Thousands of students are about to enter an exciting and uncertain stage of adulthood. For many, the prospects of obtaining a career plan immediately after graduating is a tall order filled with weeks of job applications and stress.
A popular alternative to leaping into the workforce immediately after college is applying to programs designed for a smoother transition from libraries and dorms into offices and fieldwork.
These are common programs that recruit recent graduates to gain experience in community program implementation. However, despite the benefits, salaries, and prestige of these programs, there are also critiques of these organizations that provide valuable insight into the real nature of these non government organizations.
Peace Corps is a federal agency that offers jobs centered around international humanitarian aid in over 60 countries. Some of the two-year assignments include work in fields such as business, agriculture, health and sustainable development.
The benefits of Peace Corps include a living and housing stipend, paid travel costs, language training, and an $8,000 transitional stipend at the end of the program. Peace Corps also qualifies students for Public Service Loan Forgiveness — which allows students to defer portions of their student loans.
Drawbacks include long hours, severe culture shock, lack of access for mental health support, and reported cases of mishandled sexual assault investigations. In 2016, 38 percent of all female Peace Corps Volunteers said they’ve been sexually assaulted during their service.
There are also controversies surrounding Peace Corps’s intention to promote U.S. global interests. Academic Dean of Kennedy School of Law Mary Jo Bane said at a Peace Corp event at Harvard that the organization may have had a role in slowing down demands for change in Liberia under William Tubman’s regime.
In response to concerns surrounding Peace Corp, UCSC recruiter Bhoj Rai said that “Volunteers’ health, safety and security are the Peace Corps’ highest priorities. […] Each Peace Corps country has a specific emergency plan and volunteers are thoroughly trained in their roles and responsibilities should there be a natural disaster, political conflict or other disruption to normal life in their country of service.”
Students can apply for Peace Corp at https://studyabroad.ucsc.edu/programs/PeaceCorpsPrep/index.html
Teach for America
TFA workers are treated as full-time salaried employees with benefits within their school district. The program offers a multitude of resources — including loan forgiveness, home financing, scholarships and transitional funding.
Recent grads teach for two years in 53 low-income urban or rural communities in the U.S. and emphasize social justice and equity. Teachers from TFA can teach all subjects and grade-levels, from kindergarten to high school seniors after a five week training program.
“One really big misconception about TFA is that it’s just for teachers,” said TFA recruitment manager Alexis Chamberlin. “But we’re focused on anyone who wants to build their leadership skills and be a part of a movement towards equality and equity.”
However, TFA has been considered controversial for sending young, recent and inexperienced grads into some of the most difficult schools to work in, which can displace jobs of local communities and lacks sustainable educational goals. For example, shortly after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans schools became destabilized and fired veteran teachers and then opted for charter schools and younger teachers through TFA. There have also been criticisms of TFA’s diversity ethics with the scrapping of their national diversity office in 2016.
TFA recruiter Alexis Chamberlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org;
AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Program (VIP) is a 10-12 month national service program of more than 75,000 volunteers that allows for recent grads and U.S. citizens to implement community programs. Focuses of their programs include academic achievement, poverty relief, youth mentoring, sustaining national parks and disaster relief through partnering with volunteer organizations across the states from local to federal levels. AmeriCorps members can work with external nonprofits, schools, public agencies and community organizations.
The program is a liaison between the AmeriCorps members, the Agency they work with, and provide agency volunteer training, according to Associate Director Lois Connell of the Santa Cruz Volunteer Center.
If a student applies through the UCSC volunteer center, they qualify for paid housing and meals, a over $10,000 stipend for living expenses outside of housing and food, equal to about a bi-weekly payment of around $200, as well as medical benefits and public service loan forgiveness.
The drawbacks can include long working hours (reports up to +50 hours a week) and minimal living stipends that can be insufficient based on living expenses of your field location. According to accounts by AmeriCorps members, the bi-weekly payments of around $250 is barely above the poverty line, which frustrated members who were already strapped for money.
AmeriCorps applications are currently open, and can be accessed at https://scvolunteercenter.org/programs/AmeriCorps-vip-program/