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Archive for Wednesday, May 27, 2009

New graduates flocking to AmeriCorps as job market deteriorates

Rachael Perry, right, AmeriCorps member, waters a row of plants in the community garden in the 900 block of Mississippi Street. Working with Perry recently were Kelsey Cherwood, left, and Keil Eggers, who helped pull weeds. The number of people signing up to work with AmeriCorps and other volunteer agencies is increasing as unemployment rises and fewer jobs are available.

Rachael Perry, right, AmeriCorps member, waters a row of plants in the community garden in the 900 block of Mississippi Street. Working with Perry recently were Kelsey Cherwood, left, and Keil Eggers, who helped pull weeds. The number of people signing up to work with AmeriCorps and other volunteer agencies is increasing as unemployment rises and fewer jobs are available.

May 27, 2009

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With fresh diplomas in hand, recent graduates have walked into a job market so barren that many of them are seeking an alternative path into the workplace.

AmeriCorps, a national service organization that provides relief to struggling communities, has received nearly triple the number of online applications as it did last year.

Tracie Howell, director of the Roger Hill Volunteer Center, 2518 Ridge Court, attributes much of that increase to students’ inability to find jobs after graduation. AmeriCorps rewards members who complete a year of service with either $1,200 cash or an educational award of $5,300, and Howell said the stipends frequently enticed college graduates seeking money to pay for graduate school or to repay student loans.

“I hate to use that fallback, but it truly is due to the economy,” Howell said of the increased numbers. “Job placement is only in the teen percentage right now.”

According to a survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 19.7 percent of U.S. graduates who applied for employment were placed in jobs this year, compared with 26 percent of graduates in 2008 and 51 percent in 2007.

AmeriCorps received more than 48,000 online applications during the past five months as university students were preparing to enter the workforce — a 234 percent increase from the same five-month period last year.

“I’m just graduating college and not really sure what I want to do exactly, but I know I want to do something to give back and make a difference,” said Nicole Tichenor, a 2009 Kansas University graduate.

Tichenor graduated with a double major in philosophy and religious studies and will now begin her term of service as a volunteer with AmeriCorps. She said she had always been interested in volunteering with AmeriCorps and the educational award was an added bonus that could help with grad school.

The educational awards offered by AmeriCorps are different from regular scholarships because they can be used to repay student loans as well as to fund future tuition.

“Education is vital right now, and not everybody can pay for it on their own,” said Alexandria Norman, an AmeriCorps VISTA — Volunteers in Service to America — volunteer who works for the Department of Emergency Management in Lawrence. “To be able to pay off student loans is a great benefit that you just can’t get by doing anything else. It’s completely unique to the AmeriCorps experience.”

President Obama recently signed two pieces of legislation that would dramatically increase the number of AmeriCorps members to help communities struggling with the economic downturn.

“I think obviously the unemployment levels are skyrocketing and more people are using social services and food banks now more than ever,” Tichenor said. “So thousands, even millions, more people are in need, and we need people to help meet that need.”

AmeriCorps volunteers in Lawrence plan large community events, organize youth service projects and work with existing groups such as Trinity In-Home Care and the Douglas County Housing Authority.

Each member of AmeriCorps is paid a monthly stipend at the poverty level of the community in which he or she works. That means many members rely on food stamps and other social assistance.

“They have to go through those processes so they’re able to help others in the community do that as well,” Howell said. “They get the opportunity to understand who they’re helping. Some days I’m not sure how they do it, but they do.”

AmeriCorps isn’t the only service organization that has seen increased numbers. The Peace Corps has also seen a 16 percent increase this year in applications, and the Teach for America corps has seen a 37 percent increase since 2007.

“I think it’s really remarkable that President Obama is bringing that back, that sense of we owe this to our country and we owe this to other people, this sense of humanity,” Tichenor said. “I think it’s really important to start rebuilding the communities in America that have been deteriorating.”

Comments

Jay88life 4 years, 8 months ago

AmeriCorps is a huge waste of government funds. I can state that because I was an AmeriCorps worker...I mean...volunteer.

A paid volunteer? That doesn't make sense. I actually enjoyed my position, helping clients, and I tolerated the back stabbing and gossipy staff. It was a devil of a supervisor that broke the camel's back. I try to resolve issues with her and with my AmeriCorps contact person; I recieved no help from anyone. I was unable to get into another site.

In the end, I just packed up my bags and left and signed no paper work. I was a slave and not a volunteer.

The whole reason why volunteerism is up is because of this terrible economy. Any income is better than no income with you have a boat load of student loans and have to feed yourself. If my supervisor wasn't a tyrant, I would have finished my service. Yes, I would to make a difference with the community, but now I realized that I could have done this working and volunteering at any agency. I didn't need AmeriCorps to realize my true potential.

The ironic thing now is that after all my years of working in multiple jobs in both for profit and non profit, AmeriCorps is just a scam. The program really needs to end. It would make more sense if the government contacted people as actual employees and pay a living wage and not as volunteers being paid well below the poverty line.

The most upsetting thing about this experience is interviewing with federal and state HR interviewers. The top two questions were, "What's AmeriCorps?" and "Why work for so little?" I recieved a federal job even though I informally left AmeriCorps. It's a myth that you're banned from employment with the federal government. I wish AmeriCorps Volunteers and Leaders stop spitting out these lies.

http://theameritruth.blogspot.com/

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Shane Garrett 4 years, 10 months ago

Journal-World classified (published 05/27/2009)

CUSTODIAL OPENINGS

The Facilities Operations Department at the University of Kansas has several custodial openings. Positions are full-time and part-time and work is year round with benefits.

For more information and Required Qualifications for positions, go to https://jobs.ku.edu and search by the position number listed for the position.

Part-time Custodian Position 00062728 $10.15/hr plus $.30/hr shift differential when applicable Hours: 5:30PM - 9:30PM, Monday through Friday

Full-time Custodian Position 00062720 $10.15/hr plus $ .30/hr shift differential when applicable Hours: 5:30PM - 2:00AM, Monday through Friday

Full-time Custodial Supervisor Position 00063032 $12.98/hr plus $ .30/hr shift differential when applicable Hours: 5:30PM - 2:00AM, Monday through Friday

Sounds like they pay more than 1,200 a year.

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Godot 4 years, 10 months ago

The Army is exceeding its recruitment goals, too. If Obama keeps it up, he will get his million man army to stand up to Kim Jong Il.

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2old2 4 years, 10 months ago

“I’m just graduating college and not really sure what I want to do exactly..."

Are you kidding me? 100k later and you aren't sure what you want to do?

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ClaroAtaxia 4 years, 10 months ago

Lawrence, the only town in KS where you can hire a college graduate for minimum wage or less.

Is there a reason why people go into debt for a college education when they don't even know how they are going to use the education? Then again I guess suckering these poor souls into thinking they should attend college helps pay for those who are there for the right reasons.

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Marion Lynn 4 years, 10 months ago

I take it that none of you realise that these people are "flocking" to government service, thereby expanding the role of government in our lives.

introversion (Anonymous) says…

"Capitalism in America used to have this sense of community and I think it's been lost in the past few decades. Kudos to those involved who are bringing it back to the table."

Marion writes:

Although these programs may actually so some good, let's not think for one second that this is "Capitalism at work".

It's not.

It is government at work and the cost is being added to the already huge national debt.

Such programs have been tired on a large scale in the past and failed miserably in the long run, succeeding in only creating more social dependence on government.

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ArumerZwarteHoop 4 years, 10 months ago

Yeah but they will make $80/hour doing it.

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Flap Doodle 4 years, 10 months ago

UAW members will be selling apples on street corners when Axelrod's puppet is done fixing the auto industry.

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introversion 4 years, 10 months ago

I think this is wonderful that we can put community first. I know that many of these graduates may have had loftier aspirations, but I think that having a job that actually helps other people is a fantastic first step on the way out of school.

Capitalism in America used to have this sense of community and I think it's been lost in the past few decades. Kudos to those involved who are bringing it back to the table.

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