This post was contributed by Kate Borman who is currently serving her second AmeriCorps VISTA term with ThreeSixty Journalism, a youth journalism program based at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.
Most people are shocked to hear that I chose to serve a second term as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. While the decision to serve an additional year may not have been the easiest choice (thoughts of actually receiving an income prodded my mind constantly) it was equally responsible and wise. Sure the dwindling job market and suffering economy played a tremendous role in my decision – especially after several job interviews resulting in a job offered to someone who had three times my experience. But I made my decision based on richer reasons that have little to do with money.
- Long-term investment. Serving a second year means an additional education award, which means I can either use it for future school or to pay off loans. A year or two of service partially funds at least four years of school. Not to even mention the loan forbearance and paid interest. Talk about a steady ROI for such a short period of time.
- Professional development opportunities. What other job do you know that allots each of its employees at least $150 in training opportunities before they have even established a year at the organization? Very few to none. AmeriCorps VISTA encourages all of its members to seek out professional development opportunities and even pays for us to do so.
- Passion for the work. I consider myself lucky to serve with AmeriCorps simply because I love working with social service organizations and intend to stay in this field of work in the future. By committing to a second term with a different nonprofit, I am widening my perspectives about the operational and organizational structure of nonprofits.
- Career building and networking. Since I intend to continue working in nonprofits after my term of service, I am seeking out every opportunity to network and build my career. I was just getting my feet wet and establishing my position in my first term. Now I consciously network and build relationships with other professionals as an effort to best position and market myself for the future. Also, if anything, serving two terms with AmeriCorps only increases my chances as being taken seriously as a devoted nonprofit employee.
- Proving myself wrong. My first year of service is what many call a character-building year. For the most part, I did not enjoy my year much, and often felt the VISTAs in my office were being used as cheap labor. I figured this could not possibly be the case for all organizations, and was determined to prove myself wrong by making my second term much better than the first.
I understand that most do not choose to serve a second term for many reasons. However, even on my worst days, I am glad I took the plunge again. On those days, I remind myself that a year is a short commitment and, if anything, this is a huge learning experience from which I will walk away as a stronger, more educated and informed citizen.
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