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The Scarlet & Black

Social justice-oriented students prepare for a year of post-grad service

By Sarah Licht
lichtsar@grinnell.edu

After graduating from Grinnell College, some people may immediately enter the workforce, whereas others might go to graduate, medical or law school. Others plan on joining service programs after graduation in order to help people and communities both in the United States and elsewhere. One popular service program to which many soon-to-be graduates have applied is AmeriCorps, a voluntary civil service program supported by the U.S. federal government and other donors.

AmeriCorps allows adults in public service work to help others and meet critical needs in communities around the nation. The service program lasts for a minimum of one year, which may seem daunting to some given the intense time and work commitment required to be a member of AmeriCorps.

Nevertheless, Shamiram Yousef and Olivia Schuette, both ’19, have decided to immerse themselves in the world of social justice for the next year. Despite both applying for AmeriCorps programs, Yousef and Schuette have different plans for what they hope to do in the future.

“I’m currently interviewing for working for this organization called College Possible, which works with low-income high school students,” said Yousef.

College Possible is a nonprofit AmeriCorps organization that makes college admission and success possible for low-income students through an intensive curriculum of coaching and support. Yousef is specifically looking at a position in Chicago, but there are additional College Possible branches all over the country. Yousef’s decision to apply for an AmeriCorps position also coincides with what she eventually wants to do for a career.

“I ultimately want to go to graduate school and go into social work within a school context, so this provides me [with] experience, but it also gives me the opportunity to step back from this academic work and feel like I’m making a difference in people’s lives,” she said.

Schuette was looking for an AmeriCorps position in education, like Yousef, or in immigration and law-related work.

“I chose those two categories because I am a Spanish major, and I feel like I can use my Spanish skills the best in those two areas to help other people who might have a language barrier,” said Schuette.

While she does not know exactly what she would want to do after AmeriCorps, Schuette hopes that her time there will help her decide.

“[The positions] are short, normally a year or two, and they would give me experience in a certain field outside of academics that I think would help me figure out if that’s what I’m interested in pursuing for the rest of my life,” Schuette said.

Both Schuette and Yousef believe that their aspirations to hold positions in AmeriCorps programs fits Grinnell’s commitment to social justice.

“When I applied to Grinnell, the social justice aspect was something I really liked, … so I think that I like AmeriCorps and this specific program I’m applying to because of that same commitment,” Schuette said.

For Yousef, College Possible also fits within Grinnell’s devotion toward social justice.

“The program I’m more in-depth looking at is focused on alleviating different forms of inequality in the college application process, so I think it’s important to go back and use the things that I’ve learned here and the opportunities and privileges I have to come to Grinnell, to then help other people do that,” she said.

For both Yousef and Schuette, as well as many others who have also chosen to apply for AmeriCorps, the impact of their service is the most rewarding part.

“I just think that, personally, doing work where you can see the impact … in other people’s lives in a positive way, it’s going to be much more fulfilling,” Schuette said.

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