On Why I Joined AmeriCorps

I guess I’ve always been a bit of an idealist. I remember when I was younger – when I was in the Navy I guess – thinking it might be nice to join the Peace Corps. Unfortunately, due to the career path I took in the service (Cryptologic Technician, Technical), the Peace Corps was not an option for me. Or so I heard.

Oh. Lookee here:

Does working for the CIA or having a background in intelligence disqualify you from serving in the PC? Why? Is that discriminatory?

Persons who have been employed by an intelligence agency, or otherwise have been associated with intelligence activities, are ineligible to serve as volunteers. This exclusionary policy is one aspect of the broader, long-standing policy of maintaining an absolute separation between Peace Corps and intelligence activities conducted by the U.S. government. This absolute separation is necessary to protect volunteers’ safety and to maintain the trust and confidence of the people in the countries in which volunteers serve.

I reckon that answers that. I wasn’t in the CIA, but I do have a background in intelligence, after a fashion.

So where was I?

Oh, yes. Ever the idealist. And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to believe in the value of policies that help mitigate poverty and provide opportunity.

But it wasn’t until I took “Race, Class and Gender” at St. Edward’s that I started focusing on a specific area to which I thought I might want to dedicate myself. Specifically, economic and wealth inequality. (Which are, of course, linked to any number of other types of inequality.)

After I graduated from St. Ed’s in August of 2007, I continuted to stay home with my daughter until August of 2008, when she started a full time pre-K program. I started casting about more seriously for gainful employment. I realized fairly quickly that I was pretty much out of the running for many of the kinds of jobs that I wanted; a burden, perhaps, of living in a city with a well regarded school of Public Affairs.

While browsing the St. Edward’s University Career Services job listing, I took note that AmeriCorps had a number of open positions in Austin. I checked out AmeriCorps’ website, and when I saw VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) are specificially dedicated to fighting poverty, I knew I’d found my program.

I guess, long story short, my reasons for becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA:

  • An opportunity to work in a position to help mitigate poverty.
  • An opportunity to do so in my own community.
  • An opportunity to serve with the Capitol Area Food Bank of Texas, which is well regarded and very active in Central Texas.
  • An opportunity to scratch my idealistic itch.
  • It paid enough to make it worth my while. I’d been a volunteer post-graduate intern with my Texas State Legislator’s office, but it didn’t pay, though the experience was great. I knew that it would likely be very difficult for me to find a paying position doing what I wanted to do, and I didn’t want to take a position in the state government just to get a paying job. Nor could we afford for me to do a long term volunteer gig in hopes of eventually finding a position.
  • An opportunity to gain skills and experience working in a non-profit environment.
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