[ The Money Side of Lifeā„¢ ]

Good Service: Serving above, abroad and beyond

By Kate Esposito on July 31st, 2007 •

Once you're out of high school or college, it can be hard to decide what direction to go. Are you out looking for a job, a career, or a little adventure? Inspired to make a difference far and wide? What about across town? Programs like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Teach for America each provide a unique opportunity to travel, work, and volunteer around the world or in your own backyard. Check out these programs to see if they could be for you.


The Peace Corps has worked since 1961 to help individuals and communities around the world create better lives for themselves. Today volunteers still teach children and help farmers grow their crops, but they also work in the areas of AIDS education, IT and communications, and business development. Volunteers commit to 27 months of training and service, and should expect to live on their own while working independently.

Peace Corps volunteers can serve almost anywhere in the world. There are currently 73 countries served by the Peace Corps.

Sample assignments
• Increase farmers' production by encouraging better farm management practices in the Dominican Republic.
• Mentor children through business and baking in Ecuador.

• Receive foreign-language training.
• Collect a small living stipend.
• Acquire medical and dental benefits.
• Be considered for federal student loan deferment and partial cancellation.
• Receive $6,075 and one year of noncompetitive status for federal employment upon completion.
• Apply for academic credit and/or financial incentives offered by some schools for those seeking graduate degrees during or after service.
Receive foreign-language training.


AmeriCorps is made up of four main divisions, all of which help meet the needs of American communities in education, health, public safety, and the environment.
• AmeriCorps*State and AmeriCorps*National sponsor hundreds of individual service programs by providing services such as tutoring students, building homes, and environmental restoration.
• AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) works behind the scenes on projects such as developing programs, organizing volunteers, and securing funding to help build the infrastructure of existing organizations.
• AmeriCorps*NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) is open only to young adults ages 18 to 24 who work in teams performing short-term service projects and assisting with disaster relief.

Service in this domestic program can be performed in all 50 states (plus U.S. territories) in urban and rural areas.

Sample assignments
• Coordinate volunteers and events in a community outreach program in Massachusetts.
• Tutor kids in Maryland for the Baltimore Reads program.

• Many are provided with a living allowance during service.
• Some qualify for an education award upon completion.


Teach for America works for education equity by sending outstanding recent college graduates to teach in U.S. schools where they're needed most for two years. No teaching degree is necessary. Instead, accepted applicants go through an intense five-week summer training session, after which they obtain special licensing in the state they have been hired. This is not a volunteer program; members receive a regular salary similar to other starting teachers in their school district.

Work in urban or rural schools. Currently, there are 25 service regions across the country.

Sample Assignments
• Teach high school science in Phoenix, Arizona.
• Teach seventh grade on an Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

• Receive transitional help to assist with moving costs and other expenses until the first paycheck arrives.
• Be considered for loan forbearance and interest payment on qualified student loans.
• Become eligible for an education award upon completion.
For more information and applications:
peacecorps.gov; americorps.gov; teachforamerica.org


The Bottom Line

Volunteering is at a 30-year high, with young adults out in full force. Even if these particular programs aren't a good fit for you, donating your time and energy to a cause you really believe in could be the greatest thing you ever do.


peacecorps.gov; teachforamerica.org; americorps.org; nationalservice.gov