March 22, 2018 at 1:12 pm

Back after Semester with AmeriCorps, Senior Is Focused

Taylor Major-Dame, in green hard hat and sunglasses, paused during clearing of backpacking trail in Bastrop State Park, Texas.

Taylor Major-Dame ’18 pausing during clearing of back-packing trail in Bastrop State Park, Texas during the summer of 2017.

by Taylor Major-Dame ’18

During school, I was an independent student majoring in Anthropology with a minor in Environmental Health Science who had a full class load and worked 40 hours a week. This isn’t uncommon for many students across campus, and a lot can push through. But I was not one of them.

Fall semester of 2016, I decided to take a year off of school. It was a hit to my pride when I had a sub-par semester, and the feeling of being burnt out lingered over every paper, exam, and project. I had made the decision to leave Ohio University, and that’s when my search for a job became my main focus.

As many know, it’s difficult to find a job that adds to your resume in a meaningful way when you don’t have your college degree. That’s when I came across AmeriCorps. I was familiar with Peace Corps, but the mention of this program had escaped my memory.

Back at OHIO, Renewed

After completing my six-month term of service with Americorps, my opportunities seemed boundless, and the future doesn’t seem as overwhelming. Coming back to Ohio University for this spring semester, I felt calm and focused on my long-term goals. I am ready to finish out my degree and move on from the college life. I have my sense of purpose back after losing it in the mounds of papers and exams.

To those who crave unconventional work or a community that lifts you up and expands your way of thinking, I hope you look into doing a term of service with AmeriCorps. For those who feel lost or burnt out, don’t be afraid to take a year off. Your mental health is more important than finishing a degree within that four-year time frame.

Opportunities with AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps is a national and community service program funded by the government that employs youth and seniors to complete local projects for thousands of communities. It became federally funded in 1993, but the idea of AmeriCorps was around decades before, starting with the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. The CCC was part of FDR’s New Deal in the 1930s. Originally, the CCC worked across the United States in state and national parks building trails, park structures, and so on. This has become a central theme of the work done by AmeriCorps members due to established conservation corps becoming a part of the service community.

While conservation corps are a large part of AmeriCorps, the range of other positions can satisfy job experience requirements of dozens of majors. Just a few examples of possible placements are family services specialists who work with the food pantry to help develop local programs, fundraising and grant writing, rebuilding homes (in the physical and metaphorical sense), and so forth.

I could go on and on about jobs that are scattered across the United States, but my point being there really are positions for everyone. When you are searching through their job listings, you have a long selection of interests you can choose from, as well as geographical areas, and the amount of hours you would want to work weekly. Though the flexibility of AmeriCorps is a major advantage, during your term of service and on its completion, you earn money for college, whether this is to pay for certifications or student loans. This payment can range from $900 to almost $6,000 depending on the length of your service.

My Americorps Experience

So in January of 2017, I made my way down to Austin, Texas, to work for Texas Conservation Corps rebuilding an eight-mile long backpacking trail in Bastrop State Park. I was nervous about going on my own, 18 hours away from everything that was familiar, but I was excited about the mental break from school. During my time at Bastrop State Park, I learned how to shape trails, use and maintain a chainsaw, fell trees, and build a low water crossing. Manual labor becomes your day-to-day, making the days feel long and taxing, but the bonds you build with your crew and the time spent outside makes it all worth it. The pay, or lack thereof (you make about $550 biweekly, but can apply for food stamps and they provide healthcare), can be tough to live on, but the group of new, current and old corps members are helpful in finding affordable housing. I was in an environment that allowed me to re-center myself, but also pushed me to go beyond what I thought I was capable of doing like cutting down 40 to 80 foot decaying pine trees.

As an anthropology major, I wondered how this was going to apply to finding a job in my area of study. It’s not necessarily the technical skills that I acquired, but the network of people that I found, which in my opinion, is the best part of joining this community. While I knew I would meet great individuals, I didn’t expect them to become a part of my family. The conservation corps is a bit different compared with other AmeriCorps positions. You have long moments of meditation, as you dig out water drains or clear corridor for trails. It’s a place where you can find yourself and expose yourself to other career paths you may have never considered.


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