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Consider Americorps before the Peace Corps

BY REBECCA ABELLERA | FEBRUARY 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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Many graduating college students are looking for some postgraduation experience before entering the inevitable fate we recognize as the workforce. Many students will turn to volunteer work by joining AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. I encourage students to choose the former. Although I believe both Corps do fantastic work, I strongly urge you soon-to-be graduates to opt for AmeriCorps.

Its focus on prevalent domestic issues, including mentoring disadvantaged youth and fighting illiteracy, means it strives to improve the state of our own country; the Peace Corps focuses on more basic needs such as clean water and food security. I strongly feel that in order to be able to help countries abroad to our fullest potential, we must make sure our own country is stable first.

I also believe that it is a common misconception that our country is doing overly well.

The Russell Sage Foundation states: "Although the annual rate of 15.1 percent is the highest rate since 1983, growth in the U.S. population means that the 46 million people in poverty at the end of 2010 is the highest number in poverty since the official poverty line was first established in the early 1960s."

Knowing this, we should not use our dwindling and limited resources trying to solve problems abroad.

AmeriCorps is more beneficial than the Peace Corps on the home front and from the perspective of the participant. Financially, AmeriCorps is more sensible for the average recent college graduate. AmeriCorps volunteers receive an education voucher after their 10- to 12-month service program. This voucher can be used for future education or to pay off existing student loans. On the other hand, Peace Corps volunteers are only eligible for loan deferment.

Another positive aspect for AmeriCorps volunteers is the time commitment. AmeriCorps (AmeriCorps.gov) requires only 10- to 12-month volunteer periods and even offers part-time positions, while the Peace Corps requires its volunteers commit for two years. That the two years in the Peace Corps are spent abroad makes this commitment even harder to make.

I wholeheartedly believe that the lack of participation in AmeriCorps is due to two barriers that keep students from participating: that being patriotic in America is stigmatized among college students and that there is an appeal to helping impoverished countries overseas.

The stigmatization of patriotism is prevalent on college campuses, where a majority of students are liberal, as proven by our pesky yet persistent Occupy activists.

People who identify themselves as liberal are typically against patriotism because they feel it to be synonymous with conservatism. This identification of conservatives as patriots is not false. A 2010 Gallup Poll showed an increase in Americans identifying themselves as "extremely patriotic." The groups of people causing this increase were seniors, conservatives, and Republicans, not your typical AmeriCorps volunteer.

The glamour and prestige of helping developing countries also pulls students toward the Peace Corps. There is a certain fascination that Americans have with helping impoverished countries. This attraction may come from cultural icons such as celebrities, who publicly show their do-good attitude by traveling to and helping extremely impoverished areas of the world: images of gorgeous, white American women like Angelina Jolie basically hand-feeding grains of rice to malnourished black children with distended bellies. This kind of glamour certainly appeals to young college grads who don't realize there are people on at home who are in need.

In the end, volunteering your time and effort for either Corps is a positive thing, but I think that this energy should be channeled toward domestic issues. When our country reaches its fullest potential, we can help other countries in a more substantial way. So, seniors looking for experience and excitement before venturing off into the real world: Consider AmeriCorps first.


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