddy waters of managing and repaying your loans.

Do you feel like you have a good plan to pay down your debt? Do you know all your options for repayment and loan forgiveness? The webinar explores options that can work for you—including public service loan forgiveness, income based repayment plans, loan consolidation, and more. Tips you learn in this webinar will help you make decisions based on your own personal goals.

Whether you have private loans or federal loans, it’s important that you understand your options and do the best you can to stay current with your payments. Once you start to fall behind, your options begin drying up, so try to stay ahead of any potential problems and seek help sooner rather than later.

What you will learn

Know what you owe: Do you know where to find your student loan information including the amounts you owe, interest rates, who is servicing your loans, and what type of loans you have? We’ll show you how and where to locate this information!

Know Your Repayment Options: There are so many options and programs for student loan repayment.  How do you know which ones apply to you? How do you choose? How do public service loan forgiveness and teacher loan forgiveness fit in the mix? What about Perkins loans? So many questions! We have answers!

Calculate the Cost: Deferment? Forbearance? What’s the impact? Is it better to pay down your loans aggressively or pay less and put money into savings? What are the trade-offs? It’s enough to give a person a headache! But in this webinar, we’ll give some simple examples that will illustrate the options.

Know how to recover:  Are you one of the many student loan borrowers who has gotten behind on payments? Do you know how to turn your situation around and get it back on track? We’ll tell you how!

Make a Plan: Information overload can bring on analysis paralysis. Get unstuck and make a plan to tackle your student loans and tame them!

Click here to watch the webinar recording or view a PDF of the webinar.


%d bloggers like this: