What You Need to Know About AmeriCorps

What is AmeriCorps? AmeriCorps is an umbrella program funded by the federal government that pays stipends to young workers in order to provide non-profits, schools, public agencies, and  community groups with the support they need to continue and develop their programs. There’s a variety of different AmeriCorps programs, all of which provide fantastic hands-on experience and a perfect launching pad for a career in any field. You can look closer at the various Massachusetts state programs here, and learn more about the benefits of AmeriCorps here.

Many organizations, such as AmeriCorps Legal Advocates, College Advising Corps, MA Historic Preservation in Public Lands, AmeriCorps VISTA, City Year, Citizen Schools, and others, offer great opportunities for seniors interested in short-term work experiences after graduation. These new grads engage in a year (or more) of service with AmeriCorps via partner programs and have the chance to develop valuable professional skills for their next positions or advanced degree programs.

Check out this recent discussion we had with employers offering various AmeriCorps programs: 

Many students wonder how they will be able to make an AmeriCorps stipend work with their financial needs (an understandable concern!). Here are 5 tips for making the most of a year or two of service by stretching your living stipend to cover your expenses — totally doable, by the way!

5 Ways to Make the Most of an AmeriCorps Living Stipend:

  1. Plan ahead— think about your expenses (necessities vs. areas where you might be able to cut back). You can use an app like Mint to track your typical spending patterns.
  2. Leverage your resources– this may include applying for federal assistance programs like food assistance and making sure your student loans are in forbearance.  To learn more about student loan forbearance, visit the Corporation for National and Community Service website page on student loans and AmeriCorps. In addition, most AmeriCorps members are eligible to apply for food supplement programs like SNAP benefits, which help you cover monthly grocery expenses. In many cities, you can use those food benefits at grocery stores and local farmer’s markets.
  3. Collaborate with co-workers and others – find an inexpensive apartment with roommates (or live with family, if possible!), and look for ways to share grocery and other common expenses, e.g., potluck dinners.
  4. Have fun without spending a ton – Visit parks with friends, look for free events at museums, use your library card to rent movies – the possibilities for free and low-cost fun are almost endless!
  5. Consider part-time work if your time (and sanity!) allows – some AmeriCorps members find part-time weekend jobs to supplement their stipends. For example, you could deliver groceries for SHIPT or Instacart, post your profile for pet sitting on Rover or dog-walking on Wag.

Finally, remember why you’re there – you’ll certainly face some tough times during a year of service, and remembering your reasons for wanting to serve will help you face those challenges and emerge a stronger, more resilient person.

Here are a few more firsthand accounts of surviving – and even thriving! – as an AmeriCorps member.

How I Managed My Money as an AmeriCorps Volunteer

Real Talk: How to Live on the City Year Stipend

By Susannah Krenn
Susannah Krenn Assistant Director, Communications & Marketing / Career Advisor Susannah Krenn