Seeking out service

Seniors are facing that dreaded question: What are you going to do with the rest of your life?

Amidst the job interviews and graduate school applications, another option is rising to the top of the list for many students: service organizations.

“I’d say that interest in service organizations, such as Teach for America, the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps, has doubled this year,” said Shana Plasters, senior director for career development.

Typically four to five Albion graduates commit to service organizations after graduation, according to Plasters. Four students have already committed this year, with two deadlines remaining for Teach for America applicants and the Peace Corps recruiter on campus a week ago.

Albion is not the only college experiencing this phenomenon. Service organizations as a whole are reporting increased applications, according to the Washington Post.

Teach for America expects the largest increase, with a projected 50 percent increase after all four deadlines have passed. Deadlines begin in September and continue through mid-February, giving students multiple opportunities to apply.

“On average, the schools I work with have increased (their applications) by about 54 percent,” said Emily Kraft, a Teach for America recruitment director who works with Albion. “We’ve had more applications than ever and have accepted more people than ever. For the first time in the program’s history, we’ve had to wait list people because we have more qualified applicants than positions lined up.”

Kraft said that although Teach for America as an organization isn’t pointing to President Obama as the cause, she’s seen his influence on students.

“When talking to students, I’ve had people say that they feel like they’ve been called to action by President Obama’s message,” Kraft said. “It’s almost as if the administration has legitimized the option of service.”

Plasters sees the driving force behind the increased interest in service jobs as financially motivated.

“I think that (President Obama’s) message brought a lot of media attention to the programs,” Plasters said. “But I think a larger factor in students’ decisions has been financial.”

Lauren Fuller, Clarkson senior had much more personal reasons for pursuing a service path.

“After doing work in Albion’s schools as the philanthropy chair for my sorority, I saw how bad the school systems can be,” said Fuller, who accepted a position with Teach for America in Memphis. “I saw the inequality in the schools and wanted to do what I could to change that.”

Brett Johnson, Gobles senior, believes that time spent volunteering with the Peace Corps will help him in the future.

“I think it will be a great learning experience and will give me a competitive edge for grad school,” Johnson said. “It will also allow me to use my skills to help others where the help is needed most.”

Alumni Snapshots

Michael Melvin, ‘07
Teach for America: High School Teacher in Bridgeport, Conn.

I really didn’t know what I wanted to do upon graduation. Teach for America sounded like a potentially enriching experience – both in terms of personal growth as well as giving back to my community/world – and so I decided to attempt joining the corps.

Daniel Westerhof, ‘04
Peace Corps: Beekeeping and rural agricultural development.

I had looked at graduate schools prior to entering the Peace Corps, but I I looked for something that would allow me to give back, so Peace Corps and AmeriCorps were two definite possibilities. Peace Corps’ reputation and the ability to live abroad sealed the deal.

About Holly Setter 11 Articles
Holly Setter is the online editor. She is a senior, majoring in English and political science, with a minor in journalism and a concentration in public policy. Holly can be reached at hs12 [at] albion [dot] edu.

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